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Galway’s Independent TDs reveal demands for deal

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Galway’s Independent TDs insist their mission is to bring rural Ireland back from the brink – not to hold the country to ransom with ‘parish pump’ politics.

The four Independents, representing three Galway constituencies, have demanded a series of policies targeted at reviving rural communities, which have suffered most during the economic catastrophe.

During the ongoing government formation talks, some of the Galway kingmakers also sought commitments on infrastructure projects and policies to boost the West of Ireland so that the recovery is felt outside of the capital.

Pushing for regional development so that the west is a real counterbalance to Dublin and the east, is a central consideration in the TDs demands.

Among the Galway TDs ‘shopping list’ in no particular order includes: expediting a new Emergency Department in University Hospital Galway; funding a city bypass; commitments on mental health; increased roads budgets; fast-tracking better broadband in isolated areas; measures to attract industrial investment to bring jobs to rural towns; a new air ambulance service for the west; increased payments to disadvantaged farmers, a greater proportion of whom live in the West; action on mortgages and the housing crisis; commitments on the rights of turf-cutters; and assurances about rural Garda stations and policing.

Spooked by a Sunday newspaper report, which claimed Independents were seeking a €13 billion package and holding the country to ‘ransom’, the Galway players in the talks have come out fighting.

The ‘rural five’, which includes Galway West TD, Noel Grealish and Roscommon/Galway TD Denis Naughten flatly rejected the charge.

“I don’t know are they out to smear us or destroy us,” asked Deputy Grealish. “This might be a game to try and get Labour back in with them (Fine Gael).”

Deputies Naughten and Grealish insisted their demands were ‘broad brush’ policy commitments aimed at revitalising rural Ireland.

The pair and their group – including Michael Collins, Michael Harty and Mattie McGrath – insist they have not demanded a list of capital development projects. “We have concentrated on measures that will rejuvenate rural Ireland,” said Deputy Naughten.

The six involved in the Independent Alliance, including Roscommon/Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice and Galway East TD Seán Canney, said the figure of €13 billion is way off the mark. “It’s bullshit – totally ridiculous,” said Glinsk-based Deputy Fitzmaurice.

Deputy Fitzmaurice confirmed he and Canney have sought a series of measures to be included in any new programme for government.

However, Deputy Fitzmaurice said he was angry with the leaking and briefing against the Independent Alliance, which he believes was a deliberate attempt to embarrass them.

“We were portrayed in the Dublin media as total head-bangers and lunatics. But what we are asking for is measures that will help rural Ireland to survive,” he said.

“It’s not going to cost €13 billion. What we’re looking for wouldn’t even scratch the surface of €13 billion. Last week they announced €10 billion for a transport package in Dublin, for the new Luas line. You won’t hear the Dublin journalists or politicians saying that’s lunacy. But when we put forward sensible proposals for infrastructure in the West of Ireland and measures to help rural Ireland, they say we’re lunatics,” fumed Deputy Fitzmaurice.

The Independent Alliance’s demands include tackling national problems, such as the mortgage time-bomb, homelessness and housing crisis, as well as specifically rural issues, like commitments on allowing turf-cutters to continue to cut turf on their own bogs.

“We put forward solutions, such as intergenerational mortgages, which are mortgages of 100 years and are passed on – they work well in Austria. There’s no point going into government if you can’t get solutions to the problem that 50,000 are going to be thrown out of their homes in 18 months,” he said.

The specific capital projects they have asked for include a city bypass and new Emergency Department in UHG. “Both of them are budgeted for already, we’re just looking for the process to be made sooner,” he said. Other demands include additional payments to small and disadvantaged farmers. They want local authority resurfacing works on roads to occur once every ten years, like in 2006, as opposed to once every 20 years as is the case now.

He said reports that the Alliance had sought the construction of a motorway from Tuam to Derry were ‘misleading’.

They asked, he said, that the West of Ireland be re-designated so as to qualify for 40% EU funding for cross-border infrastructure projects such as North-South railway or roads connections. “Why wouldn’t we ask for this; the money from Europe is there,” said Deputy Fitzmaurice.

Deputies Grealish and Naughten, who are alligned to a seperate group of Independents, issued a joint statement distancing themselves from the ‘shopping list’ approach of other Independents, as outlined in the Sunday Independent.

“At no stage during talks with either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael was a list of major capital developments presented by us. Instead we focused on key strategic national decisions which would have a direct impact on the survival of provincial towns and rural Ireland.

“During our discussions with both parties it was clear that there would be little or no new funds available for the next two budgets, and we were always very conscious of putting forward clear proposals which would benefit as many disadvantaged communities, both rural and urban, as possible. In many cases the changes which we suggested had little or no financial impact but could, with a determined commitment by Government, make a real difference to the survival of many communities throughout the country.”

Speaking to the Connacht Tribune, Deputy Naughten insisted the five rural TDs were focused on the bigger picture.

“Over the last eight and ten years rural Ireland and provincial towns have been absolutely decimated. What we have looked for is policy measures targeted at rejuvenating rural Ireland and provincial towns.

“We have looked for investment in our health services, and for investment in the Emergency Department in Galway but that is something that needs to be done in Cork and Limerick and will benefit patients in my own constituency in Roscommon Galway but also in Mayo and Leitrim and Donegal,” he said.

Fast-tracking the roll-out of broadband to nurture economic growth in provincial towns is another key area, he said.

“We have also looked for things that won’t cost much or anything at all such as a ‘closure commission’. This would be a commission that, before a decision is made to close a service in rural Ireland, would look at trying to save the service or replacing it. So if a decision was made to close a post office, the commission would look at maybe allowing the local community shop to take it over. It’s measures like these that are aimed at keeping rural Ireland alive,” said Deputy Naughten.

Deputy Grealish also confirmed that he sought commitments that no more Garda stations would close. The Carnmore politician said his group had engaged in over 110 hours of talks, and suggested that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were dragging their feet and wouldn’t have even entered negotiations, only for the insistence of the ‘rural five’.

CITY TRIBUNE

Cycleway trial may be heading for courts

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Galway healthcare workers show their support for the proposed Salthill cycleway.

Plans for a temporary cycle lane in Salthill may ultimately be decided by the High Court.

Residents directly impacted by the project are weighing-up the possibility of taking a Judicial Review if Galway City Council proceeds as planned.

They cite a recent case where the High Court halted Dublin City Council plans for a two-way cycle lane at Strand Road in Sandymount.

Concerned residents in Poolnarooma West and Kingston Road are contemplating launching a Judicial Review into Galway City Council’s decision making.

They argue that – just like in the Sandymount example – the proposed temporary cycle lane should not proceed without an Environmental Impact Assessment and an Appropriate Assessment under the Habitats Directive. One reason is because it is in an SAC, Special Area of Conservation.

Gráinne McMahon of Pollnarooma Residents Association, and John Glynn of Kingston, have written to city councillors arguing that the cycle lane cannot proceed without an EIA and AA screening.

They said it needs to go through a proper planning application process with full screening and statutory public consultation, and not be introduced as a ‘traffic calming measure’ under section 38 of the Road Traffic Act.

Ironically, in July of last year, officials at City Hall had been making the same argument in correspondence to councillors before they voted on the Notice of Motion in September.

In his letter to councillors last Summer, Uinsinn Finn Acting Director of Services for Transport at Galway City Council, said: “A two-way temporary cycleway cannot be accommodated along the Salthill Promenade as to proceed without going through a planning consent process and undertaking environmental screening would be in contravention of the statutory provisions of the Planning and Development Act and the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive”.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council looks to develop ‘outdoor museum’ to focus on Galway’s waterways

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New focus...Galway’s waterways.

Consultants will be hired by Galway City Council to develop an “outdoor museum experience” to “tell the story of the waterways of Galway”.

Tender documents estimate the project will cost between €220,000 and €250,000.

It is part of the Fáilte Ireland funded Tourism Destination Towns initiative to help tourist towns and cities offer more attractions to visitors.

The consultants will be asked to devise an outdoor museum that “tells the story of” the city’s waterways.

“The variety of water in Galway City Centre – the rushing river, still and reflective canals, historic mills and locks, and tidal Galway Bay – create a diversity of sights, sounds, smells and textures which enrich Galway for visitors and locals alike,” the tender said.

This “new attraction”, it said, will be located along walking and cycling routes leading from the Spanish Arch area along the River towards Woodquay, along the Canal to NUIG and along the Claddagh to Salthill.

“The outdoor attraction should assist in managing visitor flow by drawing visitors from the crowded areas of Shop Street, Quay Street and the Spanish Arch and dispersing visitors to other attractions such as Galway’s Westend, NUIG, Salthill and Woodquay,” according to the plan.

The waterways will be used to “tell an interesting and compelling story on the development of Galway”.

“By adding a new experience along the route we have an opportunity to increase visitor satisfaction levels by bringing the past and present to life so that it resonates with visitors, and gets them thinking, talking and engaging,” the plan said.

It is envisaged that the contractor will tell the story of Galway, including its waterways, “their development, industrial heritage and how they help shape modern Galway”.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Garda concern blow for cycleway plans

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Salthill Prom...D-Day for cycleway plans. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy

The city’s emergency services have raised ‘significant concerns’ over both the proposals under consideration for the Salthill temporary cycleway.

The Galway City Tribune understands that An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and Fire Service raised these concerns at a meeting with city officials on Monday – and were due to lodge an objection to the proposals ahead of today’s (Friday) public consultation deadline.

According to sources, the greatest disquiet is over increased emergency response times – all three services believe emergency vehicles will be delayed under both plans.

This comes as it was revealed that cycling campaigners have been out in force to back the plan – in excess of 1,000 submissions were received by the Council’s Transport Department in the first week of the consultation process.

Almost €1 million was allocated by Government this week to fund the temporary lane which is set to be in place from March to September – provided it gets the final go-ahead from the Council.

The two proposals include Option 1, which would make way for one-way vehicular traffic along the R336 from Grattan Road Junction to the Barna Road Junction; and Option 2 which would maintain two-way vehicular traffic along the R336 as far as the Pollnarooma West Junction, dropping to one inbound lane from there as far as the Barna Road.

A spokesperson for Gardaí in Salthill told this newspaper that while there was no opposition to the rollout of cycle lanes in general, both plans currently under consideration would limit their service.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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