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Galway’s nuclear bunker now just a storeroom

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It was to be the bolt hole nerve centre for the elite group of people who would keep the city and county ticking over should the nuclear holocaust arrive in the late 1960s . . . now it’s just a basement store in the bowels of the Community College at Moneenageisha in Galway city.

Galway’s only nuclear bunker was constructed as part of the Moneenageisha Vocational School that opened its doors in September, 1969, at a time when the Cuban missile crisis was still fresh in the minds of everyone and the Vietnam War raged on.

Constructing a nuclear bunker under a new school exercised the minds of councillors and local education committees amidst rumours, that as well as the emergency services heads, one Bishop Michael Browne would also be offered shelter in the concrete sanctuary should the nukes start going off.

Civil Defence Officer, Brendan Qualter, showing some of the equipment in the shelter to Galway Community College students Victor Gutu and Taylor Carr who are dressed in 1960's style.

Civil Defence Officer, Brendan Qualter, showing some of the equipment in the shelter to Galway Community College students Victor Gutu and Taylor Carr who are dressed in 1960s style.

At the time in the mid-1960s, the local Vocational Education voiced their opposition to the construction of the nuclear shelter beneath the floors of the proposed new school after being told that the County Council wanted to locate it there because ‘they were unable to find any other suitable place in Galway’.

The then Chief Executive Officer of the City Vocational Educational Committee, Mr. S. MacDomhnail, advised his members that it would be wrong to accede to a request from Galway County Council for the school to be built ‘on top of a nuclear bomb shelter’.

Now 46 years on from its official opening, the bunker is set to become part of a living history project at the Galway Community College (GCC) with teacher Philip Cribbin planning to get his history pupils to itemise and ‘put on line’ a range of documentation, memorabilia and equipment still held in the centre.

“This [late 1960s] was a very volatile time around the world. It came after the Cuban missile crisis . . . the Vietnam War was at its peak . . . Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy had been assassinated in 1968 . . . US Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave their black power salutes at the medals’ ceremony in Mexico [also ‘68] . . . and the Cold War between the USA and Russia was still intense,” said Philip Cribbin.

Equipment and bags in the shelter

Equipment and bags in the shelter

The Head of History at GCC said that this was an era when there was a very real fear of a nuclear war breaking out between the superpowers and there was a national policy to construct a number of secure bunkers at different locations around the country, where the emergency services and ‘important people’ would move into.

Over recent decades the bunker – reputedly encased in two feet of mass concrete – has been used as a storage facility for the local Civil Defence service, but only about two or three of its many rooms are being accessed.

Head Officer with Galway Civil Defence Brendan Qualter said that there were about eleven rooms in the underground facility including a control and operations centre.

“This was to be a self sufficient and secure centre with its own telecommunications network while there was also a generator to provide emergency power.

A gas mask among the items in the shelter

A gas mask among the items in the shelter

“It was to be, a place for the directors of operations to locate, should a nuclear disaster occur,” said Brendan Qualter.

Local historian, Peadar O’Dowd, said that the Moneenageisha bomb shelter plan got a lot of attention in Galway before and during its construction in the late 1960s.

“It was a bit of a scary time. Here and there, we would see the odd clip of black and white footage on TV of children in the United States going through drills in the event of a nuclear war.

“There was also a curiosity about who would be going into the bunker should the dreaded nuclear disaster ever occur. Lots of stories did the rounds about who’d be going into the bunker but a lot of them were just bits of Galway gossip.

“It was also felt that the building of this bunker was something of  a first for Galway but there were real concerns that Russia and the US could go to war at any time.

A section of the shelter

A section of the shelter

“John F. Kennedy had been assassinated, the Vietnam War was raging and while people were still talking about the GAA and the All-Irelands, there was a worry out there too about another world war breaking out,” said Peadar O’Dowd.

For one of Philip Cribbin’s fifth year students, the school’s historical legacy will now provide the subject matter for the case study segment of his course that will make up 20% of his exam marks.

“This really is a very local link between the school and what was going on in the world of international politics and history. It was one of those really interesting periods in world history but thankfully the bunker was never called into use,” said Philip Cribbin.

Much of the original material is still intact at the Moneenageisha bunker such as gas masks, Geiger counters for measuring radioactivity, ordinance survey maps, radioactive survival guides and other documentation stored away in boxes . . . and probably unopened for the past 45 years.

Given its solid concrete construction the bunker seems set to remain as a piece of local history for decades to come, providing an ongoing history focal point for Philip Cribbin’s history classes . . . right under their feet.

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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