Galway’s Garda Chief has said the sustainability of increased checks for public drinking in the Spanish Arch is under threat due to a lack of resources and a cut in the availability of overtime hours.
Speaking to a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee (JPC), Chief Superintendent Tom Curley of the Galway Garda Division said that he was unsure if the current increase in patrols was sustainable.
Since a clampdown on ‘bushing’ in the Spanish Arch began this season, Gardaí have issued 60 fines – with those caught slapped with a €100 fine.
However, Chief Supt Curley said that their increased patrols had been a costly exercise with the already overstretched Galway Division having to fork out close to €15,000 in overtime since March of this year.
“As we go forward, it is going to be difficult for me to sustain that costing as I try to prioritise policing issues – as of late last week, our overtime budget has been cut.
“There has been a reduction of 30 per cent in our overtime budget.
“I have limited resources and I have to police the whole city and county,” he said.
He added that this was not a one-person job and it required a Sergeant and four to five Gardaí to carry out the checks.
Chief Supt Curley said that public drinking increased the risk of accidental drowning and called for the recommendations in the recent audit of Galway’s waterways to be implemented.
As revealed by the Galway City Tribune earlier this month, the report claims erecting physical barriers in areas like the Spanish Arch could prevent accidental drowning – a measure that Chief Supt Curley said he has been in favour of for years.
“When I was Superintendent here in 2010, we raised that railings could be put up to stop revellers straying into the river.
“The response was that railings would damage the natural beauty of the area, but I would rather save one life at the cost of natural beauty – the Spanish Arch is a tragedy waiting to happen,” he said.
Senior Executive Officer at Galway City Council, Gary McMahon, said that the officials in City Hall are currently considering the report.
“I will acknowledge that it is a possible accident waiting to happen.
“When there is an organised event, measures are put in place but it is impromptu events when the sun comes out that issues arise,” he said.
Galway City Councillor, Niall McNelis, said that signage that has been erected is failing to inform people of the illegality of public drinking.
“The signage Galway City Council has put up is useless. There have been 60 fines issued by the Gardaí but no fines by the community wardens – the community wardens are non-existent in public areas.
“All that is needed is an icon of a bottle with a line going through it and a €100 fine,” said Cllr McNelis.
Chief Supt Curley agreed that the signage is not working and that more will be needed to combat the problem.
“We have written to the City Council in relation to more signage because a lot of tourists were unaware that they couldn’t drink down there,” he said.
Mr McMahon told the JPC that the problem of poor signage will be examined by the local authority.
“The issue in relation to signage – the joint City Council and Garda signs – we’ll have a look at that.
“I commend the Gardaí for the work they are doing in the Spanish Arch and Basin area. A lot of people weren’t aware that they weren’t allowed to drink a bag of cans in the Spanish Arch,” said Mr McMahon.
Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site
An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.
The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.
It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.
In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.
“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”
The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.
A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.
A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.
It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.
Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.
The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.
NUIG student accommodation firm records loss
The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.
However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.
Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.
The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.
Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.
The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.
Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.
Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.
The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).
The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.
It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.
As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.
It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.
In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.
Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan
Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.
Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.
The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.
It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.
Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.
Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.
“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”
The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.
He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.
“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.
“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.
“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.