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Gardaí brace themselves for unofficial Rag Week



Gardaí have put an operational plan in place to cope with a series of unofficial RAG Week ‘booze events’ lined up for the coming week – the biggest of which is expected to be ‘Donegal Tuesday’ – when thousands of students are set to fill the city centre.

Although both the Students Unions’ at NUI Galway and GMIT have withdrawn totally from the event since 2011, RAG Week still survives mainly through the use of social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.

The biggest ‘gathering’ next week, based on social media contacts, seems certain to be on Tuesday when thousands of students from the city and other colleges too, will initially congregate outside the Hole in the Wall pub on Eyre Street that morning – many of them wearing Donegal GAA jerseys.

Information from social media sites this week also indicate that several hundred students will be bussed into the city early that morning from outside Galway to participate in what is now one of the biggest ‘drinking days’ in student pubs and clubs across the city centre.

The ‘Donegal Tuesday’ event shows no sign of diminishing in size this year – if anything based on social media interest over recent days it will be bigger than ever – and Gardaí have confirmed that they have an operational plan in place for that day and for next week.

“Our main concerns are in the areas of public safety and we already have an operational plan in place to deal with any situations that may arise.

“One of our main worries is the sheer numbers who gather in particular places – last year we ended up having to close down one particular venue and we are appealing to students to obey any instructions from the Gardaí,” said a Garda spokesman.

He also said that they would be cracking down on the consumption of alcohol on the streets, pointing that this was only allowed in specifically designated areas outside some bars and restaurants.

During last week’s unofficial RAG Week event, Gardaí moved to close down the Electric Garden and Theatre venue in Abbeygate Street on safety grounds because of the number of people outside trying to get in.

NUI Galway Students’ Union President, Declan Higgins, said that in 2011 their members had voted to end RAG Week – the Union engaged pro-actively with its own members, local residents, local representatives and the Gardaí.

“An agreement between ourselves and NUI Galway was entered into whereby the university and ourselves agreed that some things were, and are, so vital that they had to be protected – in return for an end to the former RAG week.

“For example, this included guaranteeing there would be no charge to see a doctor or nurse at our on-campus health centre, which supports some of our most vulnerable students.

“In my time in the Union, we’ve placed particular emphasis on mental health and on the need for people to access support services when they need to, and thus we will be honouring this agreement and pursuing its terms robustly.

“As far as we are concerned, it [RAG Week] is just a week like any other, and we have no interest whatsoever in resurrecting it – rather we look forward to continuing the work done since 2011 and honouring our side of the agreement.

“We are confident the university will do likewise as we support our students together,” said Mr Higgins in his statement.


Galway City centre streets to be dug up – yet again



From this Week’s Galway City Tribune – Just days after the annual tourist season kicked off with the St Patrick’s weekend festivities, an area of the city’s main throughfare is to be dug up yet again.

The City Council confirmed this week that “upgrade works” at the junction between High Street, Shop Street and Mainguard Street are to commence next week, drawing the ire of local business people and residents.

One local councillor and businessman said the works, which brought huge disruption while being carried out on other stretches of the route in recent years, should have been carried out while footfall was lower in January and February.

Cllr Níall McNelis told the Galway City Tribune that business people in the area were outraged at the news, and despite assurances from the Council that the works would be done “without major disruptions”, bitter experience has taught them otherwise.

“They’re outraged, to be blunt. They just can’t believe this is happening now,” he said.

“Everyone understands that these works are necessary, but this is going to take weeks out of what should be one of their busiest times.”

Works in the area were left incomplete as a result of the visit of Britain’s Prince William and Catherine in 2019.

In a statement issued by the Council, Director of Services Patrick Greene said the works should be “substantially completed by early June”.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the March 24 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism and buy a digital edition HERE.

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What a melt: proposed bylaws put 20-minute limit on ice cream vans in Galway!



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Ice cream vans will only be allowed to sell to the public for 20 minutes before being obliged to move on to a different location if proposed new bylaws for casual trading in Galway are adopted.

The 2023 regulations to replace the 2011 bylaws will also outlaw any single use plastic products to be given out or sold by stall holders, including bottles, cutlery, containers, single use sachets, plates and straws. Compostable or reusable alternatives must be used instead of single use plastics.

The maximum time that the ice cream mobile unit can be stationary at any one location is 20 minutes.

Traders will avoid huge cost increases seen elsewhere – it will cost €267.50 annually per bay for Eyre Square (up marginally from €250). In St Nicholas’ Market it will be €69.50 per linear metre – generally equating to €139 for regular size pitches, an increase of €9.

Stall holders will again have to buy a separate licence to trade on Sundays and for the market Wednesday to Friday in July and August. But they will be able to set up shop for free at Christmas if they hold a licence for Saturday or Sunday.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read more on the draft Casual Trading Bylaws, see the March 24 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism and buy a digital edition HERE.

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€450m Emergency Dept and Women and Children’s block at UHG



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Inadequate resuscitation capacity and overall space, as well as isolation from ICU, diagnostics and theatres along are part of the HSE’s rationale for building a new €450 million Emergency Department and Women’s and Children’s block on the grounds of UHG.

The health authority is hoping the new development could commence construction in 2026 and be completed in early 2029, and the Galway City Tribune has learned it would have operational costs in the region of €40 million per annum.

According to the HSE, the existing Temporary Emergency Department – which opened its doors last October – there is inadequate space for the 70,000 attendances each year.

This includes “a lack of facilities for isolation, mental health, gynaecology, limited paediatric ED accommodation with significant resuscitation capacity to meet emergencies and trauma”, HSE documentation reads.

The ED has also fallen well short of national targets for Patient Experience Time – that 95% of all patients should be see or admitted or discharged within six hours and 100% within nine hours.

In UHG, the figures for 2020 were 13% and 44% respectively, due to what the HSE describes as “sub-optimal infrastructure, design and consequently poor patient flow and capacity limitations”.

The HSE also noted the existing Women’s and Children’s services operate from “poor quality, mainly single-storey buildings from 1950s and 1960s dispersed across the site with no direct access to the ED, isolated from vital healthcare services such as critical care, diagnostics and theatres”.

Theatre capacity was described as “inadequate” for UHG’s catchment of around 323,000 people from Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. The population for the wider Saolta University Healthcare Group, for which UHG is the tertiary or specialised care hospital, is estimated at 830,000.

The HSE said the new building would allow for a dedicated paediatric ward, adolescent beds (up to 16th birthday) and ambulatory facilities, “located closer to the critical medical infrastructure of the hospital”.

This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article and for details on the cause of a “foul odours” problem on the hospital grounds, see the March 24 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism and buy a digital edition HERE.

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