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Hopes mediation plan will end boycott of Council committees



Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Independent mediation is required to resolve simmering rows in two Local Authority committees that debate planning and transport policy.

Community members of the two Strategic Policy Committees (SPCs) are so peed-off, they’ve boycotted them.

It’s a tactic that backfired because the SPCs effectively ignored the boycott and carried on as normal without them!

Now, efforts are afoot to ‘bang heads together’ to end the stand-off and bring some normality to these committees, which are important for local democracy, and for giving communities a voice and input into policy. But there are so many egos involved, it is no easy task.

Here’s the truncated lowdown. All five City Council SPCs have eight Councillors and four unelected reps, including two from Galway City Community Network (GCCN), and two others, including from trade unions or business lobby groups.

Four GCCN reps withdrew from the Planning SPC and Transport SPC, chaired by Cllrs Peter Keane and Eddie Hoare. They are: Shane Foran, Derrick Hambleton, Brendan Mulligan and Paul O’Donnell. GCCN reps remained on the other three SPCs.

The Famous Four ‘boycotters’ have various gripes; among them how the SPCs, which meet every quarter, conduct their business.

“It’s the mushroom approach, fed sh*t and kept in the dark,” said a source close to the Feisty Four.

The fear is that the ‘agenda is being controlled’ by the City Council’s Directors of Services, and the Chief Executive. Certain topics aren’t discussed at SPC because they’re ‘executive’ functions.

Management disputes this; nay, they recoil in horror at the mere thought that they’re the problem. Sure, aren’t SPCs councillor-led; Directors merely facilitate them.

Councillors don’t exactly like GCCN reps telling them how to run SPCs. They feel that the Famous Four are using the SPCs to push ‘agendas’.

“They’re trying to dismantle the Galway Transportation Strategy; they’re trying to re-write it. They want to take out the Galway Outer Ring Road from the strategy, and to insert a toy train or whatever it is they’re looking for,” growled one.

This, too, is disputed; the reps may be members of An Taisce, or Galway Cycling Campaign but insist they are articulating the views of GCCN and not their own organisations.

Councillors aren’t so sure. “Councillors are elected. Whether you like us or not, we have a mandate and were voted in by the people. We can vote to change policy, such as on the Galway City Development Plan. These bucks can’t. If they want to influence policy let them put their f**king faces up on posters and stand for election,” snorted another.

The Feisty Four flagged their concerns last June. Nothing happened. In October, they threatened a withdrawal. They were ignored. The November SPCs were boycotted.

CE Brendan McGrath proposed a ‘Can we not all just get along?’ solution of mediation. The Famous Four were invited back without prejudice, until a mediator could be appointed. They agreed. But a ‘breakdown in communication’ between the CE and secretariat, meant that two GCCN members were not sent the minutes of meetings they boycotted, or a Zoom link to a virtual SPC meeting in February. The boycotters were – albeit inadvertently – locked out of the meeting, and felt ‘snubbed’. That mistake wasn’t repeated for the Transport SPC of Wednesday of this week and GCCN members attended without prejudice. Best of luck to the independent mediator resolving this one!

(Photo: Derrick Hambleton, one of Galway City Community Network’s (GCCN) representatives on the City Council’s Strategic Policy Committees. He and three other GCCN reps withdrew from the Planning SPC and Transport SPC, feeling they were receiving ‘the mushroom’ treatment).
For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.


Allegations over Galway homeless hub that’s nominated for award



A unique social housing development in the city, which has been nominated for an award, was the subject of complaints and allegations by a resident living there.

The Westside Modular Family Hub has been shortlisted for the Irish Council of Social Housing Allianz Community Housing Awards 2021.

Opened in May last year, the purpose-built family homeless service was developed by Galway City Council and Peter McVerry Trust with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and the Housing Agency.

The 15 units were installed at a cost of €2 million after what Galway City Council described as, “extensive public consultation and engagement with local residents and local representatives in advance and during the project to ensure all issues of concern were addressed”.

In a press release announcing the accommodation was nominated for an award, the City Council said that, “there is strong support from the local community for the development”.

It has been nominated for an award, which is determined by public vote.

However, it has emerged that at least one resident of the hub complained to the City Council about anti-social behaviour.

The resident made allegations of drug-taking, late-night house parties and drinking, and fighting earlier this summer.

The resident detailed an alleged attack in which a woman bit another woman’s shoulder and an ambulance was required.

The complainant also said that families were not being moved-on to longer-term accommodation within six months.

The complaints were made to the Housing Department at City Hall and it’s understood they were referred on to the service-provider, Peter McVerry Trust.

A Peter McVerry Trust spokesperson said: “The service offers good quality accommodation and professional supports to homeless families. Since opening the service in May 2020 we have supported 28 families, comprising of 38 adults and 60 children and helped 13 families move into housing with a further move-on expected in the coming week.

“From time to time issues do arise within the service, and PMVT staff will speedily and assertively respond to such issues to support and protect all residents as best we can. We have 24/7 staff supports on site, intensive key worker assistance and household specific care plans in place. Ultimately, our priority for each family in our care at Westside is to secure a housing pathway for them in order to exit homelessness.”

Asked for comment, a City Council spokesperson said: “I am advised by colleagues in the Housing Directorate that any issues that may arise in the Hub are dealt with by Peter McVerry Trust who are the service providers of this facility and a service level agreement is in place to deal with any issues that may arise.”

When the 15 units were installed in 2020, City Councillor Colette Connolly highlighted at a Council meeting that there was a leak in the roof of some of the homes. The Council confirmed “water ingress” in windows in a number of the units, which would be rectified by the supplier at no additional cost to the local authority.

Announcing the award nomination last week, the Council said the hub was designed to “temporarily house families while they seek a long-term solution to their housing need,” with the assistance of the Peter McVerry Trust management who are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It features 15 own-door two-bed and three-bed units, each with a kitchen, dining space and bathroom. There is also an on-site playground.

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New fire station for Athenry gets stamp of approval



Councillors have given their stamp of approval to a new fire station for Athenry – voting unanimously to grant planning for the development at Ballygarraun South.

The site of just under two acres, located between the new Presentation College and the railway line, will house a station as well as a training tower and parking.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Duffy told a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week that they hoped to have a contractor appointed by the end of October, with works to get underway soon afterwards.

“We have worked very hard to get this project to a tangible position and it’s great that the ‘Part 8’ planning application [one which requires a vote by councillors] has been adopted today,” said Mr Duffy.

“This will hopefully get underway this year and we can move on to other stations [in the county], with another one planned for next year and another the year after,” he added.

The plans include the construction of a 361 square metre fire station with finishing materials common to the area which ‘will link the development on the site to the context overall’.

Permission has been granted from the IDA, which owns the site, for Galway County Council to proceed with the development on their lands.

The meeting heard that consideration had been given to the sightlines for exiting fire trucks and that amendments had been made to the original plans to ensure they were adequate.

Local area councillor Gabe Cronnelly (Ind) said the progression of a new fire station for the town was hugely welcome, adding that it had been years in the making.

“We have to give huge credit to Paul Duffy who pursued this. Athenry is one of the busiest stations in the county. We secured an extension for the existing station six years ago and when the Department was granting that, they could see that, from the amount of calls it was getting, that a new station was justified,” said Cllr Cronnelly.

Cllr Shelly Herterich Quinn (FF) said she was ‘delighted’ that the area’s representatives had given the proposal their unanimous backing.

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Plan for ‘world-class’ campus with potential for 10,000 jobs at Galway Airport



From this week’s Galway CIty Tribune – A proposal to transform the former Galway Airport into a ‘world-class’ business and technology campus has been drawn up by Galway County Council – with the potential to create up to 10,000 jobs.

The plan, which was compiled as part of the Draft County Development Plan, proposes a multi-million-euro investment in the 115-acre site owned jointly by the County and City Councils.

According to the vision document, the airport site at Carnmore could become a key economic driver that would “attract and secure long-term investment in Galway and the western region, and underpin the development of the Galway Metropolitan Area”.

Among the sectors identified as potential occupants are renewable energy, biodiversity, food science and logistics.

Some of the structures included for are a ‘landmark building’; commercial units; park amenity and recreation space; a renewable energy park; and a multi-purpose leisure facility.

A contemporary development with the potential to accommodate emerging industries is promised, with projected employment numbers ranging between 3,500 to 10,000 over time.

However, county councillors raised concerns at a meeting this week that the proposal they had seen in the Development Plan had been ‘sitting on a shelf’ since last March – and they still hadn’t seen what was dubbed ‘the masterplan’ for the airport site.

Cllr Liam Carroll (FG) told the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District meeting that the recent news that Oranmore was among the locations being looked at by multinational tech giant, Intel, put fresh focus on the future of the airport.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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