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CITY TRIBUNE

Hopes mediation plan will end boycott of Council committees

Dara Bradley

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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.

CITY TRIBUNE

Gardaí bid to identify body recovered near Mutton Island

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Gardai have launched an investigation following the discovery of a body in Galway Bay yesterday afternoon.

A member of the public raised the alarm after spotting the body in the water while walking on the causeway to Mutton Island.

Galway Fire Service, Gardai and the RNLI attended the scene and recovered the body at around 4pm, before it was taken to University Hospital Galway for a post mortem.

It is understood that the body may have been in the water for some time.

Gardaí are currently examining a list of missing people in the city.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Land Development Agency rules out Merlin ‘land grab’

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Campaigners have warned the Land Development Agency (LDA) to keep its hands off Merlin Woods.

Local community group Friends of Merlin Woods said that the amenity on the east side of the city is not suitable for residential development.

It has sought clarification on whether the LDA has earmarked part of the recreational and amenity lands for housing, after it appeared on its online database of publicly-owned lands.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, the LDA said its database compiles a list of all State lands, not just land for development.

In relation to Merlin Woods, the LDA said: “Those lands aren’t included in the LDA developments in Galway. The lands database is a map-based tool which compiles all State lands and has no reflection on development potential.”

It came after Caroline Stanley of Friends of Merlin Woods raised concern that land within Merlin Woods had been earmarked for development.

“I’d be concerned that it’s marked as residential when it’s in RA (Recreational and Amenity) land. Some is marked ‘open space’ but some is marked as ‘new proposed residential’ on its [LDA’s] database. It makes us wonder why. We’d like clarity and to clear it up.

“The message we’d like to get out there is we need clarification, whether it’s a mistake on the Land Development Agency’s part, or whether it is an area that they consider as a residential area, which the community would be opposed to. We need clarity. It could be something that is in line for development later on, we don’t know, and we need clarity.”

Councillor Owen Hanley explained that the fears around Merlin Woods stem from legislation currently making its way through the Oireachtas that would strip councillors of powers to veto the transfer of land to the LDA for housing projects.

The Bill would also allow Government to direct what public lands – including those owned by local authorities – can be transferred to the LDA for development of social and affordable housing.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Detractors’ could hold up €10m Spanish Arch flood defence scheme

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan has warned that the Office of Public Works and Galway City Council “may end up in the High Court” if they attempt to expedite plans for the €10 million flood defence scheme for the Spanish Arch and Docks areas.

Speaking at an Oireachtas Finance Committee meeting last week, the Minister for the Office of Public Works admitted his frustration at the length of time such projects take.

But he said that if he and the OPW attempted to “shave off time” in moving the project forwards, they would have to be mindful of “detractors” making accusations later and there being a legal challenge.

He was responding to Galway West TD Mairéad Farrell, who said it was likely to be 2028 before the flood prevention works would be completed.

“It was revealed in November that it will be at least eight years before long-awaited flood defences are completed in the Spanish Arch and Docks areas – with the City Council estimating that it will be towards the end of 2028 before works conclude,” said Deputy Farrell.

Minister O’Donovan said: “The OPW is committed. There is money available. We do not have a worry about allocating money for capital spending. I say to Deputy Farrell, and to Galway City Council, that, if we can shave off time in advancing projects, we will gladly do so, but we have to be mindful of the fact that if our detractors make accusations later, we may end up in the High Court. We do not want that.”

(Photo: Flood Street in February 2014. Spanish Arch, Fishmarket Square and the Docks areas were flooded in storm weather during high tide. PHOTO BY JOE O’SHAUGHNESSY)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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