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Labour combs city in search for successor to Cameron

Dara Bradley



The Labour Party is combing Galway City in search of suitable candidates to contest the 2019 local elections.

Party veteran Billy Cameron, who served three terms on Galway City Council, has conceded he will not be seeking re-election – this has sparked a hunt for someone who might be capable of holding his seat in the City Central ward.

Labour also needs to find a candidate to contest in the City East ward, a former stronghold where voters deserted the party in droves at the last local election.

In 2009, Labour was the dominant force on Galway City Council with five out of the 15 elected members (Billy Cameron, Colette Connolly, Tom Costello, Derek Nolan and Niall McNelis).

At the following local election Labour was almost wiped-out and reduced to just two City Councillors, despite the overall number of elected members increasing by three to 18. Only Cameron and McNelis survived the wrath of the electorate in 2014 when Labour was making unpopular decisions nationally in a coalition government with Fine Gael.

Galway West TD Derek Nolan, who topped the poll in the 2011 general election, Labour’s best, took the seat won and held for years by Michael D Higgins, but he subsequently lost as the tide went out in 2016, when the party suffered its worst ever election result since its foundation in 1912.

Party sources have confirmed that a number of potential candidates capable of filling Cllr Cameron’s boots will be ‘sounded out’ in the coming weeks.

Among the names being mentioned as possible candidates are Ger Bane, a teacher at Galway Community College in Moneenageisha, who is involved with Corrib Rangers; Páraic Breathnach, the director of Galway Arts Centre; and Shane Lennon, volunteer and founder of Manuela Riedo Foundation.

Shantalla-based John McDonagh polled just 4% of the first preferences vote in 2014, when Labour had a three-candidate strategy that backfired and sitting Councillor Collette Connolly lost her seat.

Councillor Connolly subsequently left Labour and was co-opted again onto the City Council when her sister Catherine (also former Labour) vacated her seat after being elected to the Dáil in 2016. Collette won’t be flying the Labour flag next time out, and McDonagh could make a case to be ‘given another go’.

Another possible candidate is Pat Hardiman, a popular taxi man who is well known through is connections in Liam Mellows Hurling Club.

Possible candidates in the East Ward, where the party once held two Council seats, aren’t as plentiful.

Tom Costello retired and did not contest the last time out while Nuala Nolan, who was co-opted to her namesake Derek Nolan’s seat, lost out. One potential candidate who may be approached is Phil Grealish, who is involved with St Columba’s Credit Union and SCULL Enterprises.

Billy Cameron, a postmaster in Newcastle for almost two decades, was first elected in 2004, and became deputy mayor of the city two years later.

He topped the poll and was elected on the first count in 2009 and retained his seat despite the Labour tide going out in 2014.

Efforts to persuade him to remain on and go again have proved fruitless, and party sources fear that unless a high-profile candidate is sourced soon, the likes of Social Democrats member Niall Ó Tuathail, and the Green Party’s Colm Duffy, could get a foothold in the traditionally left of centre City Central Ward, which includes Westside, Shantalla, Bushypark and Newcastle.


Salthill funfair enjoying busy tourist season

Denise McNamara



The operators of Curry’s Funpark in Salthill are reporting a busy tourist season, despite a delayed opening and ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

While it is nowhere near the busiest season since the amusement company took over the fun fair site in Leisureland in 2014, they are delighted at how the shorter season has been going under difficult circumstances.

With a separate entrance and exit in place and customers expected to queue apart from each other, numbers have been reduced in the park. But opening hours have extended from 11am to 11pm to allow the public to avail of longer hours to enjoy the rides, explains owner Owen Curry.

“There’s a good turnout of people and a great response from our customers at being open. This year adults in their 20s are really coming in the late evenings, whereas before we would have been quiet in those last few hours.

“There’s nothing like getting out in a bit of fresh air and do something together. Without a doubt there are a lot more Irish people this year and an awful lot of them are people who haven’t ever been to Salthill which is surprising.”

After initially bringing in the equipment in February to prepare for a St Patrick’s Day opening, at one stage it looked like it would all have to be removed when lockdown was introduced, with Owen running the business from his home in Derry.

Were it not for the great support he got from the business group The Village Salthill, the park may never have opened on July 1, he says.

The opening happened after a two-day inspection, all staff undergoing courses and a lot of work implementing all the guidelines set out in a 90-page document for the operation of amusement parks.

“All our other events have been cancelled – we’d normally have equipment travelling around the country to festivals and events. We were delighted with the support and help from other businesses in Salthill. They helped with advertising and getting the word out there.”

While the park is weather dependent, he enthuses that Salthill is at least blessed to have Leisureland, the Aquarium and plenty of cafes and restaurants alongside the famous beaches and Prom.

“The staycation is definitely working for Salthill – despite the weather,” Owen remarks.

Still lit in the signature Big Wheel is the blue heart in honour of those working at the frontline during the pandemic.

“It was originally meant to be a digital screen for advertising and when we couldn’t open we decided to light a blue heart as a thank you to the front line workers until the Covid finished – we didn’t think it would be still be there but that’s the world we’re in.”

The funpark’s season is likely be extended into the Autumn.

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Galway Pride Festival makes the move online

Denise McNamara



The Pride Parade in Galway last year.

For the first time in its three decades of breaking taboos, Galway Pride will not be holding a parade.

Instead, organisers have switched to a full schedule of almost exclusively online events.

There will be just three events out of more than two dozen where people can gather for Galway Pride week, which begins today (Monday).

There will be the traditional flag-raising event in Eyre Square at midday to mark the launch with a number of speakers and those attending will be asked to social distance and wear masks.

On Wednesday evening, they will host the annual vigil in Eyre Square, while on Sunday morning, a new event will see the community on their bikes for a coffee and cake session in collaboration with the Galway Cycling Campaign.

Last year for the festival’s 30th anniversary, an estimated 2,000 people marched through the city in the parade – a cornerstone of the celebration – with thousands more lining the streets to watch.

Event chairperson Scott Green said that having even a limited number of chances to meet and come together in person safely is really important for the community.

“Undoubtedly isolation is difficult for us all and sometimes it can be taken for granted that your home is a safe and welcoming place. For too many members of our community that safety is not guaranteed.”

“The safety of our community is paramount and so for those who cannot join us in person we will bring our passion and vibrancy to you digitally until it is safe for us all to meet again.

“This will not be a stereotypical Pride but it will still have the same heart and soul put into its organisation,” Scott said.

The Community Awards 2020 will honour those who have been important role models, ran campaigns and helped out in community groups

Several panels will also take place across Pride with topics on anti-racism, mental health, workplace well-being, activism, and trans and non-binary voices.

On the entertainment side, there will be music nights, ‘movie watchalongs’, and a rainbow cake tutorial.

Scott says like many organisations, Galway Pride has had to “learn on our feet” to put together a suitable schedule.

“We had imagined a very different Pride before Covid-19 but we have gone ahead with a mostly virtually calendar of events to deliver another Pride Week because we know how important it is for our community.”

The theme for Pride 2020 is ‘Ní Neart Go Cur Le Chéile’ or ‘strength through unity’.

“It’s a sign of the times in many ways. Never before have we all had to stick together by making choices and sacrifices not just to keep ourselves safe, but to keep others safe. It’s why this year we have dedicated our ‘virtual grand marshal’ role to all healthcare care workers, for exemplifying these selfless principles.

“There are those that are increasingly trying to target the most vulnerable of our community and increasing incidents where a seedy underbelly in our society attack our community members with the utmost of bile. The LGBT+ community stands completely united, and united we will continue to progress as a society.”

All events can be accessed through the Galway Pride Festival Facebook page.

(Photo: Last year’s Galway Pride Parade).

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One year wait for hearing of criminal trials in Galway

Enda Cunningham



It takes up to one year for criminal trials to be heard in Galway Circuit Court, according to new figures from the Courts Service.

According to the service’s newly-published annual report for 2019, in the Galway courts area, it took an average of 9-12 months for criminal trials to go to hearing, which is unchanged from the 2018 figures.

The shortest waiting times in the country were in Carlow and Tralee, where cases are heard at the next sitting of the court, while the longest wait was in Monaghan at 18-24 months.

The wait for sentence hearings (from the trial date where a guilty plea was entered) in Galway was 3-6 months, unchanged from the previous year.

Appeals are heard following a 3-6 month wait, which is an increase from two months recorded in 2017 and 2018.

The report shows that civil cases – both trials and appeals – and Family Law cases (contested, non-contested and appeals) are generally heard at the next sitting of the Circuit Court.

Civil trials in Dundalk can take between 12-18 months to be heard, while contested and appealed Family Law cases can take 6-12 months.

Meanwhile, in district courts in Galway, domestic violence barring order and protection order applications take four weeks to be heard – the previous year, such cases were held at the next sitting of the court.

However, urgent applications relating to domestic violence in Galway are heard on the next day the district court sits.

Criminal summonses in Galway District Court can take 16 weeks to be heard (the previous year it was a 12-15 weeks wait), while charge sheets are heard at the next sitting of the court, the same as the previous year.

Summonses in Carlow can take 20-28 weeks to be heard, while in Tralee, the wait is 8-12 weeks.

In Family Law sittings in Galway, applications for maintenance or guardianship take between 4-8 weeks to be heard, compared to 6-8 weeks the previous year.

Last year, civil cases took 16 weeks to reach the District Court here, compared to an 8-12 week wait the previous year.

That compares to 12-16 weeks in Portlaoise and Letterkenny and four weeks in Roscommon and Waterford.

In the High Court, waiting times for civil and family cases stood at two months, unchanged from the previous year and the shortest in the country. The longest wait was recorded in Limerick at 25 months.

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