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Leisureland peace talk hopes are sunk

Denise McNamara

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A last ditch bid to broker a compromise between the chief executive of Galway City Council and the swimming and water polo clubs who have refused to return to Leisureland over price increases failed this week after a series of heated meetings.

City Chief Executive Brendan McGrath has now issued the five clubs with a deadline of March 9 to come back to him with a deal or he will reallocate the slots – which brought in income of around €250,000 before the fee hikes.

The clubs are standing firm in their opposition to any increased charges, insisting they were already paying double the national average to use the public facility before it was closed for 11 months due to storm damage.

A row over a proposed increase of 55% in charges for the clubs led to five of the seven board members of Leisureland resigning. That was negotiated down to 20% by Mr McGrath following fractious meetings with the club.

The tone of those meetings was conveyed in an email later sent by Vincent Finn, Connacht Regional Support Officer with Swim Ireland, to Mr McGrath, which he in turn then forwarded to councillors in an update on the negotiations.

In the email, Mr Finn said following six meetings, the Chief Executive had not listened to a word the club representatives had said.

“Instead you choose to believe the tripe that was fed to you by your staff. You choose to ignore the unanimous decisions of the board and the entire elected City Council,” he wrote.

“Good luck with your plan B and C. You had the chance to save clubs who work so hard to provide a structured and safe environment for children in the city of Galway, but you choose to fail them. Well done.”

One of the board members who did not resign, Cllr Padraig Conneely, said the Chief Executive had bent over backwards to reach a deal.

“The clubs have become hard line. They certainly haven’t been cooperative in arranging meetings. For example they wanted seven days written notice before meeting with the Chief Executive and then only after working hours,” remarked Cllr Conneely.

“The Chief Executive has facilitated them at every turn, last Monday he stayed in City Hall until 11pm to meet them – this is not the way to do business.

“Leisureland will have to move on if the clubs don’t agree to compromise like everyone else. We cannot wait forever. Four months has already been lost since €4.4m was spent on refurbishing it. It is losing €400,000 a year, paid for by the taxpayer, it can’t continue to be a drain on city finances and must be run as a more commercial enterprise.”

Mr Finn rejected any criticism of the clubs by Cllr Conneely.

“The clubs are in negotiation with Mr McGrath and until those are concluded we will be making no comment. We are hopeful we will be able to come to an agreement and get this sorted,” he told the Galway City Tribune.

“As far as Cllr Conneely is concerned, he hasn’t picked up the phone to the clubs since this all happened. He voted twice not to increase prices. We have no interest whatsoever what he has to say.”

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A city publican who last week helped save the life of a woman who had entered the waters of the Corrib off Wolfe Tone Bridge has made an appeal for young people to ‘look out for each other’.

Fergus McGinn, proprietor of McGinn’s Hop House in Woodquay, had been walking close to Jury’s Inn when he saw the young woman enter the river.

He then rushed to the riverbank on the Long Walk side of the bridge, jumped into the water, spoke to the woman and stayed with her until the emergency services arrived.

The incident occurred at about 3.45pm on Friday last, and a short time later the emergency services were on the scene to safely rescue the woman.

“She was lucky in that the river level was very low and she didn’t injure herself on the rocks and stones just under the water.”

He also appealed to the public to support in whatever they could the work being done by groups like the Claddagh Watch volunteers.
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

Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Gardaí have warned city publicans that alcohol cannot be served outside their own premises – even in newly-created on-street spaces designated by Galway City Council as suitable for outdoor dining.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said three Gardaí visited a number of city centre pubs on Thursday afternoon informing them that drinking outdoors was not allowed under licensing laws.

“They warned publicans and restaurants that the area outside their premises is not covered by the licence, and therefore under national legislation, they are breaking the law, because they are not entitled to sell alcohol in non-licensed areas.

“The operators were told that this was an official warning, and they will be back again in a few days and if it persisted, they [Gardaí] would have no option but to issue a charge and forward files to the Director of Public Prosecution. You could not make this up.

“All of the big operators were visited, and received an official warning, and they will be charged if they persist. According to the guards, they’re getting instructions from [Garda headquarters in] Phoenix Park,” he said.

The matter will be raised at a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
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

Call for 50% affordable homes in new Galway City Council estates

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The next Galway City Development Plan should include a greater provision for affordable housing than that recommended by Government, a meeting of the City Council has heard.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) told the meeting that while it was the Government’s intention to introduce a stipulation that new estates should have 10% affordable housing, Galway should go further – building anything up to 50% affordable in developments that are led by the local authority.

The Affordable Housing Bill, which is currently working its way through the Oireachtas, proposes that all developments should have 10% affordable and 10% social housing as a condition of their approval.

Affordable housing schemes help lower-income households buy their own houses or apartments in new developments at significantly less than their open market value, while social housing is provided by local authorities and housing agencies to those who cannot afford their own accommodation.

The Council meeting, part of the pre-draft stage of forming the Development Plan to run from 2023 to 2029, was to examine the overarching strategies that will inform the draft plan to come before councillors by the end of the year and Cllr McDonnell said a more ambitious target for affordable housing was absolutely necessary.

“It must be included that at least 50% of housing must be affordable [in social housing developments],” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) who questioned if the City Council was ‘tied down’ by national guidelines, or if it could increase the minimum percentage of affordable housing required locally.
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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