Hiring park ranger-style community wardens this year to maintain and safeguard three city woods after hours and at weekends has been ruled out by management at City Hall.
At a local authority meeting last week, Chief Executive of Galway City Council Brendan McGrath said it would cost at least €320,000 to hire eight new staff to patrol the city’s wooded areas 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
He said it was not budgeted for and hiring park rangers was not included in its strategic plan for this year.
“I can’t make it happen in 2021,” insisted Mr McGrath. But he vowed to report back to city councillors with a plan detailing how the Council might be able to provide more wardens to protect parks in future years.
Director of Services, Dermot Mahon, highlighted a number of potential problems with the proposal but Imelda Byrne, the Fianna Fáil city councillor, received cross-party support from a majority of elected members.
Cllr Byrne’s motion read: “Galway City Council agrees on the need for full-time on-the-grounds wardens seven days a week in the main city parks to ensure that they are safe and of high maintenance for the benefit of the public and of biodiversity.”
She explained that full-time wardens were needed at Terryland Forest Park, Bearna Woods and Merlin Woods.
Cllr Byrne, in introducing the emergency motion, said it was “upsetting” to learn that the Environment Department of the Council had an under-spend of €700,000 last year. She said Galway City Council should follow the lead of Fingal County Council and other local authorities who hire park rangers to patrol parks.
Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) said that the Council needs a team of wardens, working out of office hours. Currently, he said, community wardens work 9am-5pm and there is no cover from 5pm to 9am.
He said it was his understanding that Gardaí were called to Merlin Woods last weekend, after a member of the public reported cars driving in the meadow, but they had not responded over an hour later.
Mayor Mike Cubbard (Ind) said more ‘boots on the ground’ were needed – when staff were appointed to Westside Sports Park, problems with anti-social behaviour disappeared.
Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) said he was fully supporting the motion, and asked that the new wardens would cover city playgrounds, also. He said that a fortnight ago, people were partying in Mervue playground until 8am one morning, and left drugs paraphernalia behind.
Cllrs Donal Lyons and Noel Larkin (both Ind) expressed support for the sentiment behind the motion but they said it could have financial implications and a knock-on impact on other recreational and amenity services provided by the Council. They wanted a detailed report on the impact of passing the motion.
The Director with responsibility for parks, Mr Mahon, said it was not just a cost implication and hiring new staff needed to be approved by Government. Additional staff costs were not one-off costs and were recurring.
He said wardens didn’t deal with anti-social behaviour and he asked whether the proponents of the proposal were looking for “security guards”. Park rangers in other parks around the country were supplied by the Office of Public Works, he said, not the local authority.
Mr Mahon said there would be a “health and safety implication” of having staff out 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He said that the cost would be “excessive”, and amount to €300,000-€400,000 annually.
He said it was not clear from the motion whether councillors expected wardens to be based at the three woods or at City Hall.
If it was the former, then they’d need to provide accommodation, including toilets for staff, at the woods; if it was the latter, then City Hall would have to be accessible to staff 24-hours.
In reply, Cllr Mike Crowe (FF) said, “you’d have to wonder why councillors would bother coming up with motions after listening to that response”.
He said that Mr Mahon had spoken for 15 minutes, and 14 and a half of those minutes was negative.
Cllr Crowe said his colleague had put “deep thought” into the proposal, which was “not about whether wardens can get a cup of coffee at midnight”.
Mr McGrath insisted there was no opposition to the motion from management but it couldn’t be implemented this year.
It will be debated again today at a meeting devoted to Notice of Motions.
No monkeypox cases recorded so far in Galway
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) has had no reports of monkeypox infection in Galway so far.
So far, some 97 confirmed cases have been notified in Ireland, including 12 new notifications in the week to July 30.
But none of these cases were notified in the HSE’s CHO2 area which includes Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.
The latest epidemiology report about human monkeypox was released last week.
All of the 97 notified cases in Ireland are males and have a median age of 36.
The sexual orientation of 75 of the men is known, and they self-identify as gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men.
The HSPC said this epidemiology of the infection is similar to other countries.
A total of ten people have been hospitalised with the infection; four of them required clinical care for monkeypox infection while two were admitted for observation.
The HSE said monkeypox is a very uncommon infection that produces a spotty, itchy and sore rash, and sometimes a fever.
It is caused by a monkeypox virus which is naturally found in some animals in Africa. The HSE said it was in the news now because there have been several thousand cases of monkeypox in countries where the virus is not found naturally, including Ireland.
It is spread through close contact, including sexual contact, but it can be picked up through contact with objects touched by an infected person such as sheets.
Monkeypox symptoms can appear in two stages. The first stage usually begins with a sudden onset of fever and chills, followed by a bad headache, swollen glands and exhaustion. There may also be muscle ache, backache, cough and runny nose, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea. Not everyone with monkeypox has these initial symptoms.
One to three days after the fever starts, an itchy rash appears. It may first appear on the face and spread to other parts of the body. Some people may only have a rash and not initial symptoms.
Anyone with symptoms is asked to contact their GP.
Law catches up with Galway parking meter thief years later
From the Galway City Tribune – The long arm of the law stretched back through the years, finally bringing a man to justice this week for stealing almost €3,500 in coins from parking meters in the city six years ago.
42-year-old Ioan Costin, a Romanian national with an address at 20 Brewery Court, Ballinrobe, was taken into custody on July 11 on foot of three separate bench warrants issued for his arrest when he failed to appear before courts in Galway in 2017, and more recently Dublin and Castlebar.
He was facing charges in Galway in 2017 of damaging a parking meter at the Long Walk, belonging to Galway/Aengus Property Management on July 6, 2016, and with stealing €669.90 in coins from the meter on the same date.
He was further charged with stealing €932 in coins from another parking meter at the Docks, the property of Paul Sheridan, c/o Port of Galway, on October 2, 2016, and with damaging that machine on the same occasion.
Costin was brought in custody before Galway District Court on July 18 – a week after the bench warrant was executed – where he pleaded guilty to the above charges and to further charges of damaging four other parking meters at or near the Docks area on various dates between July 4 and 19, 2016.
In all, coins totalling €3,451 were taken from the meters over the four-month period, to which he also pleaded guilty.
In one raid alone, Costin and another man, who was never identified or caught, stole €1,800 in coins from one meter at the Dock Road on July 6, 2016.
He was also found in possession of two screw drivers which he used to force the meters open during one of the July raids.
Both men were captured on CCTV, damaging the meters and stealing the coins, following a Garda investigation into the targeted attacks on parking meters in the Docks area at the time.
Costin made full admissions to Garda Ronan Leonard following his arrest on July 11 last.
He claimed he had a gambling addiction and went straight to Salthill on each occasion with his share of the stolen coins, where he lost them all on slot machines.
Defence barrister, Ernie White explained to Judge Gerard Furlong at the holiday sittings of the court this week that his client was first brought in custody before Galway District Court on July 11 last where he pleaded guilty to the charges and sentence was adjourned to this week’s court.
Sergeant Christy Browne, prosecuting, said Costin had 17 previous convictions, all of which were for thefts and for having implements to commit thefts. The most recent conviction, he said, was recorded at Castlebar Circuit Court on July 15 last where Costin received a three-month sentence for a theft which he committed in May 2020. He had also received suspended sentences at a court in Dublin the previous day for similar thefts and for having screwdrivers to commit thefts in 2017.
Noting Costin had made no attempt to repay the money in the intervening years, Judge Furlong sentenced him to five months in prison for damaging the meter at The Long Walk and imposed a concurrent five-month sentence for the theft of the €3,451. Both sentences were backdated to when the Costin went into custody on July 11. The judge took the remaining charges into account and granted leave to appeal the sentence.
Arts building must be provided in any overhaul of Galway Docks
From the Galway City Tribune – A three-storey structure to accommodate the arts in Galway City could become a reality as part of the regeneration plans for the extensive Inner Harbour site at the Docks.
And Galway Harbour Company has stated that as part of any redevelopment of the site, they are very supportive of the provision of arts and cultural facilities on their lands.
Caroline Phelan, Senior Planner with the City Council, told a Galway City Development Plan (2023-29) discussion that they would consider the provision of 1,500 square metres of arts space on the site by the eventual developer.
And she said that this could involve the construction of a three-storey structure and would be embraced as part of the overall Harbour extension and all councillors present at the meeting welcomed such a move.
Ms Phelan added that any such development would be limited to a certain size and would be done in conjunction with the City Arts Officer. An audit of arts and culture requirements would also be carried out.
The City Development Plan meeting was discussing a submission from the Galway Harbour Company which outlined a proposed masterplan for the overall site which it said would be required.
It is envisaged that the site will be ‘built out’ in two phases and should require a separate masterplan for each phase, in the context of the overall planning framework.
However, as part of this massive plan, it is required the provision of an arts and cultural facility at a developer’s expense and with a management regime incorporated into the development delivery that enables the long-term sustainable use of such a facility.
“Galway Harbour Company are entirely supportive of the provision of arts and cultural facilities on their lands as part of the regeneration of the area and will actively accommodate such facilities.
“However, the requirement as set out in the draft plan is considered to be unduly onerous particularly as our client has no involvement in or expertise in this sector.
“The Galway Harbour Company will make a site available for an arts and cultural facility and will work with all relevant parties to ensure that this facility is delivered and that it is sustainable in the long term.”
It was requested by the Harbour Company that that this requirement would be reworded along the following lines: “Provision will be made within the masterplan for an arts and cultural facility and the delivery and management regime for this facility will be devised in collaboration with Galway City Council and other relevant stakeholders.”
Cllr Donal Lyons (Ind) at the outset asked if it would be a small, medium or large artistic facility and inquired if there would be a minimum space available for the arts as part of the Harbour regeneration plans.
But he did express the view that it was a major step towards the provision of such facilities at the Docks and it would “foster artistic purposes”.