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McDonnell’s ‘muzzling’ attempt to make HSE forum a ‘laughing stock’

Dara Bradley



Cllr Declan McDonnell only wants three questions at HSE Regional Health Forum

Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column with Dara Bradley 

The dangers of self-censorship became a flashpoint at the latest HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting.
The monthly meeting offers Councillors from across the West, including Galway’s two local authorities, the only opportunity to hold managers in the health system to account in a public forum.
Because media is there, it is open and transparent. Members are permitted to submit four written questions in advance about policy or issues with hospitals or services.
They get a written reply at the meeting, and have the opportunity to further tease out the answer with a follow-up oral question. The written replies are usually very civil-servicey, but the oral response from the head-honchos in Saolta University Health Care Group, the HSE, and senior hospital staff, can be illuminating.
Often questions are ‘negative’ or highlight shortcomings in the health system but that’s the nature of things – there’s no point asking questions about perfectly functioning elements of healthcare. And they’re often posed by politicians whose sole intention is that the service is improved on the back of them highlighting it.
It’s not just politicians lashing the HSE, although sometimes that happens. It is also an opportunity for managers to explain complex problems. Questions at the HSE forum are a vital component of a functioning health service.
That’s why City Councillor Declan McDonnell’s suggestion that members should only be allowed to ask three questions, instead of four, was greeted with contempt by his colleagues.
Declan moaned that the forum had spent an hour and a half responding to questions. Ah, diddums.
Four questions each was “too many”, he said. “It’s not what the health forum is about . . . it should be about policy,” he added.
To which several councillors responded that questioning the unelected health executive is exactly what the forum is about.
Roscommon Cllr Tony Ward was having none of it – his area is far too big to be reducing the scope to question officials. He said four was the maximum questions they could ask, but it’s not a target, and there was no obligation on members to ask any questions at all.
Mayo Cllr Michael Kilcoyne railed against Declan’s ‘charter for self-censorship’.
“We’d be the laughing stock of the region if we did that,” he said. “There’s no point muzzling ourselves. They (health officials) would be delighted with it because they don’t want us asking questions. We should be asking more questions. This is the only forum where we can hold them to account,” he said.
Tony Canavan, the new Chief Executive of Saolta, who is quite adept at answering questions and is fair and honest in his responses, welcomed the suggestion. “We’d be very happy to accommodate it,” he said, with a straight face . . . which is exactly why Declan’s suggestion should be rejected outright.

For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune 


“It will be akin to the notorious Rahoon flats”

Enda Cunningham



The Rahoon flats, which were built in 1972 and demolished in 1998, widely regarded as a failed social housing project.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – More than 700 local residents have signed a petition against plans for the construction of 330 apartments in Knocknacarra – which have been likened to “the notorious Rahoon flats”.

Child safeguarding concerns have also been raised by the principal of Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh – who pointed out that the apartments will look directly into 19 classrooms.

A total of 27 objections were lodged against Glenveagh Living’s plans to build 332 apartments in six blocks – ranging from four storeys to seven storeys in height.

Locals have demanded An Bord Pleanála hold an oral hearing into the plans – that planning authority is due to make a decision by March 20, although it can decide to hold such a hearing first.

A computer-generated image of the Glenveagh plans for the site opposite Gort na Bró and beside Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh.

One of the objections – which accuses the developer of designing “tenement style” homes in a “blatant attempt to profiteer from the housing crisis” – was signed by more than 700 local residents.

Another objector said the development was “akin to the notorious Rahoon flats, with people being packed on top of each other”.

Locals have raised concerns about the huge number of apartments planned; overshadowing of homes; inadequate open space, playing pitches and community infrastructure; parking and traffic problems; low quality of design and road safety.

Glenveagh Living did not respond to a request from the Galway City Tribune for comment.
This is a preview only. To read extensive coverage of the Glenveagh plans and objections, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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Arts fraternity rallies as Theo faces deportation

Denise McNamara



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Less than a year after being invited by the Arts Council to perform at a conference about diversity in the arts, a musician, DJ and rapper – who is about to embark on a project for Galway 2020 – is facing deportation.

Theophilus Ndlovu left Zimbabwe after what he claims was a lifetime of abuse at the hands of the people who were supposed to mind him.

His mother left when he was just six years old and he never met his father. He was placed in the care of an unofficial foster family but it was never a happy arrangement.

“These people I stayed with were abusing me. They were never my family. I was running away from persecution and abuse and the way I was treated by these people. I had to fend for myself since I was ten years old,” he recalls.

When Theo was 20, he saved up enough money from mowing lawns and selling chickens to escape, arriving in Ireland where he sought asylum. Authorities placed him in a Direct Provision Centre in Finglas for a fortnight before he was transferred to the Great Western Direct Provision Centre off Eyre Square, where he has remained for nearly four years.

Almost immediately, Theo felt at home.

“This is my family. Galway is where I found my voice. It has become my home. It is just where I’m meant to be.”

Theo has immersed himself in the arts community and has become a leading hip-hop artist, known as Touché, performing regularly at venues such as the Róisín Dubh and the Black Gate. He was instrumental in getting fellow asylum seekers and refugees involved in music collaborations.

He is a founding member of the multicultural music project ‘Atmos Collective’ and has facilitated numerous music workshops in Galway, “teaching, motivating and inspiring hundreds of young people along the way”, according to co-founder Alice McDowell, an Australian filmmaker and fiddler.

The collective was recently granted funding by the Galway European Capital of Culture 2020 committee to host community music workshops in the city and county over the next year as part of their ‘Small Towns Big Ideas’ scheme.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

The petition is available online HERE

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Regeneration funding sought for community centre

Stephen Corrigan



A computer-generated image of the proposed communit centre in Newcastle

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – With a decision imminent on planning permission to build a new community centre in Newcastle, city councillors will be asked next Monday to support an application for major government funding to proceed with the project.

A motion by Councillor Eddie Hoare (FG) will seek the approval of the City Council to make an application for funding under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) – an overall fund of €2bn available for major infrastructural projects in cities.

Chairman of the Newcastle Combined Community Association (NCCA) Seamus Davey said that they expected a decision on their planning application by the end of January, and were hopeful of getting the support of councillors for this funding application.

“While planning permission hasn’t been granted yet – it has dragged on a bit because of a request for further information – we expect to have it approved soon.

“This project will be shovel ready and as soon as we get planning permission, we’ll have the engineering documents drawn up. As soon as we have funding, we’ll be putting it out to tender,” said Mr Davey.

The Council is set to reach a decision on the application on February 6.

The proposal for funding under the URDF has to come from the Council so it is crucial the project got the full backing of Council members, Mr Davey added.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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