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Connacht Tribune

Merger of City and County Council ‘makes no sense’

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Catherine Connolly

The proposed amalgamation of Galway City and County Councils will not save any money – because the local authorities are operating on a very limited budget already.

That’s what Deputy Catherine Connolly told the Dáil last week, adding that the last review saw the Government increase the number of city councillors to 18 and to 39 on the County Council.

“As I understand it and I am open to correction on this, not one of the 18 councillors, who are very important stakeholders, was in support of this proposal,” she said.

“I went forward and made a verbal submission. I regretted having to go to a private hotel to do that – which is an instance of what happens – rather than that taking place in a public building.

“I raised my concerns. I do not believe any one of those 18 councillors said this was good and each and every one of them engaged with the process.

“If the Government is going to have a consultation process and 99% of the combined councillors are saying not to do this, and the Government goes ahead and does it, what kind of democracy is that?” she asked.

Independent Deputy Noel Grealish said if the Bill was railroaded through this House and the merger of the two local authorities goes ahead, Galway will lose its status and the mayoral position.

“A mayor is one of the most important positions that a city can have and the mayoral position in Galway is truly historic,” he said.

“When important visitors come to Galway, including prospective investors brought to the county by the IDA, they always meet the mayor.

“How will it be possible to have a chairman of a super local authority with up to 57 members, as well as a municipal district of Galway city and a mayor for the city? That is not going to work. It is not working in Limerick or Waterford,” he added.

Deputy Grealish said the Bill made no reference to the crucial issues of funding or staffing, which will directly impact on the success or failure of any amalgamation of Galway city and county councils.

“In 2018, Galway City Council had a budget of €994 per person, down from €1,312 in 2008, while Galway County Council had a budget of €626 per person, down from €1,004 in 2008/ An amalgamated authority would have a budget of €738 per capita, which compares poorly with the €1,000 per capita available in other comparable local authorities,” he said.

Galway, he said, is a unique county, with a big city as well as rural and sparsely populated areas.

“Connemara and the areas stretching from Glenamaddy to Portumna are so different. There is a wealth of history in the city itself, with Christopher Columbus numbered among visitors in the past.

“Galway City Council currently collects significant revenue through business rates and funds services differently from the county council.”

However, Minister of State Seán Kyne said there is existing co-operation between city and county, including libraries and fire services, and there is very easy potential to be realised on roads and the arts.

“These include the Galway city ring road, which would be a joint effort between the councils, although there is agreement that it is being led by the County Council. The sewerage system on Mutton Island is serving some of the county as well in Barna and Oranmore, where there are connections,” he said.

“We must ensure in any amalgamation, if it happens, that there would be stronger municipal districts with power and a set budget. In an amalgamation, there should be a dispersal of funding to the peripheral areas as well.”

Connacht Tribune

Thousands on waiting list for student accommodation in Galway

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The student housing crisis is ‘the worst it’s ever been’ – with thousands on waiting lists for rooms; hundreds relying on hostels and friends’ sofas; and countless more facing deferral or dropping out altogether.

The President of NUI Galway’s Students’ Union, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, told the Connacht Tribune that students had been left in a desperate situation, as she called for mass protests to have the issue addressed.

According to Ms Nic Lochlainn, 3,000 students were currently on the waiting lists for NUIG’s on-campus accommodation – Corrib Village and Goldcrest Village – with around 500 in line for any bed that might come up in the Westwood.

“Gort na Coiribe and Dunaras have told us their waiting lists are well into the hundreds too. I’ve only got to contact two of the hostels around town, but Kinlay and Snoozles have almost 200 students between them already – and they’re expecting more.

“The first years haven’t even arrived yet, and on top of all that, you have people in B&Bs and staying on their friends’ sofas,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn.

Pressure on the student rental market had been building for years, she said, but it had gone off the cliff edge this year as a perfect storm was created by increased student numbers and reduced bed availability.

“[Minister for Further and Higher Education] Simon Harris created new places on courses this year and talked about maximum access to education . . . I’m not sure how that works for students who are homeless.

“Because there weren’t many students around last year, some private landlords might have moved on. There was no new purpose-built accommodation delivered, and then Simon Harris creates new places with no new beds,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn of the causes of this year’s problems.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Government asked to “do everything” to ensure Intel chooses Oranmore as base

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The Taoiseach and Tánaiste will be asked to do “everything in their power” to ensure technology giant Intel selects Oranmore as the location for its new microchip manufacturing plant – which could create 10,000 jobs and transform the West of Ireland economy.

The 540-acre site is owned by the Defence Forces and was selected by IDA Ireland as the preferred site for the company’s new EU ‘chip’ base.

BY STEPHEN CORRIGAN
AND DARA BRADLEY

Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany and Intel confirmed to Taoiseach Micheál Martin that the site is under consideration.

Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said the development would be “transformative” and would be Intel’s largest microchip manufacturing plant in the world.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week, councillors backed a proposal from Cllr Liam Carroll to write to Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar to urge them to push forward the plan.

“This would be a game-changer, not just for Oranmore but for the whole of Connacht. Imagine 10,000 directly employed at some stage in the future, and the spinoff from that,” he said.

The Oranmore site is reported to have been selected ahead of three other locations in Ireland.

It is on Intel’s short-list for the proposed project, which would involve building eight factory modules on a single campus at the site off the M6 motorway, northeast of Oranmore, the newspaper reported.

The American multinational tech company has whittled down its short-list to 10 finalists; Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that if it proceeds, the new Oranmore ‘mega-fab’ would dwarf Intel’s existing site in Leixlip, which employs almost 5,000.

Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon (FG) said: “It would put Galway on the map internationally as a place for high-tech investment and it would serve to rebalance the economic imbalance that exists in our country where all of the weight is on the east coast.

“The IDA has a formula where every one new job created in that industry creates about eight or nine more jobs downstream in terms of the supply chain and services. They’re saying 10,000 jobs on site – twice the population of Athenry – on one campus and then another 80-90,000 jobs off site. The figures are phenomenal, mind boggling,” said Deputy Cannon.

The demand for the facility arose during Covid-19 when the supply chain between Asia and Europe broke down.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Fraudsters ‘spoof’ Galway Garda Station’s phone number

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Fraudsters replicated the phone number of Galway Garda Station and used it to call a local woman to demand money.

Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that the number ‘091 538000’ was somehow used by criminals who attempted to extract money – in the form of the online currency Bitcoin – from the victim.   Despite the phone call appearing to come from the Garda station at Mill Street, the woman became suspicious and reported it to Gardaí.

Sgt Walsh said it was the latest in a series of ‘spoofing’ phone calls to have occurred this year.

Spoofing is where fraudsters change the caller ID to ring unsuspecting members of the public to try to extract money or personal information off them.

He said that the number of spoofing incidents reported to Galway Gardaí has more than doubled in the past year.

“It is top of my agenda,” he said.

He pointed out that criminals can obtain a ‘ready to go’ phone and SIM card, relatively cheaply, and it was “very difficult” for Gardaí to trace the caller.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more details on fraud figures in Galway, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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