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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

Connacht Tribune tributes to loved ones

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These past few months have seen so many communities left to silently mourn family members and friends, whose funerals they would have attended in such numbers, were it not for the current Covid-19 restrictions.

But those that are gone have not been, and will not be, forgotten – which is why we want to open the pages of the Connacht Tribune to you to tell their stories.

If you’ve lost a loved one, whether to Covid-19 or not, or if your community or organization or sports club is mourning the death of a valued member and friend, you can email us your tribute and we will publish it in our papers.

CONNACHT TRIBUNE OBITUARY TRIBUTE

All you have to do it to click on the above link, and it will take you to a short set of questions which you can fill in – and then add whatever you feel tells the story of the life of your friend, family member or colleague.

You can email that with a photograph to us, to news@ctribune.ie or you can post it to ‘Obituaries’, Connacht Tribune, 21 Liosban Business Park – and please enclose a contact number in case we have any queries.

We sympathise with anyone who has lost a loved one at this awful time, particularly given that so many people were unable to mourn with them and their family in person – and we hope that this will help in some small way to show those family members that we are all united in grief, even from a distance.

This is an additional feature we are providing alongside our long-established weekly Family Notices section where loved ones are remembered immediately by Months Mind Notices and annual anniversary remembrances.  You can contact our team for further details at salesadmin@ctribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Alison’s Euro Award for Covid information project

Dave O'Connell

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Mike Feerick...found of Alison.

The Galway-established online course providing information about coronavirus in more than 70 languages – reaching over 350,000 people worldwide – is among 23 projects from the EU and the UK recognised for their outstanding contribution to fighting COVID-19 and its disastrous consequences.

The European Economic and Social Committee has awarded the Civil Solidarity Prize to the Irish learning platform Alison – founded by social entrepreneur Mike Feerick and based in Loughrea – for its free online course which was developed and published at the very start of the pandemic to educate as many people as possible about the virus, its spread and its effects.

The EESC, an advisory body representing Europe’s civil society at the EU level, selected the learning platform Alison as the best Irish candidate for the Prize, saying that its project “Coronavirus: What you need to know” stood out as a shining example of solidarity and civic responsibility during the COVID-19 crisis.

The online course was launched in February 2020 when the knowledge about the virus was still very scarce and the governments were still struggling with how to respond to the looming crisis.

With its training programme, based on WHO and CDC guidelines and continuously updated to include the latest information, the Irish platform has given people free access to potentially life-saving knowledge.

Translated in less than four months into more than 70 languages, with the help of 5,000 volunteers many of whom were immigrants, it had been completed by approximately 350,000 people as of September 2020. Some 100,000 people signed up for it in a single day.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www/connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Covid a whole different ball game for Galway camogie nurse

Dara Bradley

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Pictured at the presentation of a Galway jersey and message of thanks from Galway GAA to frontline workers at UHG this week were (from left) Galway Senior Camogie player and nurse Emma Helebert, Galway GAA Chairman Pat Kearney, Galway Senior Ladies Football player and nurse Tracey Leonard, Galway Bay FM commentator Tommy Devane, and Eoin McGinn, Assistant Director of Nursing.

Galway camogie star Emma Helebert doesn’t shy away from a question about Covid-19 anti-vaxxers and their online conspiracy theories.

“Personally, since this pandemic has hit, I’m allergic to social media over the whole thing,” she says.

A midwife at University Hospital Galway, the 2019 All-Ireland winner agrees that vaccines involve personal choice.

But that choice should be informed by trusted sources of information, such as the HSE or NHS websites – and not random often nefarious and anonymous contributors on social media.

“There are more reliable sources of information than turning to places like Facebook or whatever online forums are talking about it,” she says.

“What’s scaring people more than the actual thought of the vaccines is these opinions that are being forced down people’s throats and they’re seeing it every time they go on Facebook and scrolling on social media.

“My only advice to people who are scared is to do your own research. Go to the reliable sources of information and don’t believe what you see on Facebook.

“Unfortunately, there are people out there who create pages that are full of negativity or full of lies. It only takes one scary thought or piece of information you’ve heard to cling to you that’ll make you not want to get it,” she adds.

Read the full interview with Emma Helebert in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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