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Bradley Bytes

Michael D Castro obit raises ‘El Che’ statue from the dead

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column by Dara Bradley

President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, came under sustained attack in recent weeks for his tribute to fellow socialist leader, Fidel Castro.

The usual suspects on the raving right condemned Michael D for his obituary, which was gushing in its praise for the Cuban revolutionary.

Glossing over Castro’s human rights’ record, the former Labour Party Galway West TD preferred instead to focus on the positives of his reign: unrivalled literacy rates and a healthcare system admired the world over.

Michael D said Castro will be “remembered as a giant among global leaders whose view was not only one of freedom for his people, but for all of the oppressed and excluded peoples on the planet”.

There was just one line in his 468-word statement that hinted at criticism of the controversial Castro.

“The economic and social reforms introduced were at the price of a restriction of civil society, which brought its critics,” said Michael D.

But whatever about the merits of his eulogy, surely what it does do is raise again the spectre of a Galway monument, to Castro’s buddy, who helped launch the Cuban Revolution, Che Guevara?

Billy Cameron, a Labour Party City Councillor, and the last remaining radical on the City Council, was browbeaten when in 2012 he proposed a monument to Che Guevara in Galway City, the home of his ancestors.

El Che’s grandmother was Ana Lynch y Ortiz, and her family fled Galway in the middle of the 18th Century for a better life in South America.

Given that every city councillor nowadays seems to be getting a statue of their own (Polltopper Terry O’Flaherty just this week unveiled a 1916 statue in Mervue, despite the Shinners having already erected one in the area), surely now is the opportune time for Comrade Cameron to re-float his ‘El Che’ monument proposal.

As it happens, Michael D is due to visit Cuba early next year. And – presuming Castro’s death doesn’t scupper the trip – Comrade Cameron is planning a holiday, at his own expense, to coincide with the State visit.

Michael D’s Castro statement might give the Bould Billy the stomach to reignite the argument for a Che Guevara statue. Why not?

If nothing else, it might reawaken Declan Ganley, who led the opposition to the original plan four years ago. It’s been a while since the Libertas leader has waded into public debate. We’re due a good laugh.

For more,  see this week’s Galway City Tribune.

 

CITY TRIBUNE

Pedestrianisation plan was missing one thing – a plan!

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

On the last two weekends of August 2019, Brendan McGrath, Chief Executive of Galway City Council gave his blessing to the Westend Traders organisation to temporarily pedestrianise Dominick Street Upper.

The street from Monroe’s to Bierhaus was cordoned off to traffic from 7pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for two successive weekends. Dubbed a ‘pilot’ scheme, it was hailed a success by local businesses.

And, in fairness, it was a success. The closure facilitated on-street furniture, and a party atmosphere ‘back the West’. It was the place to be; a new rival to the Latin Quarter.

The trial gave a flavour of the potential to ‘re-imagine the public realm’, as the City Hall engineers would say.

There was one problem, though – the Council didn’t tell anyone in advance. Either they forgot, or couldn’t be bothered, but the local authority gave the go-ahead for the temporary street closure without consultation. There was no statutory road closure issued, which requires public notices to be published, and a period of public consultation. Residents weren’t asked.

Brendan McGrath just gave the nod, and it happened. A Council spokesperson at the time told this newspaper that Gardaí had been consulted; Mr McGrath had “no objection”.

Some residents made a fuss. They were annoyed, not by the closure per se, but for being bypassed.

It’s hard to believe that the Council learned nothing from that trial run. Almost two years on and the latest pedestrianisation “plan” has been haphazard.

True, there was an over-reaction online. Social media was a feeding frenzy. Some abuse directed at City Hall was not on. But it must take responsibility.

The Council had since August 2019 to prepare for pedestrianisation of Dominick Street Upper. It had months to prepare for the Government’s much-heralded ‘outdoor summer’.

And yet it failed to publish a coherent plan for the Westend, and it failed to consult in a meaningful way with residents. Ditto with Woodquay.

Credit to those at City Hall who at least tried to make something happen to benefit businesses; better than doing nothing. But there have been too many mistakes, too much confusion.

When the Council published public notices about its intention to make Dominick Street Lower a one-way and close to traffic at night Dominick Street Upper, the advert mixed up the streets.

Then there were mixed signals about which way they wanted the one-way system to operate. Inbound or outbound, nobody really could say definitively.

Emergency services – quite legitimately – raised official objections last week on health and safety grounds. That ultimately scuppered the guts of the proposals for both Dominick Streets.

What nobody has adequately explained is why were these organisations not consulted, and onboard, before the plan – such as it was – was leaked and before public notices were published signalling the intention to close roads.

The Small Crane and William Street West were included, then excluded and then back in again. Galway City Council over-promised. Businesses spent money on furniture based on those promises, which turned out to be undeliverable.

It all smacks of ‘back-of-a-cigarette-packet planning’ that changes depending what mood Twitter is in. It leaves a sour taste in those outdoor pints on a partially pedestrianised Westend!
This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. To read more, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Government is taking city renters for a ride

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

A three-bedroom townhouse on Presentation Road was advertised on Daft.ie in May with a monthly rent of €2,400. That’s two thousand four hundred euro – per month!

Now, it looked very nice and modern and it was brand spanking new. And it is in a lovely convenient location, a hop, skip and a jump from Shop Street.

For the same price you could rent a two-bed terraced property at Long Walk, also advertised on Daft.ie. So, one less bedroom but you have the added bonus of fantastic views of Claddagh and Nimmo’s Pier to compensate.

But an annual rent of almost €30,000 for a three-bed or two-bed city centre house is out of reach for most people. Who can afford €2,400 per month?

Experts say that you should spend no more than 30% of your gross income on rent. In order to keep to this rule, you’d need to be pulling in well over €7,000 per month, or more than €90,000 per annum.

Suffice to say they won’t be occupied by teachers, or Gardaí, or nurses or most ordinary hard-working single people. Even for couples, that’d be expensive.

And with rents like that, it’s easy to see why practitioners in other better-paid professions are struggling to rent while also saving for mortgages.

Average rents in Galway city are now €1,400, according to the latest Daft.ie report. That’s up by 6.1% year-on-year.

Average rents for a one-bed (€1,040), two-bed (€1,145), three-bed (€1,288), four-bed (€1,488) and five-bed (€1,627) have increased by between 2.4% and 7.3% in 12 months.

Obviously the two properties on Daft.ie cited above are above-average, primarily because of their location. But even the average rents for average houses in average locations are far in excess of what average people can afford.

Even renting a room has escalated. The average rent for a single room in the city centre is €460, up 18.6% in a year; it is €544 on average for a double room, up 16.2%.

These are supernormal profits. And that’s in a year when student demand was suppressed due to Covid-19, and competition from Airbnb rentals is down because there are few tourists. What will it be like when we get back to ‘normal’?

Galway Simon has consistently highlighted the problem of homelessness and lack of housing supply – and has predicted it will get worse.

Galway city is a Rent Pressure Zone. That’s supposed to mean annual rents can’t rise by more than 4%. The statistics prove otherwise. In reality, what it means is that everyone renting within the zone is under pressure.

The Government must act. If it doesn’t, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens will discover that there’s an inverse relationship between the cost of renting in Galway city, and their popularity in elections.

(Photo: The CEO of Galway Simon, Karen Golden. Based on rental costs in Galway, her predictions that homelessness will increase make sense).
This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. To read more, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

RTÉ’s cutbacks at Nuacht a threat to TG4’s ‘súil eile’

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Súil eile; another eye, a different perspective. It’s TG4’s motto, its ethos. It means different things to different people but fundamentally súil eile encapsulates the Irish language television channel’s raison d’être.

TG4, in order to carve out a niche, and to distinguish itself from the pre-existing public service broadcaster, had to be more than just the Irish language version of RTÉ.

To achieve the distinction, TG4 created its unique identity in the eyes of viewers, through commissioning brilliant original documentaries, like Laochra Gael and Fíorsceál, and buying in quirky or edgy ratings hits like Nip/Tuck and Oz.

It showed Westerns or ‘cowboy’ movies, but also showcased original, Irish-produced content from travel (Manchán Magan) to unusual dating (Paisean Faisean). Sport is another big selling point. It brought Wimbledon back into terrestrial-TV-only homes; it has contributed to the exponential growth in popularity of women’s Gaelic Games; and it has been innovative in how it presents and analyses live sport – mid-game interviews with rugby coaches, just one example of this.

Different perspectives are a feature of TG4’s news and current affairs output, too.

Obviously, what’s considered news in English is news in Irish too, but Nuacht TG4 covers different stories than RTÉ, and covers the same stories differently; a súil eile.

That unique selling point is now under threat – from RTÉ.

Many viewers are unaware that Nuacht, which is broadcast on TG4 daily at 7pm, is supplied to TG4 by RTÉ. As of mid-May, RTÉ cutbacks will limit the camera crew available to Nuacht on Saturdays and Sundays, and also on Tuesdays.

RTÉ said this was to reduce duplication but it erodes the editorial independence of Nuacht. It means that, on those days, editorial decisions for Nuacht will be dictated by the bigwigs in Donnybrook, Dublin 4, because if there’s a scarcity of cameras, RTÉ will take precedence.

So what’s the practical implication of this?

Say, for example, a well-known Irish writer died in Dublin at the weekend. Nuacht would want an obituary but because it wouldn’t really register with the English news, it wouldn’t be done.

Weekend stories from Gealtachtaí in Ráth Chairn in Meath and An Rinn in Waterford would almost definitely be ruled out under the new regime. Even covering stories relevant to the Conamara Gaeltacht, which need clips of Galway West politicians, who may still be in Dublin, wouldn’t be possible.

What the cuts could lead to is more TV reports with file footage and without talking heads; less content unique to Nuacht, and more reports that are just a translation of the English news.

Nuacht reporters are the guinea pigs for RTÉ innovations, such as self-editing. And yet the Nuacht is always first in the firing line for cuts, the low-hanging fruit.

A load of people in RTÉ in Dublin need reminding that they get the licence fee in part because of the Irish language. They don’t get State support for commercially viable shows like the Late Late Show. They have duties and commitments under the Broadcasting Act.

It’s time RTÉ stopped trying to downgrade Nuacht to a translation service at weekends, by poking its ‘súil eile’ out.

(Photo: The Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Michael D Higgins, and Connemara based film maker Bob Quinn, at the official opening of Telefis na Gaeltachta).
This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. To read more, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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