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Connacht Tribune

Minister: Communities must ‘use or lose’ their Post Offices

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The reason that some Post Offices in rural Ireland are in danger of closure is simply down to the fact that less and less people are using them.

That was the view put forward by Community and Rural Affairs Minister, Michael Ring, T.D. when he visited Connemara last week.

“We have to be honest about this”, Minister Ring stated.  “An Post does not want to shut post offices; it is the decreasing use of the offices locally that is bringing the threats of closure ever closer.”

Minister Ring was in Clifden to officially open the Connemara Pony Breeders Society Show.

In answering a question about fear of post office closures in rural Ireland, the Minister said:  “Look, there are people signing petitions and attending public meetings now who never stood inside the door of their local post office”.

Minister Ring also instanced a village – which he did not name – where half of the people there go to a post office in another town because they do not want to be seen  going to the local office getting their “collections”.

He also stated that 80% of driving license applicants now go through that process online.

Minister Ring said that most people would still be within 15 kilometres  of a post office even if all of the closures now being mooted were put into effect.   “Communities that now have post offices must “use them or lose them” Minister Ring said.

A spate of post office closures – including a number in County Galway – are now in the offing as significant number of local postmasters opt for a severance package equalling two years income.

While An Post say the process – which was agreed with the Postmasters Union – is a “consolidation” of services it is understood that new post offices will not be established in the areas affected.

The policy is to link the area which is losing a post office to the nearest functioning post office in order to underpin a “viable” arrangement.  There have been protests about this policy in a number of areas in western counties.

Minister Michael Ring said that there is no blame to be apportioned to postmasters who avail of the retirement package.  “Many of them have been putting in long hours and not coming out with a basic wage,” the Minister said.  “Nobody can expect people to do that”.

Minister Ring said the public will have to support post offices that are viable or that they will not be there.  “It is use them or lose them,” the Minister said.

“I want to see services retained in rural Ireland” stated the Minister for Community and Rural Affairs “but the community has to support them”.

The Minister also had some trenchant words for the banks and what he see’s as their decreasing connection with rural communities.

“We do not now have a banks that support the general public,” Minister Ring claimed.  He said that the emphasis on online banking was “not good” and that he was critical of the trend in that direction in banking circles.

Minister Ring said that the Government had agreed not to hinder the establishment of “community banks” but that they would not become involved in funding them.  He said that Irish Rural Link is currently formulating strategies that could lead to the formation of such banks.

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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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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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