A Government Minister has rubbished any suggestion that the Western Rail Corridor should be reopened to trains – claiming instead that the provision of a greenway from Athenry all the way to Enniskillen was the most logical option.
And Minister Ciaran Cannon says that “a small cohort” of individuals who are advocating rail traffic on the line were doing “a disservice” to a lot of people who could benefit from a greenway.
The Galway East TD has always been a staunch advocate of a greenway being provided along the rail corridor from Athenry to Tuam onto Claremorris and beyond.
Minister Cannon said that there will not be any trains running along the Western Rail Corridor “in our lifetime” and he also went on to dismiss the prospect of it being used for freight traffic.
He said that the biggest rail freight company in the country had recently scaled back their demand for a service between Ballina and Waterford Port to just one a week and now there was no service required.
Minister Cannon said that the development of the motorway network had resulted in rail freight now being in low demand.
He added that the opening of motorway between Tuam and Limerick reduced the requirement of rail. He said that this will be extented to Cork and possibly Sligo in the future.
Greenway campaigners are delighted with Minister Cannon’s strongest statement to date on the controversial issue. He said that the Ennis to Athenry section of passenger railway was losing €55,000 every week.
He said that there is now a fantastic opportunity available to create a greenway that would prove a huge economic benefit to North Galway, Mayo and Sligo on a State-owned track.
Fellow Galway East TD Sean Canney has been a firm opponent of a greenway along the Western Rail Corridor and he is supported in his stance by a number of councillors who have been successful in preventing a feasibility study being commissioned on a greenway.
Tuam’s Cllr Shaun Cunniffe welcomed Minister Cannon’s statement saying that it made absolutely no sense in reopening the railway in view of the roads network that have been provided.
“The prospect of trains running on the rail corridor was never going to happen and I am glad that the Minister has acknowledged this. It is time to dismiss the arguments for the reopening of the rail track and just move forward with a greenway.
“It can be done in a stage-by-stage process with the Athenry to Tuam section kicking the whole greenway off and even this would be a huge economic boost to both towns”, Cllr Cunniffe added.
Brendan Quinn of the Western Rail Trail in Sligo also expressed his gratitude that a senior Government politician is firmly behind their greenway proposals.
“Minister Cannon and his colleague in Galway East Anne Rabbitte of Fianna Fail are both on record stating their support for the Western Rail Trail from Athenry north to County Mayo
“Minister Cannon went on to say the only part of the country not benefiting from greenway investment was East Galway because a small cohort of people are blocking the greenway from happening because they still think the railway is going to come,” Mr Quinn added.
Gardaí in Galway operating with fewer patrol cars
Five large Garda stations in County Galway are operating with fewer Garda vehicles now than two years ago – leading to a call for the local fleet to be restored to 2020 levels.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has confirmed to Galway West TD Noel Grealish that the Garda fleet in the Galway Garda Division stands at 116 as of October of this year.
That’s greater than any of the years from 2012 to 2019, but it represents a reduction on the Garda fleet when compared with 2020 and 2021 figures.
Galway Gardaí had a dozen fewer vehicles this year, compared with 2020. There are 13 fewer patrol cars, down from 96 to 83; there was no change in the number of vans and motorcycles, and the division acquired one extra 4×4.
Garda stations in Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Tuam, Clifden and Salthill have all lost patrol cars in the past 24 months, according to the official figures.
Independent Deputy Grealish has demanded a restoration of the Garda fleet in Galway to 2020 levels.
“Gardaí have a demanding enough job to do, but it makes that important work even more difficult if they are not allocated the proper resources,” Deputy Grealish said.
“A reduction of twelve vehicles in less than two years across the Galway Division, down from 128 at the end of 2020 to 116 in October this year, is concerning.
“I have asked the Minister for Justice to explain why this has happened, that the number of vehicles in the Galway Division has fallen by ten per cent, when nationally the total fleet actually increased by 6%. I am demanding that they at the very least be restored to their 2020 levels,” he said.
Deputy Grealish pointed out that almost all areas of the county had suffered a reduction in Garda vehicles since the beginning of last year. Ballinasloe currently has six vehicles, a reduction of two since the end of 2020; Clifden also has six, down one; Loughrea was down three to eleven; Salthill was down three to ten; the biggest reduction in Garda vehicles was in the Tuam area down five to twelve.
Galway City’s fleet increased by two vehicles, for a total of 71.
Minister McEntee said that the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was responsible for the administration and management of An Garda Síochána, including the purchase, allocation, and effective and efficient use of Garda vehicles.
“As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure their optimum use in light of identified operational needs and emerging crime trends,” she added.
Galway City Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) last month complained that the number of vehicles available to Gardaí in Salthill and Knocknacarra was insufficient.
Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team
Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.
The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.
Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.
Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.
“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.
It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.
“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”
She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.
“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.
There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.
Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968
As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.
From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.
When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.
Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.
A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.
Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later