Ministers are only interested in photo ops when in Galway


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Ministers are only interested in photo ops when in Galway Ministers are only interested in photo ops when in Galway

Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

A Fine Gael City councillor gave a withering assessment of two Government ministers (from the Coalition’s two other parties, obviously!), and their relaxed approach to the provision of more housing in Galway.

Clodagh Higgins criticised Fianna Fáil’s Darragh O’Brien, the housing minister, and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, the transport minister, for ignoring Galway City Council’s request to meet to discuss housing delivery – or the lack of it.

In an uncharacteristic outburst at the latest Council meeting, Classy Clodagh lashed the two senior ministers who, she said, were happy to visit Galway for a “positive news story and photo opportunities”, but not to discuss important matters like three new housing estates that were refused planning by An Bord Pleanála in a housing and homelessness emergency.

All fur coat and no knickers was the charge levelled. And the former mayor’s frustration was understandable.

At the Council’s February 13 meeting, which she chaired, Cllr Higgins proposed a motion calling on Ministers Ryan and O’Brien to “urgently meet with Galway City councillors and management to discuss issues impacting housing delivery in Galway City”.

Junior Minister in the Housing Department, Kieran O’Donnell of Fine Gael was also invited, at the behest of Fianna Fáil councillors.

All 16 councillors present agreed to the motion seconded by Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind).

But eight months on, no meeting has taken place, and there is no sign of one being arranged. Other than ‘holding’ replies, there has been no substantive move by the Ministers to engage with elected members or officials as per the democratically elected will of the Council.

Both senior ministers have been in Galway since February, including Ryan to open the new pedestrian and cycling bridge at Salmon Weir. Yet neither took the opportunity to accede to councillors’ request to meet with them about housing delivery.

The invites were issued after two social housing estates (and one private estate) were refused planning permission by ABP.

The planned Council estates would have delivered 165 social and affordable houses. They were rejected – after years of planning and deliberation – partly due to inadequate provision of social and physical infrastructure, and because of car dependency.

The then Chief Executive Brendan McGrath warned the judgements torpedoed the Council’s housing targets over the three years to 2025, and stifled the local authority’s plans to acquire more land for houses.

Of course, the City Council and councillors shoulder some of the blame for approving a development that is excessively car dependent and liable to be rejected on appeal to ABP.

If you fail to invest in footpaths, bus lanes, cycleways, public transport and other essential facilities required for housing developments, then councillors shouldn’t act all surprised when that comes back to bite them in the arse.

But the lack of leadership from senior ministers, by ignoring the councillors’ request to meet, suggests there is no urgency or will by those with real power to solve the problem.

It also shows the contempt senior politicians have for local democracy; by ignoring councillors they relegate City Hall to a talking shop.

Photo: Cllr Clodagh Higgins (right) pictured with Minister Hildegarde Naughton at the opening of the new bridge at the Salmon Weir, hit out at senior ministers, including Eamon Ryan (in shirtsleeves, behind her), who visited Galway for positive stories and photo opportunities, but weren’t available to address housing issues.

This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the October 20 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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