Lifestyle – Judy Murphy talks to Phil James of The Galway Waterways Association about the true value of our rivers and canals
We have a fantastic history and heritage but it’s something that most people don’t know about,” says Phil James as he produces a map of Galway City from his computer bag. He’s referring to the rivers and canals that flow through the city and which helped shape the economic and cultural life Galway City and County.
While their original purpose has changed, with some of the rivers having been covered over in the 19th and 20th century to enable the city’s growth, our waterways should continue to be an integral part of Galway’s social and economic life, according to Phil. But not in their current state.
He produces photo after photo of pollution and overgrowth along the waterways and remarks, “this is what tourists see and they must wonder is this how Galway people respect their heritage”.
One of the most shocking photos, taken near the Cathedral, shows a swan and her cygnets floating in a mass of rubbish and reeds.
That’s one reason why community group The Galway Waterways Initiative is holding a public workshop next Friday, May 19, entitled The Future of Galway’s Waterways. Individuals and groups with an interest in the waterways are invited to the event in the City’s Galway Rowing Club at Waterside. The aim, according to Phil, is to “develop a common vision for Galway’s rivers and canals”.
Galway has one of the most intricate canal and river systems of any Irish city, he says, but the community “should sit up and take responsibility” for it.
“For the past few years, I’ve watched the lock gates at Parkavera, behind the Róisín Dubh pub, fall apart,” he says, adding that since the gates rotted “it’s just a waterfall”. Watching that aspect of the historic Eglinton Canal fall into decay was what spurred him into action.
The Eglinton canal system, which opened in 1852, was developed to allow vessels travel between the Corrib and the sea – lock gates along the canal were opened at two points to release water and facilitate navigation.
The first set of lock gates were at Parkavera – now rotted away – and the second were at the Claddagh Basin. These are not currently serviceable, says Phil.
The Eglinton Canal was a busy place until the late 19th century, allowing freight in both directions between Connemara and the Corrib.
It also served as a feeder channel for rivers such as the Gaol and the Western Rivers, supplying extra water to power their many mills. In the late 19th century there were 30 mills in operation along Galway’s waterways, including grain mills, bleach mills, woollen mills and distilleries.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Gardaí launch social media campaign urging motorists to #SlowDown
AS part of their Be a Lifesaver road safety initiative, An Garda Síochána have commenced a week-long social media campaign #SlowDown.
Olympic golden boy Gunnar Bentz star attraction in Galway charity swim
USA Olympic swimming gold medallist Gunnar Bentz will be the star attraction at the Galway Swimming Club Open Water Longest Day Swim on the River Corrib on Saturday (July 2).
The event, organised in partnership with local charity Jigsaw, features two swims — a 4k starting at Glenlo and a shorter 2.5k option getting under way at Dangan.
Last held in 2019 due to Covid, the Longest Day Swim aims to promote the mental and physical benefits of swimming as a recreation or a sport.
Those taking part will swim past some of Galway’s most notable landmarks including Menlo Castle, NUI Galway, and the Quincentenary Bridge.
Finishing at Steamers Quay, Woodquay, the event is a timed river swim for competent over-18 open-water swimmers with two distance options.
Eligible swimmers can enter through Eventbrite
All participating swimmers will receive a customised towel.
The charity swim will be headlined by Gunnar Bentz, a four-time medallist at the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships and a two-time medallist at the Pan American Games in addition to his Olympic Gold Medal won with the USA 4 × 200 m freestyle squad at the 2016 Games in Rio. He was also the 2015 USA National Champion in the 400m Individual Medley.
Jigsaw Galway is part of a national network of services for youth mental health aiming to provide tailored community-based help for young people.
Jigsaw Galway is a free, non-judgemental and confidential support service for young people (12-25) living in Galway city and county.
They provide guidance and assistance for young people who are going through a difficult or distressing time. They also provide advice for anyone who is concerned about a young person in their life or work. Jigsaw Galway can be contacted on 091 549252.
End of lockdown brings upsurge in serious assaults and shoplifting
Shoplifters have returned to Galway City with a vengeance since the Covid-19 restrictions were eased this year.
And serious assaults and public order offences have also spiked so far this year compared with last year, as the economy opens up again after lengthy lockdowns.
Garda Chief Superintendent Tom Curley that shoplifting had increased by 106% in the first five months of this year compared with the five months to the end of May in 2021.
There were some 282 thefts from city shops in the five months of 2022, an increase of 145 compared with the same period last year.
“The opening up of society and the economy has led to an increase in shoplifting,” Chief Supt Curley told the Galway City Joint Policing Committee meeting on Monday.
However, he said that one positive statistic that was not in his crime report was that detections for shoplifting are running at about 86%, which was high.
In many cases CCTV footage and/or security guards in shops can help with the detections.
Thefts from vehicles increased by 26% to 93 offences during the first five months of this year, and a number of arrests had been made in relation to these thefts and people would be prosecuted through the District Court.
He warned that many of the thefts from cars and vans were by opportunistic thieves who stole items from vehicles that were unlocked.
Chief Supt Curley confirmed there was a massive increase in serious assaults in Galway City in the five months to the end of May.
There were 59 assaults during that period he said, which was an increase of 42 assaults, or 247%.
Chief Supt Curley said that the opening up of society was to blame for assaults increasing again compared with last year, but he also said that some of them were related to ongoing feuds in the city and the county between rival families. Minor assaults were up by 30% to 142 incidents.
There were 225 public order offences recorded in Galway City in the five months to the end of May, up by 26% compared with the same period last year.
This was again due to the increased socialising and opening-up of the economy, the Chief Supt said.
In response to queries from Councillor Mike Crowe (FF), it was confirmed that a 24-hour Garda presence would be maintained in Eyre Square; this presence, according to Chief Supt Curley, was making a difference and had helped to reduce incidents of anti-social behaviour and assaults in Eyre Square.