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New halting site in the pipeline for Travellers

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A new halting site and houses for Travellers will be built in the city within the next two years, Galway City Council is proposing.

The local authority’s Traveller Accommodation Plan identifies sites in Ballybane, Doughiska and Knocknacarra to meet the needs of the city’s Traveller population.

The plan wasn’t discussed as planned at last week’s Council meeting, but a local senator and General Election candidate issued a statement which forced the issue of Traveller accommodation onto the political agenda.

Independent Senator Fidelma Healy Eames has questioned the logic of spending €11 million on one of the sites earmarked for Traveller housing.

The Traveller accommodation issue came to prominence again in recent weeks when several families moved to an unauthorised site in Knocknacarra, before camping outside City Hall and now to Ballyloughane Beach in Renmore.

The families, including about 15 adults and 20 children, brought their caravan cavalcade to Millar’s Lane following their eviction from outside the Barna Waste facility on the Headford Road on January 22.

In a briefing circulated to councillors, Director of Services, Tom Connell said the housing needs of the families would be addressed through homeless services.

“The families concerned have relatively recently come onto the housing waiting list . . . the City Council will continue to seek and find suitable accommodation for the families through the current social housing measures that are available.

“It should be noted that there are existing members of the Travelling community who have been on the Council’s waiting list for a considerable period and there must be fairness and equality in addressing and meeting their needs and in respecting their position on the waiting list. There is no one solution to deal with the housing needs of the Travelling community. It will require an integrated approach with a variety of housing measures and this will require time to deliver,” said Mr Connell.

He outlined plans for the development of a six or eight bay halting site at land recently acquired by the Council at Ballybane will be advanced.

He said the Council will also prepare and advance plans for a mix of social and voluntary houses along with Traveller-specific accommodation on the Doughiska Road, opposite the existing halting site.

Mr Connell said an objective of the Council’s is the development of a “Traveller-specific group housing scheme” on land it owns at Keeraun on the Ballymoneen Road. Existing halting sites will also be refurbished, he said.

The fresh plans for the Knocknacarra site have drawn the ire of Senator Healy Eames who has questioned the Council’s competence to deliver value for money for taxpayers, and a “fair outcome” to the 4,500 households on the city’s housing waiting list.

She said the Keeraun site was purchased by the Council in 2008 for €11 million, which equates to €1.4 million per acre.

“A portion of the land can’t be developed at all because of its environmental status and the proposed route of the city bypass cuts through this land, which means only between 10 and 13 houses can be developed at this site,” she said.

Senator Healy Eames it was a “laudable purpose” to purchase the land but the emerging picture is that if the site is developed, each of the new homes will cost “in excess of €1 million each”.

This would be a “flagrant abuse of taxpayers’ money and very poor planning”.

She has called on the City Council to clarify the price paid for the land, whether it is in a Special Area of Conservation and whether the bypass will cut through it.

“We need answers now in fairness to the ratepayers and taxpayers who paid for it,” she added.

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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Connacht Tribune

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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