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New halting site in the pipeline for Travellers

Dara Bradley

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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.

CITY TRIBUNE

€46,000 Lotto winner comes forward as deadline looms

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Galway Bay fm newsroom – The Knocknacarra winner of the Lotto Match 5 + Bonus from the 12th of December has come forward to claim their prize, just two weeks before the claim deadline.

The winning ticket, which is worth €46,234, was sold at Clybaun Stores on the Clybaun Road on the day of the draw, one of two winners of the Lotto Match 5 + Bonus prize of €92,000.

A spokesperson for the National Lottery say we are now making arrangements for the lucky winner to make their claim in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the Lotto jackpot for tomorrow night (27th February) will roll to an estimated €5.5 million.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Voice of ‘Big O’ reflects on four decades

Denise McNamara

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The daytime voice of Big O Taxis is celebrating four decades in the role – and she has no plans to hang up her headset any time soon.

Roisin Freeney decided to seek a job after staying at home to mind her three children for over a decade. It was 1981 when she saw an advert in the Connacht Sentinel for a dispatch operator.

The native of Derry recalls that the queue for the job wound its way past Monroe’s Tavern from the taxi office on Dominick Street.

“There was a great shortage of work back then. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the line of people. My then husband who was giving me a lift in never thought I’d get the job, he was driving on past and I said, let me off.

“I got it because I worked as a telephonist in the telephone exchange in Derry. But I was terrified starting off because I hadn’t been in the work system for so long.”

Back then Big O Taxis had only 25 drivers and just a single line for the public to book a cab.

“We had an old two-way radio, you had to speak to the driver and everybody could listen in. It was easy to leave the button pressed when it shouldn’t be pressed. People heard things they shouldn’t have – that’s for sure,” laughs Roisin.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Róisín’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Baby boom puts strain on Galway City secondary schools

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A baby boom in the late 2000s has left parents of sixth class pupils in Galway City scrambling to find a secondary school place for their children next September – with over 100 children currently facing the prospect of rejection from city schools.

The Department of Education is now rushing to address the issue and confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was fully aware of increasing pressure and demand on city schools

Local councillor Martina O’Connor said there were 100 more children more than there were secondary school places for next year, and warned that this would put severe pressure on schools to increase their intake numbers.

“This will put a lot of pressure on schools because they will have been working out the number of teachers and what resources they would need in October or November last year and they could be facing a situation where they will be asked to take an additional eight or 10 students.

“There would normally be a small excess – maybe two or three – but this year, it’s over 100. There is a bigger number of children in sixth class this year and there will be the same issue for the next few years,” said the Green Party councillor.

A Department spokesperson said while there were capacity issues, factors other than numbers could be at play, adding that there were approximately 1,245 children in the city due to move onto secondary school in September.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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