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New ‘permaculture trail’ to transform canal bank plots

Stephen Corrigan



A new project has been launched which aims to transform small plots of land along the Eglinton Canal into a ‘permaculture trail’ – bringing art, culture, preservation and food into the public realm.

The project, which has been initiated Third Space Galway in conjunction with the Galway Tidy Towns, aims to create experimental sites where alternative means and methods of growing food can be used to engage the public in conversation about the pitfalls of chemically orientated farming.

According to Project Manager, Martina Finn, the idea for the trail emerged from looking at actions that can be taken locally to combat climate change – in particular, examining the possibility of growing food for local consumption.

“It’s one of the things that we can, as a community, on an everyday level do something about; we can grow food locally for ourselves rather than for the export market.

“We wanted to bring that conversation alive and look at how we can use the creative arts platform to actually engage the city in a conversation around it so we approached the City Council initially, looking for a piece of land to start a food-growing project for educational awareness,” explains Martina.

The group were seeking something in the city centre so that the initiative would be visible to a large number of people.

Galway City Council gave them an experimental site at Westside Amenity Park which has been transformed into an edible food forest.

Following on from its success, they approached Galway Tidy Towns with their plans – with a specific focus on ensuring that what is planted will feed the soil, as well as people.

“Tidy Towns were trying to meet certain criteria because they have climate change as part of their programme and they have a sustainability aspect and a land use aspect.

“We approached Cllr Niall McNelis who is heading up the Tidy Towns and asked him if he was willing to engage in food awareness and food growing – a sustainable living programme as part of this year’s project.

“Niall was delighted and embraced the possibilities – he was very open to it and we got Local Agenda 21 funding for it and GRETB funding for our tutors, our agro-ecologist and food forest advisors,” says Martina.

She says that there is ongoing co-operation with Galway Volunteer Centre and that they hope to get as many local people as possible involved.

“Niall identified these sites that are vacant and derelict along the canal – these set-down areas are a little bit of a neglected part of the city.

“People walk though it but don’t necessarily appreciate being there and we thought it would be great to plant it up with predominantly edibles with the key element within permaculture being that you are looking at yourself as part of an ecosystem,” says Martina.

As a result of the project, Martina says that it will be the first time there will be apple trees in the city centre where children can go along and pick their own apples.

“There are seven layers – the upper canopies which are the larger fruit trees or even nut trees like sweet chestnut. The next canopy is the apple trees and then underneath that, you have shrubs and bushes so you’d have your blackcurrants, raspberries and your gooseberries and then underneath that, you have what they call climbers.

“Then you have the root and ground cover so there are many layers that can work co-operatively together.”

They will also plant kale and chard to demonstrate the use of winter greens and they have planted a herb garden next to An Tobar Nua on Dominick Street.

The group have worked with Irish Seed Savers in Clare to source native Irish seeds and apple trees – ensuring that they grow harmoniously in the local environment.

Underlining all of their work is the regenerative process that plants can have on the ecosystem – eliminating the use of chemicals.

“It’s not just for yourself but you feed the soil with certain plants, you feed the bees, you feed the birds and you feed the ecosystem so it is self-sustaining.

“We are hoping to feed into the National Pollinator Plan 2015-2020 and we are not just identifying edible food spaces for ourselves but also edible food spaces for our wildlife and our bees.

“Some say that there are only 60 harvests left, that the soil has been so depleted after millions of years – that the way we have been farming it has been so do depleting and we need to make major changes,” says Martina.

She believes that it is an opportunity to make the canal a more attractive part of the city – providing an education in local food production and also a social space for the people of Galway.

“This is trying to create another beautiful green space and with the water, what is called a blue space. They are like nature spaces for the city to try and re-animate the canal as a place to go for a quiet nature walk.

“I think the more people that are in a space socially, the less neglect and abuse it gets because people have more of a connection with it and they want to keep it nice and keep it clean – people will pick up the litter rather than throw it,” says Martina.



Patients moved from Merlin ‘to bolster private numbers’

Enda Cunningham



Merlin Park: Patients were moved to private hospital.

Health Minister Simon Harris has said he will ask the HSE why patients requiring rehab services were moved from Merlin Park to a private hospital, leaving the state-of-the-art facility idle.

He was asked in the Dáil last week why waiting lists were not being tackled, when capacity at the Galway Clinic and Bon Secours private hospitals is at 15-20%.

Last month, the State entered a deal to ‘take over’ the country’s private hospitals – which has come under criticism in the Dáil with claims of under-utilisation of facilities.

Galway West Deputy Catherine Connolly asked for full details of the agreement with the private hospitals – worth €115m per month nationally – and said nothing about it made sense to her.

“We have major waiting lists and our two private hospitals in Galway City are at 15% to 20% capacity. The hospital itself [UHG] – I must be wrong about this figure but it is what I have been told – was at 30% to 40% capacity as of May 15,” she said.

Department of Health figures for last week show a 39% ‘utilisation’ rate for the Bon Secours and 16% for Galway Clinic.

“The Minister has stood in the Chamber and told us he had to make such arrangements, and certainly I welcomed the narrative at the time that we were taking over the private hospitals to deal with a pandemic. However, we are not utilising them.

“Merlin Park has a state-of-the-art rehab service. It has a gym and all types of therapists but it is now lying idle because, under this deal, the Government transferred the patients from that wonderful facility to a private hospital.

“It took the therapists and patients into the private hospital to allow them to get up to 15% or 20% capacity. It sent the nurses into the public system and left the system empty at Merlin Park, and that is to mention only one service.

“None of the way this has been done makes sense to me. Surely anybody with a bit of sense would know that when the terms and the heads of agreement were signed, it should have allowed for change.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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Barriers set to halt groups drinking at quayside

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Access to the green quayside areas off Wolfe Tone Bridge will be blocked from today to prevent large groups of people drinking over the Bank Holiday weekend.

And the message from Garda Chief Superintendent Tom Curley is – enjoy the glorious weekend of weather that’s in store, but diligently maintain the two-metre social distancing rule and don’t consume booze in public areas.

“We are not killjoys and the lovely weather is a boost to everyone’s spirits. People will enjoy the outdoors this weekend but it’s illegal to consume alcohol in public areas and we will be enforcing that bylaw.

“In this kind of weather, there will inevitably be groups of people congregating in outdoor areas – but the message is simple and crystal clear: at all times maintain the two-metre social distancing guideline,” Chief Supt Curley told the Galway City Tribune.

On Tuesday evening last, Gardaí did enforce a dispersal procedure in the Spanish Arch/Claddagh Quay area of the city, after about 200 young people had gathered there, many of them consuming alcohol. They continued to patrol the area yesterday.

A spokesperson for Galway City Council confirmed yesterday that a green area on the Claddagh Quay side of the river – where large groups of young people had gathered this week – would be closed off to the public, probably from today (Friday).
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Westwood owners plan tourist accommodation usage

Enda Cunningham



The Westwood student accommodation complex site this week.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The owners of the new Westwood student accommodation in Newcastle are planning to use part of the complex for tourist and business traveller accommodation “in light of the current health pandemic”.

NTM ROI Seed Capital is currently building the five apartment blocks off the N59 and has sought a determination from An Bord Pleanála on whether it would need to apply for planning permission to allow “partial occupation for tourist and visitor use in the academic year from September 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021”.

Under the existing planning permission, the development “shall only be occupied as student accommodation . . . and shall not be used for any other purpose without a prior grant of planning permission for a change of use”.

However, the company has drawn up a contingency plan in the event that construction may not be completed for the coming academic year.

The plan involves allowing tourists and other ‘non-student’ users to be accommodated in the complex – An Bord Pleanála has been asked to determine whether the change would be a ‘material alteration’ of the planning approval or not.

If it is ruled a material alteration, the Board can then invite submissions from members of the public before it decides on whether to approve or reject it.

Already, local residents – who strongly objected to the entire development during the planning process – have expressed concerns about parking issues which they believe would arise if the Westwood is used for tourist use.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. Please remember that without advertising revenue and people buying and subscribing to our newspapers, this website would not exist. You can read the full article by buying a digital edition of this week’s Galway City Tribune HERE.

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