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CITY TRIBUNE

Nuns’ Island homes will be for ‘mature’ post-graduates

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Student accommodation included in a masterplan for the future of Nuns’ Island – which has already raised concerns among local residents – would probably be aimed at mature post graduates, some of them with families.

Galway City councillors were told last week that the vision document for the 15-acre community is in its early stages, and its drivers (NUI Galway, in consultation with the City Council) are merely in a ‘listening mode’.

Assistant Director at the university’s Buildings and Estates section, Brian Saunders, told councillors that everything put forward in the plan was just a proposal at this stage and that local residents and stakeholders were being consulted on all aspects.

The masterplan, which was first mooted in 2017, was been presented to the public at a two-day event in the college’s O’Donoghue Theatre last month, and previously at another public function in the Portershed.

Mr Saunders told this week’s Council meeting that two meetings, – one attended by 60 people – had already been held with local residents, as well as other meetings with the local fisheries interests, the arts and culture communities, the Galway Diocese, the Poor Clares, St Joseph’s School (the Bish), as well as owners of other properties in the vicinity.

The university owns seven buildings in the area, as well as Fisheries Field, the site of the Galway International Arts Festival’s Big Top (which Mr Saunders assured would be facilitated) while the Council owns the Nun’s Island Arts Centre, formerly a church.

The masterplan would see the education interests of the college as well as a possible cultural hub, public parks and possibly even a boutique hotel, being realised.

Mr Saunders stressed that the education aspects would concentrate on fourth level such as start-up enterprises involving post-graduates, many of them with young families and that it would be they who would be accommodated in any future residences.

That building is currently earmarked on the site of the Bish, which has its own plans to move to Dangan.

Despite opinions from some councillors that there is enough student accommodation in the city, Mr Saunders told them that there was in fact a deficit of 2,000 beds for third level students.

“It would be students of a different type of accommodation here and this may or may not be a feature of the plan. It would not be the first year partying type of students.

“We have ensured that our own on campus student accommodation blocks have been well managed and there hasn’t been any complaints about Corrib Village in the recent past as far as I know,” he added.

Cllr Colette Connolly (Ind) said she believed the local residents had not been “too enamoured about NUI Galway developing the area”.

“We have no visions ourselves in the Council for our city. I never supported private individual developers coming in with a masterplan and now here’s NUIG coming in,” adding she was surprised the college was not concentrating on promoting education rather than development.

“I am horrified that the overriding factor will be an economic one. Residents are worried about the student accommodation factor as it could be turned into Airbnbs in the summer months,” she added, saying she had concerns about the whole plan.

The college has employed Colliers International, a global development solutions company which has designed other inner-city neighbourhoods all over the world, including the Docklands area in Cork.

Roger Hobkinson, one of its directors, previously described Nuns’ Island as “enchanting” and assured that whatever way it was developed, it would not lose its character or its historic features.

However, he added, they did want to make the area more accessible and more sustainable to help elevate the city as a better place to live.

“This (regeneration) would play a massive role in boosting a quality of life both for residents and for businesses. I would see this waterways district as an ideal location for small indigenous companies with links to the university. This is the start of a discussion on this vision document and following a public consultation, the report should be completed by the end of the year,” he said.

He also pointed out that the timing was good, as the Government had earmarked €4 billion to be spent nationally in the next eight years on urban regeneration projects just like the one proposed for Nuns’ Island. There is a further €2 billion to be spent nationally by the Urban Regeneration Development Fund as well as €300 million by Fáilte Ireland.

Mr Saunders told the meeting that the first application for public funds under the Regional Development Fund had been successful, but he could not give a costing for the project, as it was still in the early stages.

Included in the masterplan are pedestrian bridges, one of them probably alongside the Salmon Weir Bridge, a project that has been on the cards for about 15 years.

Over 100 years ago, Nuns’ Island was the industrial heartland of the city. There were two flour mills, a granite works, a brewery and malt house, a fever hospital, a prison, a ladies’ school, a seminary, a convent, a Presbyterian church, two lodging houses and an asylum — as well as a number of private residences.

In recent years, many of the private residences have been bought up and renovated.

CITY TRIBUNE

Saving on school books

Dara Bradley

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Secondary school students struggling with back-to-school costs, or looking for a bargain, can shave as much as 40% off the cost of school books – if they buy second hand.

And The Book Exchange on Lower Abbeygate Street in Galway City will even buy back good-quality school books, which it then re-sells.

“You typically can get 40% off the retail value of books if you shop with us. We generally say that if you spend €100 on new books, they’d be €60 here,” said Gary Healy of The Book Exchange.

It doesn’t stock a full-range of books, like Eason’s or other new school book retailers, but it caters well for Senior cycle students in secondary school in particular.

“Most of the fifth year and sixth year books are here, whether it’s maths such as Active Maths 4, Active Maths 3 or Irish books like Fuinneamh Nua. We have a lot of language books and a lot of the optional subjects. In general, almost all the firth and sixth year secondary school curriculum can be got second hand. With the Junior Cert, it’s only a couple of subjects that are available and it depends on the school. English books at Junior Cert can be gotten second-hand, and then sometimes the optional subjects like woodwork, tech graphics, music,” he said.

The Book Exchange will go through the booklist with the students or parents, although customers are advised to get in touch in advance.

“I’d advise anybody to stick a nose in to us with a list, or even give us a ring, or an email. We’re always happy to go down through the list with people, and walk them through it because one of the biggest things that can be a problem with the school book list, is when it specifies a book for a parent to get, it could say ‘new edition’ but in many cases ‘new edition’ just means it’s called the new edition, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s new. It could be 10 years after and it would still be called the ‘new edition’.

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

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CITY TRIBUNE

Changes to garda structure require ‘feet on the ground’

Francis Farragher

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STRUCTURAL changes in Garda management – which will see the current Western Region merged with the Northern area – need to be backed up with ‘feet on the ground’, according to the Chairperson of the city’s Joint Policing Committee.

Cllr Niall McNelis said he also had concerns over the impact that a reduction in Garda Superintendents and Chief Superintendents could have on the management of the force across the Galway region.

“I know that the stated intention of the Commissioner [Drew Harris] is to increase the frontline presence of Gardaí but this cannot be achieved without more feet on the ground.

“There also has to be concerns over an apparent lack of consultation on the changes with Garda Superintendents who really play a key role in managing the Garda resources at local level,” said Cllr McNelis.

He added that in the aftermath of the financial crash in Ireland, Garda resources – both in terms of personnel and equipment – had taken a huge hit, with this ‘lost ground’ still not being made up.

“The bottom line in all of this is: will we see more Gardaí on the beat; more Gardaí operating at local level and in touch with local people; and also a management structure that’s in touch with local communities?” Cllr McNelis asked.

One of the major changes announced by Commissioner Drew Harris is a reduction in the number of national Garda regions across the country from six to four, each one under the control of an Assistant Commissioner.  The Western Garda Region – that had consisted of Galway, Clare, Roscommon/Longford and Mayo – will now be merged into one region amalgamating with the North.

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

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Traffic gridlock – specialist traffic control operator at City Hall among proposed solutions

Francis Farragher

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THE city came close to complete gridlock on last Tuesday with a combination of minor accidents, roadworks, visitor numbers, an influx of shoppers and bad weather, making it a nightmare afternoon and evening for motorists.

Eyre Square, College Road, Lough Atalia, the Moneenagheisha junction and the dual-carriageway leading up to the Briarhill traffic-lights, endured the most severe clog-ups, but commuters across the city reported long delays from lunchtime through to the later evening period.

Former Mayor of Galway and taxi-operator, Cllr Frank Fahy, told the Galway City Tribune that by early afternoon he had to abandon his efforts to continue working.

“I know that there was a huge volume of traffic in the city due to back-to-school shoppers and there were also reports of a number of minor accidents, but I still think that we can do better in terms of managing the flow of vehicles.

“The roadworks in Bohermore were no help and there were reports of a number of minor accidents but we also have real problems with parking and signage issues in the city.

“And most of all, we need a hands-on specialist traffic control operator – experienced and skilled in traffic management – in the control room at City Hall, to monitor flows at all our key junctions,” said Cllr Fahy.

Public transport also got completely bogged down in the Tuesday evening snarl-up with bus commuters from the city to Oranmore reporting a journey time of close on one hour and 20 minutes.

Buses took up to 20 minutes to make it from their stops in Eyre Square to even get onto College Road which had almost ground to a complete standstill at around 5.30pm.

Another motorist told the Galway City Tribune that his journey time from Forster Street to the Briarhill junction was one hour and 50 minutes on Tuesday evening – 4.10pm to 6pm.

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

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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