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



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.


GSPCA closes city centre charity shop permanently



From the Galway City Tribune – It’s the end of an era for a popular animal charity shop that has shut up shop for good at its city centre base.

The Galway SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has confirmed that it has not renewed its lease on its premises at St Augustine Street, where its charity shop has been based for a number of years.

The popular shop that sold books, clothes and bric-a-brac closed in June due to a leak in the building. It was due to reopen within days, but it has not and will not be, according to the charity.

The GSPCA said they are looking for a new premises in the city.

A spokesperson confirmed that the lease on the building was due to finish soon anyway, but after a major leak, the GSPCA and the landlord mutually agreed to bring forward the lease termination by a number of months.

“We hope to be up and running at another location in due course,” a spokesperson said.

A register charity and not-for-profit organisation, GSPCA still has a retail presence in Athenry and Ballinasloe, which generate money to run the organisation.

Its fundamental aim for over 20 years has been to care for animals in need through neglect, abandonment, abuse or those at risk due to a change in circumstances.

Its main sanctuary is based in the county, between Killimor and Portumna; and its cattery is in Athenry.

The charity assisted over 700 cats, dogs and smaller animals during 2020. According to accounts filed with the Charity Regulator, the vast majority of its income comes from donations, but its shops are important income sources and the charity made over €86,000 income from “trading and commercial activities” in 2020.

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Workers in Galway still waiting for ‘frontline’ payments



From the Galway City Tribune – A number of workers in healthcare settings in Galway have yet to receive promised pandemic bonus payments for toiling on the frontline during the Covid-19 crisis.

The Government had pledged each front-line worker would get a €1,000 payment as a thank you for contributing to the national effort during the pandemic.

But nine months on from when the Cabinet signed off on the payment, many local workers, including nurses and carers, particularly in private nursing homes, have received nothing.

Louis O’Hara, a general election candidate for Sinn Féin in Galway, labelled it as another broken promise by this Government.

“Workers here in Galway such as caterers, cleaners, security staff, agency staff and many more on the frontline in our local hospitals and healthcare settings have been contacting me to express their concern that they are still waiting for this payment,” he said.

“They are entitled to receive this payment, however the Government has failed to follow through on their promises and workers have been left in the lurch with no answers and no sense of urgency from the Government,” he said.

Mr O’Hara told the Galway City Tribune that the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, needed to clarify that the funding was still there to pay the staff.

He said a breakdown of figures for the number of staff in Galway that were not yet been paid was not available, but Sinn Féin has been inundated with complaints from workers – particularly agency staff and those in private nursing homes.

“Frontline workers in Galway have been let down badly by this Government’s failure to follow through on their promises. This is absolutely unacceptable,” Mr O’Hara said.

The party’s Health spokesperson has written to An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, urging him to intervene directly to ensure this payment is paid promptly.

Minister Donnelly, in a recent reply to a Parliamentary Question in the Dáil, said priority was given to payment of eligible staff in hospital groups, such as Saolta, and community services within the HSE.

He said that the Department of Health was “examining progressing the rollout” to six groups of non-HSE and Non-Section 38 Agencies, who were included in the scheme.

These include eligible workers in private nursing homes and hospices; staff on-site in long-term residential care facilities for people with disabilities; agency staff working for the HSE; healthcare assistants such as home help, home care and home support staff contracted by the HSE; Defence Forces members redeployed to work “in front-line Covid-19 exposed environments in the HSE”; and paramedics employed by Dublin Fire Brigade.

This was a “complex task”, he said, because “these employees are not normally paid by the public health service, duplicate payments need to be avoided, and there are many organisations to be covered”.

This work was being given “priority attention” he said.

“Payment to eligible workers will be made as soon as possible,” Minister Donnelly added.

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Murals are part of initiative to restore pride in Ballybane estate



From the Galway City Tribune – A poem about litter forms part of a vibrant colourful new mural painted on the walls of a City Council estate in Ballybane.

The poetry and artwork by local artist Irene Naughton is part of an initiative to restore pride in Sliabh Rua.

The final two lines of Ms Naughton’s poem, called The Dragon’s Foot, read: “The land, the sea and the river all get hurt when we leave a littered footprint on the earth.”

The full poem was painted onto boundary walls as part of a large colourful mural that was created by Ms Naughton.

The street art includes handprints from children living in the estate on the city’s east side.

It also depicts an enchanted forest, a dragon sitting atop Merlin Castle, a view of the Burren, a wolf, butterflies, insects and foliage, as well as a man playing the guitar, a former resident who died.

Ms Naughton, who was commissioned by the City Council’s Environment Department, said it took about five days to complete.

“The residents were very, very helpful and kind,” she said.

Councillor Noel Larkin (Ind) explained that the mural was part of a wider, ‘Ballybane Matters’ project, which stemmed from Galway City Joint Policing Committee (JPC).

“We were doing a lot of talking at the JPC about anti-social behaviour, and it seemed to be more prevalent in the Ballybane area. When we boiled it down, it was in the Sliabh Rua and Fána Glas areas.

“Month after month it was just talking. So Níall McNelis [chair of the JPC] said we should set up a small group to hone in on exactly what was going on,” he said.

A group was formed to focus on improving the Council estate of about 40 houses.

As well as Cllr Larkin, it included: Sergeant Mick Walsh, Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer and community Gardaí Maria Freeley, Nicola Browne, Kenneth Boyle and Darragh Browne; Fr Martin Glynn; Imelda Gormley of Ballybane Taskforce; Councillor Alan Cheevers; Donal Lynch, chairperson Merlin Neighbourhood Residents’ Association; and two members of Galway Traveller Movement, Katie Donoghue and Kate Ward.

Ms Gormley carried out a survey to get feedback from residents.

“A lot of the problems people had were horses on the green, people being harassed going in and out of estates, trailers full of rubbish left around the place, the City Council not cutting the grass, and anti-social behaviour,” explained Cllr Larkin.

Small improvements, with community buy in, has helped to revitalise the estate.

Cllr Larkin praised Edward Conlon, community warden with the City Council, who has been “absolutely brilliant”.

“He looked funding that was available to get trees or shrubs and to get the grass cut more regularly,” he said.

“Fr Martin got a residents committee set up because he knew people through the church, and that means there is community buy-in, people are actually taking an interest now.

“When we started originally, Sergeant Mick Walsh mentioned ‘the closed curtain syndrome’. You go into your home in the evening close your curtain and don’t want to see what’s going on outside. Whereas now, with community pride restored to the area, if somebody is acting the maggot outside, people are keeping an eye on it and that curbs anti-social behaviour,” said Cllr Larkin.

Covid-19 delayed the project but it “came together very quickly” once work started.

Cllr Larkin said that the project will move to other estates in Ballybane, including Fána Glas and Castlepark, but they also plan to maintain the progress made in on Sliabh Rua.

“We decided to concentrate on Sliabh Rua, because if we could crack Sliabh Rua we could crack the rest of them. Pride has been restored in the community,” added Cllr Larkin.

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