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Connacht Tribune

One out of five visitors to Ireland flock to Galway

Denise McNamara

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Fáilte Ireland Chairman, Michael Cawley, together with the senior management team and the entire Authority, meeting with local tourism leader in Kylemore Abbey at its quarterly meeting last week.

One in five overseas visitors to Ireland last year came to Galway, making it the third most popular destination in Ireland in what was the busiest year yet for the Wild Atlantic Way since its inception.

Fáilte Ireland’s Chairman, Michael Cawley, the senior management team and the board of Fáilte Ireland – the National Tourism Development Authority – gathered in Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, last week for its quarterly meeting.

A number of representatives from local Galway tourism businesses from the region were invited to brief the Authority members on their season to date and their future business plans.

These included the Connemara Sands Hotel, the Renvyle House Hotel, Blath na Mara Seaweed, Udaras na Gaeltachta, Galway County Council and the Connemara Aran Islands Tourism Network.

The Authority told the meeting that the agency is continuing to work on the Visitor Experience Development Plan for the Connemara Coast and Aran Islands which was launched in 2018. It will identify the stand out features for the area and aims to increase visitor dwell time and spend.

Fáilte Ireland’s vision for the Wild Atlantic Way is to deliver sustainable growth to all areas of the West Coast for the benefit of local communities and businesses.

One of the agency’s main aims for Galway is to gain a broader spread of tourism across all parts of the county including Connemara Coast and the Aran Island and extend the season so that tourism businesses can stay open beyond the traditional summer season.

Fáilte Ireland would continue to invest in this, stressed Miriam Kennedy, Head of the Wild Atlantic Way at Fáilte Ireland.

“Last year was our strongest yet since we launched it in 2014, we had over 3.7m international visitors, over 4.7m domestic visitors and between them they spent €3bn, supporting over 80,000 jobs along the West Coast.

“Galway continues to be a popular tourist destination – 18% of overseas tourists to Ireland visited Galway in 2018, making it one of the three most popular counties in the country for overseas tourists.”

However, this had been a challenging year for the tourism industry particularly with uncertainty around Brexit.

“As the National Tourism Development Authority, we continue to work with the local industry to sustain Ireland as a high-quality, competitive and best in class tourism destination.

“We do this by supporting tourism enterprises to innovate and through delivering tailored programmes that help assess the risks, respond to changes, access tourists using the right channels and diversify into other markets.”

Over the last five years, the agency has invested amounts of between €1.95m and €73,000 on ten projects across the country, with the investment totalling €10.5m between 2015 and 2019.

This summer, Kylemore Abbey opened its new visitor experience with €1.7m Fáilte Ireland investment. It has also spent €1.9m in the Connemara National Park to develop of an additional 10.5 km of new trails, a children’s natural play area and carpark facilities. Both are now open for visitors year-round.

Fáilte Ireland has identified festivals as a key driver for tourism growth, particularly during off-season times. Over the past two years the agency has invested €729,000 into four Galway festivals – the Galway International Arts Festival, the Oyster Festival, the Galway Film Fleadh and the Vodafone Comedy Festival with a further €73,000 given to the two local authorities to distribute to local festivals.

The latest industry figures show that 38% of holiday makers stay in hotels with one fifth staying in guesthouses and B&Bs. Hotels are favoured by Americans and the British while the French and German tourists prefer to stay in homes.

In 2018, there were 84 hotels across Galway with 11,913 beds, 16 guesthouses with 425 beds, 122 B&Bs with 1,300 beds, 107 self-catering units with 544 beds, 14 hostels with 1,123 beds, four caravan and camping parks which can accommodate 799 people and a further 14 homes with the Irish Welcome standard with 595 beds.

Connacht Tribune

Council staff under pressure from worsening flooding

Enda Cunningham

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A lack of local authority outdoor staff available to deal with the huge rainfall level over the past week has led to the closure of roads around County Galway, it was claimed this week.

At a meeting of Galway County Council on Monday, a senior local authority official admitted that staff have been ‘stretched’.

Rising water tables and heavy rainfall has resulted in road closures around the county, but according to the Council, there are no houses under threat at the moment.

Iarnród Éireann has also introduced bus transfers on the Galway-Limerick line because of rising water levels at Kiltartan.

The volume of rainfall resulted in road closures, while flooding on the N83 (the old N17) between Tuam and Galway resulted in three-mile tailbacks at Two Mile Ditch – journey times were more than two hours in some cases.

Cllr Joe Byrne told the Council meeting this week that there are not enough outdoor staff on the ground to keep the water tables at a level that would not require roads to be closed.

He was supported by Cllr Jim Cuddy, who said that workers with spades and shovels were required to keep the water tables under control and there was a need to increase outdoor staff at this time of year.

The Independent councillor said that he had heard of some people being stuck in traffic for three hours as they approached the city from the Headford Road and Tuam Road directions.

However, Council Director of Services for Infrastructure, Jim Cullen, said that all of the outdoor staff vacancies had been filled.

Mr Cullen explained that the number of outdoor staff employed by the Council was dependent on the roads budget made available to the local authority on an annual basis.

Council Senior Executive Engineer Damien Mitchell explained that their staff had been stretched over recent days in what where very difficult conditions.

“Nobody has been found wanting. It is not easy,” Mr Mitchell admitted.

(Picture shows a generator being brought to a house at Cloonacauneen this week to help pump flood waters. PHOTO: JOE O’SHAUGHNESSY)
This is a preview only. To read extensive coverage of the flooding around the county (including photographs), see this week’s Connacht Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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Connacht Tribune

Council pays €3m for land for social housing in Claregalway

Declan Tierney

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Galway County Council has forked out almost €3 million – more than €400,000 per acre – for development land in Claregalway which it has earmarked for social and affordable housing.

At a local authority meeting this week, some councillors expressed disbelief at the amount paid by the Council for the 7.2 acres.

Local elected representatives expressed frustration and annoyance that they had not been made aware of the purchase until after the deal was done.

Director of Services for Housing, Michael Owens, told a meeting of the County Council on Monday that the lands had been acquired on the open market in the townland Droim na Gaoithe and this will be development for social and affordable housing. He said that a valuer had been engaged for this purpose.

An irate Cllr Jim Cuddy said that as the most local elected representative, he was not aware of the land acquisition. He said that he was not aware of when it was purchased or how much had been paid for it.

The Independent councillor said that the population increase experienced in Claregalway in recent years required the provision of a playground, while he added that there was an urgent need for additional cemetery space as there were just two plots remaining in the existing graveyard.

“It is crazy that more than €406,000 an acre was spent on land for a housing scheme [affordable housing] that doesn’t exist. The County Council would have serious questions to ask if this matter came before a Dáil Public Accounts Committee,” Cllr Cuddy said.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. Buy a digital edition of the paper here.

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Connacht Tribune

Councillor hits out at Travellers over stranded horses

Declan Tierney

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The horses stranded off the Headford Road last weekend.

A county councillor has accused members of the Traveller community of abandoning their horses to flood waters along the Headford Road – which led to a rescue operation being staged over the weekend.

It was proposed that the N84 become a ‘horse exclusion zone’ in the interest of safety and animal welfare and that there are strict land ownership requirements before horses are allowed graze there.

According to Cllr James Charity, a major voluntary effort was put in place to rescue animals that were stranded in flood waters along the main Headford Road.

“It is sickening to see the number of horses that have been abandoned and the fault lies with the Traveller community who do not want to take responsibility for this awful situation.”

The Independent councillor, along with Galway Fire and Rescue Service, Council wardens and local volunteers were involved in a major rescue operation last weekend on the Curraghline when the River Clare burst its banks in several locations.

He told fellow councillors that a meeting was organised to discuss animal welfare along the Headford Road and while the Galway Traveller Movement were invited, they failed to attend.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article and extensive coverage of flooding (including photos) around the county, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. Buy a digital edition of the paper here.

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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