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Connacht Tribune

Plan for ill-fated Galway Bay salmon farm cost €525k

Dara Bradley

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A State agency poured more than half-a-million euro into a planning application for a licence for the ill-fated fish farm in Galway Bay.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) has come under fire for the “outrageous” spend on the project, which polarised opinion in the city and county.

Ireland’s seafood development agency this week confirmed it spent a total of €524,992 on the licence application for its controversial plans for a proposed 15,000 tonne salmon farm.

The cost has been described as “shocking” but BIM indicated it was money well spent on information that will be useful in future.

In December, 2015, BIM announced it was no longer proceeding with the application.

It cited new national legislation in relation to sustainable aquaculture, which capped the size of new fish farms to between 5,000 and 7,000 tonnes, more than half the size of the Galway Bay plan.

It had planned a twin site farm, one for smolts at Inis Oírr and another for more developed species off Indreabhán. BIM claimed the €60 million project would support 500 jobs locally.

However, it faced a wave of opposition.

Opponents said it was a crazy idea, and predicted environmental ruin and the destruction of inshore fishing industry and, as well as having detrimental impacts on shrimp, prawn, lobster, crab and oyster fishing, and also the fishing-related tourism industry.

BIM, in a parliamentary response to Clare Daly, the Dublin TD, confirmed it spent some €524,992 on its Galway Bay licence application.

Deputy Daly, the independent socialist, slammed BIM for the outlay.

“The spend of €524,992 by BIM on this doomed licence application is shocking, and questions have to be asked as to why they persisted with it for so long when there were such huge question marks over the whole project, and such opposition to it.

“The threat to wild fish stocks from sea lice, the dangers associated with farms’ nets breaking, and all of the other environmental impacts of this plan should have been a red flag, and it’s outrageous that over half a million euro was spent on trying to push this application through regardless. You’d very much have to ask why public money was put to such poor use,” said Deputy Daly.

In a statement to the Connacht Tribune, the agency gave more detail about the expenditure.

“BIM invested €524,992, over a four-year period, into the development of a robust application, including scientific analysis, public consultation and legal advice. A considerable amount of this information stands to benefit the organisation and form the basis of future support to the Irish aquaculture industry,” it said.

Meanwhile, Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive of Marine Institute, which is based in Oranmore, confirmed that his organisation also spent €21,948 on the initiative, which included over €9,000 for bird specialist advice; and a further €3,000 for training and simulation.

Simon Coveney, who was Marine Minister at the time the application was withdrawn, confirmed that his department spent a further €31,539 on the project.

That included €29,448 for legal advice, and €2,091 on expert hydrography advice.

Connacht Tribune

Remote working creates rural boom

Stephen Corrigan

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Report....Professor Alma McCarthy.

Urban dwellers are now looking to up sticks and move to the countryside, as working from home becomes the norm – and with a new survey showing almost all workers who have made the switch hoping to maintain some level of remote working, rural life is becoming increasingly attractive.

According to one of the lead researchers behind the second national employee survey carried out since the onset of Covid-19, remote working is surging in popularity, with 94% of over 5,600 participants hoping to continue working remotely for some or all of the time – an increase from 83% six months ago.

Professor Alma McCarthy of the Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUIG told the Connacht Tribune that the desire to continue working from home had grown since the first phase of the survey in April, with more flexible hours and no traffic adding to its appeal.

“What we are looking at here is a particular cohort of the workforce that have jobs which lend themselves to working from home, and where people have that opportunity, we see that support has gone up [for remote working].

“Most people want a blended type of working arrangement, where they work from home some of the time and go into the office maybe one or two days a week. I think that is probably how it will look from now on,” said Prof McCarthy.

The number of people who wish to work from home five days a week has more than doubled since April, now at 27% compared to 12% in the early days of Covid-19.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download a digital version from our website www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Retail outlets stay positive despite shut-down

Stephen Corrigan

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Challenge...Fiona Charity.

Galway retailers have reiterated calls to shop local online in the coming weeks, as Level 5 restrictions force them to close their doors in the run up to peak shopping season.

From today (Thursday), unessential retailers must shut up shop until December 1 – limiting outlets such as clothes, furniture and toy shops to online sales and collections only.

One such shop is Modella Fashion in Corrandulla, which only opened its doors for the first time in July, and while owner Fiona Charity said it was clearly a huge challenge to start a new business in a pandemic, she remained hopeful that she could weather the storm.

“It’s obviously hugely disappointing, but public health is the most important thing, and if this works, we might have more freedom for Christmas.

“We are lucky in that we went live with our website last week and that’s been really busy already. Even though we can’t open, people are able to order online and have their order delivered, or click and collect,” said Ms Charity ahead of closing this week.

Likewise, Standún in An Spidéal has seen a surge in their online sales since the onset of Covid-19, according to manager Deirdre Ní Ghríofa, who said the message for everyone was to “shop local as much as you possibly can”.

Ms Ní Ghríofa said they had a big increase in local sales online during the early days of the pandemic and that was something she hoped would continue in the run up to Christmas.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download a digital version from our website www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Back in our bubble – and braced for the impact

Dara Bradley

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Fourth Class pupils from Galway Educate Together NS in Newcastle enjoying the wonder of science to mark the launch of Galway Science and Technology Festival's 2020 online programme running from November 8 to 22.

Galway is braced for the economic impact of this week’s return to lockdown – with both the pub and retail sector preparing for the worst.

The head of the county’s publicans predicted that as many as one in five outlets will never reopen, given that the best case scenario now is that they’ll return to Level 3 for Christmas,  which limits outdoor drinkers to just 15.

In a stark warning, Chair of the Galway branch of the VFI, Joe Sheridan, said a conservative estimate was that 20% of pubs won’t reopen – but that could rise to one-third if they didn’t see some return to business for the festive season.

Retailers too were predicting the worst – but still with the belief that a good December could save them.

The reasoning behind the move to Level 5 was underlined by the fact that new cases of the infection are now rising at a rate of 500 per week.

After another record week of positive cases in Galway, there were 13 patients in two public hospitals being treated for Covid-19 – twelve in UHG and one in Ballinasloe.

There were a further three suspected cases in UHG.

See full coverage of the Covid crisis in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download a digital version from our website www.connachttribune.ie

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