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Planners say hotel expansion plan is too extensive for site

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Plans for redevelopment works at the Maldron Hotel on the Headford Road – bringing it up to a 150-bedroom property with modern conference rooms – have hit a stumbling block with Galway City Council.

Planners believe the overhaul would represent an overdevelopment of the 1.3-acre site.

Pat McCann’s Lintal Commercial Ltd (part of the Dalata Hotels Group) had sought permission for extensive works at the hotel, which the company purchased in 2014 for €10.5 million.

The application comes following the recovery in the country’s hotel sector.

The plans involve:
■ The conversion of basement offices to fitness/gym use;
■ Modifications to the bar and kitchen and ground floor retail units to a conference/business centre with eight meeting rooms;
■ The conversion of the meeting rooms on the first floor to two bedrooms and the conversion of the existing gym to two bedrooms;
■ The conversion of second floor conference rooms to five bedrooms and the conversion of the spa and offices to 16 bedrooms;
■ The conversion of the third and fourth floor conference rooms to a total of nine bedrooms.
■ The retention of 14 bedrooms which were already constructed without permission on the first floor.

“The proposal is to create a business centre on the ground floor of the hotel by changing the vacant retail units into meeting rooms and it is intended that the business centre will help facilitate conferences and seminars in the city.

“In addition, the existing spa and offices on the second floor of the hotel are to be changed to bedrooms and a new gym and fitness centre is to be created in the basement of the hotel. In total, it is proposed that the redeveloped hotel will have 149 bedrooms.

“This application is made in the context of the recent recovery in the hotel sector across the country, the extent of which suggests that hotels in the country’s cities are near capacity during peak times.

“A recent report by the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation noted that the demand for hotel accommodation within many Irish cities is close to supply and that a scarcity of hotel rooms threatens to harm the tourist sector. This research has further suggested that the limited availability of hotel rooms in Irish cities has the potential to cause a bottleneck that is likely to damage the full potential of Ireland’s economic growth.

“There is significant merit in the development of new hotel accommodation within Galway City. Such accommodation, for which there is an urgent need, will support the continued growth of the city’s tourism sector and its overall economic development,” the application reads.

However, City Council planners have said the proposals are above the permitted plot ratios in the current City Development Plan, and would therefore represent an overdevelopment of the site, asking Dalata to comment on the matter.

The applicant has also been asked to clarify when the 14 unauthorised bedrooms became operational and to confirm if the building conforms with all health and safety regulations.

The Dalata Group now has six months to respond to the request for further information, or the application will be deemed to be withdrawn.

Connacht Tribune

Galway Lotto prize winner off to see the King!

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A National Lottery player from Conamara is still in disbelief after claiming their EuroMillions ‘Ireland Only Raffle’ ticket worth a staggering €1,005,000 this week – and is already planning a trip to Graceland!

The player, who wishes to remain anonymous, said they didn’t realise they had the winning ticket.

“I was looking at my ticket and it didn’t have any of the EuroMillions numbers, I didn’t think I’d won anything, so I threw it somewhere in the car. I completely forgot to check the raffle code on the bottom of the ticket!

“A few weeks later I decided to do a clear out of the car and I found the ticket wedged down the side of the seat. I scanned the ticket on the app and called the National Lottery Claims Team and that’s when they told me I was a millionaire! I couldn’t speak, I was in such complete and utter shock!

“I had a plan to surprise my wife for her birthday by putting the cheque in the card, but my great plan lasted all of one hour, I just had to tell her, I couldn’t keep it a secret any longer!”, they added.

The player purchased the winning EuroMillions ticket worth €1,005,000 on the day of the draw, Friday 19th August, in Costcutter in Beal an Dangan.

They revealed some plans they hope to achieve with the new life-changing prize.

“We’ve always wanted to go to Graceland in Memphis to visit the home of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll himself. That’s all we have in mind for the moment, we’re still letting it all sink in”, they said.

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Connacht Tribune

Exhumations to begin next year at Tuam Mother and Baby Home site

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A full exhumation of the bodies of children buried in the grounds of Tuam Mother and Baby Home will begin in 2023.

A ‘Director of Authorised Intervention’ is to be appointed by Government to oversee the excavation of the site where it is believed almost 800 children were interred in an unmarked grave.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman, in bringing matter before the Dáil, said it was incumbent on the State to address what was “a stain on our national conscience”.

Deputy Catherine Connolly, TD for Galway West, said while the news on the exhumation was welcome, she had “lost faith” in the Government which she said had “learnt absolutely nothing” and had to be “dragged” every step of the way.

It had failed to bring forward a redress scheme for survivors of the home, she said, and Minister O’Gorman had rowed back on a previous commitment to have an independent human rights review of the testimony provided by survivors to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

“I don’t think he should ever have promised that because he was never in a position to do it. He was never going to question the establishment narrative given to us by the three wise commissioners, the narrative that told us that the evidence of those who came forward was contaminated and should therefore be treated with caution,” said Deputy Connolly.

“We continue to begrudge and to do everything belatedly. If we are seriously interested in redress, let us do it right.”

Paying tribute to those who shone a light on the wrongdoings in the Tuam Home and elsewhere, Deputy Connolly said it was they who had forced the Government’s hand.

“On the ground, we have seen Catherine Corless and, well before her, Mary Raftery. I also want to mention Patricia Burke Brogan [activist and playwright] who died last week – may she rest in peace – with regard to the work she did in respect of the Magdalen laundries, in particular with the play Eclipsed.

“The groups on the ground have certainly forced us and dragged us every step of the way,” she said.

Agreeing, Minister O’Gorman said it was absolutely right to recognise critical the role of Tuam historian, Catherine Corless.

“We would not be here today but for her dogged persistence in highlighting what happened in Tuam.

“Deputy Connolly mentioned the redress legislation. This legislation has been worked on by my Department over the summer and I will bring it to Cabinet in October to seek approval for the final Bill and to bring it rapidly through the Houses [of the Oireachtas] and the committee, so that we can provide redress to family members,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Seán Canney, TD for Galway East, said what had happened had impacted the people of Tuam deeply and said the Director, when he or she is appointed, should be based in Galway and seek to engage with locals during the excavation process.

“It has created a sense of a stain on, or a shadow over Tuam as a town. Tuam is a very good town and has the finest people living there.

“The Minister has set out in his speech how a Director would be appointed . . . and that an office will be set up to manage the excavation and all that goes with it. However, it is important that there is local engagement with the people of the town,” said Deputy Canney.

“The office should be set in the town and there should be a liaison aspect to the brief that this director will have so people from the locality who want to know what is going on can find out,” he continued, adding that locals should be able to meet the Director in Tuam and not Dublin or anywhere else.

Minister O’Gorman outlined that the Director would oversee a phased forensic-standard excavation, recovery, analysis and re-interment of the remains.

“The order also provides that the Director will carry out an identification programme as an additional function for the intervention,” he said.

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Connacht Tribune

Customs ‘dip’ for green diesel on Aran island

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Revenue officers made an unannounced visit to Inis Mór last week – with around 10 customs officials performing spot checks for marked diesel.

The Connacht Tribune understands that three motorists were nabbed by the officers for driving with ‘green diesel’ – a fuel only permissible for off-road use, mainly in agriculture.

According to a source in Revenue, this surprise visit is a return to normal service, with spot checks having stalled during Covid.

As part of the operation, customs officers were drafted in from various locations and travelled to the island without prior notice to Gardaí.

Having arrived by ferry from both Galway Docks and Ros a’ Mhíl, officers performed a number of checks at the Pier in Kilronan and also visited Dún Aonghasa.

Vehicles were dipped for green diesel for which tax is paid at a much cheaper rate than road diesel. Those convicted of using marked diesel on the roads face a maximum fine of up to €5,000.

A garda spokesperson confirmed that a group of Revenue officers visited Inis Mór on Friday, September 16, and were facilitated by gardaí on the island.

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