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CITY TRIBUNE

Plans floated for restoration of Galway’s waterways

Denise McNamara

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It has been dubbed ‘the Venice of Ireland’, boasting the most intricate waterway system in the country.

Before human intervention, Galway was a city of seven rivers and seven islands. At one point, there were 29 waterwheels drawing their power from the waterways of Galway to provide energy for the city’s various industries.

But today it is far from the shining jewel in the crown that it could be.

Many of Galway’s waterways are in a poor state of repair and cleanliness and appear badly neglected. Unpruned trees overhang the water, roots grow out of the walls, silt builds up because there is not an adequate flow and objects thrown into the water are not removed quickly enough.

But a community group calling itself the Galway Waterways Initiative aims to change all that, using the European Capital of Culture 2020 as a catalyst.

Its vision is to create an intertwined network of canal and riverside walks with signage and heritage markers throughout the city. It wants to plant the banks with flowers, shrubs, and trees that are kept pruned and healthy.

The group plans to re-establish navigation along the Eglinton Canal so that journeys from Lough Corrib to Galway Bay are again made possible. The project would licence glass-topped tourist boats to tell a different side to Galway’s history, taking in the Fisheries buildings, the Poor Clare Convent, and water wheel sites which powered flour mills, distilleries, and woollen factories, the regulating weir that protects the City, the Parkavera Lock and the Claddagh Basin.

It hopes to create a clear path for kayaks, canoes, and other small craft to wind their way through the interconnected water courses.

“Cities all over the world have restored waterways that had become filthy, urban sewers to objects of civic pride. A multi-year canal restoration programme that is an integral part of Galway Capital of Culture 2020, beginning in 2017 and leading up to and beyond 2020 has the potential for a rare achievement,” explains Phil James, who is spearheading the campaign.

Already, the group has the backing of 14 groups and institutions which have vested interests in the waterways, including NUIG, residents’ associations and diving and rowing clubs.

American-born Phil, who came to Galway to work with Digital, has a long experience in management in the not-for-profit sector, heading up Pro-Activate, which has secured substantial European Union funding to carry out projects with partner organisations from all corners of Europe.

They have submitted a proposal to the 2020 committee with an outline of what the project would entail and a detailed calendar of events leading up to the influx of visitors. This was drawn up after a public workshop about the waterways last May.

Highlights include water and light displays, a hydro-energy conference and the first hydro-energy installation, kayaking, canoeing, diving regattas, a design competition for a walkway over the old railroad pillars connecting the city to the Connemara greenway and the production of a plan for a ‘blueway’ connecting the Galway canals to the Ballyquirke canal network in Moycullen.

They envisage setting up a virtual “museum of the waterways”, with a plan for an actual museum. The project would involve a re-naming competition for the rivers and canals and a gala event in 2020 including a concert from a floating stage in the Claddagh Basin.

During Cultural Night last Friday, they put up eight signs around the city advocating that canal restoration should be part of 2020 in a bid to raise awareness about their proposal to the event committee.

The only feedback they got on the signs from Galway City Council was a warning that fines would issue unless they were removed.

A copy of the submission has been sent to City CEO Brendan McGrath and all local politicians in a bid to drum up support for the plan.

The group plans to launch of the Capital of Culture initiative on October 13, with a host of influential guest speakers.

CITY TRIBUNE

“It will be akin to the notorious Rahoon flats”

Enda Cunningham

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The Rahoon flats, which were built in 1972 and demolished in 1998, widely regarded as a failed social housing project.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – More than 700 local residents have signed a petition against plans for the construction of 330 apartments in Knocknacarra – which have been likened to “the notorious Rahoon flats”.

Child safeguarding concerns have also been raised by the principal of Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh – who pointed out that the apartments will look directly into 19 classrooms.

A total of 27 objections were lodged against Glenveagh Living’s plans to build 332 apartments in six blocks – ranging from four storeys to seven storeys in height.

Locals have demanded An Bord Pleanála hold an oral hearing into the plans – that planning authority is due to make a decision by March 20, although it can decide to hold such a hearing first.

A computer-generated image of the Glenveagh plans for the site opposite Gort na Bró and beside Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh.

One of the objections – which accuses the developer of designing “tenement style” homes in a “blatant attempt to profiteer from the housing crisis” – was signed by more than 700 local residents.

Another objector said the development was “akin to the notorious Rahoon flats, with people being packed on top of each other”.

Locals have raised concerns about the huge number of apartments planned; overshadowing of homes; inadequate open space, playing pitches and community infrastructure; parking and traffic problems; low quality of design and road safety.

Glenveagh Living did not respond to a request from the Galway City Tribune for comment.
This is a preview only. To read extensive coverage of the Glenveagh plans and objections, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Arts fraternity rallies as Theo faces deportation

Denise McNamara

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Less than a year after being invited by the Arts Council to perform at a conference about diversity in the arts, a musician, DJ and rapper – who is about to embark on a project for Galway 2020 – is facing deportation.

Theophilus Ndlovu left Zimbabwe after what he claims was a lifetime of abuse at the hands of the people who were supposed to mind him.

His mother left when he was just six years old and he never met his father. He was placed in the care of an unofficial foster family but it was never a happy arrangement.

“These people I stayed with were abusing me. They were never my family. I was running away from persecution and abuse and the way I was treated by these people. I had to fend for myself since I was ten years old,” he recalls.

When Theo was 20, he saved up enough money from mowing lawns and selling chickens to escape, arriving in Ireland where he sought asylum. Authorities placed him in a Direct Provision Centre in Finglas for a fortnight before he was transferred to the Great Western Direct Provision Centre off Eyre Square, where he has remained for nearly four years.

Almost immediately, Theo felt at home.

“This is my family. Galway is where I found my voice. It has become my home. It is just where I’m meant to be.”

Theo has immersed himself in the arts community and has become a leading hip-hop artist, known as Touché, performing regularly at venues such as the Róisín Dubh and the Black Gate. He was instrumental in getting fellow asylum seekers and refugees involved in music collaborations.

He is a founding member of the multicultural music project ‘Atmos Collective’ and has facilitated numerous music workshops in Galway, “teaching, motivating and inspiring hundreds of young people along the way”, according to co-founder Alice McDowell, an Australian filmmaker and fiddler.

The collective was recently granted funding by the Galway European Capital of Culture 2020 committee to host community music workshops in the city and county over the next year as part of their ‘Small Towns Big Ideas’ scheme.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

The petition is available online HERE

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CITY TRIBUNE

Regeneration funding sought for community centre

Stephen Corrigan

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A computer-generated image of the proposed communit centre in Newcastle

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – With a decision imminent on planning permission to build a new community centre in Newcastle, city councillors will be asked next Monday to support an application for major government funding to proceed with the project.

A motion by Councillor Eddie Hoare (FG) will seek the approval of the City Council to make an application for funding under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) – an overall fund of €2bn available for major infrastructural projects in cities.

Chairman of the Newcastle Combined Community Association (NCCA) Seamus Davey said that they expected a decision on their planning application by the end of January, and were hopeful of getting the support of councillors for this funding application.

“While planning permission hasn’t been granted yet – it has dragged on a bit because of a request for further information – we expect to have it approved soon.

“This project will be shovel ready and as soon as we get planning permission, we’ll have the engineering documents drawn up. As soon as we have funding, we’ll be putting it out to tender,” said Mr Davey.

The Council is set to reach a decision on the application on February 6.

The proposal for funding under the URDF has to come from the Council so it is crucial the project got the full backing of Council members, Mr Davey added.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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