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.
Commission critical of Mental Health Unit at UHG
Aspects of Galway’s new psychiatric unit – officially launched by a Government minister to much fanfare this week – have been branded “inadequate” and “inappropriate”, in an official report published last week.
The Mental Health Commission has highlighted failings at the new Adult Acute Mental Health Unit at University Hospital Galway, following an official complaint from a chairperson of a Mental Health Tribunal held at the facility.
An inspector with the Mental Health Commission carried out an inspection of the unit and found that the Mental Health Tribunal room there “was not adequately sized, ventilated and soundproofed and that the facilities did not respect the dignity of the patient during the Mental Health Tribunal”.
The new unit was built last year, at a cost of €20 million, after the old building was decommissioned because it was ‘not fit for purpose’.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) moved to address a number of issues at the new facility, after a series of complaints from service users and their advocates, were highlighted in this newspaper.
Patients said they felt isolated, demeaned and dehumanised in the new unit. Lack of sleep due to the noisiness of the new inpatient facility, and a reduction in human contact with staff since it opened last Autumn were chief among the concerns. A ‘draconian’ no-smoking policy where inpatients and visitors are ‘stopped and searched’ for tobacco, and where those caught smoking outside the unit were ‘punished’, was also causing distress.
Last February, the HSE acknowledged there were infrastructural problems with the new facility, and said it was working to address lighting and noise issues at the new unit. It defended its ‘no smoking’ policy.
This latest report from the Mental Health Commission into the failings of the new facility, was published the day after Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly, officially ‘cut the ribbon’ on the new unit last Monday.
On the eve of his visit, the Galway City Tribune contacted some of the inpatients who had complained about the facility last year. “Unfortunately, none of the issues we raised about the unit have been addressed as of yet,” said one service user who responded.
The centre has 50 beds, and residents are referred there by 12 consultant-led teams, including two psychiatry of later life teams, a mental health intellectual disability team, and a rehabilitation and recovery team.
In July of this year, the Mental Health Commission carried out an inspection of the facility, after receiving complaints about the provision of appropriate private facilities and adequate resources to support the Mental Health Tribunal process.
“This room where mental health tribunals were held was partitioned to provide a tribunal room and a training/multi-purpose room. It was not soundproofed and proceedings could be heard in the training room next door. The room was small, approximately five metres long and 3.5 metres wide. A narrow table with six chairs was in the centre of the room. The width of the table did not allow adequate space for people sitting opposite each other being insufficient to accommodate mental health tribunal members, the patient, his/her advocate, any attending nurses and the consultant psychiatrist. There were no windows; there was a Velux style window in the ceiling, which could be opened remotely. The room was stuffy and hot at the time of the inspection. The room infringed the right of the patient to be treated with respect and dignity during the tribunal process,” the inspector found.
A previous inspection of the tribunal room in the old ‘not fit for purpose’ building, found that it was bright and spacious, with natural light coming through a number of windows along one wall, and it was well ventilated. This room was now being used for training and meetings and all tribunal hearings are now held in the smaller room, according to staff.
The Mental Health Commission issued an Immediate Action Notice to address these concerns and said in a statement this week that it was “engaging with the approved centre to ensure the service is meeting the needs of patients attending a Mental Health Tribunal”.
Good luck England ! – as the poster and I screamed ….
Mark Gardiner, our man in Japan for the Rugby World Cup
Excitement has been building all week and even though Hiroshima isn’t a host city we are still getting a fair share of rugby fans passing through. Since last Saturday I’ve noticed some Irish fans coming into the pub, people who have arrived to take in some of the sights of Japan and then head off to take in the some of the pool matches.
There’s been some from Wexford, Mayo, Roscommon, Kerry, Laois, Dublin and Donegal but none from Cork yet! All of those fans will now be making their way to Yokohama which is situated right next to Tokyo and around 4 hours on the bullet train from Hiroshima. I’m giving the first two games a miss and will wait for Ireland to move closer to my adopted home city.
The Russia game will be held in Kobe, just one hour away, so I’ll be going to that with my son Tom on the eve of his 10th birthday. More accustomed to going to baseball games together hopefully he’ll see a try fest and enjoy a very different sporting atmosphere.
Earlier in the week, my Guinness rep walked in looking proud as punch to present me with five big Guinness posters for the rugby. As I unrolled one I couldn’t believe my eyes! [See poster below.] He couldn’t understand so I told him it was like having a Kirin beer poster with “good luck Korea” on it. He got the message pretty lively!
For some reason, the big story here is how much beer rugby fans drink. They’re very wary about bars, restaurants and stadiums running out so there have been numerous articles in papers telling landlords to order twice the norm. I had the local newspaper calling me yesterday almost begging me to tell them that I’d ordered way more beer than I normally would.
Tonight we have the opening game at 19:45 local time so hoping to get a good crowd into the pub for that. I will try and post some photos in the next few days. A big win for Japan is probably vital in order to catapult the tournament into the mainstream consciousness so hopefully, they won’t disappoint.
If anyone reading this plans to come out, there is a great forum on Facebook “Irish Rugby World Cup Japan Forum” or you can contact me on the Molly Malone’s Hiroshima Facebook page. Fingers crossed for Sunday.
Follow Mark Gardiners World Cup Diary here and on the Galway App.
Mark Gardiner is a former Galway resident now resident in Hiroshima, Japan where he owns and operates Molly Malones Bar.
Read his weekly unique insight into the 2019 Rugby World Cup here and on the Galway App.
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More than 70 kids under 12 in Direct Provision in Salthill
Galway City Tribune – More than 70 children under the age of 12 are living in a Direct Provision Centre in Salthill, figures from the Department of Justice show.
The Eglinton can house up to 210 people who are either seeking asylum or have been granted refugee status but have been unable to secure alternative accommodation.
The statistics show that the Salthill centre – which is for families and single females – has 77 residents under the age of 18.
Of these, 35 are aged four or under; 37 are aged between 5 and 12; and five are between 13 and 17 years of age.
Direct Provision is big business for service providers – figures show the companies behind Galway City’s two centres earned more than €77m since 2000. Last year alone, the Eglinton made a profit of €520,000.
The Great Western House centre off Eyre Square is for single males only, and there are currently no people under the age of 17 resident there. That centre has a maximum occupancy of 162 people.
Between both centres in Galway, there were a total of 359 occupants at the end of July.
This is a preview only. For extensive coverage on Direct Provision in Galway, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.