Plans for new Traveller-specific homes in the city will be progressed before the year’s end.
And Galway City Council is also proposing the upgrade of halting sites in Westside and Headford Road in the coming months.
Elected members will be asked to vote on a Part 8 planning application this Autumn for a new housing scheme in Doughiska. Costing €1.2 million, housing agency Respond is planning to build 23 social homes in total, with four of them earmarked as Traveller-specific.
Separately, a City Council spokesperson said more Traveller housing schemes are in the pipeline.
“Two other proposals for new Traveller schemes are being progressed in discussion with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and I would anticipate that funding approval and planning will be sought towards the end of the year with construction to commence in 2020,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, the Council expects to make progress on the redevelopment of halting sites at Circular Road and Carrowbrowne.
“The planned redevelopment of the Circular Road halting site is also progressing through design stage and again will come before City councillors later this year for planning approval. No funding approval has been sought just yet. Construction will commence in 2020. Replacement of welfare units at Carrowbrowne will commence later this year and will be funded through Council’s own internal receipts,” a spokesperson said.
In relation to Carrowbrowne, the Council has invited tenders to provide 13 new welfare units at the site. “All welfare units must be robust, made of galvanised steel construction for long-life durability and must be secure with a heavy-duty walls, doors and roof and must be vandal proof. The units incorporate a kitchen with a sink, built in presses and drawers, a bathroom with a wash-hand basin, toilet and shower and a service room for plant,” the specifications state. They must also comply with current fire and safety regulations.
The Council said that other standard social housing schemes are being proposed and constructed that will include provision of standard local authority accommodation for Traveller families. Travellers are also being housed through RAS (Rental Accommodation Scheme) and HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) and in emergency accommodation.
The Council was responding to figures obtained by Galway TD Anne Rabbitte (FF) for the Galway City Tribune, which revealed the local authority was not drawing down its allocation of Traveller Accommodation Programmes (TAP) funding.
In 2016, some €40,000 was allocated and there was no draw down; in 2017, some €209,000 was allocated and there was just €95,000 drawn down; and last year some €177,000 was the allocation and none of it has been drawn down.
In response, the Council said it had received funding under TAP in recent years for fire safety works at halting sites and for the completion of extensions to Traveller homes.
“There are numerous other sources of funding for Traveller accommodation including our own revenue budget, principally for maintenance services on existing sites and schemes, and waste management,” the Council said.
The spokesperson added: “In relation to new build schemes, the principle source is through the Department of Housing. The Council have not drawn down any funds over the past number of years as the various schemes now proposed are at planning stage. Single acquisitions of individual homes are also recouped from the Department, including homes for Travellers. Houses acquired for Traveller families are no longer recouped from the Traveller Accommodation Programme fund as was the case in the past.
“The Council did not request specific funding under the Traveller Accommodation Programme for 2019 because we were advised by the Department that fire safety works at halting sites were no longer eligible under that specific fund and because funding for extensions now comes from the general allocation for such works, without reference to whether the house is occupied by a Traveller family or otherwise.”
Galway Traveller Movement said that budget underspend has been an issue every year since 2000, even though it has only received attention recently.
“The fifth Traveller Accommodation Programme will be adopted by Galway City and County Councils later this year. These programmes are five years in duration. The targets within the previous four plans have not been met and there has been continual underspend since the beginning of the first plans in 2000. There has been a lack of action for 20 years and local authorities must take responsibility for their lack of provision,” said Bridget Kelly, Deputy Co-Ordinator of GTM.
She said that two monitoring reports produced by GTM have detailed the “unacceptable lack of progress in meeting the targets” of the Traveller Accommodation Programmes in both Galway City and County.
“Sadly, as a result of this lack of implementation, members of the Traveller community, including a large population of children, are living in substandard conditions. There has not been the political will for these plans to be implemented and as a result the Traveller accommodation crisis continues to worsen. It is disingenuous for Councils to posit the blame onto the Traveller community for the lack of delivery of Traveller accommodation,” added Ms Kelly.
Gang leader jailed for racially-motivated assault
The leader of a gang of youths who were involved in muggings and sometimes racially-motivated assaults around the city over the last number of years has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.
Tom Williams (20), Cluain Fada, Headford Road, actually received sentences totalling seven-and-a-half years at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last week, but the final four years were suspended on condition he keep the peace and be of good behaviour for five years on his release from prison.
Williams pleaded guilty at a previous court hearing to a charge of violent disorder, in that he along with three others acting together used or threatened to use violence in Eyre Square on May 4, 2018.
He also pleaded guilty to assaulting an Afghan national, causing him harm, on the same date.
Williams further pleaded guilty to robbing a mobile phone from another youth on March 14, 2018, and to assaulting the victim’s father when he asked Williams to return his son’s phone.
Sergeant Paul McNulty told the sentence hearing Williams was the leader of a gang which had no regard for law or order.
He said Williams and three others assaulted two young Afghan asylum seekers outside Cafe Express in Eyre Square at around 1.30pm on May 4, 2018.
“Tom Williams instigated the assault and oversaw it as his gang members carried it out,” Sgt McNulty said.
The victims later told Gardai they noticed a group of black males staring at them. The males called them terrorists and asked them what were they doing in this country.
One of the males, later identified from CCTV as Tom Williams, suddenly stuck one of the Afghan youths into the side of his head using his mobile phone as a weapon. The victim fell to the ground where he was punched and kicked by the gang. A member of staff from a nearby cafe, who came to the victim’s aid, was punched into the face by another gang member.
Sgt McNulty said Eyre Square was packed with people at the time this vicious, unprovoked assault took place.
Garda Neil Lydon gave evidence Williams robbed a young boy of his mobile phone and rucksack in the Eyre Square shopping centre on March 14, 2018.
The victim was put in fear and he ran to the taxi rank where his father worked.
Garda Lydon said the victim’s father knew Williams’ father, who is also a taxi driver.
Later that evening the man went to a house where Williams was staying and asked for his son’s belongings.
Williams punched him a number of times in the head, face and body before hitting him across the head with a large salt shaker.
Garda Lydon said the man made an official complaint to him the next day.
“He was quite upset because in his culture, it’s very insulting for a young person to attack a man of his age,” Garda Lydon explained.
Garda Lydon said that neither the man nor his son wanted to give a victim impact statement. He said the son continued to live in fear of the accused and the robbery and subsequent attack on his father had totally changed his life.
In reply to defence barrister, Conal McCarthy, Garda Lydon said he was not aware of Williams having any drink or drug problem. He said the accused lived with his father in Cluain Fada, while his mother lived in Knocknacarra.
Sgt McNulty confirmed Williams had 33 previous convictions and was out on two separate sets of High Court bail for 18 other offences at the time he committed the offences before the court.
He said the accused had two convictions for robberies, one for affray, one for the production of a weapon in the course of a dispute, four for assaults, and the rest for deception, possession of stolen property and drugs.
Sgt McNulty said he knew Williams since he was convicted of assaulting a Polish national when he was 13.
He said Williams was of Nigerian origin and was the leader of a gang of youths in the city who had no regard for the law.
Mr McCarthy said his client had been abusing alcohol and drugs for many years and he was intoxicated at the time of the assault on the taxi driver.
Sgt McNulty said that while he knew Williams for several years he was not aware he had a drink or drug addiction, as suggested by counsel.
Mr McCarthy said his client had also been the victim of racial abuse while in school.
Sgt McNulty was sceptical of this, pointing out that Williams was well over six feet tall since he was 13. “He’s a big lad,” he added.
Judge Rory McCabe said the latest probation report on Williams was very bleak, placing him at a high risk of reoffending and it left him with no option when imposing sentence but to discount any hope of rehabilitation.
For their role in the Eyre Square attacks, other gang members, Goodnews Onyenweson, received a four-year sentence with the final nine months suspended in May of last year, while Mourthadha Badiane received a suspended three-year sentence. A juvenile, who cannot be named, also received a suspended sentence.
Covid-19 drives car sales slump in Galway
The Covid-19 pandemic has seen the sales of new cars and used imports in Galway slump by almost 80% over the past three months.
The coronavirus has also impacted the commercial sector, with the sale of small goods vehicles down 75% and the number of new HGVs drop to just two.
Between the beginning of April and the end of June this year, just 100 new cars were registered in Galway City and county – a massive drop of almost 79% from the 470 registered in the same period last year.
In fact, April saw a virtual collapse of the market in Galway, with just seven new cars registered – down more than 97% from 264 in April of 2019.
Data from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) also shows that secondhand imports in the second quarter of this year were down 78% to 331 (from 1,525).
Looking at the first half of the year, new cars recorded a 25.4% slump from 29,41 to 2,194 when compared to the same period last year.
This category of vehicles is called ‘new passenger vehicles’ and include cars, jeeps, people carriers and caravans.
The majority of the new registrations were diesel (49%); followed by petrol (30%); petrol electric (17%); electric (3%); petrol/plug-in hybrid (1%) and diesel electric (three vehicles).
Galway’s most popular new car so far this year is the Toyota Corolla (134 cars sold); followed by the Hyundai Tucson (87); Toyota Yaris (86); Ford Focus (82) and VW Tiguan (77).
The number of new Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) registered in Galway in the second quarter of this year slumped by 93% – from 28 last year to just two. For the year to date, HGV sales dropped 47% from 66 to 35 here.
For Light Commercial Vehicles (small goods vans), there were 32 registered in the second quarter, down 75% from 128 in the same period last year. For the year to date, sales were down 30% from 549 to 383.
Meanwhile, the number of used cars being imported from the UK into Galway slumped by more than half during the first six months of the year (down 55% from 3,104 to 1,396).
As with new cars, the majority of the imports registered here were diesel (74%); followed by petrol (17%); petrol electric (5%); petrol/plug-in hybrid (3%); electric (five vehicles); diesel electric (three vehicles) and gas (one vehicle).
The most popular imports were jointly the Hyundai Tucson and Ford Focus (68 cars each); followed by the Audi A6 (66 cars); VW Golf (63) and Nissan Qashqai (56).
In recent years, used imports outsold the volume of new cars being registered in Galway, as motorists looked to the UK for bargains and high-end cars with specifications that may not have been available or affordable in the Irish marketplace.
Imports of used small goods vehicles in the first six months of the year were down 30% from 549 to 383, while heavy commercial vehicles were down 47% from 66 to 35.
Galway City Council considers up to 14 cycle routes
Up to 14 routes – split almost evenly between the east and west sides of the city – have been earmarked for major revamps to accommodate more cycle and pedestrian traffic over the coming years.
According to a report presented to the City Council, there is existing funding of €5.8 million to progress the design stages of the schemes.
In a report presented by City Council Senior Executive Engineer, Colm Ó Ríordáin, he also outlined that there was ‘proposed funding’ of €24m for the tender and construction stages of the projects.
This ‘proposed funding’ would be sourced evenly between the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) and the National Transport Authority (NTA).
In a separate report by Atkins Consultants, they outlined six routes on the east side of the city which had been earmarked for adaption to facilitate better cycle and pedestrian facilities.
Those routes are: Ballybane Road, Doughiska Road (north), Doughiska Road (south), Ballyloughane Road, Castlepark Road and Monivea Road.
On the Ballybane Road, it is proposed to reduce the existing road carriageway from 10 metres to six metres with a two-metre raised cycle lane on either side as well as two-metre footpath.
Roadways are also to be narrowed on the two Doughiska routes with raised cycle lanes to be provided on either side of the road.
Ballyloughane will be a ‘shared street’ for bikes and vehicular traffic with footpaths widened to two metres on either side.
Raised cycle tracks will be provided on either side of a narrowed carriageway on the Castlepark Road with a similar set-up envisaged for the Monivea Road.
The Atkins report envisages construction works to begin on the Ballybane Road, Doughiska Road (south), Ballyloughane Road and Castle Park Road segments to begin by the end of this year or in the first quarter of 2021.
A Part 8 planning process will be required for Doughiska Road (north) and Monivea Road segments of the project.
Consultants Clifton Scannell Emerson Associates, presented the Galway Cycle Network Stage 2 to councillors outlining the cycle plans for the west side of the city.
The routes as outlined are: Clybaun Road, Bóthair Stíofáin, Bishop O’Donnell Road, Threadneedle Road, Dr Mannix Road, Devon Park, Salthill Road as well as the Eglinton Canal.
On the Clybaun Road, the existing carriageway will be narrowed with grass margins installed, while on Bótháir Stíofáin, the road will also be narrowed with more with a new cycle lane provided as well as footpaths on either side.
Cycle tracks are to be provided on either side of a narrowed Bishop O’Donnell Road with a similar arrangement to apply on Dr Mannix Road.
Better pedestrian facilities are to be provided at Devon Park while the Salthill Road will be narrowed from over 10 metres to six metres with wider paths and landscaping provided. Improvements are also to be made at the Eglinton Canal crossing at New Road.