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Connacht Tribune

Polls provide reality check for Fine Gael’s third term hopes

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Independent members of Galway County Council endorsing Minister Seán Canney in Galway East (from left) Gabe Cronnelly, James Charity Geraldine Donohue and Pat Hynes. Tim Broderick and Jim Cuddy have also confirmed their support.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

There’s nothing quite like an opinion poll to kick-start an election campaign – not that this one was moribund, but the first Irish Times survey on Monday certainly injected a new urgency into the next two and a half weeks.

It saw a big slide for Fine Gael, a massive surge for Sinn Féin – and steady as she goes for Fianna Fáil.

The key findings showed Fianna Fáil at 25 per cent (no change), 23 per cent for Fine Gael (down six), 21 per cent for Sinn Féin (up seven), 5 per cent for Labour (down one), eight per cent for the Green Party (no change) and 18 per cent for Independents and small parties (no change). The comparison is with the most recent Irish Times poll last October.

Fine Gael had no way to put a gloss on this; a six point drop is significant and suggests the party does not have momentum at the start of the campaign.

Judged in isolation, Fianna Fáil is treading water but the fact that it is edging in front of Fine Gael at the start of the campaign is significant – and Leo Varadkar must know that it’s very difficult to be returned for a third time.

The TV debates will now play a crucial part. I have no doubt that Fine Fine Gael agreed to the live TV debate on Wednesday on Virgin Media because it knew it was lagging behind and needed to regain momentum… and quick.

It’s a remarkable surge for Sinn Féin. The party had a terrible local election and lost a raft of seats. However, it did perform well in a number of key constituencies.

It must not be forgotten that it had a spate of resignations, and bullying claims, at local level and they might have reflected in the local elections, but do not seem to have carried on as a factor the national picture.

The November by-elections helped steady the ship for it. On this showing Sinn Féin will be recalibrating the number of seats they are capable of holding in the election.

There is a caveat. If you look at the pattern of the 2016 election, the party started off at 19 per cent in the first Irish Times poll and ended up with 13.8 per cent.

The challenge for the party this time will be consolidating the vote and ensure less slippage. It attracts a vote from younger voters and working class voters that don’t turn out in huge numbers.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Paedophile sentenced to a further 17 months in prison

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A convicted paedophile, described by a Garda as ‘a prolific child abuser’, has had a 17-month prison sentence added to a 13-year sentence he is already serving for the rape and sexual abuse of children.

Disgraced primary school teacher and summer school bus driver, 69-year-old Seosamh Ó Ceallaigh, a native of Tuirín, Béal a’ Daingin, Conamara, had at all times denied two charges of indecently assaulting a ten-year-old boy at a Gaeltacht summer school in Béal a’ Daingin in 1979.

The offence carries a maximum two-year sentence.

A jury found him guilty by majority verdict following a four-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last month.

At his sentence hearing last week, Detective Paul Duffy described Ó Ceallaigh as a prolific child abuser who had amassed 125 child abuse convictions, committed while he was a primary school teacher in Dublin and while he operated an Irish language summer school in Beal a’ Daingin.

They included convictions for rape and sexual assault for which he is currently serving sentences totalling 13 years.

Those sentences were due to expire in August 2024, but last week, Judge Rory McCabe imposed two, concurrent 17-month sentences on Ó Ceallaigh, before directing the sentences begin at the termination of the sentences he is currently serving.

The judge noted Ó Ceallaigh’s denial and lack of remorse and the lifelong detrimental effect the abuse had on the victim as aggravating factors.

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Connacht Tribune

Dismay as marine park proposal rejected by planners

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A lifeline project, with the potential to create around 200 long-term jobs in an area of South Connemara ravaged by unemployment and emigration, has been rejected by planners – primarily environmental grounds.
The proposed marine park or Páirc na Mara, east of Cill Chiaráin village, was viewed by many as a real chance to turn the tide for this unemployment blackspot.
Locals – and the vast majority of Galway West politicians – were supportive of the project which was viewed as one that would revitalise the area.
That said, Galway County Council’s decision to refuse permission for the marine park was welcomed by Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages which had expressed fears that the marine farm would extract huge amounts of fresh water to breed more than 1.5 million salmon smolts.
They said that millions of litres of fresh water would have been extracted on a regular basis by the salmon farm company operating the smolt rearing units – from the same lakes as the Carna and Cill Chiaráin water supply system.
“Local residents can now rest assured that their domestic water supply won’t be hijacked to line the pockets of people who have no regard for the local environment or residents,” said Billy Smyth, Chairman of Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages.
It was proposed to provide a marine innovation park Pairc na Mara on a 60-acre brownfield site at Cill Chiarain.
The development involves the provision of a number of marine-based facilities as well as education and research facilities in the townlands of Cill Chiarain, Ardmore and Calvary.
It involves the abstraction of water from Lough Scannan, its transfer to and temporary storage in Iron Lake along with impoundment and pumping to the Marine Park site with a rising main.
According to the application, Galway County Council has previously granted planning permission for aquaculture-based activities on the site of the proposed marine park back in 2002 while the first phase of the innovation park was built in 2005.
There were a considerable number of submissions supporting the application with many saying that this part of Connemara would benefit greatly from such a development.
But there were others who expressed concern over the potential impact it would have on the environment, and it would be located in a highly sensitive area.
Cllr Gerry King said that it was a valuable opportunity lost to the area given the amount of unemployment that exists. He added that there was local outrage at the decision.
The Fianna Fail councillor met with those behind the project and residents in support of the project. He said that they all agreed that this decision should be appealed to the higher planning authority.
It was refused on the basis that it would adversely affect the integrity and conservation objectives of the European sides in the vicinity of environmental value.
Planners stated that they could not be certain that the project would not adversely affect the integrity of Cill Ciaran Bay, the islands and Connemara bog complex
They also said that the Environmental Impact Assessment Report did not present a sufficient level of information on the impact it would have on human health, biodiversity, land, soil, water along with cultural heritage and the landscape.

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Connacht Tribune

Council rules that honey business is in Special Area of Conservation

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A North Connemara beekeeper has expressed his dismay at the County Council’s refusal to issue an exemption to allow him proceed with an apiary on farmlands at Rossadillisk.

Tom Termini, who has lived in the area for the past 25 years, purchased the lands just off the coastline with the intention of beekeeping there, but plans to expand have come to a halt after an enforcement order was issued by the Council last Summer.

Mr Termini said he had been of the understanding that the 20msq agricultural storage building which was portable in nature would not require planning permission because of its agricultural purpose and its location on appropriately zoned lands.

However, after receiving a letter from the Council, he engaged the services of an engineer who recommended seeking a Declaration of Exemption from planning.

“The area is located in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) so we engaged the services of another engineer who carried out an Environmental Impact Assessment and it was found it would have no impact,” said Mr Termini.

The report, compiled by Delichon Ecology, states that there are 17 sites protected by European SAC status within 15km of the proposed development, but concludes that ‘the completed groundworks and proposed agricultural building, either individually or in combination with other projects and plans, is not likely to have a significant impact on any European site’.

Mr Termini said no explanation as to why his application was refused was forthcoming, but that he had since applied for retention on the partially completed structure.

“After I invested in the property, I started down the route of setting up the apiary because I had one when I was in the States, and I’m a member of the local association. I decided to build a bigger shed so we could expand beyond being a service to have a product offering,” said Mr Termini who owns and operates Bluedog Honey.

He said the company would bring economic benefits to what was a small, rural area and the lands he owned were 90% bog, unsuited to many other forms of agriculture.

“We’d hoped to have it up and running by February 2020, but the pandemic set that back and then we got the letter from the Council as works were progressing towards opening this February.

“This facility would not impact on the area – other than using water to wash natural matter, there is no discharge – I’m perplexed by it all really,” said Mr Termini.

An application for retention of the structure was sent to Galway County Council this month, with a decision due by August 15.

Mr Termini said he would be forced to appeal to An Bord Pleanála if this application was turned down, but said he was being assisted by local Councillor Eileen Mannion, whom he said supported enterprise in the area.

“This has been going on for 18 months and really, what I want to do is get to the next stage where we can grow the business and deal with the stresses that come with that – not this,” said Mr Termini.

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