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Prevention measures averted even worse devastation

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Since 1998 successive consultants’ reports have documented technical solutions to the flooding across Galway but cost benefit analysis criteria as well as environment hurdles have prevented them from being implemented.

Following the chronic flood of 2009, at least €1.5m has been spent on flood relief schemes across South Galway.

This will do little to assuage the people turfed out of their flooded homes, the farmers unable to farm their swamped land or the residents forced into lengthy detours due to deluged roads.

However Liam Gavin, director of services for roads and transportation in Galway County Council, said the works that had been carried averted an even more devastating picture.

During the 2009 flood, up to 130 houses had been threatened in Ballinalsoe. Since the work on the East River Bridge on the Dublin Road, about a dozen houses had been flooded or were at risk.

The large scale flooding in Claregalway last time around had also been avoided – at least so far – following the major work on the bridge over the Clare River and a new bridge at Killeeney. The next stage of that scheme – held up due to environmental concerns – had recently been approved by An Bord Pleanála.

The long-term solution of building a channel to take all the water to the sea at Kinvara has not been approved to alleviate the major flooding in South Galway, complained Fine Gael Councillor Joe Bryne.

All efforts so far had concentrated on minor works such as maintenance of river beds and clearing of culverts.

The Dunkellin River and Aggard Stream scheme had been submitted to An Bord Pleanála for approval, with a decision now expected in January. The works are focused on three areas of the Dunkellin River at Craughwell Village, at Rinn Bridge and upstream of the N18 at Kilcolgan, with strenuous objections from oyster farmers. “The current criteria adopted by the Office of Public Works (OPW) as devised by Middlesex University are in my opinion unsuitable for areas like South Galway primarily because our population is not dense enough. The figures do not take in to any account the pain and suffering caused to people affected,” exclaimed Cllr Byrne.

South Galway is unique in that many of the areas affected are Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA).

To  alleviate the flooding problem in South Galway, he believes the Irish Government must seek a derogation under the EU Habitats Directive to enable the minimum necessary work be carried out within designated areas.

“This would include taking measures in Turloughs to maintain minimum water levels by provided structures like weirs, which would control water levels, and being able to provide channels through designated areas,” he said.

“The primary solution to the flooding in South Galway is to get the water to the sea. We must commence all works at the sea outfalls and work upstream as outlined in the Jennings/O’Donovan report of January 2011.”

Funding of €400,000 was approved for the Kiltiernan / Ballinderreen Flood Relief Scheme, with planning permission still awaited.

The primary objective here is to provide a culvert under the N67 road at Ballinderreen with a channel to the sea at Brandy Harbour.

An overland channel from Coole to Kinvara, with a new culvert at the sea outfall in Kinvara, to be designed as part of N67 Road Tender, was stalled.

In the last month, Galway County Council had confirmed it would carry out part of that scheme, working a mile inland towards Cahermore from Kinvara, with a submission to go into the OPW shortly.

A proposal to widen the stream between Roo and the sea outfall at Currenroe, KInvara, which would need a new culvert under existing N67 Road at Currenroe, was also to go to the OPW early next year.

Calls to maintain the Termon Lough SAC at a level which would prevent flooding but enable a pumped system to be provided to get the water to the River Fergus have stalled due to environmental hurdles.

The “swallow hole” where the Cloone River goes underground at Ballylee, had also not been cleared, which may have prevented the devastating rise in levels in the Castledaly, Grannagh, Ballyaneen and Ballylee areas, Cllr Byrne said.

“In the last six months I’ve put in proposals to widen ten or twelve swallow holes to allow the water to get underground quicker. I got an answer back that the owners would have to carry out environmental assessment reports because they’re in SACs.

“We have to get serious here – are ecological issues more important than people’s lives?”

Connacht Tribune

Confusion reigns – but publicans continue serving pints outdoors

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Galway City publicans continued this week to serve alcohol in newly created on-street outdoor dining sections – despite warnings from Gardaí that it was against licensing laws.

The local branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) said it is hoping Government will, if necessary, introduce legislation that facilitates pubs serving alcohol in public spaces reclaimed for outdoor hospitality.

On Friday last, our sister newspaper, Galway City Tribune revealed that Gardaí had visited a number of city pubs warning they were not legally permitted to serve alcohol outdoors in temporary on-street seating areas created by Galway City Council.

Publicans were told that if they continued to flout the rules, files would be sent to the DPP.

When the crux subsequently hit the national headlines, Justice Minister Heather Humphreys urged Gardaí to ‘use their discretion’.

“The overwhelming majority of licensed premises are operating safely, and we in Government are determined to continue to support them. If local issues arise, I would urge local authorities, Gardaí and businesses to engage.

“However, I will also examine whether further measures are required from Government. Licensing law is a complex area but I have spoken to the Attorney General this morning and we will take further action if necessary,” Minister Humphreys said.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Apple plans second bite at Athenry data centre

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An artist's impression of the proposed Apple Data Centre.

Apple intends to have another bite at plans to build a data centre in Athenry.  Apple Operations Europe has applied to Galway County Council for more time to construct a controversial data centre on a greenfield site at Derrydonnell.

The company said it will identify “interested parties to develop the project” between now and 2026 to meet global growth in demand for data storage facilities.

It will spark hope in the County Galway town of a revival of the €850 million project that was dogged for years by planning delays and court appeals and was subsequently shelved. It may also attract fresh objections.

The world’s largest technology company was granted planning permission to build a €850 million data centre near Athenry in 2015.

An appeal to An Bórd Pleanála by a handful of local residents was not successful, and the planning appeals board confirmed the local authority’s decision in 2016.

But the company ultimately aborted its plans for County Galway in 2018 after three objectors sought a review of the decision through the courts.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Mum’s dream holiday turns to nightmare after cancer diagnosis

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Julia McAndrew, in hospital in Mexico.

A mother who went to Mexico on a dream holiday to spend Christmas with family is too weak to return home after being diagnosed with advanced cancer.

From the minute Julia McAndrew landed in the South American country, her health took a major downward spiral.

Her son and daughter were shocked when she asked for a wheelchair to make it through the airport.

She and daughter Eliska had flown out to see her son Patrick, who had relocated to Mexico to run an online learning business.

They initially thought she had fallen ill due to the rigours of a 22-hour, multi-stop flight.

But when her stomach problems did not improve and she began to lose a lot of weight and suffered from very low energy, they sought medical help.

This had to be done privately and without the financial help of an insurance company, Patrick reveals.

She was initially diagnosed with anaemia and kidney failure and underwent various treatments, including blood transfusions that appeared to be working.

But three weeks ago, medics discovered that what she had was Stage 4 breast cancer. Julia had cancer a decade ago but was given the all-clear after receiving treatment and a major change in lifestyle.

“It’s returned with a vengeance this time around. It’s spread to her pelvis, ribs and lungs,” reflects Patrick.

The cost of the treatment is $40,000 (€33,000) a month. Her family are hoping to build up her strength enough to endure the long flight home to Oranmore.

They have launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise €280,000 to pay for her treatment and in less than a week a phenomenal €36,000 has been donated.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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