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CITY TRIBUNE

Probe still ongoing into former Picture Palace company’s affairs

Dara Bradley

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An investigation is ongoing into the organisation that was set-up to deliver the city’s arthouse cinema.

The Charities Regulator has confirmed that its probe into Solas Galway Picture Palace is still live – more than a year on from when it was launched.

A liquidator was appointed to Solas last June, three months after it was confirmed by the Charities Regulator that it had launched an investigation into its affairs.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, a spokesperson for the watchdog said: “The Charities Regulator’s inspection into affairs of the Solas Galway Picture Palace is on-going. When it is complete it is intended to publish the inspectors’ report.”

The Charities Regulator in March 2017 ordered the investigation after an initial examination of its books, documents and other records relating to the controversial building.

The project was raised at the Public Accounts Committee last week by Independent Dáil Deputy Catherine Connolly, who described it as “an example of an utter failure of management”.

“This isn’t a public building, this is a private building; that’s the problem. We can’t think of a more inappropriate name than Solas (meaning light in Irish), in the context of the history of this building. There’s an absence of light really in the way this was handled,” she said.

Deputy Connolly said that when she was a City Councillor, she “struggled to ask questions” in relation to the cinema because Ireland is a small country and Galway a small city and “very often there is not a reward for asking questions”.

Noting that asking questions when public money is concerned was “extremely important”, Deputy Connolly added: “In relation to the arts, there’s a certain element that one is a philistine if one questions it. So let me just get that out of the way, as somebody who has promoted the arts at all levels in my different roles.”

A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) late last year concluded that the cinema would be delivered nine years late and €2.1 million over-budget.

It was first proposed in 2006, and it was then envisaged that work would start in 2007 and be completed in two years. It only opened last month.

“The amount of public funds committed to the project increased by €2.1 million from the initial expected outlay of €6.3 million. The project has relied substantially on public investment to complete the development and to fund the increased project costs,” the C&AG said.

Vast amounts of funds from the public purse were poured into the project including millions from the Department of Arts, Galway City Council, the Irish Film Board, as well as Cultural; Cinema Consortium and Western Development Commission.

Element Pictures, which operates the Light House in Dublin, took over the running of the cinema from Solas Galway Picture Palace, on a 30-year lease, having invested around €800,000.

At the PAC last week, Katherine Licken, Secretary General of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, accepted the C&AG’s recommendations that the department should review its approach to all projects where the key risks were carried by the State.

She accepted mistakes were made and that the project could have been managed better but she denied Deputy Connolly’s assertion that “there was absolutely no supervision of this project”.

Ms Licken said: “I wouldn’t say there was a total absence of supervision; we did intervene at very critical moments. When Solas went out to contract without consulting with the Department, we actually refused to make any more payments to them until they came back with a business plan that brought in private sector funding, which they subsequently did.

“The Irish Film Board offered a project manager to Solas, they didn’t take up that offer. We did consider everything, including stopping the project, we worked very close with Galway City Council, and I do acknowledge the work of the Council, and we agreed the City Council would take over project management.”

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City school relocates to the Races after flooding

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Winner alright! Winner alright! When a city Gaeltacht school effectively became homeless overnight due to flooding hell at Halloween, it turned adversity into opportunity by temporarily relocating to Galway Racecourse, which has been a massive success.

Disaster struck for Scoil Bhríde in Menlo during the October mid-term break when water from a suspected burst pipe flooded through the ceiling, damaging woodwork, electrics and equipment in classrooms.

Principal Máire De Brún, assistant principals Siobhán Ó Neill and Deirdre Ní Cheallaigh, and the board of management, chaired by Patricia Coleman, were faced with two options. The first was an emergency closure of the school for a week to fix the problem, which they ruled out.

“We took the bull by the horns and decided to go hell for leather and find another venue to house us so that the repairs could be done without pressure and so that the kids could continue school on the Monday after mid-term,” explained Ms De Brún.

The leak probably occurred on the Wednesday, and was discovered on Thursday, which gave only a few days to find a new school.

“When I look back on it, I don’t know how we did it,” laughed Ms De Brún.

First, she tried the Menlo Park Hotel, whose management was “extraordinarily helpful”. But because of Covid-19 restrictions, it couldn’t accommodate all 190 pupils in the school, pre-school and 10 staff.

Ballinfoile Community Hall was “absolutely fantastic” too, and agreed to house temporary classrooms. Those two venues still couldn’t cater for all students, and so Ms De Brún had to find another venue for two more classes.

“Someone suggested the Racecourse and we went out and met Michael [Moloney, Racecourse Manager] and said we just need it for two classes but when we were standing in the Killanin Stand, we said, ‘What are we thinking, let’s just move the whole lot out here and they’ll be under the one roof, they’ll have four floors, they’ll have plenty of space, they can run around outside?’,” she recalled.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Some Galway City pubs ‘will never reopen’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – There are several pubs in Galway that will never reopen their doors as a result of the “bitterly disappointing” decision to keep pubs closed under Covid-19 restrictions.

That’s according to the new Chair of Galway City branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland, Johnny Duggan, who said there were a number of pub owners who had already given up their leases and many more who found themselves in “serious difficulty” after being forced to stay closed for the best part of eight months.

From today (Friday), restrictions have been eased to allow for the reopening of restaurants and pubs that serve food. However, so-called ‘wet pubs’, which do not operate a kitchen, have been forced to remain closed for the foreseeable future.

Mr Duggan said there were a number of publicans under severe pressure to meet rent and loan commitments, and without adequate support, the future remained very uncertain.

“What the Government has given is three double payments of the CRSS (Covid Restrictions Support Scheme), but that comes nowhere near what you would normally turn over at this time of year. It’s welcome, but it’s just not enough.

“There are an awful lot of people who won’t survive this,” he said.

Mr Duggan said publicans found it “very strange” that they had been allowed bring food in from off-site premises to satisfy the need for a substantial meal when restrictions were eased in the summer, but that option was not available this time around.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. 

Galway City Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway Garda chief appeals for ‘special’ Christmas effort

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway’s most senior Garda has appealed to students and young people to make ‘one special effort’ over the Christmas holiday season to keep contact and travel to a minimum.

Yesterday (Thursday), some groups of students had organised mock ‘Christmas Day’ celebrations in keeping with the custom of recent years in the week before the end of the first semester at the city’s third-level colleges.

Gardaí had extra patrols on duty through the course of the day and last night to keep tabs on any improvised gatherings as part of their Covid-19 campaign in the run-up to Christmas.

Chief Superintendent Tom Curley told the Galway City Tribune that the last thing the Gardaí wanted to do was to adopt what some people might describe as a ‘heavy-handed’ approach to gatherings of young people.

“The last eight months or so have been tough for all of us, but it has to be acknowledged that there has been a very high level of buy-in from everyone, including students and young people.

“We are at the point where a lot of progress in terms of containing the spread of Covid-19 has been made, but I suppose the key message we want to get out there now is to ‘stick with it’ over the coming weeks and months,” said Chief Supt Curley.

However, he did caution that if students or young people did break the law in terms of not abiding by the coronavirus regulations, they would be facing prosecution and a potential criminal conviction. “This is not what we want, or indeed what any student needs, as they look ahead to their career prospects,” he said.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. 

Galway City Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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