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Probe still ongoing into former Picture Palace company’s affairs



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.”


Galway City Council Chief asked to intervene after Kirwan junction ‘near misses’



From the Galway City Tribune – Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, has been urged to intervene and instigate a review of the controversial changeover of Kirwan roundabout to a traffic light junction.

A relative of the Collins’ family, who operate a B&B on Headford Road, has pleaded with Mr McGrath to act to make it safe to enter and exit this house.

Joseph Murphy, from County Galway but living in England, a relative of the owners of the B&B located on the N84 side of the Headford Road, has warned of the potential for a serious collision at that junction.  He wrote to Mr McGrath, and copied all city councillors including Mayor of Galway, Clodagh Higgins (FG), seeking a review of the junction and in particular access to the B&B. Mr Murphy said he has been driving for forty years but this junction was “one of the most difficult and complicated traffic light junctions I have ever experienced”.

The CCTV shows a van stopping in the junction to give way to pedestrians before entering the B&B.

He said he wrote the letter because he nearly had a serious accident, due to no fault of his, when leaving the residence.

An amber traffic lights system is in place at the house, since the junction changeover last year, which is supposed to help motorists exit onto the Headford Road from the B&B.

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

He said the lights are complicated and it was unreasonable and unfair on his family and any guests staying at their B&B who may be endangered trying to enter or exit the driveway.

Videos of ‘near misses’ recorded on CCTV footage, and supplied to Councillor Mike Crowe (FF), have been seen by the Galway City Tribune.

They give a flavour of how dangerous it is to exit the residence on an amber light; and indicate an apparent lack of understanding of the system on the part of other motorists.

Cllr Crowe and other elected members raised this safety issue at a Council meeting last week during a discussion on the City Development Plan. It was decided to rezone some land adjacent to Sandyvale Lawn, which would allow for a new entrance to the house to be constructed, although there is no timeframe.

Mr Murphy, in his email to officials and councillors said it was an “extremely busy junction”.

“I do not believe that enough planning or consideration was taken when the traffic lights were installed, especially those that were installed directly in front of my sister’s house.

“My relatives in Galway should not have to worry every time they leave their house nor should anyone coming from the Menlo direction have to worry about getting blocked in by other vehicles when entering my sister’s house,” he said.

Mr Murphy added: “I would urge the Galway City Council to carry out an immediate review to make this busy junction safe before somebody gets hurt in a serious accident.”

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Plan for former pub in Galway to house Ukrainian refugees



From the Galway City Tribune – The former Lantern Bar in Ballybane has been proposed to accommodate Ukrainians seeking refuge in Galway.

The Galway City Tribune has learned that works are underway on the building to advance the plans.

The Council confirmed that they had been briefed on the proposal but refused to be drawn on the details.

“Galway City Council is aware of a proposal to use the Lantern Bar at Ballybane Shopping Centre for refugees,” said a spokesperson.

“The coordination of the development of accommodation facilities such as this is the responsibility of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.”

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

The local authority spokesperson said they did not have information on the number of people who would be accommodated, nor did they know when the facility might be open.

The Lantern Bar has not operated as a pub for some time, although its licence was renewed on appeal at Galway Circuit Court in February 2020 when the court was told that it was intended to sell the premises.

The bar, which had been the location of a series of public order incidents in 2019, had previously had its licence revoked following several objections from residents.

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City centre residents’ fears over new late-night opening hours



From the Galway City Tribune – Residents in one of the city centre’s oldest residential areas fear their lives will be turned upside-down by proposed later opening hours for pubs and nightclubs.

Chairperson of the Bowling Green Residents’ Association, Jackie Uí Chionna, told a public meeting of the City’s Joint Policing Committee (JPC) that as city centre residents, anti-social behaviour was part of their daily lives.

However, they expected the situation to worsen if Government proceeded with proposals to extend nightclub opening hours to 6.30am.

“Our concern at our recent AGM was the longer pub opening hours – it will result in an increase in [anti-social behaviour],” said Ms Uí Chionna.

She said it was their belief that this policy went against the right of city centre residents to “exist and live as a community” in the middle of town.

“We oppose increasing opening hours. We won’t have any sleep – we have minimal as it is. And we won’t feel safe to walk on the streets.

“It is regrettable that there has been so little consultation with gardaí and residents,” said Ms Uí Chionna.

Chief Superintendent Gerard Roche said Gardaí were waiting to see what happened with the legislation for later opening hours.

“On one hand, not having 5,000 or 10,000 people coming out at the one time will be a benefit but the question is if they won’t [come out at one time]. And will businesses buy into it?” questioned the Chief Supt.

Meanwhile, another Bowling Green resident and former city councillor, Nuala Nolan, raised concerns about the new model of policing and said rostering, which had gardaí working three days on and four days off was making it difficult to follow up on matters with community gardaí.

“You can’t get that person when they’re off for another four days – the continuity is gone,” said Ms Nolan.

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