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CITY TRIBUNE

Progress on ‘Kingston’ recreation and sports facility

Stephen Corrigan

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The land at Kingston, adjacent to Knocknacarra National School, which is set to become a new sport and recreation facility.

An application for planning permission to proceed with long-planned sports and recreation facilities at the ‘Kingston lands’ in Knocknacarra will be made in the first half of 2020.

A spokesperson for Galway City Council confirmed that an engineer has been appointed with the specific responsibility of progressing the Kingston project and a number of other significant amenity projects in the city.

“We have an engineer in place working on these projects. We are also awaiting the appointment of a further engineer who will be dealing with the wider issue of Sports Capital Grants,” he said.

Councillors approved outline plans for the lands – an unoccupied green space adjacent to St John the Apostle National School and for an overhaul of the existing sports facility on Millars Lane – in June of last year.

Included was provision for a children’s playground; changing rooms/community centre; outdoor gym equipment; a pedestrian walkway; a two-way cycle path; and 75 parking spaces.

A hockey pitch will be developed at Millars lane as part of the plan.

A pitch that can be used for both GAA and rugby, and a multi-use games area were also included in what have been described as the early stages of what will finally come before the Council as a completed proposal.

The Council spokesperson said the recently-appointed engineer would be “getting into the nitty gritty” before a Part 8 was completed.

Local councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) said that it was his hope the plans would come before the Council in the first quarter of next year, so that the applicable Sports Capital Grants could be sought without delay.

“There are two parts of the Kingston lands development – on of the pitches on Millars Lane. In the last City Development Plan, the objective was included that if the City Council developed pitches, they also have to develop changing room facilities.

“All that exists at the moment in Millars Lane are temporary changing room facilities,” said Cllr Lyons.

Cllr Lyons said the new appointment of an engineer to deal with the Kingston project – and the development of the ‘Swamp’ at Southpark – was welcome, and so too was the forthcoming appointment of someone to deal with Sports Capital Grants.

“We have got some money from the Sports Capital Fund for the all-weather pitch at Cappagh Park. The next part is floodlighting. There are also plans for Melody Park in Renmore – there are a number of different projects already in train,” he said.

When the Part 8 process commences, members of the public will have an opportunity to make submissions and a plan will be finalised, explained the Knocknacarra-based councillor.

“The outline plan has been debated long and hard and when it goes forward for Part 8, the public will be able to make submissions before it comes back for adoption.

“The next stage then would be to find funding,” he said.

Throughout the initial process, there had been a number of concerns raised by residents in estates adjacent to the proposed park – particularly from White Oaks where a proposed access route between Millars Lane and Kingston lands requires a previously gated access route to the estate to remain open.

The opening of this area has given rise to security concerns and resulted in alleged incidents of anti-social behaviour.

Speaking to the Galway City Tribune, a resident of another estate, Gort Siar, said while they had no objection to the plan in principle, the initial plan to create green space for Knocknacarra and for the children in the national school had been lost, and the facility was now more about accommodating sports clubs than it was about benefitting local residents.

“We’re definitely not happy with the plans as they are and we’ve had a number of interactions with councillors over the past two years,” he said.

According to this resident, initial plans satisfied the needs of the school, where pupils were currently forced to play on tarmac due to the lack of green space.

“This has moved so far away from a community space designed and proposed originally, and now it has moved to become a complex or entity that smells of a commercial operation.

“If you’re going to put a pitch in, I don’t have a problem, as long as it can be used for many disciplines and is not just being designed to suit one sports club,” he said.

The Gort Siar resident said it was his intention to make a submission to City Council on the plans, once the Part 8 process commenced.

It has been over 20 years since the creation of a public amenity facility on this green space at Kingston was first mooted.

CITY TRIBUNE

Well-known Galwayman becomes charity ambassador

Denise McNamara

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One of Galway’s true characters has become an ambassador for the homeless charity which helped him turn his life around.

Dennis Connolly spent more than three decades on the streets of Galway battling alcoholism, which led to countless spells behind bars.

He was a regular in Judge John Garavan’s court, often for abusing passersby and breaking into shops. He previously told the Galway City Tribune he must have smashed the window at McCambridge’s around 10 times.

“There were times there that I used to have to break it to get locked up, because it was too cold. I would go in, and get the winter over.”

Dennis had known very little comfort in his younger life. Originally from Fursey Road, Shantalla, his mother died in 1959, when he was six.

Two weeks after he made his First Holy Communion, Dennis was sent to St Joseph’s Industrial School in Salthill because his father could not care for him. He remained there for nine years.

He then went to live with his aunt in the city in 1966 but was unable to settle. Despite short spells in work, he ran away to England where he first slept on the streets while still only a teenager.

He was returned home when UK authorities realised he had been reported missing. At one point he ended up being sent to St Brigid’s Psychiatric Hospital in Ballinasloe because there was nowhere else for him to go.

A brief spell with his brother Gerald in Dublin was soon followed by a pattern that would haunt his life – living rough on park benches and in doorways, in and out of hostels, while drinking himself to oblivion.

It was only after near death that he got to grips with his addiction.

On January 5, 1991, he was one of five homeless men sleeping in an abandoned van on Merchant’s Road near the Spanish Arch when a nearby 10ft wall collapsed during a storm. Minutes before he had scrambled out, pulling two of the men out behind him.

He was unable to arouse two others, Patrick “Pa” Dodd (27) and John Mongan (20), and they were crushed to death by the falling stone.

During the tragedy he had sustained broken toes which were left untreated. Eventually he was unable to get out of bed with threatened gangrene. Doctors told Dennis he would need several operations to save his legs and they would not operate unless he quit alcohol.

Faced with the prospect of losing both legs, Dennis gave up drinking on the anniversary of his mother’s death in 2004. He moved into supported accommodation run by the Galway Simon Community. Apart from some brief lapses, he has stayed sober since.

He first came into contact with Galway Simon in 1979 when some of the charity’s original volunteers visited him on their soup run.

“They were my only friends at that time. I’ll never forget how it felt to be treated like a human being, like I was worth something. At the beginning they used to come three nights a week to talk to us and bring us soup and sandwiches. Only for them I would be dead a long time ago,” he reflects.

“Back then people ignored you if you were homeless, you were kept down, you had nothing at all. I never had any possessions, only what I wore. If the shoes went, sometimes I would put cardboard in them. Christmas was the loneliest part of the year. You had nothing. You had no Christmas dinner. You never mix with anyone when you’re homeless. You’re a lonely person.”

In 2015 Dennis moved into a Council flat while still receiving support from Galway Simon.

“I’m in my own little paradise now,” he exclaims.

Dennis, who is fronting Galway Simon’s Christmas appeal, insists there are no hopeless cases.

“Look at me years ago, I changed my life and I don’t drink today. I’m years off the drink and I did it for myself. I can’t stop thinking about the people, including friends of mine, who weren’t as lucky as me. Galway Simon didn’t give up on me.”

■ Visit galwaysimon.ie to make a donation.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Poor record at UHG for ambulance ‘turnaround’ times

Enda Cunningham

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Just over 4% of patients who arrived by ambulance at UHG were handed over to Emergency Department staff within the guideline 20-minute ‘turnaround time’, according to newly-published figures.

Ambulance turnaround times measure the time interval from ambulance arrival at a hospital, to when the crew is ready to accept another call.

The statistics show that during the month of September, 1,022 patients arrived at University Hospital Galway by ambulance.

Of these, just 47 (4.6%) recorded ambulance ‘turnaround times’ within 20 minutes. That rate has dropped from 7.9% (75 turnarounds) in September 2017.

According to the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), all hospitals in Ireland should monitor the implementation of a 95% rate of patients being handed over from an ambulance crew to the Emergency Department staff in less than 20 minutes, and where this is not met, corrective action should be taken.

However, the HSE monitors it at 30 minutes, with a target of 95% turnaround in that time.

Based on the HSE’s alternative 30-minute turnarounds, the rate was 18.5% (190 transfers to ED) in September, down from 28.5% (270 transfers) in September 2017.

The figures were released to Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West, Éamon Ó Cuív, who said that urgent action needed to be taken to address the “huge deterioration” in times.

“These figures are very disappointing and extremely worrying for those who may depend on an ambulance over the winter months.

“More worrying is in 2017, the turnaround time at UHG was 7.9%. The decline in the transfer turnaround times is yet another reflection of the pressures on hospitals and the lack of capacity to cope.

“The main reason for the delay is because Emergency Departments are too busy with too few staff to process a patient coming in by ambulance.

“I will be pressing the Minister on the status of the proposed new Emergency Department at UHG which is long awaited and will go some way to reducing turnaround times,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

The highest 20-minute turnaround rates were recorded at Temple Street Children’s Hospital (60.9%) and the Rotunda (60%) in Dublin, while the lowest were Kerry University Hospital (1.7%) and Mercy UH in Cork at 2.7%.

For 30-minute turnarounds, the highest rates were the Temple Street Children’s Hospital (83.1%) and the National Maternity Hospital (81.6%) in Dublin. The lowest rates were Cork UH (12.7%) and mercy UH (15.4%).

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CITY TRIBUNE

Building and hardware giant Screwfix planning Galway store

Enda Cunningham

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The British hardware, building and DIY chain, Screwfix, is planning to open an outlet in Galway.

Through a subsidiary company, the Kingfisher Group, which also owns B&Q and GoodHome and Castorama in France, has sought planning permission for a change of use of a unit at Ballybane Industrial Estate on Bóthar na Mine.

The unit, formerly occupied by Galway Coal, would be changed to a Screwfix warehouse with trade counters, as the business primary supplies building products to trades.

Screwfix has more than 620 stores in the UK and Northern Ireland, and employs more than 8,300 people.

According to the company: “Screwfix dispatches thousands of parcels every week for next day and weekend delivery to tradesmen, handymen and serious home improvement enthusiast. Screwfix also operates a growing number of trade counters across the UK which [each] have over 11,000 items in stock, available for immediate collection.”

The company stocks tools; heating and plumbing supplies; electrical and lighting; bathrooms and kitchens; outdoor and gardening; building and decorating supplies.

“[The operator] is a potential new entrant to the Irish market, at least in terms of a physical, ‘on the ground’ presence. The primary use of their business premises would be storage of goods, with trade counters primarily for pick-up, arising from online sales.

“As a result, the unit would include ancillary trade counters aimed at local building companies including what is known as a trade plus counter, aimed at specific trades.

“Their products are principally sold to trade over the internet, via catalogue, over the telephone, as well as over the two trade counters, which typically occupies about 9-10% of the gross floorspace of any one unit,” the planning application reads.

The company usually employs six to eight staff, four of whom are full-time.

The applicants have allowed for five parking spaces and note that parking at the Screwfix premises in Ballymena, Co Antrim was observed during peak Friday lunchtime trade. Over the hour, there were 25 visits to the unit and each visit lasted 3-5 minutes.

“At any one time, there were 2-3 visitors to the store, so the demand on parking was in that range also. We have made allowance for five spaces [in Ballybane],” the application reads.

A decision is due from Galway City Council in the middle of December.

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