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Public Accounts Committee’s concerns over Galway 2020

Dara Bradley



Serious concerns about governance structures in Galway 2020 have been highlighted at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

And fears over the European Capital of Culture project achieving value-for-money for the State’s multi-million euro investment, was also raised at a hearing of Dáil Éireann’s spending watchdog.

The Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht is the biggest funder of Galway 2020, and has agreed to stump-up €15 million for the year-long event.

Department officials told the PAC they will draw on the experience of what was learned during the Pálás Cinema project, which was delayed and ran over budget. They said they were working to ensure, “robust project management structures are put in place for the European Capital of Culture Galway 2020 project”.

Galway West TD Catherine Connolly was not convinced, however.

“I have serious concerns about the robust governance structures but, importantly, many people on the ground have serious concerns also. I welcome that the Department is saying this, but what robust governance structures are already in place for the money paid out?”

Deputy Connolly pointed out that a substantial amount of the €15 million has already been allocated.

Subsequent to Galway 2020 CEO Hannah Kiely resigning last month, Deputy Connolly said she received an invitation to an event that was signed by the CEO’s assistant. Its website also still listed Ms Kiely as Galway 2020 CEO, she said.

“One might say these are minor details but they reflect the situation. It sends the wrong message if the website still lists her and letters are being issued on her behalf by her personal assistant inviting people to an event in spite of her having left her post over two weeks ago,” said Deputy Connolly.

The Independent TD also highlighted the issue of a lack of an Irish officer in Galway 2020; but spending oversight was her main concern.

“In the context of value for money, what robust structures are in place to safeguard the spending of the €15 million being allocated by a Department? What will be delivered for that money? What service level agreement is in place? A performance level agreement is now under discussion. At what stage is that process?”

PAC chairman, Deputy Sean Fleming, pointed out that the Department’s official who is a board member of Galway 2020 has a “fiduciary duty” to the company and cannot discuss the matter with the PAC outside a board meeting.

Deputy Connolly said the issue of a member of the Department sitting on the board was “very important in terms of robust governance”

She added: “What is his or her role and should he or she be on the board? Should there be a hands-off approach involving the situation being properly monitored with proper accountability?

“I raise these issues because I am seriously concerned. I do not need to say that I am a proud Galwegian. I am proud that Galway is to be the European Capital of Culture but I am not proud of the absence of robust governance structures at every level.”

Deputy Fleming said the PAC would write to the Department outlining the concerns.


Voice of ‘Big O’ reflects on four decades

Denise McNamara



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The daytime voice of Big O Taxis is celebrating four decades in the role – and she has no plans to hang up her headset any time soon.

Roisin Freeney decided to seek a job after staying at home to mind her three children for over a decade. It was 1981 when she saw an advert in the Connacht Sentinel for a dispatch operator.

The native of Derry recalls that the queue for the job wound its way past Monroe’s Tavern from the taxi office on Dominick Street.

“There was a great shortage of work back then. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the line of people. My then husband who was giving me a lift in never thought I’d get the job, he was driving on past and I said, let me off.

“I got it because I worked as a telephonist in the telephone exchange in Derry. But I was terrified starting off because I hadn’t been in the work system for so long.”

Back then Big O Taxis had only 25 drivers and just a single line for the public to book a cab.

“We had an old two-way radio, you had to speak to the driver and everybody could listen in. It was easy to leave the button pressed when it shouldn’t be pressed. People heard things they shouldn’t have – that’s for sure,” laughs Roisin.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Róisín’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Baby boom puts strain on Galway City secondary schools

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A baby boom in the late 2000s has left parents of sixth class pupils in Galway City scrambling to find a secondary school place for their children next September – with over 100 children currently facing the prospect of rejection from city schools.

The Department of Education is now rushing to address the issue and confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was fully aware of increasing pressure and demand on city schools

Local councillor Martina O’Connor said there were 100 more children more than there were secondary school places for next year, and warned that this would put severe pressure on schools to increase their intake numbers.

“This will put a lot of pressure on schools because they will have been working out the number of teachers and what resources they would need in October or November last year and they could be facing a situation where they will be asked to take an additional eight or 10 students.

“There would normally be a small excess – maybe two or three – but this year, it’s over 100. There is a bigger number of children in sixth class this year and there will be the same issue for the next few years,” said the Green Party councillor.

A Department spokesperson said while there were capacity issues, factors other than numbers could be at play, adding that there were approximately 1,245 children in the city due to move onto secondary school in September.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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GMIT warns partying students they are delaying return to campus

Enda Cunningham



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Partying students have been told their actions have impacted GMIT’s plans to re-start practical classes on campus – and Gardaí are monitoring the city’s bus and train stations to catch those breaking the 5km travel restriction by returning home for the weekend.

College authorities said the current “extremely serious outbreak” of Covid-19 among students in Galway City was caused by a small minority who are “moving and mixing between different households”.

Following a meeting with Gardaí last week, GMIT contacted all students to clarify that because there are no ‘onsite’ classes, there should be no need to travel for educational purposes.

“The Gardaí have notified us that there will be checks at the bus and train stations to implement the 5km travel rule, as well as checkpoints on the roads, and that fines will be given for any non-compliance with this rule,” students were told.

In a separate communication issued this week, the college’s Covid Officer appealed to students to abide by the rules.

“This outbreak has had an impact on our plans with regard to return to onsite practical work, with consequences for all students.

“We are appealing to all students to comply with all Covid restrictions and in doing so, to help ensure that those students who have to return to onsite practical work can do so,” the email read.

Many students from outside the city have opted to stay in their accommodation for access to better broadband.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more coverage of Covid figures and vaccinations, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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