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Bradley Bytes

Public smells a rat over Declan’s Royal Tara motion

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Royal Tara China at Mervue

Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column by Dara Bradley

The people of Galway may have been distracted by the Budget this week. But they haven’t lost their ability to smell a rat. And they know that something stinks about the sale of Royal Tara in Mervue.

On the eve of the giveaway Budget, a majority of Galway City Councillors voted to sell-off the lease to the historic building and lands in Mervue.

They made this decision Monday night without debate. Worse still, a majority of members present voted to block a proposal that would have facilitated debate. Democrats, my arse!

This, at the very least, fuels suspicions about their motives. Why, oh why, oh why would they sell off the city’s publicly-owned assets to private developers?

Especially when there was no appetite among the general public for this facility to be offloaded. In fact – a straw poll by local Sinn Féin councillor Mairéad Farrell showed the majority (89%) in Mervue wanted it kept in public ownership.

But only Mairéad and the two other Shinners on the Council opposed the sale, which was proposed by former PD, now Independent, Declan McDonnell.

Catherine Connolly (Ind) supported the Shinners’ proposal to debate but this was ignored by their colleagues who evidently don’t feel the need to explain themselves.

Nobody is suggesting any councillor who voted for to sell Royal Tara did anything untoward, or stands to gain personally from it. And certainly nobody is suggesting brown paper bags were exchanged.

But in politics, when you make a decision, the very least that you are expected to do is explain that decision in the chamber – especially when it is public money and assets.

If you have the conviction to stand over a decision, then at least have the backbone to debate it.

Instead, our elected community leaders ran for the hills. Pushed through the vote without debate. No explanation. No reasoning. No consideration of opposing views. Nothing.

As Shakespeare might put it: There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark.

But sure, your elected representatives think you’ll be so distracted by the Budget, so punch drunk from the return of the fiver or tenner that they pilfered from your pockets during the economic crisis, that you won’t notice they sold it off, without debate.

And then they wonder why you’re so cynical.

Unsporting coalition partners

The grants for the Sports Capital Programme were released Friday, bang on time for the good news to ‘sink in’ ahead of the general election.

Some €2.3 million was given to 49 sports clubs in Galway. If you do the math, that’s a lot of votes.

Although, surprisingly enough, the clubs that weren’t successful were quite vocal about it online – the Government may lose as many votes as it wins through sports grants’ sweeteners.

Unsurprisingly, given that the Junior Minister for Sport, Michael Ring, is a Fine Gaeler, the local Blueshirts were first with the good news. In fact, Labour appears to have been completely taken aback by the announcement, and its people locally didn’t get to piggy-back on the good news.

What was more surprising is the Blueshirts who sent press releases about it; and those that didn’t.

Galway West TDs Sean Kyne and Brian Walsh, as well as Senator Hildegarde Naughton and Galway East TD Ciaran Cannon, all sent the usual PR stuff to media outlets “welcoming” the ‘dosh’.

But on Friday, there wasn’t a peep out of John O’Mahony, who is running in Galway West, or Paul Connaughton, in Galway East.

Were they left behind and kept out of the loop by the Ringer? Not a bit of it – the two boys were actually miles ahead of the others. We hear Small Paul and John O were leaked the names of the lucky clubs about to be granted funding hours before Walsh, Kyne, Naughton or Cannon got wind of them.

And, instead of hot-tailing it to media outlets, they played it smart and phoned the clubs directly, gaining real kudos – and votes – by giving them the heads-up first. Cute hoors!

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

Labour is working hard to stand still in Galway

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Galway City used to be fertile ground for the Labour Party. There was a time, not so long ago, when Labour was the largest party on Galway City Council.

In 2009, Billy Cameron, Colette Connolly, Derek Nolan, Tom Costello and Níall McNelis held five seats out of 15. Now, Labour has one out of 18. McNelis, a former Fine Gael candidate, is the sole flag-bearer for the Red Rose party on the local authority.

Much of the popular jeweller’s vote is personal, rather than an endorsement of the party. The Labour brand could be more a hindrance than a help for him.

Labour haemorrhaged support in the 2014 Local Election, losing three City Council seats. Only Comrade Cameron and McNelis survived. That trend continued when Labour’s core voters in the working suburbs of Galway City turned their backs on the party in 2016.

Die-hards were betrayed by the top-brass who had promised so much in the 2011 General Election but failed to deliver.

First-time TD, Derek Nolan who rode the Gilmore Gale and topped the poll in 2011, was unceremoniously dumped five years later. Labour hasn’t recovered.

McNelis polled strongly in City West to be re-elected in 2019. But John McDonagh failed to hold the retiring Comrade Cameron’s seat (albeit that one vote was the difference between him and fellow Shantalla candidate, Martina O’Connor) in City Central.

And it was a disaster altogether in City East, where Liam Boyle came 13th out of 16 candidates, behind relatively unknown rivals in Solidarity, Renua and the Greens. The defection of long-serving member, Pat Hardiman, who ran last-minute as an Independent, highlighted how the party organisation was in disarray. Galway County Council is a wasteland for Labour, too.

The problem for Labour now is the electorate has moved on. Sinn Féin (which had a disastrous Local Election, losing all of its three seats on Galway City Council in 2019), occupies the space on the Left where Labour used to be.

Independents like Mike Cubbard, and former Labour councillor, Colette Connolly, offer Labour supporters an alternative without the toxicity or baggage of the brand.

And the Social Democrats and Green Party (also, to an extent, the liberal wings of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil) mean that social issues like abortion and LGBT+ rights are no longer a Labour niche.

Dumping the gruff Alan Kelly as leader has made zero tangible, positive difference in Galway; it’s hard to imagine his replacement, Ivana Bacik, swaying many undecided voters in former heartlands of Shantalla and Corrib Park.

A party source denied it was struggling to find candidates for the fast-approaching Locals in 2024. The source said Labour has four “very strong” candidates lined up to run, two each in City Central and City East. The target is three seats; that’s a gain of two, plus McNelis to hold.

The Labour source added: “We have candidates who will be unveiled in the autumn. They’re candidates of diversity and gender balance. I’m not giving any names but they are all new candidates; very, very strong candidates.”

They’d want to be!

(Photo: In the 2019 Local Elections, Niall McNelis was the only Labour Party candidate to be elected to Galway City Council, when he held his seat. There was a time in the recent past when Labour had five seats on the Council).

This is a shortened preview version of this article. For more Bradley Bytes, see the August 5 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Junkets and borrowings: the boom is back at Galway’s City Hall!

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

The boom is back and it’s getting boomier.

How else do you explain how councillors voted, almost unanimously, to apply for a €45.5m loan to buy a new headquarters for Galway City Council?

The total capital outlay will be €56.5 million, with annual loan repayments of up to €2m for 30 years.

The Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, publicly acknowledged the developer for charging them 2021 prices for a transaction that isn’t due to be completed until later this year. A bargain, in other words.

And there was a rake of reasons given for why leaving College Road and buying Crown Square was a good idea.

But, essentially, the City Council management has solved a problem nobody realised existed. When was the last time you heard anyone complaining down at the Crane Bar, or at Pearse Stadium, or at the Arts Festival Big Top, or at Ballybrit Racecourse, or at Blackrock Diving Tower, that what Galway really needs is a new City Hall? Never.

Not one person on the streets of Galway wants this; certainly not the ratepayers or taxpayers, who will ultimately pick up the tab. Even the elected members don’t particularly want it, especially when they know deep down that the money could be used on real, tangible things like footpaths or playgrounds for their constituents.

True, the BER rating on the existing City Hall, built in the 1980s and extended 20 years ago, is not as green as the new build they plan to buy.

And it would be preferable for the organisation to be based in one location, rather than renting out several offices to accommodate the spillover of staff. But this is a Celtic Tiger style proposal, tabled as economic storm clouds gather and when there are far greater needs that should be prioritised.

The other signal that the boom is back, came in an email from Chief Executive Brendan McGrath, informing councillors that in future they should all go on trips abroad!

In the email copied to all councillors, Mr McGrath relayed a Corporate Policy Group discussion about twinning and sister city arrangements.

“During the discussion, there was a strong sense that all elected councillors should receive the opportunity over the life of a Council to visit our most proactive sister cities/twinning partners,” he said.

A junkets charter by any other name, which, he said, would be discussed in more detail in the autumn. They don’t have to wait ’til then for the trips abroad, though. Oh no.

Mr McGrath told councillors that, this summer, for the Mayor of Galway’s annual jaunt to Chicago/Milwaukee, “it is proposed that three other members of the City Council will accompany the Mayor”.

So that’s four city councillors (plus officials) in total that City Hall plans to send to represent Galway Stateside from August 14-23, taking in Chicago and Milwaukee Irish Fest.

Mr McGrath said that if more than three councillors volunteered to go, Mayor Clodagh Higgins would draw lots, to determine the lucky trio who will accompany her on the delegation abroad.

Oh the boom is back, baby!

(Photo: City Council CE Brendan McGrath told councillors that, during a Corporate Policy Group discussion, ‘there was a strong sense that elected councillors should receive the opportunity over the life of a Council to visit our most proactive sister cities/twinning partners’)

This is a shortened preview version of this article. For more Bradley Bytes, see the July 29 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Erections’ and other highlights of Galway City Development Plan meeting!

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley 

Compiling the Galway City Development Plan has been a long, difficult and technical task for city councillors, and it’s no wonder they’re getting tired and making mistakes.

At the fourth or fifth meeting in quick succession last Wednesday, Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) announced that he was “open to erection”.

The development plan may be exciting for some and we’re open to correction, but was the King of Knocknacarra referring to edifices or anatomy?

Debate was dominated by whether another part of a different councillor’s body was upright or not. It seemed like about 80% of the time was spent on people discussing where Terry O’Flaherty’s (Ind) hands were.

“Is my hand taken down,” she asked of her virtual, yellow emoji Zoom hand. Later she was asked if her hand was up. “I don’t know, is it?” It was. “Can you take it down?,” was the reply from a Council official.

When it was raised again, Mayor Clodagh Higgins (FG) called Terry’s name twice to invite her to make a contribution but it turned out it was up in error, again.

Moving swiftly along . . . Terry had to withdraw a motion about a road in the City Development Plan, after conceding she did not know what road she was talking about.

Earlier Councillor Frank Fahy (FG) could operate his hands but needed clarity from officials on how to stop his phone from ringing during the Zoom meeting.

Speaking of phones, Councillor Eddie Hoare (FG) was trying to multi-task at the same meeting. Attending remotely, he accidentally voted against something but came back in later to correct himself and said he was in favour of it.

He then forgot to mute his microphone and could be heard chatting to someone, presumably on another call.

“Sorry, there was just some Zoom thing on there in the background,” he was heard saying.

Some Zoom thing indeed!

(Photo: Look ma, no hands! Cllr Terry O’Flaherty’s virtual hand was all over the place at a recent meeting on the City Development Plan when she took part via Zoom).

This is a shortened preview version of this article. For more Bradley Bytes, see the July 22 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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