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Putting Galway in the picture

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Galway has a long tradition in film dating back to Robert Flaherty’s 1934 film Man of Aran and John Ford's The Quiet Man in 1951, a scene from which is featured above with stars Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne.

Lifestyle –  Judy Murphy meets the people who helped Galway to achieve its UNESCO City of Film status

It’s just a year since Galway was designated a UNESCO City of Film, joining a small group which also includes Sydney, Sofia, Bradford and, most recently, Rome.

Since then, Galway Film Centre, which is responsible for nurturing film in Galway City and County, has not been resting on its laurels.

From it base at the former Redemptorist training centre in Cluain Mhuire, Mervue, it is co-ordinating a diverse series of events, from training programmes to screenings, and is drawing up plans to attract more film-makers to Galway in future while supporting the existing local industry.

“From the Docks in Galway City, where the Irish Film Board is based, all the way to TG4 at Baile na hAbhainn there are companies all along the route,” says the Manager of Galway Film Centre Declan Gibbons, who has been appointed Director of Galway UNESCO City of Film.

Some companies, such as Telegael in Spiddal, are major players while others are smaller one- and two-person outfits. But all were involved in writing Galway’s bid to become a UNESCO City of Film, part of a larger UNESCO group known as the Creative Cities Network.

Galway City and County Council were also involved in the bid – the City of Film designation was actually awarded to Galway City, explains Declan, and it’s being administered by Galway Film Centre.

A core requirement to be a member of the Creative Cities Network is that a city uses “creativity as an economic driving force”, says Declan.

This Network consists of 116 different cities worldwide who are deemed by UNESCO to excel in different creative fields – literature, crafts and folk art, gastronomy, music and media arts, and film. Ireland has two member cities – Dublin for literature and most recently Galway for film.

The UNESCO guidelines also require that cities to reach out to vulnerable people, allowing them to express themselves and to become involved creatively.

“It’s about participation, education, production and job creation – the idea that creativity should be one of the key components behind a city’s development,” says Declan.

Being a UNESCO City of film is helping Galway achieve that by increasing its profile, he explains. While the status confers no automatic advantages; “it’s about how you use it and it’s up to you to make the most of it”.

The bid to have Galway named as a UNESCO City of Film was driven by Lelia Doolan, a woman whose career in film and theatre spans many decades. She first discussed the idea with Declan a few years ago and he felt the proposal was worth pursuing. He had known Lelia since the mid 1980s when, as a student at UCG, he was employed to put up posters for Reefer and the Model, a local film which she produced.

“There was a huge amount of work involved” in Galway’s bid, “and there are a lot of strong-minded people in this business, but everyone worked together,” he says of the process.

Participants spent the best part of a year meeting, learning about UNESCO and finding out what was required to ensure Galway’s success.

“Our bid came from both the city and the county because the county is a film and TV hub.  And we also included the Irish language because it’s so crucial,” says Declan “That mix might have been one reason we got it.”

He cites Jerry Garcia of the American rock band, the Grateful Dead, who credited their success to the fact that they did something nobody else was doing.

“It wasn’t that they were better, but they were different. Galway is like that; we aren’t making epic Hollywood stuff but culturally, we have a lot.”

‘A lot’ ranges from Robert Flaherty’s 1934 film Man of Aran – one of the most influential documentaries of all time – to the work of John Ford whose parents emigrated to America from Aran and Spiddal in the late 1800s. The winner of four Oscars for directing, his most personal film was The Quiet Man.

Galway also has Ireland’s oldest film society and there’s a strong case to be made for saying that modern Irish cinema began in Connemara in the 1970s, thanks to the work of the pioneering Bob Quinn.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Unauthorised developments in County Galway go unchecked for months

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The Planning Enforcement Section of Galway County Council is so understaffed that complaints of unauthorised developments are not being investigated for months, the Connacht Tribune has learned.

In one case, a complaint alleging a house was under construction in a picturesque and environmentally sensitive part of Conamara without planning permission was not investigated by the Council for at least six months.

And it can be revealed that there is a ‘large’ backlog of complaints of unauthorised developments in the county, which the Planning Enforcement Section at County Hall has blamed on staff shortages, according to correspondence obtained by the Connacht Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI).

In response to repeated requests by a concerned member of the public to intervene and investigate an allegation of unauthorised development in an environmentally protected area of Conamara, the Council’s Planning Department indicated it was too stretched.

“Unfortunately, the planning enforcement section is experiencing a period of prolonged staff shortages and consequently there are a large number of files awaiting investigation/review,” it said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Access Centre provides pathways to University of Galway for the disadvantaged

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Photo of Imelda Byrne

Great leaps have been made in recent years to make access to tertiary level education a realistic prospect for once marginalised groups in society.

With the deadline for CAO applications approaching next week, the Access Centre at the University of Galway is aiming to reach as many underrepresented groups as possible ahead of next academic term.

Head of the Access Centre, Imelda Byrne (pictured), said research has shown that those who once felt third level ‘wasn’t for them’ are increasing their presence at UG, and bringing a richness to the sector that had for a long time been missing.

In the five years up to 2021, there was a 100% increase in the number of students registering for the Disability Support Service at the university, while those coming from Further Education and Training courses in institutes like GTI had surged by 211% over four years.

“The message that we really need to get out there is that the CAO is not the only route into third level. There are a number of pathways,” says Imelda.

“There are loads of places set aside for students coming from a place of disadvantage,” she continues, whether it’s national schemes such as the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for socio-economic disadvantage; or the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE); or the university’s own programme for mature students.

Those places are there to ensure those from all backgrounds get an opportunity to reach their education potential, tapping into hugely talented groups that once may have missed that opportunity.

“What we have seen is that when they get that opportunity, they do just as well if not better than other students,” continues Imelda.

For HEAR and DARE scheme applicants, and for those hoping to begin higher education as a mature student, next Wednesday’s CAO deadline is critically important.

But beyond the CAO applications, the Access Programme will open up in March to guide prospective students, whatever challenges they are facing, into third level.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway County Council ‘missing out on millions’ in derelict sites levies

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Photo of Cloonabinnia House

Galway County Council is missing out on millions of euro in untapped revenue due to a failure to compile a complete Derelict Sites Register.

That’s according to Galway East Sinn Féin representative, Louis O’Hara, who this week blasted the news that just three properties across the whole county are currently listed on the register.

As a result, Mr O’Hara said the Derelict Sites Levy was not being utilised effectively as countless crumbling properties remained unregistered – the levy amounts to 7% of the market value of the derelict property annually.

The former general election candidate said Galway County Council was ill-equipped to compile a proper list of derelict sites and called on Government to provide the necessary resources to tackle the scourge of dereliction across.

“There are still only three properties listed on Galway County Council’s Derelict Sites Register . . . anyone in Galway knows that this does not reflect the reality on the ground and more must be done to identify properties, and penalise owners who fail to maintain them,” said Mr O’Hara.

The situation was compounded by the fact that the Council failed to collect any of the levies due to them in 2021.

“This is deeply concerning when we know that dereliction is a blight on our communities. Derelict sites attract rats, anti-social behaviour and dumping, and are an eyesore in many of our local towns and villages.”

“The Derelict Sites Levy should be used as a tool by local authorities to raise revenue that can then be utilised to tackle dereliction, but they are not adequately resourced to identify and pursue these property owners,” said Mr O’Hara.

(Photo: The former Cloonabinnia House Hotel is on the Derelict Sites Register).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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