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Connacht Tribune

Rent for courthouse is ‘value for money’

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Whatever criticism has been levelled at the Courts Service for their failure to develop the old courthouse in Tuam, their expenditure on rented accommodation has been described as “very acceptable”.

The old courthouse in Tuam closed down more than a decade ago for health and safety reasons and since then the sittings have been taking place in rented properties around the town.

The Courts Service have told The Connacht Tribune that they have spent €166,000 on leasing accommodation over a twelve year period since the old courthouse closed down – this equates to less than €1,200 a month.

Cllr Donagh Killilea acknowledged that this represents good value for money but it should not detract from the overall aim to have the old courthouse on the Dublin Road in Tuam revamped as a matter of urgency.

The Fianna Fail councillor said that there were people paying as much, if not more, to rent a three bedroom house and added that the Courts Service got good value for money since the old courthouse closed down back in 2005.

“We feared the worst but it is great to hear that the Courts Service have been able to source rented accommodation relatively cheaply but that does not mean that they should continue to rent indefinitely as the old courthouse is lying idle and in a state of dilapidation,” Cllr Killilea added.

Under a Freedom of Information request from The Connacht Tribune, the Courts Service revealed that between 2005 and 2010, they forked out €75,000 for the rent of the Town Hall in Tuam where the court sittings were held.

Since then the courts have been taking place in the chapel of the old Grove Hospital in Tuam and when that lease has expired at the end of September, they will have paid the Health Service Executive €91,000 in rent.

At the end of the year the court sittings are set to move again – this time to a warehouse-type building on the Weir Road in Tuam. This is also the first time that the Court Service will be renting from the private sector. This building has to be adapted to suit the court sittings and work on this is expected to commence over the next couple of weeks.

In the response from the Courts Service, they also stated that since the old courthouse closed down in 2005, they have spent almost €25,000 on its upkeep. This figure also includes costs for water rates, maintenance, structural maintenance, electricity bills along with electrical repairs.

Cllr Killilea said that, in the circumstances, the amount of rent paid out by the Court Service was relatively small compared to some State bodies such as the Health Service Executive of which he is an elected member of their forum, which meet on a monthly basis.

“The HSE squander money left, right and centre but when it comes to the Courts Service, the amount that they have paid out in rent is very acceptable by comparison. It is vital that the court sittings are retained in Tuam and it is hugely important that the vacant old courthouse is renovated and brought back into use,” he said.

A detailed examination is to take place in an effort to determine if the old courthouse in Tuam is worthy of being a protected structure as progress has been made to renovate the building for a state of the art facility. It would cost around €2 million to renovate it.

Four representatives from the Courts Service recently visited Tuam and met with both officials of Galway County Council and a number of local councillors and indicated that a new courthouse is in the offing.

Connacht Tribune

Fuel for thought as we try and energise our wheels

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

A good few years back . . . well probably even decades . . . I remember asking quite a knowledgeable motoring correspondent, long gone to his eternal reward, about the pros and cons of staying with petrol or switching to diesel. By the time his reply had finished, nearly 20 minutes had elapsed, and I was avalanched with so much data that I was no wiser at the end of the conversation than I was at the start.

I thought of that a few weeks before Christmas when I happened to tune in to a programme on Channel 4 – Dispatches – which examined the practicalities of owning and driving an electric car across the roads of the United Kingdom.

There is a wish amongst all of us to pursue a more environmentally friendly way of life. At this stage, we all probably know someone who has purchased a fully electric car and certainly many more who have dipped their toes into the waters of the hybrid models.

Anyway, the main theme of the Dispatches programme was that after 10-years of investment by the UK authorities in the infrastructure needed to support electric cars, quite a shocking number of charging points were either out of action or were not working to their full efficiency.

Nearly 10% of the ‘rapid chargers’ sampled across the UK were found not to be working properly, while 30 new ultra-rapid charges were also found to be dysfunctional to varying degrees. Some of the charging points had been out of action for six years and a percentage of those were unrepairable as their technology base was now obsolete.

Apart from their significant extra cost – even if one qualifies for the maximum €5,000 Government grant – the great fear I would have with the electric cars is that I’d find myself marooned in a corner of Kerry or Antrim, out of ‘juice’, and unable to access a charging point.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Covid boosts college coffers

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NUI Galway

NUI Galway reported an operating surplus of almost €19 million during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic when its campus was closed for months.

The healthy finances reported by NUIG has prompted its student body to call for it to waive repeat exams’ fees and student levies, and to invest in mental health services.

Consolidated financial statements for NUIG for the year ended September 30 2020 show the university reported an operating surplus of €18.9 million. This was up by €16 million on the surplus generated in 2019.

The financial statement said that while Covid-19 was ‘extremely challenging’, the ‘extraordinary dedication and work ethic of its staff have mitigated against the financial impact’ of the year.

The report said a surplus of €18.9 million was a ‘commendable performance’ given that 95%  of staff and students withdrew from campus in March 2020 to study and work remotely in line with Government regulations.

It noted that core income fell by a net €4 million compared with the previous year.

“Drops in research income of €9m and a Covid-related decline in commercial and student accommodation income of some €5m were offset by increased fee income of €4m, a €3m increase in the fair value of investments, and other increases of €3m relating to Government grants and other income,” the report said.

It said that the increase in Government grants includes Covid Support grant funding from the Higher Education Authority to cover additional specific Covid-19 related costs of €2.2m.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

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Connacht Tribune

Farm buildings can be used as business hubs in rural areas

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Cllr. Declan Geraghty (Ind)

RURAL farm buildings should be utilised for small business enterprises which would supplement the income of landowners as well as creating some local employment in the process.

This was the view of the vast majority of Galway councillors who passed a motion that buildings directly relating to farming be considered for other purposes that would be financially advantageous to the owners.

The matter came up for discussion at a meeting of the Galway County Development Plan when it was suggested that the farming community needed to be allowed develop small business opportunities.

A motion from Cllr. Declan Geraghty (Ind) – deviating slightly from Galway County Council policy – proposed that they be allowed carry out businesses such as the servicing and repair of machinery, land reclamation, drainage works, and agricultural contracting was carried.

The motion added that this be allowed where it is financially advantageous to locate in a given area and where it would not have an adverse impact on the environment.

The Williamstown councillor said that it could result in hundreds of small business enterprises being developed out of farm buildings.

“At the moment they cannot get planning permission for such enterprises given that they are located in a rural area,” he argued.

He was supported by Cllr. Pete Roche (FG) who went further by saying that even the establishment of pet farms or animal farms that could be opened up to the public were also options that could be considered.

“There are farm families at the moment who cannot earn a decent living out of agriculture alone and would relish the opportunity to diversify,” he added.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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