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CITY TRIBUNE

Residents demand CCTV to combat antisocial behaviour

Dara Bradley

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Rubbish dumped in a field behind a wall in the Fana Glas area

Strolling up Castlepark Road on a Thursday afternoon earlier this month, workers were busy installing long overdue shelters at three bus stops.

Swinging right at Ballybane Community Garden brings you to the sole vehicular entrance and exit to the Merlin estates.

On the left, as you enter, is the Clós na Coille Traveller-specific accommodation, and further in are Bóthar Waithman, Sruthán Mhuirlinne, Coillte Mhuirlinne and Léas na Coille.

A mixture of privately-owned, affordable and social housing, there are around 400 homes in the neighbourhood that backs onto Merlin Woods.

Merlin Neighbourhoods Residents’ Association chairperson, Donal Lynch pointed to lampposts that were kitted out for CCTV cameras.

“When the estates were being built, the infrastructure was put in. The fibre optic cables were put in underground and connected to the poles for the cameras,” he says.

Housebuyers were promised the safety cameras when it was developed, back in 2006.

Newly planted flowerbed in the Sruthan Mhuirlinne Area, Ballybane.

The property crash came and the security was never installed. “We’re still waiting,” he adds.

On the face of it, CCTV doesn’t seem needed. Last week, the estate was positively tranquil. It’s a busy, family-oriented area with children playing on greens and bicycles, and teens chatting and hanging out.

There’s a fully-equipped playground, and in the distance is Merlin Castle. Adjacent to Bóthar Waithman is a green area, which has recently been granted funding to develop a multi-purpose sports facility.

So far, so good. Except, like many urban areas, it has problems.

“Two weeks ago my car was broken into, there was nothing taken out of it, just ransacked. It was an opportunistic crime. There is definitely a need for cameras,” says Róisín*, a young mother who lives in the estate.

“You see these cameras,” she says, pointing to privately installed CCTV on nearby homes in Coillte Mhuirlinne.

“It’s great to see them. There was a night last week I was woken up at 5.30 to screaming. It was madness and it’s frightening.”

The estate is open plan. Green spaces, roads and pathways blend into one another. This permeability can create a community and sense of belonging, but it has its downsides in terms of anti-social behaviour, says Donal Lynch.

He says people involved in petty crime and anti-social behaviour can disappear without trace into Merlin Woods.

“It’s one big open prairie, no divisions, so you can run through it, from one to the next . . . we back onto the woods at Doughiska, and it’s used sort of as a rat-run. It’s a lovely estate, with a lot of very good people but they’re coming from other areas, and if the cops come and chase them, they’re gone through the little rat-runs in the woods,” he says.

Residents sought fencing to close-off all bar the official walkways into the wooded area, but they haven’t been provided. “The City Council takes you so far, just to keep you happy, but . . .”

Mary*, who has lived for nearly four decades in Castlepark, the estate opposite Merlin, wants CCTV, too.

When asked if there are problems in Castlepark, Mary gives a sort of side-eye facial expression that screams: ‘Are you kidding? Of course we do!’

“Definitely,” she says. “Dumping and anti-social behaviour.”

The City Council, she says, won’t clean the alleyways backing onto the gardens of homes in Castlepark. Green areas are regularly used as dumping grounds for all sorts of rubbish – just recently, heads of rabbits were thrown in one alleyway, as well as nappies and sanitary pads.

“We’ve done the clean-ups ourselves,” she says. “We looked for cameras years ago, and got a petition that went all around Castlepark, but the Corpo (Galway Corporation now City Council) said they’d no money. That’s nearly 20 years ago. It was bad then, but now it’s 20 times worse,” adds Mary.

When the topic shifts to policing, Donal, Mary and Róisín agree that the location of the new Garda HQ on the Dublin Road hasn’t improved matters on the ground.

“Not really, sure that’s only offices,” says Mary. Róisín agrees: “If you ring the guards, you’re ringing Mill Street.”

Donal adds: “We’ve a very good community Garda at the moment; she’s excellent. She’s not long here but is very tuned in to what’s going on.”

The difficulty is, one community Garda – no matter how excellent – is not enough to police such a large area in Merlin, Castlepark and Ballybane.

“I remember when the community guard would walk the beat. Then we got two, and they were absolutely brilliant and they’d drive around at night, in their own cars. They used to get involved with the kids, and played football on the green, but then they retired,” recalls Mary.

Róisín agrees a greater Garda presence would help. “Now it’s just the odd drive-by in the patrol car. I wish they were here all the time, I really do,” she says.

Closing the Garda station at the Ballybane Gala store was a mistake, Donal believes. “There were two Guards there and they knew everyone. They’d nearly know when they (criminals) were going to make a move. It’s closed three years. It was right in the heart of the community. They moved the office into the new Garda station but we’ve only one community Garda for this whole area and you’d need three or four,” he says.

Community activist Donal Lynch.

Probably the biggest problem facing residents of the area is illegal dumping.

“When you look over this wall, you’ll get a shock,” says Donal, pointing to a stone wall separating Coyne’s field from the estate. He wasn’t wrong. The field is overflowing with rubbish.

An unofficial audit reveals bike frames, old plastic toys, plastic bins, wooden chairs, paint cans, car tyres, benches, galvanise, buggies, mattresses, and quite a lot of general household waste all thrown over the wall.

“It’s like the city dump,” says Donal. Mary adds: “They pull up and throw it over the wall, then it blows out on the road, and there are rats.”

Along the roadway leading towards the old Hillside estate are high walls, which create a blind-spot where people pull up in vans and trailers and dump indiscriminately, while out of sight.

It’s on an industrial scale, says Donal, as he points to scores of dumped car tyres in the field.

“That’s commercial, that’s not a guy getting a puncture and throwing one tyre away. The people up here are disgusted, people are doing their best but to have that at your back door is terrible,” he says.

Just like at the front of the estate, Donal Lynch and the residents’ association believe CCTV in lampposts could be an important tool in improving life on the estate.

“In every major city in Europe there’s an area that the authorities don’t take as much heed of. There’s a minority of anti-social behaviour here. Cameras would at least be a deterrent, and then if there is a problem, the Gardaí can use the footage. CCTV would just add to the security and peace of mind,” adds Donal.

*Names have been changed

CITY TRIBUNE

Council to consider new pedestrian ‘plaza’ for Galway City

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors will be asked next month to consider a sweeping overhaul of traffic flow in the city centre as the local authority seeks to create a more pedestrian-friendly core in the wake of Covid-19.

Currently under proposal in City Hall are major alterations to traffic flow which will allow for restricted car access to Middle Street – creating additional outdoor seating space for businesses in the area struggling to cope amid social distancing requirements.

Senior Engineer at City Hall, Uinsinn Finn, said they are currently considering three different proposals to alter traffic flow on Merchants Road, Augustine Street and Flood Street to reduce the need for car access to Middle Street, while still maintaining access for residents.

“We already pedestrianised Cross Street and we will be maintaining that, and there will be a proposal for Middle Street and Augustine Street.

“Businesses in the area are very much in favour of pedestrianisation – one business has objections but the others are supportive. Another consideration is that there are residents there with parking spaces and we are trying to encourage people to live in the city centre,” said Mr Finn.

The Latin Quarter business group submitted proposals for the temporary pedestrianisation of Middle Street and Abbeygate Street Lower but Mr Finn said the proposals the Council were considering were more in the line of creating adequate space for pedestrians while still allowing residents vehicular access.

This would involve creating a circuit for car traffic moving through Merchants Road around onto Augustine Street and exiting at Flood Street.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Residents want laneway closed following pipe bomb scare

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Residents in part of Knocknacarra are calling for the closure of a laneway and for more Community Gardaí to be put on the beat following the discovery of a ‘viable’ pipe-bomb type device in the area last weekend.

Up to 13 homes in the Cimín Mór and Manor Court estates had to be evacuated on Friday evening last when the incendiary device was discovered by Gardaí concealed in an unlit laneway, leading to the emergency services being notified.

An Army EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) unit was called to the scene and removed the device – according to local residents and councillors, the Gardaí have confirmed that the device was viable.

Gardaí have declined to comment on the detail of the case but have confirmed that the matter is being ‘actively and vigorously investigated’.

Chairman of the Cimín Mór Residents’ Association, Pat McCarthy, told the Galway City Tribune that the discovery of the viable device on the narrow laneway that links their estate to Manor Court was extremely frightening for all concerned.

“For the best part of the past 20 years, we have been seeking action to be taken on this laneway which has been used for dumping and unsociable behaviour on a repeated basis.

“But what happened last Friday evening was really the last straw for us. This could have resulted in serious injury to innocent people and what is also of concern to us is how close this was to the two schools in the area,” said Mr McCarthy.

He said that over the coming days, the residents’ association would be petitioning all residents in the three estates concerned – the other two being Manor Court and Garraí Dhónaill – for action to be taken on the laneway.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway designer’s necklace is fit for a princess!

Denise McNamara

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Kate Middleton wearing the necklace designed by Aisling O'Brien

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A Galway jewellery designer is the latest to experience the ‘Kate effect’ after fans tracked down the woman who created a necklace for the Duchess of Cambridge which she has worn several times since it was gifted to her during her trip to the city last March.

Aisling O’Brien’s website crashed on Wednesday night when orders poured in for the piece from around the world. The necklace costs €109 with initials, while the earrings retail for €49.

“I’d never sold more than two things outside of Ireland before. I only had three of Kate’s necklaces in stock – and now I have orders for at least 50. I’ll have to start recruiting some elves,” laughs Aisling, who only set up her website during lockdown.

The 14-carat gold necklace and earrings set was designed by Aisling specially for Kate after examining her style – “understated, elegant, simplicity” is how the Tuam native describes it.

She was contacted about the commission by physiotherapist Thérèse Tully, who wanted to give the future queen a gift as she was using her room to change at Árus Bóthar na Trá beside Pearse Stadium when the royal couple were meeting with GAA teams.

(Photo: Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton wearing the necklace)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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