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CITY TRIBUNE

Residents demand CCTV to combat antisocial behaviour

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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

Matriarch of Scotty’s Diner donates kidney to her son!

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A well-known family in the Galway restaurant trade have swapped chef whites for hospital gowns after the matriarch donated a kidney to her son.

Jenny and Andrew Ishmael, synonymous with Scotty’s Diner in Cúirt na Coiribe on the Headford Road in Terryland, are recovering in Beaumont Hospital after the marathon live donor operation.

It took place last Monday and staff are so impressed by the quick recovery of mother and son that they could be discharged as early as this weekend.

“It went really well. I’m still a bit sore. We’re still on the mend. It’s working perfectly,” says Andrew from the isolation ward of the hospital’s Kidney Centre.  “My creatine was over 1,000 when I came in and it’s already around 260.

“I felt weak after the surgery, but I could feel that bit of life in me again straight away. It’s amazing how quick it works. Mom wasn’t too great after the surgery – it was her first ever. She was quite sore, a bit iffy, but she’s good now.

“We have rooms back-to-back. We’ve been going for walks, going for breakfast together. It’s nice to spend that time together.”

Andrew – or Drew as he’s known to family and friends –  was diagnosed with kidney disease when he was just 16.

Berger’s Disease occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin builds up in the kidneys and results in inflammation, which over time, can hamper the kidneys’ ability to filter waste from the blood.

He managed the condition well for over a decade without too much impact on his life.

The son of classically trained chefs who studied together at Johnson and Wales College in Rhode Island, he grew up working in his parents’ American-style diner, trading since 1991.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the February 3 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

New River Corrib rescue boat to be deployed following ‘significant donation’

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The provision of a specialist rescue craft on the Corrib – upstream from the Weir – could now happen over the coming weeks or months following a ‘significant voluntary donation’ in the past few weeks, the Galway City Tribune has learned.

Water safety issues on the Corrib were highlighted last month when up to 10 rowers had to be rescued after their two boats were sucked in by the currents towards the Weir.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board has launched an investigation into the circumstances of the potentially catastrophic incident which occurred around midday on Saturday, January 14.

A specialist D Class lifeboat is now being sourced as part of a multi-agency approach to try and improve emergency rescue operations upstream from the Weir which would be accessible on a 24/7 basis.

While the cost would be in the region of €40,000 to €50,000, the overall figure would rise to around €80,000 to €90,000 when specialist personnel training costs were included.

Galway Lifeboat Operations Manager, Mike Swan, told the Galway City Tribune that he was aware of a lot of work going on behind the scenes to try and get the Corrib rescue craft in place as soon as possible.

“I suppose we’re all trying to work together to ensure that a full-time rescue craft is provided on the Corrib and I believe that real progress is being made in this regard. This would be very good news for everyone,” said Mr Swan.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the February 3 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Three years on and ‘Changing Places’ facility on Salthill Promenade still not open

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Mayor of Galway, Cllr Clodagh Higgins at the site of the Changing Places facility, for which she had ring-fenced money. Work on the project only began last February, despite initial predictions that the facility would be open in January last year.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The wait for accessible, specialised toilet facilities at Ladies Beach in Salthill goes on – three years after they were ‘prioritised’ by city councillors.

Galway City Council has confirmed to the Tribune this week that the ‘Changing Places’ facility at Ladies Beach is still not open.

Construction of the facility began almost a year ago, at the end of February 2022.

The local authority confirmed that some €135,600 has been spent on the unit, which is not yet open to the public.

“The initial stages of construction went well, with the facility now largely in place. There are a number of outstanding snags to be completed before the facility can open.

“Galway City Council is liaising with the contractor to complete out these snags, with a view to opening the facility as soon as possible,” a spokesperson said.

The local authority did not elaborate on what ‘snags’ were delaying the project.

But in January, Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, suggested that staffing issues were to blame for the delay.

(Photo: Mayor of Galway, Clodagh Higgins, at the site of the Changing Places facility, for which she had ring-fenced money).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the February 3 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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