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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

Mercury hit 30°C for Galway City’s hottest day in 45 years

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –

Wednesday was the hottest day in the city over the past 45 years when with a high of 30.1 Celsius being recorded at the NUI Galway Weather Station.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the city dates back to June 30, 1976, when the late Frank Gaffney had a reading of 30.5° Celsius at his weather station in Newcastle.

Pharmacists and doctors have reported a surge in people seeking treatment for sunburn.

A Status Yellow ‘high temperature warning’ from Met Éireann – issued on Tuesday – remains in place for Galway and the rest of the country until 9am on Saturday morning.

It will be even hotter in the North Midlands, where a Status Orange temperature warning is in place.

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of our current heatwave has been the above average night-time temperatures and the high humidity levels – presenting sleeping difficulties for a lot of people.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Property Tax hike voted down in Galway City

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to boost Galway City Council coffers by half a million euro every year by increasing Local Property Tax (LPT) did not receive the support of city councillors.

Councillor Peter Keane (FF) failed to get a seconder at this week’s local authority meeting for his motion to increase the LPT payable on Galway City houses by 5%.

Cllr Keane said that the increase would net the Council €500,000 every year, which could be spent evenly on services across all three electoral wards.

It would be used to fund services and projects city councillors are always looking for, including a proposal by his colleague Cllr Imelda Byrne for the local authority to hire additional staff for city parks.

The cost to the taxpayer – or property owner – would be minimal, he insisted.

“It would mean that 90% of households would pay 37 cent extra per week,” he said.

Not one of the 17 other elected members, including four party colleagues, would second his motion and so it fell.

Another motion recommending no change in the current rate of LPT in 2022 was passed by a majority.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council needs 40 more workers to help deliver on projects

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Forty more workers are needed at City Hall ‘right away’, the Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said.

Brendan McGrath has warned city councillors that the local authority is understaffed and it needs to hire more staff immediately to deliver its plans and projects.

The total cost of the extra 40 workers, including salary, would be between €1.75 million and €1.95 million.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council had a workforce now that was below what it had in 2007, but the city’s population has grown and so too had the services the Council provides.

The population of Galway City grew by almost 11% in the 10 years to 2016, he said, and total staff numbers in the Council fell by 13.6% during that period.

Though more staff were hired in recent years, Mr McGrath said that the Council was at 2007 and 2008 staffing levels, even though the Census will record further increases in population since 2016.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council now provides 1,000 services across a range of departments, far more than during the 2000s.

He said that currently, 524 staff are employed at the City Council. This equated to 493 Whole Time Equivalents when part-time workers such as school wardens and Town Hall workers are included.

Mr McGrath said that 12% of all staff are in acting up positions, with many more in short-term or fixed-term contracts. There was a highly competitive jobs market and the Council was finding recruitment and retention of specialist staff difficult.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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