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Residents voice fears over running of centre

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Representatives of the Ballinfoile Mór Neighbourhood Centre Action Group staged a protest outside City Hall to highlight their wish to have the centre maintained as a public facility.

More than 2,100 people have already signed a petition asking Galway City Council to ensure the Ballinfoile/Castlegar Neighbourhood Centre continues to serve local needs as a publicly-owned facility.

The issue – which has been on the agenda of the City Council for the last three monthly meetings – is finally expected to be voted upon by councillors on March 14.

Brendan Smith, a member of the action group, said: “Amicable discussions have taken place recently with City Council officials and a number of our key concerns over peak hours, community representation on a board of management, discounted rates and prioritising jobs in the centre for local people, as well as an absolute guarantee that there will be no privatisation of the Ballinfoile/Castlegar Neighbourhood and Sports Centre, have been acceded too.

“However, our focus is still to keep the facility under local government management in association with the local community as well as to ensure that its annual Council budget is not reduced.

“Hence we will continue to campaign on these demands and a public meeting is being planned to discuss the proposals from the Council officials and associated costings of the centre once they are finalised after further consultations.

“We have fought for 30 years for this indoor community complex. We owe it to those who stood with us over many decades; to those thousands of people who signed our recent door-to-door petition and to future generations not yet born to ensure that the centre will always serve, be owned, managed and used by the local people,” said Mr Smith.

Residents are calling on Galway City Council to maintain the newly-built centre on the Headford Road in public ownership and ensure that at least half of an oversight body running it is made up of local residents.

This would ring-fence peak hours at lower rates for community groups at the sports and neighbourhood facility, explained Brendan Smith.

“The key thing is public ownership. If it goes to an outside group, it would be a slippery slope to privatisation. We don’t want to see our community centre turned into a leisure centre for outside interests,” he exclaimed.

“We’ve fought a long, long campaign for this facility – probably the longest campaign in modern times for this type of community facility – and we’re not going to give up at the final hurdle.

“It’s a brilliant centre – congratulations to the Council for building it after 30 years – but after getting it, we don’t want to lose it on the day and the period it opens.”

Last September Mr McGrath confirmed the Government had agreed to allow Galway City Council to break the local government jobs embargo in order to hire staff for the centre.

The annual budget then set aside €300,000 for the operation of Knocknacarra and Ballinfoile community centres, but this allocation does not guarantee they will be run publicly as it was half of what is required for Council staff to operate them seven days a week, Mr McGrath told councillors in November.

He stated he would present a plan to councillors on running them as social economic enterprises which would give access to community groups at reasonable rates and be run in accordance with policies set by an oversight group made up of locals, councillors and officials.

But locals fear this “public-private partnership” could mean privatisation sooner or later to the detriment of the local community as profit would take priority over social needs.

“If this happens, residents will be priced out of usage of a much needed multi-purpose community and sports facility,” said Mr Smith.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A city publican who last week helped save the life of a woman who had entered the waters of the Corrib off Wolfe Tone Bridge has made an appeal for young people to ‘look out for each other’.

Fergus McGinn, proprietor of McGinn’s Hop House in Woodquay, had been walking close to Jury’s Inn when he saw the young woman enter the river.

He then rushed to the riverbank on the Long Walk side of the bridge, jumped into the water, spoke to the woman and stayed with her until the emergency services arrived.

The incident occurred at about 3.45pm on Friday last, and a short time later the emergency services were on the scene to safely rescue the woman.

“She was lucky in that the river level was very low and she didn’t injure herself on the rocks and stones just under the water.”

He also appealed to the public to support in whatever they could the work being done by groups like the Claddagh Watch volunteers.
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

Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Gardaí have warned city publicans that alcohol cannot be served outside their own premises – even in newly-created on-street spaces designated by Galway City Council as suitable for outdoor dining.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said three Gardaí visited a number of city centre pubs on Thursday afternoon informing them that drinking outdoors was not allowed under licensing laws.

“They warned publicans and restaurants that the area outside their premises is not covered by the licence, and therefore under national legislation, they are breaking the law, because they are not entitled to sell alcohol in non-licensed areas.

“The operators were told that this was an official warning, and they will be back again in a few days and if it persisted, they [Gardaí] would have no option but to issue a charge and forward files to the Director of Public Prosecution. You could not make this up.

“All of the big operators were visited, and received an official warning, and they will be charged if they persist. According to the guards, they’re getting instructions from [Garda headquarters in] Phoenix Park,” he said.

The matter will be raised at a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
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

Call for 50% affordable homes in new Galway City Council estates

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The next Galway City Development Plan should include a greater provision for affordable housing than that recommended by Government, a meeting of the City Council has heard.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) told the meeting that while it was the Government’s intention to introduce a stipulation that new estates should have 10% affordable housing, Galway should go further – building anything up to 50% affordable in developments that are led by the local authority.

The Affordable Housing Bill, which is currently working its way through the Oireachtas, proposes that all developments should have 10% affordable and 10% social housing as a condition of their approval.

Affordable housing schemes help lower-income households buy their own houses or apartments in new developments at significantly less than their open market value, while social housing is provided by local authorities and housing agencies to those who cannot afford their own accommodation.

The Council meeting, part of the pre-draft stage of forming the Development Plan to run from 2023 to 2029, was to examine the overarching strategies that will inform the draft plan to come before councillors by the end of the year and Cllr McDonnell said a more ambitious target for affordable housing was absolutely necessary.

“It must be included that at least 50% of housing must be affordable [in social housing developments],” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) who questioned if the City Council was ‘tied down’ by national guidelines, or if it could increase the minimum percentage of affordable housing required locally.
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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