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School crux to cause ‘survival of the fittest’



Children of a city primary school face a ‘September of chaos’, and their parents face a ‘Summer of uncertainty’, if the impasse over plans to amalgamate two classes isn’t resolved, a city councillor has said.

Sinn Féin’s Mark Lohan called on Government to allocate an extra teacher to Scoil Bhríde in Menlo in order to avoid an “unacceptable” amalgamation of fifth and sixth class for 2018/2019.

In last week’s Galway City Tribune, parents of children in the school blasted as “absolutely ridiculous” the suggestion that they each should pay €550 to fund an extra teacher.

They expressed shock and outrage that the amalgamation from next term would result in 41 pupils having just one teacher between them. And the school only informed them of the move two days before the school term ended in June.

Cllr Lohan has backed the parents. “The request for parents to fund a teacher by paying the school a €550 fee is both unreasonable and inappropriate. It is wrong on all fronts for parents to fund a teacher’s salary.

“Having 41 children in a multi-grade class is a retrograde step and is reminiscent of the enormous classes of a bygone era in the 60s and 70s. Fifth and Sixth class are particularly formative years for our children as they prepare for post primary education. These years will determine not only their academic future but their ability to lead productive and independent lives.

“Our children deserve the best opportunity to develop their full potential and obstacles should not be put in their way. Survival of the fittest should not be the standard for the pupils of fifth and sixth class in Scoil Bhríde, Menlo,” he said.

Cllr Lohan said the status of Scoil Bhríde as a Scoil sa Ghaeltacht has had no bearing on this current crisis. In fact, it is a direct result of this status that the school benefits from preferential appointment and retention figures for pupil teacher ratio.

He added a solution needs to be found before September. “An appeals mechanism is available to secure an extra teacher and the school must, as a matter of urgency, initiate this process. The EU average for class size is 20 pupils per teacher. Government has to address this short-coming and make a reduction in class size a priority,” said Cllr Lohan.

Liam Ferrie, chairperson of the Board of Management of the school, pointed out that prior to 2012, like most other rural schools, Scoil Bhríde had split classes for every level and two or more levels were being taught together by the same teacher in the same classroom.

“This is a common necessity in a smaller school where pupil numbers do not allow for separate classes at all levels,” he said.

He said the “real news story” was a “good news” for Scoil Bhríde because it has enjoyed increased enrolment in its junior infant classes since 2012, which has led to full classes for junior infants each year and subsequent years as those students have progressed in the school.

Mr Ferrie added: “It is the case however that the student numbers for the fifth and sixth class 2018/2019 are such that the allocation of another teacher is not permitted under Department of Education and Skills rules. The Department has rigid rules in relation to the allocation of teachers. Therefore, it would not be possible to avoid a ‘split class’ for 5th/6th class other than by employing a teacher out of the Board of Management resources, which is not permissible.

“With regard to an alleged request made of parents, neither school management nor the Board of Management has requested that the parents of students pay and/or contribute to payment of a teacher. It is the case that proposals were discussed at a meeting between management and a number of parents, however, it is not the case that any request was made of parents to contribute to payment of a teacher.”

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Six Shinners to contest Galway City local elections in 2024



Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Sinn Féin is planning to run two candidates in each city electoral ward in the next Local Elections in 2024.

Party number-crunchers nationally want to flood local election tickets with candidates to pick up extra seats and capitalise on anti-Government sentiment that is circulating among a cohort of voters.

The Shinners ran too few candidates in the last General Election. It meant they could not capitalise fully from a swing to the party during that campaign. They left seats behind them.

Now they’re planning to run a record number of candidates. In Galway, that would mean two candidates in each of the three areas, City West, City Central and City East.

The thinking is that they need to pick up additional seats in local authority elections, so that they have sufficient councillors to vote for Sinn Féin candidates in Seanad elections. More councillors equals more senators.

Sinn Féin is very much preparing for Government; and while the polls suggest it’s the most popular party (at 34% according to the latest in the Sunday Times last weekend) and would likely win most Dáil seats if an election was held tomorrow, it would still need numbers in the Seanad to pass legislation.

One problem faced by Sinn Féin is the party might find it difficult to source six credible candidates to contest local elections in Galway.

Another problem with running two, rather than one, in each ward in Galway City is that SF could split the vote and end up not winning any seats at all.

In 2019, Councillors Mairéad Farrell, Mark Lohan and Cathal Ó Conchúir all lost their seats after dismal local elections. Farrell was since elected to the Dáil following her Lazarus comeback but the organisation locally is still wary of a fickle Galway electorate.

If Sinn Féin doesn’t win back those three seats lost in 2019, then the next locals would be deemed a massive failure.

Winning more than three seats on Galway City Council would be a success but are the Shinners willing to risk running two candidates in each ward, splitting the vote and ending up with egg on their faces?

Photo: Mairéad Farrell with fellow Sinn Féin members Mark Lohan and Cathal Ó Conchúir (back left) after she was elected to the Dáil in 2020. All lost had their seats in Galway City Council in 2019 after dismal local elections.

This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Galway is seventh-worst city in Europe for car traffic congestion



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Car traffic congestion in Galway is quickly rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, with commuters spending up to 94 hours caught on the city’s gridlocked arteries last year.

According to data compiled by INRIX, a world-leader in mobility data, Galway is the seventh-worst city in Europe for congestion, an 84% increase on its position in 2021.

The data shows that Galway places in the worst 50 cities in the world for congestion – taking 39th place, with Dublin the only other Irish city placing higher at Number 12.

While the figures show that car traffic has not fully returned to pre-Covid levels, the 2022 figures came within 13% of 2019 congestion rates.

This was despite vast numbers continuing to work from home last year, a worrying trend according to the local People Before Profit representative Adrian Curran.

In Cork, Limerick and Dublin, there had been a more lasting effect, showing decreases of 20%, 26% and 29% respectively, he said.

This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Galway 2020 paid €110,000 for PR while cutting spends on arts events



From this week’s City Tribune – Galway 2020’s bank account statements for five months of 2020 reveal thousands of euro were spent on public relations firms and media advertising when its cultural programme was being cut and ‘revised’ during the upheaval at the onset of Covid-19.

The AIB statements date from April to September of 2020, when Covid-19 had seriously curtailed cultural activities of Galway 2020, the company behind the city and county’s European Capital of Culture. They show more than €110,000 was paid to Dublin-based public relations firm Q4 PR, in three separate payments in April, May and June of 2020.

Thousands more were paid to other public relations firms, radio stations and, to a lesser extent, newspapers.

In March of that year, Galway 2020 announced it was reviewing its programme of events due to Covid-19 restrictions imposed by Government after a global pandemic was declared, curtailing all events.

On April 7, it confirmed it was laying off staff and had ended its agreement with Helen Marriage and Artichoke which was providing creative direction.

Later that month, it issued statements to say it was exploring a ‘re-imagined’ programme of events to take place at the end of 2020 and 2021.

Although the amounts paid to media and PR companies other than Q4 PR are relatively small, compared with expenditure on other headings, the payments suggest the importance Galway 2020 placed on image and public perception around that time.

The bank statements were released to the Galway City Tribune following a protracted Freedom of Information request and after an appeal to the Office of Information Commissioner.

Many of the payees in the bank statements were redacted but the names of several PR and media organisations are listed as having been paid by Galway 2020.

This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article with details of the spending, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. There is also coverage of this week’s rebranding and new vision of Galway 2020. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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