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CITY TRIBUNE

Separate Dáil controversies put Galway TDs in spotlight

Dara Bradley

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Noel Grealish: has a pairing arrangement with Fine Gael. Hildegarde Naughton: Voted 'on less than a handful of occasions' for colleagues who were in the Dáil chamber.

A Galway TD frequently missed votes in Dáil Éireann on days he had clocked-in and claimed expenses. The revelation comes as another Galway TD became embroiled in the Dáil voting controversy.

Galway West TD, Noel Grealish, has been named among a cohort of deputies who recorded their attendance in Leinster House, which they must do to claim travel and accommodation expenses, on days when there are votes in the Dáil, but they did not take part in those votes.

The RTÉ Investigates unit analysed TDs’ official attendance and voting records published by the Houses of the Oireachtas and reconciled the attendance-days released under the Freedom of Information Act. In order to claim the TAA (Travel and Accommodation Allowance) scheme, TDs must record their attendance in the Dáil.

According to the analysis by RTÉ, Independent Deputy Grealish was recorded as being present on 66 days in which he missed all the votes, between March 2016 and July 2019. He had signed in for 145 voting days in total during that period, meaning he missed the full day’s votes 45.5% of the time. RTÉ found that between March 2016 and the end of 2018, Deputy Grealish claimed €87,000 in TAA expenses.

Deputy Grealish, in a statement to Galway City Tribune, said he had a pairing arrangement with Fine Gael, which facilitates Ministers to be absent from votes to conduct Government business.

“In previous Dáil terms, the main opposition party provided pairs for the Government to enable them to carry out official duties. As part of the current Dáil, Fianna Fáil are in a confidence and supply situation and cannot provide pairs. I provide pairs when asked by Ministers to enable them to carry out crucial Brexit negotiations and EU business,” he said.

Pairing is an arrangement where a TD from one party agrees with a TD of an opposing party not to vote in a particular division, giving both TDs the opportunity to be elsewhere. Deputy Grealish was fourth in the list of TDs who recorded attendance but missed votes and he followed Kerry brothers Michael Healy-Rae and Danny Healy-Rae, and former Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Voluntary group has taken part in 30 rescues

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Members of Claddagh Watch, Donna Burke, Annmarie Heffernan, Arthur Carr, Jimmy McGovern, Eimear Gullane and Trish Keogh on their first night on patrol in March.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Looking out over the River Corrib on a cold clear November night has a touch of the majestic about it.

Tourists and locals alike are spellbound by its mesmerising rapids and the pulsating surges which characterise this wonderful city river.

However, a group of volunteers at Claddagh watch over the glistening waters at night for an entirely different reason – not to marvel at its beauty but to keep a much-needed eye over people’s safety in the Corrib’s surrounds.

Just over eight months after its inception, Claddagh Watch is going from strength to strength. Starting out as a three-man crew in Spring, the organisation now has a 60-person team of volunteers dedicated to keeping people out of danger around Europe’s fourth fastest-flowing city river.

The group was formed by husband-and-wife team Arthur and Deborah Carr from Galway East Life Support Suicide prevention group, along with a former member of the Irish Coast Guard Séamus Ó Fátharta, following a series of deaths along Galway waterways early in the year.

“Claddagh Watch came to fruition from three ordinary people seeing the number of people losing their lives on the waterways and realising that a simple initiative could help reduce this,” explains Séamus of the motivation behind the group.

Since March, the organisation has taken part in almost 30 rescues, aimed at preventing people entering the water. Volunteers never enter the water themselves, even in emergency situations but are instead on hand to notify and provide vital information to rescue services as soon as an incident occurs.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Rents and rise in costs driving students to seek counselling

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A painful rental market and increasing costs being loaded onto third level students are all contributing to increasing demand on student counselling services, according to Galway’s student leader.

President of NUI Galway Students’ Union, Clare Austick, said additional funding must be allocated to student counselling services at NUI Galway to ensure students in need of help are not turned away.

This comes after it was revealed that there had been a 21% jump in the number of students at the university seeking the support of the counselling service over the past four years.

Ms Austick said the Union of Students in Ireland, in conjunction with national mental health bodies, had run several campaigns in recent years to encourage an uptake of mental wellbeing supports on offer – but it was vital that these supports were accessible if students did take that initial step of seeking help.

“Encouraging people to reach out has resulted in an influx of people looking for counselling services and I think people are now more willing to ask for help.

“When someone finally builds up the courage to reach out for help and they’re turned away, it’s very discouraging and it might not encourage them to do it again,” said Ms Austick.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council boosts spend on homelessness

Denise McNamara

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A homeless man sleeping in the city centre.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A record €12 million boost to the coffers has meant that Galway City Council’s budget will reach nearly €100 million for next year – with the bulk of the increased spending targeting homelessness and housing.

A third of the overall budget has been ringfenced for accommodation for the homeless and local authority tenants costing over €33m; with a €4.3m increase on last year to provide homeless services (to €10.7m).

An additional fund of €200,000 will be used to turn around the 44 vacant Council properties to ensure the local authority has no more than 10 properties ‘void’ at a time – a figure which other councils have managed to achieve.

One fifth of the budget will be earmarked for recreation and amenity, of which €2.8m will be used to roll out the European Capital of Culture programme and a quarter of a million euro set aside to resurface tennis and basketball courts around the suburbs.

The roads and transport sector takes up 15% of the yearly spend at €14.5m – more traffic lights will be connected to the Urban Traffic Control Centre, set to get an upgrade costing €100,000.

The cost of providing environmental services is €12m – or 12% of the funding pot – out of which €90,000 will be aimed at implementing a climate change plan.

Acting Head of Finance, Nepta Moggan, told a budget meeting this week that while there was no increase in the rate to be levied on businesses for commercial rates or householders liable for the Local Property Tax, the Council had an €800,000 bonus from increased and new valuations of commercial premises.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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