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Serious threat to Corrib as funding to tackle invasive species is slashed

Dara Bradley



Pondweed being removed from Lough Corrib.

Galway’s war on weed faces defeat as funding for an important Lough Corrib project dries up.

Cuts to staffing levels and budget of Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) will sink efforts to rid Lough Corrib of the invasive pondweed, Lagarosiphon major.

A programme to control the spread of the invasive species on the lake has successfully curtailed the invader, known as Curly African Pondweed, over the past eight years.

But cutbacks mean the project will come to an end this October, with potentially devastating impacts on the local environment and economy.

Campaigners for the retention of the weed-control programme have warned of the risks if the species, a native of southern Africa, is not managed post-October.

They warn discontinuation of the project will:

■ Heighten risk of flooding

■ Threaten brown trout stocks

■ Damage tourism

■ Jeopardise Galway’s clean drinking water supply.

The Government, through junior minister Seán Kyne, the Galway West Fine Gael TD, has been warned of the consequences, and has been urged to intervene to secure long-term financing of the programme.

The weed was first discovered on the lake in 2005, and the following year various organisations came together to fund research and management programmes.

In recent years, IFI has run the project, which was co-funded by Galway County Council and the Office of Public Works (OPW).

At the height of the invasion it was estimated there was 92 hectares of the curly-leaved waterweed present. Through the success of the programme this had been reduced to “manageable” levels of below 10 hectares.

The management programme also helped to re-establish native species, and allowed previously infested areas to re-open for angling, boating and other recreational activities.

The methods used, according to Ms Moran, were modern and innovative and ‘borrowed’ by teams battling the weed overseas.

The cost of the project is about €220,000 per year, and the work was carried out jointly by IFI staff and GeoMara, a company based in Clarinbridge. Some €100,000 of the monies were provided by the Council and OPW, with the remainder provided by IFI.

“Unfortunately, due to repeated cuts in IFI’s exchequer funding and significant staff shortages it in no longer possible to fund this management programme, which in effect means that the weed control programme on Lough Corrib will cease as of Mid-October 2016. The achievements to date will be reversed and the weed level could potentially return to the initially estimated 92 hectares if left unmanaged. Some 61% of Lough Corrib has suitable depths for pondweed colonisation,” warned Helen Moran of GeoMara.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.



Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
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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Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
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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