If anything illustrated the emptiness of repeated Government policy on student accommodation in Galway, it is the fact that right beside the GMIT on the Dublin Road, there is a hotel that has been empty for over ten years.
That’s what Galway West Deputy Catherine Connolly told the Dáil last week – adding that the former Corrib Great Southern should have long been used for student accommodation.
BY TIM RYAN
“It should have never been sold by the State in the first place. When it was sold, it was held in private ownership for a period and then left empty. It still remains empty on the Dublin Road, if the Minister wishes to go to see it,” she said.
“It highlights what has happened in Ireland with our reliance on the market. That hotel should have been taken back into State ownership and used for student accommodation, which would have helped relieve the difficulties in Galway,” she added.
Galway is a city she said that she has used repeatedly as an example because the crisis there is far worse than that in Dublin, in her opinion, based on the facts.
“We have people waiting on a waiting list from 2002 who never once received an offer of accommodation,” she said.
“That illustrates it. We have somewhere between 13,000 and 15,000 people, depending on which statistics we use, on a waiting list.
“The Simon report, Locked Out of the Market, a snapshot study in March of this year is really worth looking at. They go through various towns and cities and they confirm the limited number of properties available.
“Bear in mind that the Government’s strategy is utterly reliant on the private market and we have twisted language to talk about social housing, which is really private accommodation with a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
“That is what we are reliant on and then we look at Galway and there was an average of 15 properties available to rent in Galway city centre over the three days of the study,” said the Independent TD.
Much worse than that, Deputy Connolly said not a single property was available within the four categories allowed under the Housing Assistance Payment.
“There was no property available under the single category, for a couple, for a couple with one child or for a couple with more children. We are utterly reliant on HAP and there are no properties available.
“To make it even worse, the discretion allowed for an increase of 20% still does not allow anyone in Galway to access property under HAP.”
In addition, in Galway the figures for homelessness on 27 April showed 21 families with children in hotels and bed and breakfasts, she said.
“We only have a population of something over 70,000. There were two couples in bed and breakfasts, three single people in bed and breakfasts, two families in transition and a further large family was staying somewhere else.”
Interestingly, this was in addition to the Fairgreen hostel and the Osterley hostel which looks after women.
“Then we have the new language,” she added.
“Throughout the winter, approximately ten county clients used the cold weather response bed. We have another system called the harm reduction packs; that is a sleeping bag plus food. That is what we are reduced to in Galway, giving out a harm-reduction pack.”
Galway rowers aim for Olympic gold!
Best of luck to two Galway rowers – Aifric Keogh of Aill an Phréacháin in Na Forbacha, and Fiona Murtagh from Gortachalla in Moycullen – who are part of Team Ireland’s Women’s Coxless Fours team who compete in an Olympic final in Tokyo at 1.50am (Irish time) Wednesday.
Coverage on RTÉ 2 television begins from 1am.
Ireland – who were second in their heat after Australia, who set a new Olympic Record – are in lane two, with Great Britain on their outside, and Australia, favourites for a gold medal, in lane three.
The Netherlands, China and Poland are in lanes four, five and six at the Sea Forest Waterway.
Poor weather meant some rowing events were re-scheduled but the Women’s Fours final was not impacted.
Jim Keogh, Aifric’s father, told the Tribune he was hopeful ahead of the final.
“To make the Olympics is tough, to make the final is tough, to make the medal is tougher,” he said.
Photo: Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty.
*Full coverage of the race and reaction in this week’s Connacht Tribune and Galway City Tribune
Paedophile sentenced to a further 17 months in prison
A convicted paedophile, described by a Garda as ‘a prolific child abuser’, has had a 17-month prison sentence added to a 13-year sentence he is already serving for the rape and sexual abuse of children.
Disgraced primary school teacher and summer school bus driver, 69-year-old Seosamh Ó Ceallaigh, a native of Tuirín, Béal a’ Daingin, Conamara, had at all times denied two charges of indecently assaulting a ten-year-old boy at a Gaeltacht summer school in Béal a’ Daingin in 1979.
The offence carries a maximum two-year sentence.
A jury found him guilty by majority verdict following a four-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last month.
At his sentence hearing last week, Detective Paul Duffy described Ó Ceallaigh as a prolific child abuser who had amassed 125 child abuse convictions, committed while he was a primary school teacher in Dublin and while he operated an Irish language summer school in Beal a’ Daingin.
They included convictions for rape and sexual assault for which he is currently serving sentences totalling 13 years.
Those sentences were due to expire in August 2024, but last week, Judge Rory McCabe imposed two, concurrent 17-month sentences on Ó Ceallaigh, before directing the sentences begin at the termination of the sentences he is currently serving.
The judge noted Ó Ceallaigh’s denial and lack of remorse and the lifelong detrimental effect the abuse had on the victim as aggravating factors.
Dismay as marine park proposal rejected by planners
A lifeline project, with the potential to create around 200 long-term jobs in an area of South Connemara ravaged by unemployment and emigration, has been rejected by planners – primarily environmental grounds.
The proposed marine park or Páirc na Mara, east of Cill Chiaráin village, was viewed by many as a real chance to turn the tide for this unemployment blackspot.
Locals – and the vast majority of Galway West politicians – were supportive of the project which was viewed as one that would revitalise the area.
That said, Galway County Council’s decision to refuse permission for the marine park was welcomed by Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages which had expressed fears that the marine farm would extract huge amounts of fresh water to breed more than 1.5 million salmon smolts.
They said that millions of litres of fresh water would have been extracted on a regular basis by the salmon farm company operating the smolt rearing units – from the same lakes as the Carna and Cill Chiaráin water supply system.
“Local residents can now rest assured that their domestic water supply won’t be hijacked to line the pockets of people who have no regard for the local environment or residents,” said Billy Smyth, Chairman of Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages.
It was proposed to provide a marine innovation park Pairc na Mara on a 60-acre brownfield site at Cill Chiarain.
The development involves the provision of a number of marine-based facilities as well as education and research facilities in the townlands of Cill Chiarain, Ardmore and Calvary.
It involves the abstraction of water from Lough Scannan, its transfer to and temporary storage in Iron Lake along with impoundment and pumping to the Marine Park site with a rising main.
According to the application, Galway County Council has previously granted planning permission for aquaculture-based activities on the site of the proposed marine park back in 2002 while the first phase of the innovation park was built in 2005.
There were a considerable number of submissions supporting the application with many saying that this part of Connemara would benefit greatly from such a development.
But there were others who expressed concern over the potential impact it would have on the environment, and it would be located in a highly sensitive area.
Cllr Gerry King said that it was a valuable opportunity lost to the area given the amount of unemployment that exists. He added that there was local outrage at the decision.
The Fianna Fail councillor met with those behind the project and residents in support of the project. He said that they all agreed that this decision should be appealed to the higher planning authority.
It was refused on the basis that it would adversely affect the integrity and conservation objectives of the European sides in the vicinity of environmental value.
Planners stated that they could not be certain that the project would not adversely affect the integrity of Cill Ciaran Bay, the islands and Connemara bog complex
They also said that the Environmental Impact Assessment Report did not present a sufficient level of information on the impact it would have on human health, biodiversity, land, soil, water along with cultural heritage and the landscape.