It was a day that few – including Sinn Féin’s own faithful – saw coming, as a surge across the whole of the county saw the party, which was almost wiped out in the local elections, take two seats and go close to a third across Galway’s three constituencies.
The second phenomenon from the weekend’s results was the success of female candidates, with the three areas returning five women TDs for the eleven seats. The election of Mairead Farrell, Catherine Connolly and Hildegarde Naughton in Galway West alone marked a record return in a constituency which only elected two female TDs for the first time in 2016.
But – mirroring the rest of the country – the rise and rise of Sinn Féin was the big story, with candidates coming from the back of the pack to dominate.
The focus has now switched to the formation of a new Government – and while Fianna Fáil’s only poll-topper Eamon Ó Cuív proclaimed himself willing to work with Sinn Féin, so too Roscommon/Galway Independent duo of Michael Fitzmaurice and Denis Naughten revealed they were willing to talk to all sides who would take their policies on board.
Éamon Ó Cuív said Sinn Féin’s links to the IRA – and the armed struggle during the Troubles – were not a barrier for Fianna Fáil ‘doing a deal’ on a programme for Government.
And the grandson of Éamon de Valera, founder of Fianna Fáil, said a coalition between Sinn Féin and his party was still the most likely scenario.
“The options are narrowing. Sinn Féin can’t make it with small like-minded parties. Fine Gael are closing the door on everybody. And it could be a question of the last two standing, which would be Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin,” he said.
See our full election coverage across Galway East, Galway West and Roscommon/Galway over 18 pages in this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.
Minister rebuffs calls to lower air fares for islanders
Efforts to extend reduced public transport fares to Galway’s offshore islands have been rebuffed again.
Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív (FF) has been campaigning for months to have reduced passenger fares that apply to public transport on the mainland, introduced to the islands.
The former Gaeltacht Minister had lobbied Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys on several occasions to extend the reduced fares to the Aran Islands and Inishbofin.
In the latest response to a Parliamentary Question tabled by Deputy Ó Cuív, Minister Humphreys has again resisted calls to extend the discounted fares to islanders.
In the reply she said that residents of Ireland’s 19 offshore islands already enjoy ferry fares that are at least 20% cheaper than visitors.
Minister Humphreys said, “any unilateral action to alter the terms of the existing contracts could represent a breach of contract and bring the entire procurement process into disrepute”. This, she argued, “could have a detrimental impact on the ongoing operation of these vital services”.
Minister Humphreys said that her Department, “will continue to examine ways of ensuring affordability and sustainability of island transport, both within existing contracts and in future”.
Deputy Ó Cuív suggested he had been led on a merry dance over the past few months and said the Minister never intended to reduce fares for islanders.
“It is now clear from this reply that the Minister, on advice from the Department, never intended reducing the passenger fares to the islands in line with the reduction in the rest of the country and that all the replies I got were just a push off without basis. One of the things mentioned in previous replies was that subsidised services could not be in direct competition with non-subsidised services. It is clear from the reply that the Department do not even know if such a situation exists,” Deputy Ó Cuív added.
Galway must ‘sort itself out on the tourism front’
Galway risks losing its reputation as a go-to destination for Irish tourists unless the city’s ‘overall package’ is revitalised.
That’s according to a local councillor who says sky-high hotel prices and anti-social behaviour problems in the city were serving as a deterrent for would-be visitors.
Cllr Mike Crowe (FF) said as people became more prudent with their spending amid a cost-of-living crisis, few would be willing to fork out €500 for a weekend in Galway.
“People want to feel that they are getting some value and they’re certainly not feeling it this year.
“While it’s not only Galway where this is an issue, the prices are too high and people are more concerned with what they’re spending at the moment,” said Cllr Crowe.
A survey of available hotel rooms carried out by the Connacht Tribune this week showed that for two adults to share a double room in Galway City for the weekend of August 26 to 28, the average cost was €560.
The cheapest room available was at a hotel 7km outside the city centre, at a cost of €409 for the same two nights.
By comparison, the average room cost for the same weekend in Limerick was €450 – including a stay at a five-star hotel.
Dublin prices remain way above any of the regional cities, with punters expected to come up with more than €700 for even the most basic property for the last weekend in August.
However, Cllr Crowe said Galway had to stop the rot before the good work done to attract tourists prior to the pandemic was lost for good.
“The vast majority of people are not going to stay in any city where an ordinary weekend in August will cost them more than €300, not to mind €400 and €500.
“Put simply, people want to get a fair product for a fair price,” he said.
A proportion of hotel rooms were facilitating refugees from Ukraine and elsewhere, he said, which was reducing the overall number available and this was having an impact on supply, said Cllr Crowe.
In addition, the city had struggled to compete with the on-course entertainment provided for racegoers in July, with city centre businesses struggling as a result, he continued.
“What we’re offering here at the moment is not at the level it needs to be at. Ultimately, the rooms are too dear but that is just one factor – the city is too dirty as well.
“From an experience point of view, if you’re walking from Bohermore or College Road down through the spine of the city as far as Salmon Weir Bridge, the city is dirty. There are neglected buildings, gangs are drinking at various corners, there are issues with begging and all of that is acting as a deterrent,” said the Fianna Fáil councillor.
Galway was fortunate that representatives had worked for years to protect the business element in the city centre core, said Cllr Crowe, avoiding the problems faced by cities like Limerick and Cork where their shopping core was now located outside the city at suburban shopping centres.
“We have been lobbied for decades to ensure that the shopping experience was kept in town and we have done, but now all business owners need to step up and do their bit to keep the areas around their premises.
“The Environment Section in Galway City Council also needs to get the finger out and make sure the city is clean,” he said.
Cllr Crowe called for a joined-up approach, to include city councillors and the Council Executive, Gardaí, the tourism industry and local businesses.
“We all need to come together and look at what we’re offering as a city and I think if everyone was honest, they would say what we’re offering at the moment is not up to standard.
“We need to do it because if we don’t, the great progress that was made in the past will be lost,” he said.
Tesco urged to go for full Irish on new supermarket
British retail giant Tesco has been urged to provide Irish-language self-service checkout tills at its new Galway Gaeltacht store.
The company acquired nine Joyce’s Supermarkets across Galway earlier this year and is in the process of rebranding and redesigning them as Tesco stores.
Among the supermarkets is ‘Siopa an Phobail’ in Indreabhán, in the Conamara Gaeltacht.
Conradh na Gaeilge this week urged Tesco to provide an Irish language self-service checkout at its Indreabhán store, which is the first-ever Tesco in the Gaeltacht.
Bearna-based Irish language news agency, Tuairisc.ie reported that Conradh na Gaeilge has recommended Irish-language self-service checkouts be installed in Indreabhán, similar to those available in Welsh-speaking areas of Wales.
Tesco has bilingual signs at its Galway City stores and issues bilingual press releases.
A spokesperson for Tesco Ireland confirmed to the Connacht Tribune that it has engaged with Údarás na Gaeltachta about taking over the Indreabhán shop and petrol station.
“We have begun the process to rebrand and redesign the Joyce’s Supermarkets as Tesco stores across Galway which will take place on a phased basis over the coming months. We’re delighted to confirm that in line with our community ethos, we will continue to operate Siopa an Phobail at Indreabhán.
“We are engaged with Údarás na Gaeltachta to ensure we’re responding to the needs of the Gaeltacht community and how best to support our new colleagues and customers as our integration begins,” a Tesco Ireland spokesperson said.
She said that services provided at Indreabhán, including the petrol filling station will be retained.
“During the transition process, we will be delighted to welcome employees from Joyce’s stores to the Tesco team.
We will continue to keep customers and communities updated on the impact of refurbishment on store operations. We look forward to opening our Tesco store at Indreabhán later this year and thank the customers and communities for their patience while refurbishment works are carried out. We look forward to serving the community for many years to come,” she added.