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Smoking ban celebrates ten years – so why the big cloud around e-cigarettes?

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The Minister for Health doesn’t like them; Irish Rail has already banned them and health advocates describe them as a gateway to smoking more than a halfway house to stopping – so why then are e-cigarettes stocked beside sweets in shops all over the county?

That’s the question as the country this week marks the tenth anniversary of the smoking ban….but without any regulation of a new industry that is growing at a rate of knots.

Organisations like Croí and the Irish Cancer Society have expressed their reservations on this phenomenon, while Irish Rail – followed by Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus – moved to ban ‘vaping’ on their vehicles.

According to Jane Cregan, spokesperson for Irish Rail, they wanted no ambiguity around the smoking ban, so a complete ban was introduced.

But RGDATA, the representative association for over 4,000 independent grocery shops in Ireland, says it has no official policy on the sale of e-cigarettes.

“People are selling them because there’s a demand for them,” said RGDATA’s Roseanne Regan.

And that demand may be accelerated by the product placement that allows e-cigarette display stands on the shop floor – despite the fact legislation has seen cigarettes themselves consigned to below the counter.

A decision on the matter may ultimately be taken at European level now, after MEPs confirmed that e-cigarettes would be regulated in the near future.

Member states will decide whether e-cigarettes are to be classified as medicines or tobacco products.

And if a country decides on the latter, e-cigarettes will need to carry health warnings, be childproofed and be subject to the same restrictions on advertising as tobacco products.

See special feature on e-cigarettes in this week’s Connacht Tribune 

CITY TRIBUNE

Councillors zone land for residential use despite concerns over flooding

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From the Galway City Tribune – Galway City Council has voted to allow for the future development of housing on a large parcel of land on the Headford Road (photographed and shaded red) which had previously been designated for recreation and “water-based activity”.

The land, which is situated below sea level, has been designated as being in a Flood Zone A area by the Office of Public Works (OPW), meaning that “vulnerable usage” such as housing should not be considered there.

BY ANDREW HAMILTON

During a meeting to approve the Galway City Development Plan 2023-29, councillors voted to reject the recommendation of its own Chief Executive, and in doing so opened the door for the future development of the 1.3-hectare (3.2-acre) site.

The land, which overlooks Terryland Forest Park, was also identified as a flood risk in the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management report (CFRAM).

Cllr Frank Fahy (FG), proposed that the local authority should ignore the submissions of the OPW and the CFRAM report and rezone the land as residential.

“To say that this land should only be for water-based activity is not correct. To say that all of this land is a floodplain is also incorrect,” he said.

“It is below sea level but because of the dyke, it is not going to flood. There is a bit of land at the bottom [of the site] which is a flood risk, but I would imagine, if plans do go forward for this site, that area would be left open. Some of the land is borderline [flood risk] but not all of it.”


This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.


This proposal was opposed by a number of councillors including Cllr Owen Hanley (SocDems).

“I would say that 80 per cent if not more [of the site] is in a flood risk area or is of concern. Also, if you develop part of it, you make the rest of it more at risk of flooding because the water is diverted there,” he said.

“While I respect that councillors are arguing in good faith, I am concerned about the way that we are discussing flood risks in this development plan overall.

“It would be inappropriate, given the advice that we have been given, to make this change.”

Despite these objections, councillors voted by a margin of 10 to 4 to rezone the land.

This decision may put the council on a collision course with the Minister of the Environment, Eamon Ryan, as the newly formed Office of Planning Regulators (OPR) had opposed this rezoning. The role of the OPR is to ensure that local development plans are in line with national regulations.

It is expected that the OPR may refer this decision to the Minister for the Environment, who has the power to overrule this decision by Galway City Council.

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CITY TRIBUNE

240 student bed spaces in Galway are ‘just a drop in the ocean’

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From the Galway City Tribune – State-assisted student accommodation is a step in the right direction, but the 242 beds announced for Galway are just a “drop in the ocean”.

That’s according to the President of University of Galway (UG) Students’ Union, Sai Gujulla, who told the Galway City Tribune that while they welcomed the announcement that Government was to begin investing in student beds, it would do nothing to address the crisis in the sector in the short term.

The Government announced this week that for the first time, it would provide State assistance “to stimulate the development of new and additional student accommodation” – financially supporting the construction of 242 on-campus student beds at UG.

However, Mr Gujulla said the number was nowhere near what was required and the proposal formed part of a long-term strategy which didn’t address the very real crisis being faced by students right now.

“It is a welcome announcement, but it’s not sufficient for what’s required.

“It will take a number of years for this to take effect and so it will do nothing for students who need accommodation right now,” he said, adding that the number of students commuting daily to Galway from all over the country was at all-time high as a result of the accommodation shortage.


This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.


Minister of State and TD for Galway West, Hildegarde Naughton (FG), said the policy would “ensure affordability for all students” by ensuring costs are kept to a minimum during the construction phase.

“This new policy will see 242 student beds delivered in the first phase by the University of Galway, with ATU also given funding to develop its own proposals to provide affordable student accommodation.

“The focus of this policy is to ensure affordability for students and this Government will ensure that costs are kept to a minimum, thus providing more affordable rents,” said Minister Naughton.

Mr Gujulla said it was imperative that this commitment was met and that when Government said affordable, it was affordable for students and parents on low incomes.

“We’ve heard before that accommodation would be affordable, but it must be affordable for all and not just some people,” he said, adding that means testing, similar to that used for accessing the SUSI grant, should be considered as a way of setting rents.

Minister Naughton said this scheme was the beginning of a new policy on student accommodation aimed at making third level education more accessible.

“I look forward to seeing this new scheme rolled out across all our tertiary educational facilities in Galway,” said the Fine Gael TD.

Meanwhile, Mr Gujulla said students were still struggling to find accommodation in the city, despite being back at college for three months.

“We have new cases with the same problems every day and with new Erasmus (European) students and postgraduates arriving in January, it will continue,” he said.

“Rents are still extremely high and they’re not going down and while this intervention by Government is positive, it needs to go further and we need something to address the immediate problem too.”

(Photo: The Goldcrest student accommodation in Corrib Village. University of Galway owns large tracts of land in the area).

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CITY TRIBUNE

New life breathed into derelict Blackrock cottage

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From the Galway City Tribune – Boasting one of the most spectacular views in the country from a reimagined building marrying old and new, Blackrock Cottage on Salthill Prom finally opened this week after a labour of love by its new caretakers.

During a tour of the spectacular outdoor dining pods with chef Martin O’Donnell on the eve of its unveiling, at least four people approached, curious about how the derelict Famine-era building was brought back to life.

“That happens every time I’m out here,” says Martin, who hails from just up the road in Barna.

“The level of interest in this place is unbelievable.”

Most new eateries have to work for footfall. This one has potential customers passing by morning, noon and night, even during the depths of the wildest winter. It’s an unrivalled location opposite that most iconic symbol Galway – the Blackrock diving tower.

Brían McHugh from McHugh Property Holdings Ltd bought the cottage from the previous owner, the late Mary Sjothun (née Flynn) in 2018. Initially turned down for planning permission by Galway City Council, on appeal the design for bringing back the old to life and creating a new light-filled modern extension with a bike rental and repair station on the site was approved by An Bord Pleanála.

The project took 18 months to build during a difficult Covid period, when materials and workers were in short supply.


This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.


“We didn’t have to keep the cottage as it wasn’t listed. But we wanted to be respectful of an 1830s cottage and its history. So we worked with Galway City Conservation Officer Jim Higgins to keep the beams, the slates on the roof and lime mortar – we’ll finish the whitewashing when we get a dry spell,” explains Brían.

“I think Sean Dockry architects have made a great job of creating a commercially viable building with a modern extension, marrying the old with the new while maximising the views.”

The raised terraces, one of them with a firepit, have all been designed to allow people to sit in sheltered areas while looking out over Galway Bay. The garden has been landscaped with herbs and edible flowers that will be used in the kitchen.

The second phase of the site, expected to be completed next March, will develop a bigger barbecue area with seating for up to 60 people. The bicycle rental area will be added if the greenway becomes a reality.

The takeaway part of the café will be run by the Álainn team, who ran the pop-up coffee van and later container beside the site offering superfood pots and delicious coffee by the Burren roaster Anam Coffee that became such a hit with swimmers and walkers during the pandemic.

Breakfast and lunch will be walk-ins only, with dinner to be offered early next year. The menu is described as contemporary modern Irish using top class local producers that have a good working relationship with Martin. He was head chef in The Twelve in Barna for 15 years and has a slot on Ireland AM on Virgin Media TV.

Things to expect on the menu are pulled confit of duck with eggs benedict, lamb shank and poké bowls with in-house cured fish.

“There’s nothing like this in the west of Ireland – I don’t think there’s anything like this anywhere in the country – a space like this, with so many tables, four inches from the water,” says Martin.

“We’re mid-price range. Blackrock Cottage was always built for the local people, not the elite. We’ll have amazing quality food that will be affordable.”

Brían declines to reveal the extent of the investment in this venture. His company also owns the nearby driving range and the Spinnaker Hotel, as well as various development sites in the city and suburbs.

“It’s not cheap to bring a 200-year-old cottage back to life. But I’m delighted we didn’t take the easy option and we saved a piece of Galway history.”

(Photo by Brian Harding: Gerard O’Donoghue, Operations Manager; Mathieu Teulier, General Manager and Martin O’Donnell, Head Chef at Blackrock Cottage restaurant).

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