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Connacht Tribune

State sucks the life out of rural Galway

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The closure of rural post offices, schools, pubs, bus stops and Garda stations being left unmanned is “sucking the life out of County Galway”, according to a local TD.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte told the Connacht Tribune that small rural communities – the ‘social fabric’ of Ireland – are fading into extinction because of cuts and closures.

The have been renewed calls to halt the ‘negative multiplier effect’ – the post office is seen as a magnet for footfall in towns and villages, if it closes, there is a knock-on effect on other services.

Deputy Rabbitte’s comments came following the confirmation that ten post offices in the county will potentially close under a voluntary retirement scheme.

The ten in Galway – Ballyglunin; Cloghbrack; Colemanstown; Cornamona, Inverin; Kiltullagh; Kylebrack; Lettermullen; Menlough and Woodlawn – are amongst a list of 161 in the country where the postmaster or postmistress have expressed an interest to An Post in a voluntary redundancy scheme. The definitive list will be published at the end of August.

“People are disgusted. To some people, the local post office is the only social outlet they have. They’ve already lost the national schools, some are losing their bus stops, the pubs have closed and Garda stations are unmanned. There’s nothing left for them [the Government] to take.

“Why is the life being sucked out of these areas? The biggest concern people have is rural isolation,” said Deputy Rabbitte.

She said that post office operators are entitled to retire, but agrees with a Fianna Fáil party proposal that post offices in certain locations could be run under PSO (Public Service Obligation) contracts.

“Maybe the people behind the counter really want to go, and they are absolutely entitled to. And they are entitled to express an interest to see what they would get from An Post.

“I don’t think they expected An Post to release the list of expressions of interest. Some may not have told staff, they may have been weighing up their options.

“We need to look at PSO commitments for post offices in certain locations – we know they won’t make any money, but we also know that they are needed. They provide important services and are part of the social fabric of our communities,” said Deputy Rabbitte.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Unauthorised developments in County Galway go unchecked for months

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The Planning Enforcement Section of Galway County Council is so understaffed that complaints of unauthorised developments are not being investigated for months, the Connacht Tribune has learned.

In one case, a complaint alleging a house was under construction in a picturesque and environmentally sensitive part of Conamara without planning permission was not investigated by the Council for at least six months.

And it can be revealed that there is a ‘large’ backlog of complaints of unauthorised developments in the county, which the Planning Enforcement Section at County Hall has blamed on staff shortages, according to correspondence obtained by the Connacht Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI).

In response to repeated requests by a concerned member of the public to intervene and investigate an allegation of unauthorised development in an environmentally protected area of Conamara, the Council’s Planning Department indicated it was too stretched.

“Unfortunately, the planning enforcement section is experiencing a period of prolonged staff shortages and consequently there are a large number of files awaiting investigation/review,” it said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Access Centre provides pathways to University of Galway for the disadvantaged

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Photo of Imelda Byrne

Great leaps have been made in recent years to make access to tertiary level education a realistic prospect for once marginalised groups in society.

With the deadline for CAO applications approaching next week, the Access Centre at the University of Galway is aiming to reach as many underrepresented groups as possible ahead of next academic term.

Head of the Access Centre, Imelda Byrne (pictured), said research has shown that those who once felt third level ‘wasn’t for them’ are increasing their presence at UG, and bringing a richness to the sector that had for a long time been missing.

In the five years up to 2021, there was a 100% increase in the number of students registering for the Disability Support Service at the university, while those coming from Further Education and Training courses in institutes like GTI had surged by 211% over four years.

“The message that we really need to get out there is that the CAO is not the only route into third level. There are a number of pathways,” says Imelda.

“There are loads of places set aside for students coming from a place of disadvantage,” she continues, whether it’s national schemes such as the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for socio-economic disadvantage; or the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE); or the university’s own programme for mature students.

Those places are there to ensure those from all backgrounds get an opportunity to reach their education potential, tapping into hugely talented groups that once may have missed that opportunity.

“What we have seen is that when they get that opportunity, they do just as well if not better than other students,” continues Imelda.

For HEAR and DARE scheme applicants, and for those hoping to begin higher education as a mature student, next Wednesday’s CAO deadline is critically important.

But beyond the CAO applications, the Access Programme will open up in March to guide prospective students, whatever challenges they are facing, into third level.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway County Council ‘missing out on millions’ in derelict sites levies

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Photo of Cloonabinnia House

Galway County Council is missing out on millions of euro in untapped revenue due to a failure to compile a complete Derelict Sites Register.

That’s according to Galway East Sinn Féin representative, Louis O’Hara, who this week blasted the news that just three properties across the whole county are currently listed on the register.

As a result, Mr O’Hara said the Derelict Sites Levy was not being utilised effectively as countless crumbling properties remained unregistered – the levy amounts to 7% of the market value of the derelict property annually.

The former general election candidate said Galway County Council was ill-equipped to compile a proper list of derelict sites and called on Government to provide the necessary resources to tackle the scourge of dereliction across.

“There are still only three properties listed on Galway County Council’s Derelict Sites Register . . . anyone in Galway knows that this does not reflect the reality on the ground and more must be done to identify properties, and penalise owners who fail to maintain them,” said Mr O’Hara.

The situation was compounded by the fact that the Council failed to collect any of the levies due to them in 2021.

“This is deeply concerning when we know that dereliction is a blight on our communities. Derelict sites attract rats, anti-social behaviour and dumping, and are an eyesore in many of our local towns and villages.”

“The Derelict Sites Levy should be used as a tool by local authorities to raise revenue that can then be utilised to tackle dereliction, but they are not adequately resourced to identify and pursue these property owners,” said Mr O’Hara.

(Photo: The former Cloonabinnia House Hotel is on the Derelict Sites Register).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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