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Connacht Tribune

Tánaiste intervenes over Merlin theatre fiasco

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Tánaiste Simon Coveney has conceded ‘it should not be rocket science’ to provide modular orthopaedic operating theatres at Merlin Park – where more than 2,000 patients are waiting for surgery since a leaking roof closed the original theatre in 2017.

Speaking in the Dáil last week, the Tánaiste said the delays were frustrating and that there “needs to be a sense of urgency to solve the problem as quickly as possible”.

The debacle was raised by Galway West Deputy Catherine Connolly, who asked what hope the national children’s hospital had if modular theatres cannot be provided at Merlin Park.

As reported last week, the HSE has withdrawn from its contract with Falcon Healthcare to provide the modular theatres.

The original two theatres closed in September 2017 due to a leaking roof – one of those theatres underwent remedial works and re-opened, but ‘throughput’ has been cut by around one third, resulting in longer waiting lists.

The surgeries include complex joint replacements, spinal surgery, foot and ankle and shoulder surgery

Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív described the waiting list as “the worst backlog I have ever seen in my time in politics”.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Safety fears abound over Aran Island’s top attraction

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There appears to be no resolution in sight to address serious safety concerns at Inis Mór’s leading tourist attraction.

Galway West Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív told the Connacht Tribune that an issue related to parking for various modes of transport continued to frustrate residents and visitors to Inis Mór – and a solution must be found.

“This issue seems to be going on forever,” said Deputy Ó Cuív of the issues at Dún Aonghasa.

“There is a real danger given the large number of people that visit the area and what’s required is improved parking spaces for buses, horse carriages and bicycles at the entrance to the Dún Aonghasa site.

“It also needs to be taken into account that we need to separate horses from buses, and to separate those from cyclists and pedestrians,” said the Fianna Fáil TD.

The lack of sufficient parking was creating gridlock and posing a risk to people travelling the route, continued Deputy Ó Cuív who has called on the Minster of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW) to bring the interested parties together to hammer out a solution.

“I am calling on the Minister to convene a roundtable meeting between the island representatives, the OPW and the County Council together with the Department of Rural and Community Development to see how the matter might be addressed.

“I welcome that the present Minister visited the site last year and is aware of the issues, because everyone is very anxious that we get this sorted,” he said.

In a parliamentary question, Deputy Ó Cuív sought an assurance from the Minister of State, Patrick O’Donovan, that he would “organise a roundtable of people with the local authority and the local state-funded development organisation” to address safety concerns on the island.

Responding, Minister O’Donovan said the OPW was progressing a refurbishment of the visitor centre at Dún Aonghasa, while discussions were ongoing relating to traffic management outside the centre.

“I can assure the Deputy that the Office of Public Works will continue such engagement with local stakeholders, including the local authority, and to this end, a meeting will be convened in the coming months as previously agreed,” he said.

Deputy Ó Cuív said it was unfortunate that despite repeated calls for action, the Minister’s response suggested little progress had been made.

“There is a danger here to locals and tourists alike. It is a bad advertisement for the island the way it is at the moment, particularly as this is at one of the premier tourist sites in the country,” he said.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway Gardaí on high alert for Presidential visit

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Gardaí in Galway are on high alert for a visit to the West from the US President next month.

And while there has been no confirmation of dates yet, garda planning for a mid-April arrival is in full swing.

Cases at Derrynea District Court’s April sitting are being kept to a minimum as it is expected that gardaí will be otherwise detained, a sitting of the court heard this week.

Sergeant Damien Prendergast told Judge Mary Fahy that cases were being put out to May as it was anticipated there would be a “potential visit” from Joe Biden.

“I have been instructed to keep April free as there is a possible presidential visit,” said Sgt Prendergast.

The Connacht Tribune has learned that Galway gardaí are preparing for the visit to take place the week after Easter, with Derrynea Court due to sit on April 18.

The President’s itinerary is being kept under wraps, but a visit to his ancestral home in Co Mayo is highly likely – and the high degree of security required for such a visit is well underway.

It is understood that while there has been no indication that Galway will be on Mr Biden’s schedule, the county’s gardaí would likely be required to bolster security in the neighbouring county.

Judge Fahy, meanwhile, expressed concern about putting court cases back as a result.

“We’re then landed with a huge, big, long list then,” she said.

The US President’s visit was confirmed earlier this month. Mr Biden is expected to spend five days in the country, travelling north during the visit to mark 25 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

A Galway Garda spokesperson told the Tribune they were not in a position to confirm any details of their role at this point, nor could they indicate if the visit would take in any part of Galway.

“It’s very much an internal matter for the moment,” they said.

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Connacht Tribune

Lidl appeals planning refusal for Claregalway supermarket

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A discount supermarket has revealed it will fork out more than €1 million in wages annually if it gets planning permission to provide a new store in Claregalway.

According to Lidl, the decision by Galway County Council to refuse planning earlier this year on a site in the village centre – opposite the Summerfield – was based on “inaccurate assumptions and conclusions”.

The company has now appealed this decision to An Bord Pleanála and a decision on the matter is due at the end of July.

The development of the discount supermarket in Claregalway was rejected by Council planners on the basis that it would make an already chronic traffic situation in the village even worse.

There were more than 20 submissions to the plan by Lidl to establish a discount supermarket and the vast majority of these were in opposition to the proposed development.

Claregalway is one of the most traffic-choked villages in the country and local residents did not want another retail development that would add to the problems.

Tailbacks are a daily occurrence each morning and evening in particular and it was felt by local residents that the development of another supermarket would result in daytime congestion as well.

Planning permission was sought by Lidl for a discount supermarket and ancillary off-licence. It would be a part single and part two storey development in the village centre.

It would have involved the provision of a new access off the Galway road along with the modification of the existing footpaths to create a right turning lane to access the supermarket.

Galway County Council rejected the plan and apart from traffic issues, they cited historical flooding problems on the site and surrounding lands as also a reason for the refusal.

The planners also took issue with the absence of proposals relating to surface water measures on the site. They were not satisfied that the site is not at risk of flooding in the future.

According to Lidl, the store would create around 25 new jobs, generating €1.025 million per annum in wages while €1.5 million would be spent on the construction stage of the discount store.

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