A Galway TD has said the new Garda regional HQ building opposite GMIT is ‘hollow’ because of a lack of officers available to staff it.
Deputy Anne Rabbitte (FF) said the West of Ireland is being neglected in allocations of new Garda recruits.
She slammed the Government’s approach to Garda allocations as figures from the Department of Justice revealed that County Galway received just 36 new Garda recruits between January 2015 and January 2019.
“I have been calling for an increase in our Garda force for some time. This Fine Gael Government has abandoned rural Ireland. The effects of their policies have a detrimental effect on my constituency as our Garda force is drip-fed new Garda personnel over the past four years.
“In rural Ireland, people can feel vulnerable and their concerns increase when they do not notice a Garda presence in the area,” said Deputy Rabbitte.
The TD for Galway East said as a member of the County Joint Policing Committee (JPC), she was aware of the dearth of Gardaí in the Galway Division.
“To be fair to the Chief Superintendent, Tom Curley, at every JPC that I have attended in the last five years, as a TD and as a councillor, he brings up the lack of Gardaí at every quarterly meeting – the man is operating on an absolute shoestring.
“The figures make for alarming reading. Only 36 new recruits have been assigned to the Galway Division since 2015. This is far from good enough,” she said.
Deputy Rabbitte said there was a total of 789 Garda recruits who passed out of Templemore in 2018 – and only 16 of those were allocated to Galway.
“I know there is a lot going on in Dublin and there has to be a focus there, but there also has to be a regional balance.
“This Government doesn’t understand anything that goes on beyond the Pale,” said Deputy Rabbitte.
Due to the lack of bodies, Deputy Rabbitte said a Garda stationed in Portumna was expected to cover everywhere from ‘Banagher Bridge out to the sea in Kinvara’ – something she said was unacceptable.
Furthermore, she said the new Divisional Headquarters at Murrough in Galway City was a ‘great investment’, but the four-storey building was ‘hollow’ due to the lack of Gardaí available to staff it.
“There have been great specialist units set up there like the Protective Services Unit [for the victims of sexual assault], but they pull sergeants and Gardaí into work in those and they’re not being replaced,” said Deputy Rabbitte.
This was a problem right along the Western seaboard and something that required the immediate attention of the Minister for Justice, she continued.
“There is a major lack of resources in the Western region. Despite having a new Divisional Headquarters in Galway, we have no Garda dog unit and low Garda levels. In the wider region, Mayo has only received 18 new recruits since 2015, and in Roscommon-Longford, only 18 were assigned.
“I will be raising my concerns with the Minister for Justice to ensure the western region gets its fair share of security resources,” said Deputy Rabbitte.
Councillors offer support to LGBT+ centre for city
Councillors voted to include support for a resource centre for the wider gay community in the next development plan despite concerns that would amount to discrimination against groups lobbying for their own dedicated facilities.
Social Democrats Councillor Owen Hanley told a draft development plan meeting that Galway was the largest city in Ireland not to have a LGBT+ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender+) resource centre after Teach Solais closed in 2019 due to a lack of dedicated funding to meet operating costs.
A room was set up in the Westside Centre to hold certain activities organised by the community group Amach but a standalone resource centre was vital, he stated.
“It’s about sending a strong signal to the national government that we take this seriously,” he stressed.
Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind) said “many, many” organisations had approached her and other councillors requesting their own centre, among them the Indian and Muslim communities.
“I could name another ten,” she remarked. “Why would we specify a centre for a particular community that could discriminate against the Indian or Muslim community.”
She said support for a multi-functional community facility was preferable rather than designating a specific puspose.
Senior executive planner Helen Coleman agreed, saying the Council had no objection to a LGBT+ resource centre, it had a policy of supporting all community facilities collectively rather than singling out one “that would trump all others”.
Cllr Niall McNelis (Lab) asked what guarantee was there that a LGBT centre would be delivered, pointing out that a proposal for a western writers’ centre had been in three successive plans but it had never materialised.
Fianna Fáil’s Mike Crowe believed support for this facility did not rule out all others. He stressed that community centres could be used by all people in Galway, “no matter what race or creed you are”.
“I think this proposal is merited, it’s needed and required and parents around the county would appreciate it. It’s not that discriminate against other groups.”
On recommendation of the planners, Cllr McDonnell tabled a motion that the Council encouraged the provision of facilities to support all community groups, including the LGBT+ community.
Cllr Hanley said this would downgrade the objective contained in successive plans. He wanted to single out the objective as a standalone policy to elevate its importance. When that motion failed by seven votes, Cllr Hanley’s proposal was passed by unanimous agreement.
Plans afloat for another new bridge over Corrib
The next City Development Plan will pave the way for a new bridge across the Corrib at Newtownsmyth – in addition to the Salmon Weir Pedestrian Bridge which is due to begin construction later this year.
The Draft Plan, which was approved by councillors last week and will soon go on public display, includes a specific objective to “investigate the potential for the construction of a new pedestrian bridge from Gaol Road to Newtownsmyth”.
This, according to the plan, will contribute to the regeneration of Nun’s Island.
Cllr John Connolly (FF) raised the issue and said while it was welcome, it was something he was unaware of until councillors were presented with the plan.
Senior Engineer Uinsinn Finn said while the proposal was in its very early stages, a new bridge would encourage a greater modal shift – away from car dependency towards increased walking and cycling.
“The more bridges you have, the more encouragement you give to active modes of transport.
“There is no specific location for it as yet, but the objective is open-ended so that would allow for further investigation,” said Mr Finn, pointing to the former Hygeia Chemicals site as a regeneration project that could be augmented by the addition of a bridge.
The plan also includes for improved pedestrian crossing facilities adjacent to the existing Wolfe Tone Bridge and the progression of a pedestrian and cycle bridge on the Old Clifden Railway Line which could potentially link to the Greenway network.
“The proposed pedestrian and cycle bridge on the piers of the Old Clifden Railway line from Woodquay to NUI Galway will link places of study, work, retail and recreation by sustainable modes of transport, bringing vibrancy and new areas of public realm.
“The bridge, which has attracted Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) funding, will link in with the existing walking route along the River Corrib and ultimately the Connemara Greenway and also play a key role in connectivity in the GTS cycle network,” states the draft plan.
Search is on for Miss Galway as Ireland celebrate its 75th Diamond Jubilee
The current Miss Galway still has to jet back out to Puerto Rico for the second part of this year’s Miss World competition – but already the hunt is on for her successor!
Because while Pamela Uba still has most of her year to run as Miss Ireland, the organisers have announced the competition to find her heir apparent.
And as an added bonus, this next event marks the 75th Jubilee of the competition with plans for the largest and most spectacular show this summer.
Galway provided four of last year’s finalists – with Pamela joined by Miss Galway West 28-year-old Emma Finnegan from Clonberne; Miss Galway Bay 24-year-old Yvonne O’Brien, and Miss Salthill, 19-year-old Emma Pender.
But it was Pamela, the 26-year-old Renmore resident and medical scientist at Galway University Hospital, who went on to win the coveted Miss Ireland crown.
She has since featured prominently across media here and also made waves internationally, appearing on TV in Los Angeles, London, Johannesburg and even featuring in the New York Times.
Pamela spent a month in Puerto Rico representing Ireland at Miss World before Covid curtailed the pageant – and she is all set to jet back out there in March for the overall final.
“Puerto Rico is a gorgeous country, with blue water, water sands. I love the culture, the music, the food. The girls are lovely, I’ve made friends from places I’d have never thought,” she said.
And because of the virus outbreak which saw 15 staff and 23 of the contestants – though fortunately not Pamela – confirmed as Covid positive during the pageant, she now gets to do it all again!
“Who gets to represent their country twice?” she said.
“It’s a great blessing I get to do this again. I get the chance to go out again and with luck and God by our side we’ll do even better.”
But in the meantime, the organisers are stepping up the competition for her successor.
Selections will run all over the country to find contestants from each county with beauty, poise and personality to take part in the Miss Ireland 2022 competition next summer.
The winner from each county represents their county at the most spectacular ever Diamond Jubilee Miss Ireland show.
The winner of each of the county crowns and sashes also enjoy representing their county and title throughout the year at various events, awards and appearances.
This year’s winner will receive a lucrative agency contract and a host of prizes including jewellery, gowns, professional photo shoots, beauty and hair products and then jet off to represent her country at the Miss World Festival which is televised in over 100 countries around the world.
Full details on how to enter Miss Ireland 2022 are available on www.miss-ireland.ie or on the Miss Ireland App now available from Apple App Store or Google Play.