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Bradley Bytes

The Nolans: Nuala the cougar, Derek the toy-boy?

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Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column by Dara Bradley

City Councillor Nuala Nolan was co-opted onto Galway City Council in 2011, taking over from the Labour Party representative, Derek Nolan.

Derek left the local authority after winning a Galway West seat in Dáil Éireann in that year’s General Election, following in the footsteps of Michael D Higgins, who stepped aside and went on to successfully contest the presidential election.

That much we know.

But the question our Nuala is asked most often by the electorate she serves in Galway since replacing her namesake, Derek, at City Hall is: “Are you Derek’s mother?”

That’s closely followed by, “Are you Derek’s aunt?”

“Are you Derek’s sister?” is the other query she hears regularly on the doorsteps, she tells us.

We wondered if any of them asked was she Derek’s other half; his better half?

“Are you suggesting I’m a cougar,” laughed Nuala, “and that he’s my toy-boy?” We wouldn’t dare!

Other than soldiering together for working people, we in Bradley Bytes can confirm there is no such amorous link between Derek and Nuala and that there’s no familial relationship between the two Nolan Comrades either.

Déjà vu on SQR revamp

The Seamus Quirke Road re-vamp, which was delayed by months and months and was way over-budget, was one of the most controversial capital investment projects to be undertaken in the city in recent years.

Not quite in the same league as the Eyre Square redevelopment, but a debacle worthy of infamy nonetheless. We won’t forget it in a hurry, that’s for sure, and its legacy lives on, with St Michael’s GAA  club still without a pitch.

The work dragged on for longer than we care to remember, causing tailbacks through Westside and driving business away from the area, and all for a couple of bus lanes and a few fancy cycle lanes. But it’s done and dusted now and we’ve all moved on, as you can tell.

Imagine the horror then when we spotted a City Council advert inviting tenders to carry out works including “a pavement overlay of 246 metres of the Seamus Quirke Road in Westside”.

Are they for real?

“They’ve only just finished it and now they’re going repaving it again,” was the general gist of what we thought, with expletives removed.

We should have given the roads section at City Hall some credit . . . they’re not that bad. We made enquiries, and, phew, they’re not re-doing the SQR that they’ve just finished. Apparently they’ve tendered for works to be carried out on a different part of SQR, which stretches from Browne roundabout towards the university. Panic over.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel. 

CITY TRIBUNE

RTÉ expenses’ exposé justifies TV licence fee

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Irish people have a love hate relationship with the national broadcaster. In keeping with our begrudging nature, we love to hate it. But, paradoxically, we have an ingrained affinity with it too. And for all its faults, it is ours. News and current affairs distinguish it from other channels.

RTÉ’s Irish language services – Radió na Gaeltachta and Nuacht TG4 – despite operating on shoe-string budgets compared with their English language counterparts in the same stable, are excellent and justify the licence fee.

So too does Prime Time Investigates. The only complaint you’d have with it, is there aren’t enough investigations by Prime Time.

That’s because journalism, particularly investigative journalism, takes time and money. And notwithstanding that they do pay their ‘stars’ too much, RTÉ is nearly always short of money.

Last week, RTÉ did the State some service with its exposé of the flawed expenses system for people elected to local authorities.

It was worthy of licence fee funding. One man who got full value from his TV licence fee, from the programme, was Galway City Councillor Declan McDonnell.

Without RTÉ Prime Time Investigates, we would not have known that he had repaid and refunded over-claimed expenses.

The ex-PD, who topped the poll as an Independent in City East at the most recent local election, didn’t feature on the TV programme but was one of many elected members named in an accompanying lengthy online article.

In it, Declan confirmed that he had over-claimed and refunded expenses relating to attendance in 2015 at a Committee of the Regions seminar in the Netherlands on Thursday, March 12, and a conference in Monaghan on the same day.

“I realised that when I completed the GCC form, I over-claimed one day and this has since been refunded to Galway City Council,” he said.

On another occasion, he told RTÉ he had made a mistake on a claim form submitted, and subsequently refunded a daily allowance of €33.61 to the City Council. This related to meetings in Leitrim and Roscommon on the same day in 2019.

A claim form indicated he had attended a planning meeting in Carrick-on-Shannon, and returned at 10pm on Friday April 5. Another claim form – related to a Committee of the Regions-related meeting, at the Northern and Western Regional Assembly in Ballaghaderreen – said he left home 11.30am on Friday, April 5, for a 2pm meeting, returning home at 5.45pm.

He explained to RTÉ: “Following discussions with my family, they have recalled that I left the conference in Carrick-on-Shannon early morning on April 5, 2019, to return home and deal with an urgent family matter. I then left Galway to attend the CoR meeting in Ballaghaderreen.”

The money amounts are quite small. And, Declan McDonnell was one of many highlighted in the investigation who had made mistakes claiming expenses.

A conscientious and experienced city councillor like Declan McDonnell would no doubt thank RTÉ for bringing it to his – and our – attention.

On a broader level, RTÉ deserves credit for investing time and money into shining a spotlight on an expenses’ system that nearly all councillors agree needs an overhaul.

(Photo: Councillor Declan McDonnell)
This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. To read more, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

History repeating in centenary commemorations controversy

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

History has a habit of repeating itself. And when it comes to commemorating centenaries, Official Ireland – and Official Galway – doesn’t learn from past mistakes.

In 2016, there was uproar locally over CIÉ’s refusal to return a plaque, which celebrates local 1916 Easter Rising hero, Éamonn Ceannt, to the façade of the wall outside the city centre train station that’s named after him.

And who could forget the furore over Galway County Council’s plans to commemorate Patrick Whelan? He was Galway’s only 1916 Rising fatality; he was also a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and so you could see how only celebrating a policeman who was shot and killed by Irish Volunteers, might be controversial.

In 2020, the then Mayor of Galway, Mike Cubbard, took a stand to boycott the planned national commemoration for RIC men and Dublin Metropolitan Police who died during the War of Independence.

Have we learned from these incidents? Have we heck!

On Saturday, the Crane Bar off Sea Road, played host to The Irish War of Independence Galway Centenary Conference, timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of when the truce was signed. Organised by military historian, Damien Quinn, it heard from 12 speakers, all experts in different aspects of that period in our history.

It was the sort of event Galway City Council could and should have proudly supported but didn’t.

Some individual councillors supported it. Mayor of Galway, Cllr Colette Connolly (Ind) launched it. Fianna Fáil councillor John Connolly was one of the speakers and gave an account of ‘The killing of Father Griffin’. Labour Councillor Niall McNelis also spoke and introduced the conference . . . he even donated €200 to cover some costs.

But the City Council Executive ignored it; the local authority gave no money and no other form of support.

In total, it cost about €700; much of this involved making a ‘digital book’ from recordings of the contributions. The Council ignored repeated requests for support, including a first approach in February.

We’re told that the City Council, in conjunction with the Galway City Creative Ireland Team, including the Council’s Heritage Officer, Jim Higgins, has developed the Decade of Centenaries programme. But unlike many other local authorities, they didn’t use an Open Call process to invite ideas from the public and community groups.

Our shared history belongs to the people, and yet City Hall, in its wisdom, excluded people from decisions on how and what was going to be commemorated. Will they continue to ignore the public for the upcoming Civil War centenary?

(Photo: Mayor of Galway, Colette Connolly, with Mick Crehan of the Crane Bar, military historian Damien Quinn, and Councillor Niall McNelis ahead of last weekend’s War of Independence conference. Galway City Council did not support it).
This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. To read more, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Govt. sells us a PUP on welfare fraud to deflect Covid shambles

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Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar, pictured in 2020 on the campaign trail with Galway West TD, Hildegarde Naughton, previously punched down on social welfare recipients. Similar rhetoric has emerged over PUP.

Bradley Bytes – A sort of Political Column by Dara Bradley

‘Welfare cheats cheat us all’ was a rather unfortunate campaign launched by former Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, when he was Social Protection Minister in 2017.

Officials in that Department subsequently admitted that using the words ‘welfare’ and ‘cheats’ in the same sentence was a mistake.

Not alone did it stigmatise people who were entitled to social welfare payments, it also over-emphasised the actual level of fraud in the system.

The Fine Gael leader rightly took some stick for it. Of course, it was right to a degree, welfare cheats do cheat us all. But for a person of privilege to punch down on people on pittance and cast suspicion on anyone in the Post Office queue for the social welfare payments was political opportunism at its most vile.

It was right up there with the anti-Traveller rhetoric espoused by Peter Casey during the Presidential election campaign in 2019.

This narrative is re-emerging with the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. Somehow it has become acceptable to turn our noses up at anyone on PUP; to assume that they’re scroungers who should be back at work; that they’re chancers earning more now than when they were employed pre-Covid.

With society already fraying since the lockdowns, it’s worth noting that thousands of people in Galway remain out of work and are on the PUP not by choice, but as a direct consequence of the Covid-19 crisis.

Many of them are in low-paid, underappreciated jobs, in the hospitality sector, who got another kick in the teeth last week with reopening delayed.

So, here’s some perspective. Galway Gardaí recorded two incidents of welfare fraud last year. That’s two out of 164 incidents of fraud in the entire Galway Garda Division.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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