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Thousands in city protest march over water charges

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The crowds taking part in the water charges protest march through the city centre on Saturday. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

The estimate of protestors who braved heavy downpours on the streets of Galway last Saturday to voice their disquiet at water charges ranged from 2,500 to 10,000.

“A carnival of resistance,” is how Dette McLoughlin of the organisers Right2Water Galway described the atmosphere at the rally which featured Mrs Brown, poetry readings and a humorous song to Enda Kenny, courtesy of community actor Riona Hughes.

The protest kicked off at the Spanish Arch at 1pm where a ‘barbecue’ of the Irish Water application packs took place. Initially the group marching through the town numbered in the region of 1,500 but according to the organisers grew to an estimated 4,000 as it marched through the streets, where it was joined by shoppers and bystanders.

By the time it reached Eyre Square, organisers claimed up to 10,000 had gathered, with groups from across Connemara and beyond, though other estimates placed the crowd at considerably less than that. It was one of 100 throughout the country, with as many as 100,000 said to have taken part nationally.

The rain did keep many at bay, including one man who paid for the leading banner in memory of his mother who died aged 100 a fortnight ago.

“It was certainly the biggest protest in recent years, the weather was unfortunate as many elderly and wheelchair-bound people had to send their apologies which was a real shame,” said Dette McLoughlin.

“Our youngest protestor was six weeks old, which shows that this issue affects everyone from the cradle to the grave. They were there because they know this is wrong. There was a real sense of community spirit, some of the costumes, puppets and placards were so inventive.

“While it was fun to be there, there was a real resolute atmosphere and the message was really, really clear aimed at the Government – abolish water charges, dissolve Irish Water and don’t dare privatise our water.”

Ms McLoughlin was MC at the rally and speakers included Sean Byrne or the We Won’t Pay campaign, Suzanne Daly of Right2Water Galway, with poetry from Sarah Clancy, Anne Irwin and music from Queen Elvis.

The next national event planned in the campaign is outside the Dáil on December 10, with campaigners subsidising buses for those who wish to attend.

“We have to up the pressure, we can’t allow this to continue. In January the meters are going to be turned on. There is a real feeling out there we can win this campaign together and start reclaiming what we’ve lost over the last six years.”

Connacht Tribune

Coffins have to brought by tractor over flooded North Galway road

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Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) and Cllr Peter Keaveney (FG) at the Creggs road out of Glenamaddy where flooding occurs on an annual basis.

Annual flooding on a stretch of road in North Galway requires the necessity for a tractor and trailer to bring the remains of a deceased person from the area to the local cemetery.

This was the claim at a local area meeting when it was demanded that Galway County Council carry out flood relief works on the road near Glenamaddy which is left under several feet of water every winter.

It resulted in Cllr Peter Keaveney tabling a motion at the Ballinasloe Municipal Council meeting that essential drainage works take place along the Roscommon road out of the town now that water levels are low. He wants this carried out within the next two weeks.

During one of the worst winters in recent years, the road was closed for three months and the Fine Gael councillor and agricultural contractor said that he pulled around 20 cars out of the flooded stretch when motorists decided to take the chance of driving through it.

Even in drought conditions, the levels remain incredibly high and this is mainly down to a local turlough that retains water throughout the year.

While he said that Galway County Council officials were extremely helpful, the problem lay with the Office of Public Works who would not allow drainage works as the road is situated in a Special Area of Conservation.

Senior Executive Engineer Damien Mitchell informed the meeting that Galway County Council are in a position to carry out some works but there are certain areas that only the Office of Public Works can drain.

Mr Mitchell said that the best way forward was a co-ordinated approach involving the County Council and the OPW while accepting that there was a major problem with flooding along this road.

In response, Cllr Keaveney said that this was a very acceptable move and added that a joint approach to the flooding in Glenamaddy was required at this stage and particularly with the winter approaching.

Williamstown’s Cllr Declan Geraghty said that residents were living in hell as some of them saw their houses destroyed by rising flood waters near Glenamaddy.

“There are even deceased people being brought by tractor and trailer to be buried which is an absolute disgrace. There is an opportunity to do this now or otherwise we are looking at flooding for the next 10 years.

“People have put everything into their homes only to see them destroyed when it comes to prolonged heavy rainfall.

“There is a solution to this problem and environmental issues should not take precedence,” he added.

The Independent councillor said that raising the level of the road, which leads to Creggs and onto Roscommon, was not the answer to the problem because the levels were so high.

Galway County Council have carried out several surveys of the area around the flooded road and officials told previous meetings that, subject to approval from the OPW, there was an engineering solution possible.

(Photo Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) and Cllr Peter Keaveney (FG) at the Creggs road out of Glenamaddy where flooding occurs on an annual basis.)

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CITY TRIBUNE

New fire station for Athenry gets stamp of approval

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Councillors have given their stamp of approval to a new fire station for Athenry – voting unanimously to grant planning for the development at Ballygarraun South.

The site of just under two acres, located between the new Presentation College and the railway line, will house a station as well as a training tower and parking.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Duffy told a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week that they hoped to have a contractor appointed by the end of October, with works to get underway soon afterwards.

“We have worked very hard to get this project to a tangible position and it’s great that the ‘Part 8’ planning application [one which requires a vote by councillors] has been adopted today,” said Mr Duffy.

“This will hopefully get underway this year and we can move on to other stations [in the county], with another one planned for next year and another the year after,” he added.

The plans include the construction of a 361 square metre fire station with finishing materials common to the area which ‘will link the development on the site to the context overall’.

Permission has been granted from the IDA, which owns the site, for Galway County Council to proceed with the development on their lands.

The meeting heard that consideration had been given to the sightlines for exiting fire trucks and that amendments had been made to the original plans to ensure they were adequate.

Local area councillor Gabe Cronnelly (Ind) said the progression of a new fire station for the town was hugely welcome, adding that it had been years in the making.

“We have to give huge credit to Paul Duffy who pursued this. Athenry is one of the busiest stations in the county. We secured an extension for the existing station six years ago and when the Department was granting that, they could see that, from the amount of calls it was getting, that a new station was justified,” said Cllr Cronnelly.

Cllr Shelly Herterich Quinn (FF) said she was ‘delighted’ that the area’s representatives had given the proposal their unanimous backing.

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Connacht Tribune

Teen arrested over €45,000 cocaine seizure

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Gardaí have seized €45,000 of what they believe to be cocaine in Ballinasloe.

Gardaí attached to Ballinasloe Garda Station conducted an intelligence-led operation in the Dunlo Harbour area of the town yesterday.

During the course of this operation a quantity of suspected cocaine, estimated to be worth €45,000, concealed on derelict grounds was seized.

A male in his mid-teens was arrested at the scene and detained at Ballinasloe Garda Station on Sunday.

He has since been released with a file being prepared for the Garda Youth Diversion Office.

The focus of Operation Tara is to disrupt, dismantle and prosecute drug trafficking networks, at all levels.

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