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Tides blamed as €9,000 beach mats in Galway lie unused


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Tides blamed as €9,000 beach mats in Galway lie unused Tides blamed as €9,000 beach mats in Galway lie unused

Equipment purchased to enable wheelchair access to Galway City beaches – which remain unused in storage – cost more than €9,000 of public money.

Galway City Council purchased three Mobi-Mats at a cost of €2,149 per mat, which each measured 5ft x 50ft.

The mats were to be deployed at city beaches, to enable wheelchair access as well as for people with disability and reduced mobility.

But they are redundant, and in storage in Leisureland.

In addition to the mats, the purchased two “bespoke” advertising mat panels to go with the mats. They cost €508 each.

In total, according to invoices released to Galway City Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI), a total of €9,030.23 was paid by Galway City Council for the equipment, which it no longer uses.

Former mayor of Galway, Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind) had lobbied to secure funding for the equipment, which was trialled in Salthill in 2021.

He said at the time the mats would enable wheelchair users and walkers easy access to the sandy areas of beaches.

But City Hall management has confirmed to the Tribune that the mats were no longer being used as they were less appropriate than other solutions.

The Council said it bought the mats “to enable accessibility for disabled users” of beaches. But “due to tidal conditions” it “has not proven possible to leave mats in situ during the bathing season”, as it took “considerable work” to deploy them.

“Upon further review and with the development of more appropriate solutions” it was decided to source a different solution,” a local authority spokesperson said.

Access for All Galway, an organisation that lobbies for better access for people with disabilities, said it was “unconscionable” that city beaches were inaccessible to people in wheelchairs, “when we actually have the equipment in storage to make it possible”.

“Imagine not ever being able to go to the beach? The city should be making it easier, not harder, for disabled people for whom just getting up out of bed can be a triumph,” Access for All said.

Since abandoning the mats, the City Council has purchased wheelchairs with balloon wheels that it claimed were a more “appropriate” solution to facilitating beach access.

The more than €9,000 spent on the redundant mats included VAT.

It was paid to a Belfast company, John Preston and Co Ltd.

Documents released under FOI revealed that it was the “only supplier of this equipment in the Irish market”.

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