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Bradley Bytes

‘Tis thirsty weather for having a go at students

Dara Bradley

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Nice work if you can get it: President Michael D Higgins meets the Galway United players before the start of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division game against Derry City at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday night. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column by Dara Bradley

Niall McNelis’ sanctimonious tosh about alcohol is enough to drive anyone to drink.  The Labour Party city councillor was on the Joe Duffy show on RTÉ recently, banging on about students’ drinking habits and Rag Week and Donegal Tuesday and whatever you’re having yourself.

And with St Patrick’s Day looming, no doubt he’ll be finger-pointing again at young people who enjoy a beverage or two.

Cheap-shot student-bashing is populist and will get you plenty of airtime on the national broadcaster. It may even garner a few votes, too.

But you’d swear zero-craic McNelis was a teetotaller, who never indulged in a few scoops during his student days.

He’s towing the Labour line on all of this of course.

The party wants alcohol sponsorship in sport banned; price-fixing – or minimum pricing as they like to call it, which means we pay more for beer and wine; and warning labels and calorie counts on bottles and cans. He’s stopped short at calling for a Michael McDowell ‘café culture’ but, who knows, if it gets him some more radio exposure, McNelis may revive that idea.

Bradley Bytes does seem to recall downing a few pints with McNelis late in a city centre pub on the night/early morning he was first elected to Galway City Council.

Well able to throw them back, too, he was. And the only complaints about drink that night was whether we could get enough of the stuff.

Lovely Lorraine’s self-praise

Politicians want to be bearers of good news. If politicians deliver good news, they reckon that they’ll get a boost from the feel-good factor of being associated with that good news.

And if they’re associated with good news, the likelihood is a gullible electorate will think that the politician is responsible for the good news, as opposed to shamelessly attaching themselves to it.

Sometimes that bandwagon-hopping backfires.

Step forward Labour Party senator Lorraine Higgins who had quite a bit of egg on her face after making a balls of an attempt to be associated with good news.

Lovely Lorraine rushed on local radio, and announced on Twitter, how delighted she was that the Galway Mountain Rescue team was successful in bringing students to safety in Sligo.

A very good news story, you’ll agree.

Except it wasn’t the Galway Mountain Rescue who were involved in the rescue but their counterparts in the Sligo/Leitrim Mountain Rescue.

We hear Lovely Lorraine got a right tongue-lashing from members of Sligo/Leitrim Mountain Rescue, who were understandably upset at not getting the credit for risking their lives to save others.

Their Galway equivalent was apparently mortified at the praise, which in this case, wasn’t due.

Think before you tweet, Lorraine.

CITY TRIBUNE

Council’s ‘systematic neglect’ of Irish in Ireland’s bilingual city

Dara Bradley

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An Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnail, whose report was critical of Galway City Council.

Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Oifig an Coimisinéir Teanga, an office established to safeguard language rights, published its annual report for 2020 recently.

In it, Galway City Council was criticised for erecting a large number of Covid-19 signage last year, written in English only.

The investigation, which was used as an example in the annual report, was not new. It was covered in the Tribune in January, after the Council had its knuckles rapped.

But publication of the report by Rónán Ó Domhnaill highlights once again the general attitude of officialdom towards the Irish language.

Galway was declared a bilingual city by the local authority that didn’t bother to use Irish on its Covid-19 signs. What does that tell us?

Basically, that the cúpla focal are good for restaurant menus and street signs when we’re trying to shake down the Yanks for dollars, but Gaeilge is surplus to requirements when using signs to tell people how to stay safe when there’s a killer virus on the loose.

The Council put its hands up when An Coimisinéir Teanga launched an investigation following a complaint made in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

And after the annual report was published, it even sent its Irish-language officer onto the airwaves of RnaG to declare “tá sorry orm” on behalf of the Council.

The Council argued, as a mitigating factor, that breaches of the Official Languages Act occurred when it was, “operating under unprecedented circumstances in the middle of a global health pandemic which resulted in a significant percentage of our staff operating remotely in crisis-management mode”.

Far from mitigating, it actually just made it worse. If the State won’t communicate with you in your native tongue during a global crisis, when will it respect your rights?

You could argue, ‘why burden the Council with red tape about bilingual signs during Covid?’ But doing it correctly and not breaching the Act, was just as easy. We see bilingual Covid signage all the time now. Why not do it right in the first place?

An Coimisinéir Teanga’s investigation found: “The erection of bilingual signage was simply omitted. This failure was caused by systematic neglect in the administrative practices of the City Council in relation to language legislation.”

Systematic neglect, no less; in other words, they couldn’t be arsed about Irish.

Unless, of course, it’s useful for winning Capital of Culture designations or wooing American tourists. City Hall is all about Gaeilge then.

(Photo: An Coimisinéir Teanga, Rónán Ó Domhnail, whose report was critical of Galway City Council).
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

Pedestrianisation plan was missing one thing – a plan!

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

On the last two weekends of August 2019, Brendan McGrath, Chief Executive of Galway City Council gave his blessing to the Westend Traders organisation to temporarily pedestrianise Dominick Street Upper.

The street from Monroe’s to Bierhaus was cordoned off to traffic from 7pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for two successive weekends. Dubbed a ‘pilot’ scheme, it was hailed a success by local businesses.

And, in fairness, it was a success. The closure facilitated on-street furniture, and a party atmosphere ‘back the West’. It was the place to be; a new rival to the Latin Quarter.

The trial gave a flavour of the potential to ‘re-imagine the public realm’, as the City Hall engineers would say.

There was one problem, though – the Council didn’t tell anyone in advance. Either they forgot, or couldn’t be bothered, but the local authority gave the go-ahead for the temporary street closure without consultation. There was no statutory road closure issued, which requires public notices to be published, and a period of public consultation. Residents weren’t asked.

Brendan McGrath just gave the nod, and it happened. A Council spokesperson at the time told this newspaper that Gardaí had been consulted; Mr McGrath had “no objection”.

Some residents made a fuss. They were annoyed, not by the closure per se, but for being bypassed.

It’s hard to believe that the Council learned nothing from that trial run. Almost two years on and the latest pedestrianisation “plan” has been haphazard.

True, there was an over-reaction online. Social media was a feeding frenzy. Some abuse directed at City Hall was not on. But it must take responsibility.

The Council had since August 2019 to prepare for pedestrianisation of Dominick Street Upper. It had months to prepare for the Government’s much-heralded ‘outdoor summer’.

And yet it failed to publish a coherent plan for the Westend, and it failed to consult in a meaningful way with residents. Ditto with Woodquay.

Credit to those at City Hall who at least tried to make something happen to benefit businesses; better than doing nothing. But there have been too many mistakes, too much confusion.

When the Council published public notices about its intention to make Dominick Street Lower a one-way and close to traffic at night Dominick Street Upper, the advert mixed up the streets.

Then there were mixed signals about which way they wanted the one-way system to operate. Inbound or outbound, nobody really could say definitively.

Emergency services – quite legitimately – raised official objections last week on health and safety grounds. That ultimately scuppered the guts of the proposals for both Dominick Streets.

What nobody has adequately explained is why were these organisations not consulted, and onboard, before the plan – such as it was – was leaked and before public notices were published signalling the intention to close roads.

The Small Crane and William Street West were included, then excluded and then back in again. Galway City Council over-promised. Businesses spent money on furniture based on those promises, which turned out to be undeliverable.

It all smacks of ‘back-of-a-cigarette-packet planning’ that changes depending what mood Twitter is in. It leaves a sour taste in those outdoor pints on a partially pedestrianised Westend!
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

Government is taking city renters for a ride

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

A three-bedroom townhouse on Presentation Road was advertised on Daft.ie in May with a monthly rent of €2,400. That’s two thousand four hundred euro – per month!

Now, it looked very nice and modern and it was brand spanking new. And it is in a lovely convenient location, a hop, skip and a jump from Shop Street.

For the same price you could rent a two-bed terraced property at Long Walk, also advertised on Daft.ie. So, one less bedroom but you have the added bonus of fantastic views of Claddagh and Nimmo’s Pier to compensate.

But an annual rent of almost €30,000 for a three-bed or two-bed city centre house is out of reach for most people. Who can afford €2,400 per month?

Experts say that you should spend no more than 30% of your gross income on rent. In order to keep to this rule, you’d need to be pulling in well over €7,000 per month, or more than €90,000 per annum.

Suffice to say they won’t be occupied by teachers, or Gardaí, or nurses or most ordinary hard-working single people. Even for couples, that’d be expensive.

And with rents like that, it’s easy to see why practitioners in other better-paid professions are struggling to rent while also saving for mortgages.

Average rents in Galway city are now €1,400, according to the latest Daft.ie report. That’s up by 6.1% year-on-year.

Average rents for a one-bed (€1,040), two-bed (€1,145), three-bed (€1,288), four-bed (€1,488) and five-bed (€1,627) have increased by between 2.4% and 7.3% in 12 months.

Obviously the two properties on Daft.ie cited above are above-average, primarily because of their location. But even the average rents for average houses in average locations are far in excess of what average people can afford.

Even renting a room has escalated. The average rent for a single room in the city centre is €460, up 18.6% in a year; it is €544 on average for a double room, up 16.2%.

These are supernormal profits. And that’s in a year when student demand was suppressed due to Covid-19, and competition from Airbnb rentals is down because there are few tourists. What will it be like when we get back to ‘normal’?

Galway Simon has consistently highlighted the problem of homelessness and lack of housing supply – and has predicted it will get worse.

Galway city is a Rent Pressure Zone. That’s supposed to mean annual rents can’t rise by more than 4%. The statistics prove otherwise. In reality, what it means is that everyone renting within the zone is under pressure.

The Government must act. If it doesn’t, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens will discover that there’s an inverse relationship between the cost of renting in Galway city, and their popularity in elections.

(Photo: The CEO of Galway Simon, Karen Golden. Based on rental costs in Galway, her predictions that homelessness will increase make sense).
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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