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Connacht Tribune

Traveller couple’s plea: ‘Save us from squalor’

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A Traveller couple living on a ‘tip’ of a halting site in County Galway have appealed to the authorities to find them a proper home.

Newlyweds Martin and Ann-Louise Ward say they are living in squalor at Capira temporary halting site in Portumna, despite Galway County Council recently carrying out an upgrade worth €125,000.

They are one of three families (eight adults and three children) living at the halting site because they say they have nowhere else to go. They have no use of shower facilities on-site, there is a sewage problem with the toilet facilities and a problem with rats.

The Capira temporary halting site in Portumna.

“There was construction work recently on the site and that has stirred up a rat problem. We are concerned that a nest of rats has been disturbed – we can hear them at night,” she said.

The Wards agreed they are living at the County Council site without authorisation but said they have nowhere else to go.

“We’ve effectively been homeless for two and a half years,” said Ms Ward.

She said they want to start a family but have had to delay it until they are housed. “The thought of putting children through this is unthinkable so it has been put on hold,” said Ms Ward.

“We don’t want to be here. We just want to settle down. The site is like a tip. We’ve cleaned it since the last tenants moved on to Dublin but it’s not a safe place to live in.

“The water isn’t drinkable – there’s a strange white chalk in it. We don’t have any shower facilities. If we want to wash we have to go to the nearby gym or we have to use the public showers at the Shannon. We don’t have a washing machine and we have to wash our clothes in the town once a week.

“During the snow and Storm Ophelia this year we had no electricity, it was so cold in the caravan. The site is neglected. I’m five foot two and the grass is up to my waist.

“We have asked Galway County Council but they said they cannot help us. We don’t want to be there but we’ve nowhere else to go. We are there illegally, none of us have a tenancy, but where else can we go? I want to be housed. I want a home. I’m from Tuam and my husband is from Galway City and all we want is somewhere to live and start a family,” she said.

Fiona Whyte has three children and a Traveller partner, who have been living at Capira for three months, having previously been on the side of the road in a caravan. Ms Whyte doesn’t have tenancy but doesn’t want to be there either. 

“It’s not safe for my children. I’ve a toddler and a child going to school and they can’t even go outside to play. The state of the place. The Council workers wouldn’t live here and yet they expect us to put up with these conditions. It’s not being maintained, there is construction going on here and it’s not safe. The water is contaminated. We’ve been on the waiting list for years. I need a house. I need a home. The Council just keep ignoring us,” said Ms Whyte.

A spokesperson for the County Council said stage One of works at Capira temporary halting site commenced earlier this year. These works involved converting two of the four existing welfare units to provide shower facilities and enhance the kitchen and dining area and toilet facilities, doubling the size of the welfare units.

The contract costs for these works was €125,000 and the works are now substantially complete, resulting in a significant improvement in facilities. The plan is, subject to funding from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, to advance stage two of the works over the coming months.

These proposed works include the renovation of the two remaining units to the standard provided by the works carried out in stage one, together with surface water drainage works and other site improvements.

The spokesperson added: “The responsibility for the maintenance of the site is a shared responsibility between the Council and the residents.

“The site can only be appropriately maintained with the input and co-operation of all the residents. There are currently a number of unauthorised occupiers on site and this has presented challenges in the Council’s ongoing efforts to manage and maintain the site.

“The water supply at the site is from a public mains. The Council has never received any prior reports of poor-quality supply, however, the issue will be referred to Irish Water.”

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Connacht Tribune

Thousands on waiting list for student accommodation in Galway

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The student housing crisis is ‘the worst it’s ever been’ – with thousands on waiting lists for rooms; hundreds relying on hostels and friends’ sofas; and countless more facing deferral or dropping out altogether.

The President of NUI Galway’s Students’ Union, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, told the Connacht Tribune that students had been left in a desperate situation, as she called for mass protests to have the issue addressed.

According to Ms Nic Lochlainn, 3,000 students were currently on the waiting lists for NUIG’s on-campus accommodation – Corrib Village and Goldcrest Village – with around 500 in line for any bed that might come up in the Westwood.

“Gort na Coiribe and Dunaras have told us their waiting lists are well into the hundreds too. I’ve only got to contact two of the hostels around town, but Kinlay and Snoozles have almost 200 students between them already – and they’re expecting more.

“The first years haven’t even arrived yet, and on top of all that, you have people in B&Bs and staying on their friends’ sofas,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn.

Pressure on the student rental market had been building for years, she said, but it had gone off the cliff edge this year as a perfect storm was created by increased student numbers and reduced bed availability.

“[Minister for Further and Higher Education] Simon Harris created new places on courses this year and talked about maximum access to education . . . I’m not sure how that works for students who are homeless.

“Because there weren’t many students around last year, some private landlords might have moved on. There was no new purpose-built accommodation delivered, and then Simon Harris creates new places with no new beds,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn of the causes of this year’s problems.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Government asked to “do everything” to ensure Intel chooses Oranmore as base

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The Taoiseach and Tánaiste will be asked to do “everything in their power” to ensure technology giant Intel selects Oranmore as the location for its new microchip manufacturing plant – which could create 10,000 jobs and transform the West of Ireland economy.

The 540-acre site is owned by the Defence Forces and was selected by IDA Ireland as the preferred site for the company’s new EU ‘chip’ base.

BY STEPHEN CORRIGAN
AND DARA BRADLEY

Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany and Intel confirmed to Taoiseach Micheál Martin that the site is under consideration.

Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said the development would be “transformative” and would be Intel’s largest microchip manufacturing plant in the world.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week, councillors backed a proposal from Cllr Liam Carroll to write to Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar to urge them to push forward the plan.

“This would be a game-changer, not just for Oranmore but for the whole of Connacht. Imagine 10,000 directly employed at some stage in the future, and the spinoff from that,” he said.

The Oranmore site is reported to have been selected ahead of three other locations in Ireland.

It is on Intel’s short-list for the proposed project, which would involve building eight factory modules on a single campus at the site off the M6 motorway, northeast of Oranmore, the newspaper reported.

The American multinational tech company has whittled down its short-list to 10 finalists; Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that if it proceeds, the new Oranmore ‘mega-fab’ would dwarf Intel’s existing site in Leixlip, which employs almost 5,000.

Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon (FG) said: “It would put Galway on the map internationally as a place for high-tech investment and it would serve to rebalance the economic imbalance that exists in our country where all of the weight is on the east coast.

“The IDA has a formula where every one new job created in that industry creates about eight or nine more jobs downstream in terms of the supply chain and services. They’re saying 10,000 jobs on site – twice the population of Athenry – on one campus and then another 80-90,000 jobs off site. The figures are phenomenal, mind boggling,” said Deputy Cannon.

The demand for the facility arose during Covid-19 when the supply chain between Asia and Europe broke down.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Fraudsters ‘spoof’ Galway Garda Station’s phone number

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Fraudsters replicated the phone number of Galway Garda Station and used it to call a local woman to demand money.

Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that the number ‘091 538000’ was somehow used by criminals who attempted to extract money – in the form of the online currency Bitcoin – from the victim.   Despite the phone call appearing to come from the Garda station at Mill Street, the woman became suspicious and reported it to Gardaí.

Sgt Walsh said it was the latest in a series of ‘spoofing’ phone calls to have occurred this year.

Spoofing is where fraudsters change the caller ID to ring unsuspecting members of the public to try to extract money or personal information off them.

He said that the number of spoofing incidents reported to Galway Gardaí has more than doubled in the past year.

“It is top of my agenda,” he said.

He pointed out that criminals can obtain a ‘ready to go’ phone and SIM card, relatively cheaply, and it was “very difficult” for Gardaí to trace the caller.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more details on fraud figures in Galway, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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