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Travellers’ tour costs City Council €100,000

Stephen Corrigan

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Travellers who have been on the move around Galway City over the past number of months have cost the council in excess of €100,000 in legal and security fees – a spokesperson for Galway City Council has confirmed.

This figure looks set to rise as the travellers who were, until recently, situated in Ballyloughane moved to an area of land on the edge of the Fearann Rí estate in Doughiska, adjacent to Merlin Park.

As of yesterday, a week since the first families arrived, seven caravans were parked on the site – described as a slip road into the Merlin Woods.

The spokesperson for the council said that the issue has been before the Circuit Court several times over the past few months.

“Going to the Circuit Court is never inexpensive,” he said. “We have been to the Circuit Court five times in recent months in relation to the issue of illegal encampment.”

Cllr Mike Crowe has called on the travellers to obey the terms of a High Court Injunction – granted to Galway City Council three weeks ago – banning them from setting up camp on any council owned or controlled property.

The Fianna Fáil councillor believed that travellers were only making an already precarious situation worse by breaching the terms of the order – as the council tries to earmark a suitable location for a halting site.

“Let’s be honest, no councillor or no neighbourhood will want a halting site next to them,” said Cllr Crowe. “The actions of these travellers will only make that harder.”

Cllr Crowe said that travellers need to work with the council to find an appropriate and long-term solution.

“The first thing that has to happen is that members of the travelling community cannot keep moving.

“None of these estates are equipped for a halting site; it raises the ire of residents and results in complaints to the councillor, to me in this case, and ends up back in the courts,” he said.

The only legal option left open to the council now is committal orders against those involved, which would result in prison sentences being handed down – an option which Cllr Crowe claimed the “vast majority of people wouldn’t want to see.”

On Wednesday, an audit was carried out by the council and when a report is complete, a decision will be taken on the next course of action.

“We are looking at the situation and we will continue to pursue it,” said the spokesperson. “We wish we didn’t have to – we wish we didn’t have to expend finances from budgets in housing and parks on this.”

Cllr Crowe said that the residents of Fearann Rí have had a long battle on their hands to develop what was “one of the only areas of Galway left in a bad way following the economic collapse.”

“For that reason, we are very protective of it – to disregard all that hard work is totally unacceptable,” he said.

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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