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Bradley Bytes

Unintended consequences of NUIG’s chilling legal letter

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Did I back the wrong one?

Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column by Dara Bradley

More rumblings of discontent over at the Quadrangle.  As if NUI Galway hasn’t enough bad publicity on its plate, this week it was confirmed its legal eagles sent a missive to an American-based host of a campaigning, often critical, blog.

NUIG has threatened to sue for defamation, Automattic Inc, the company that owns WordPress.com, which is the providers of the blog michelinesthreeconditions.wordpress.com.

The ‘three conditions’ campaign is supported by some students, past and present, as well as some current and former staff.

It seeks to highlight gender discrimination issues at NUIG and offers three solutions as to how the third level institute could clean-up its act in relation to the promotion of women staff members.

It has the backing of Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, a former lecturer who won an Equality Tribunal case against NUIG for gender discrimination.

The blog highlights her case. And it also supports five more women who were short-listed and deemed eligible but who, like Sheehy Skeffington in 2009, were not promoted.

This ‘famous five’ are pursuing the matter, with the help of Sheehy Skeffington’s €70,000 damages.

You’ve probably already guessed it but for the avoidance of doubt the blog is not very complimentary of NUIG or its management and by association its president, Dr Jim Browne.

NUIG is a sensitive institution that doesn’t like criticism, regardless of whether it’s for its own good in the long-run and in the public interest.

You’ll recall two months ago there was a censorship hullabaloo made by NUIG’s Students’ Union president, Phelim Kelly.

He said he was “extremely frustrated” with university authorities, who put obstacles in the way of the organisers of the Secret Cartoonist exhibition the SU was organising.

It contained close-to-the-bone satirical cartoons that poked fun at a fictional university president and gender inequality issues.

But even allowing for NUIG’s reaction to the exhibition, and taking into account that it gets prickly when less than complimentary things are said about it, it is still a surprise NUIG has decided to pursue the legal route to remove one particular blog post, which it says includes remarks which are “clearly seriously damaging” to the institution.

Skeffington Sheehy is said to be “horrified” by the “ludicrous” legal proceedings.

NUIG protests it is protecting its reputation. Supporters of the blog and campaign say the university is attempting to shut them down.

Universities are supposed to be guardians of free speech. One consequence of this High Court defamation threat could be the chilling effect it will have on NUIG’s critics.

But there are always unintended consequences. And so not only has NUIG’s legal threat been highlighted in media this week, publicity it would prefer to do without, it has also inadvertently increased awareness of michelinesthreeconditions.wordpress.com.

And it’s emboldened the campaign – if NUIG’s actions do close the blog, its supporters have vowed to take to social media to continue spread their gospel.

McNelis kiss of death for leadership hopefuls

While we’ll stop short of calling Labour Party City Councillor Niall McNelis a ‘loser’, he sure does know how to back one.

When the knives came out for Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, McNelis, and his then colleague, Galway West TD, Derek Nolan, were busy backing Alex White to take over.

McNelis backed the wrong horse. Joan Burton won that particular heave.

And when the knives came out for Joan, and she stepped aside, after a disastrous general election for the party, McNelis was rowing in behind deputy leader, Alan Kelly, to replace her, as our photo shows.

McNelis backed the wrong horse again.

Brendan Howlin took the hot-seat, leaving Kelly humiliated, and throwing a tantrum.

Given Howlin’s below-bar performance since taking the hot-seat, it probably won’t be long before Labour dumps him too. Maybe then McNelis will be lucky the third time, and actually back the right leader.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

 

CITY TRIBUNE

Classy Clodagh will need to know her ABCs when she takes mayoral chains

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Councillors will resume deliberations on the City Draft Development Plan in June. And if the recently-agreed County Development Plan is anything to go by, Mayor in Waiting (MIW) Clodagh Higgins will need to have her ABCs in order to deal with the baptism of fire awaiting her.

Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column by Dara Bradley

Galway City Councillors will resume deliberations on the Draft City Development Plan in June, which means two things: long meetings and an even longer list of abbreviations.

The former is a given when rezoning of land is at play; the latter is also likely if the City Plan mirrors the recently-agreed County Development Plan which contained an alphabet soup of shortened phrases.

From ABTA (Area Based Transport Assessment) to MASP (Metropolitan Area Strategic Plan), NWSMP (National Wastewater Sludge Management Plan) to GCTPS (Galway County Transport and Planning Study), and GCMA (Galway County Metropolitan Area) to UFP (Urban Framework Plan) to name but a few, County Councillors were bombarded with shorthand as they compiled a new Development Plan.

And that’s before you mention the myriad of organisations OPR (Office of Planning Regulator), OPW (Office of Public Works), NTA (National Transport Authority), TII (Transport Infrastructure Ireland) who were making submissions about MAs (Material Alterations), WWTP (Waste Water Treatment Plants), LAPs (Local Area Plans), and LTP (Local Transport Plans) etcetera.

County Councillors needed qualifications in abbreviations and gobbledegook just to keep up with it all; many are now suffering a sort of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and the DTs (Delirium Tremens) or AWD (Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium) since they finalised the plan, but that’s all due to withdrawal from abbreviations rather than alcohol.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Apology means invite ‘snub’ is water under the bridge!

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

As apologies go, this was fairly grovelling. An admission, too, that all is not well in the corridors of power at City Hall.

Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, this week wrote an apology to councillors, who felt snubbed for not being invited to a sod-turning event in the city. Though he took full responsibility, he also confirmed that staff turnover at College Road contributed to the error.

Here’s the low-down. On Tuesday, April 26, Minister Hildegarde Naughton, with shovel in hand for the cameras, officially turned the sod to signify construction was beginning on the new Salmon Weir pedestrian bridge. The City Council was a part-funder of the project, but Councillors were not invited to the ceremony; a big break in tradition.

It’s the custom that the democratically elected representatives of the people are invited to the opening of envelopes. Sod-turnings are big business in the world of local politics and to snub councillors, by not inviting them, is akin to heresy in this game.

Procedure committee meeting minutes show that former Mayor, Frank Fahy (FG), chair of the Council’s Transport Strategic Policy Committee, requested an apology for not getting invited to the bridge bash. And McGrath duly obliged.

“I apologise to you that you were not invited to the event,” Brendan began. “I also apologise to all city councillors who did not receive an invitation. All councillors should have received an invitation to the sod-turning. I apologise for any annoyance that the omission, for which I take full responsibility, may have caused to you and other members of the City Council.”

The CE blamed Covid-19 and “significant turnover in staff” for “an outflow of corporate memory regarding events”.

Sod-turnings haven’t happened since before Covid-19, he said. And the Council hasn’t updated its procedures around such events since Covid-19. “As a direct consequence of staff turnover and the lack of an updated written procedure, councillors, erroneously, were not informed of the event.”

Offering again his “sincere apologies and regret for the omission”, he promised that “where such events take place in the future, councillors will be informed and will be invited to attend”.

The apology means the Salmon Weir saga is now water under the bridge. But some councillors remain miffed about another, separate snub. Elected members claimed not to have been invited to the unveiling of Patricia Forde’s poetry plaque on Church Lane/Market Street during the Cúirt International Festival of Literature in April.

They’re still waiting for the Council to say ‘sorry’ for that, ahem, oversight.

(Photo: Minister Hildegarde Naughton TD with City CE Brendan McGrath as she turned the sod on the Salmon Weir pedestrian bridge. The CE subsequently wrote to the chair of the Council’s Transport SPC Frank Fahy as he, along with other councillors, had not been invited to the event).

This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. See this week’s Galway City Tribune for more. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

The top three worst junctions in Galway City!

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Let’s face it, Galway wasn’t built for cars. It’s not particularly friendly for pedestrians or cyclists either. The Galway City Ring Road may help – if it’s ever built. And some minor improvements are being made to encourage cycling and more walking. The Bypass project is very controversial and we won’t rehash the arguments here. But change is difficult, even minor change. So reducing speed limits in Renmore might seem sensible to planners sitting at a desk, but it isn’t necessarily welcomed by those living in the area who have to navigate the change. It’s the same with cycling infrastructure. Everyone favours cycle lanes until these take away on-street parking from outside their home, or along the Prom.

Whether you travel by private car, bus, bicycle or foot, there are several junctions and stretches of road or footpath that drive us all cracked.

Here are three of the worst, in descending order, marked on a scale of one-to-ten, with 10 being the worst.

Feel free to email your own worst junctions.

3) Kirwan Junction 

No prizes for guessing one of the top-three most awful junctions in Galway City is the Kirwan Junction, the most talked about since the shambles of a changeover of the Moneenageisha Roundabout to “intelligent traffic lights” a decade ago.

The new Kirwan has attracted an avalanche of complaints – formally to the Council but also on social media and anecdotally. Most people are angry that the junction has made tailbacks worse, not better.

And even cyclists and pedestrians aren’t pleased with it – improvements for these users had been one of the selling points when a majority of Councillors voted for change.

Senator Ollie Crowe (FF) has repeatedly complained about the new junction, and in November called for a full audit to be carried out on this and other junctions where tailbacks are regularly reported.

Galway County Councillor James Charity (Ind) described the new junction as “nothing short of a disaster”, which was causing tailbacks on the N84 Headford Road. He told planners to ‘go back to the drawing board’ to improve the flow of traffic at Kirwan.

Rating: 7/10

This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. See the May 6 edition of the Galway City Tribune for more. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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