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Up to 80 city shops now empty

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

Around 80 retail units in Galway City are lying empty, with the prospect of further closures after the January sales, a city businessman has warned, while Galway Chamber has said that jobs will be lost unless people ‘shop local’ this Christmas.

Councillor Niall McNelis, who runs two businesses in the city centre, said that the City Council, landlords and banks need to “change their ways” if businesses are to survive.

He called on the Council to introduce free parking on weekday mornings in order to attract shoppers. Otherwise, he said, the first three months of next year could be a “bloodbath” with job losses and business closures.

“It is so important that businesses stay open. You hear of factories closing with big job losses, but you rarely hear about the small retailers that disappear. But you have to remember that each small business might mean at least three jobs,” said Cllr McNelis.

“The Council should introduce free parking, say from 9am to noon on Monday to Thursday. At the moment, their carparks are lying empty, they’re down €1m on parking revenue in the past year. If people aren’t spending money, businesses aren’t paying rates to the Council, and then roads aren’t being swept or bins emptied.

“January, February and March will be a bloodbath, so the Government needs to look at some sort of incentive in the Budget next week for businesses.

“You can see a lot of people are already struggling, and we’re [his two businesses] are finding it hard too. It’s happening across the board.

“Developers bought premises around the city centre at the height of the boom for stupid money, and they are under pressure from the banks to make repayments, so they won’t reduce rents. Then you have empty units,” said Cllr McNelis.

He said that during the Summer, he counted 64 empty retail units in the city, and this figure is now likely to be closer to 80. Despite the closures, he stressed Galway is still an excellent shopping location.

“I would sing Galway’s praises. There is still brilliant choice in Galway. We have great shops like Brown Thomas and Anthony Ryans, and smaller retailers. Born is one of the coolest shops in the country, that’s why Galway is so good,” said Cllr McNeils.

He said that Dublin City Council has made 3,500 parking spaces available free each day, and that Galway should follow suit.

“If people support Galway and shop local, remember that these local businesses are the ones that sponsor local events and give donations,” said Cllr McNelis.

He added that the Government decision to ban ‘upward only’ rent reviews from next February was welcomed. Deputy Frank Fahey said the ban would reduce pressure on businesses in the city.

Michael Coyle, Chief Executive of Galway Chamber told the Galway City Tribune that jobs are seriously at risk unless people shop locally.

“These are exceptionally difficult economic times we’re in. People need to understand that our ‘Shop Galway’ campaign isn’t about lining the pockets of traders. It’s about saving jobs. Unless people spend locally, the people they see in shops around town and in shopping centres will lose their jobs,” said Mr Coyle.

He said that the City Council’s response to their request to discount parking for the Festive season was “disappointing”.

“We’ve called on the Council and private carpark operators to support the business community by discounting charges, to boost trade. The Council’s response has been disappointing. If Dublin City can introduce a suspension of the ‘bus gate’, then we should be discounting or free parking here. It would definitely have an impact,” he said.

He said that commercial rates as well as high rents were also a major burden on retailers. The business chief said the Government needs to provide ‘risk capital’ to banks, similar to in the 1980s, so funding would be available to struggling businesses.

“It’s a difficult situation for all concerned. Banks are cautious about lending to businesses with deteriorating trade, and the businesses cannot survive without a higher overdraft.

“What is at risk is our current employment base, and the Government have an onus to protect jobs,” he said.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Ruby ready to rock again and Bob is worth a big flutter in Gold Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 06-Mar-2013

New edge to Galway hurling championship title pursuit

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A battle of talent and the ability to pull in public votes

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 11-Mar-2013

Here is a question. And there is no holiday or grand prize for getting the answer. But can anyone name the people who have won The Voice of Ireland and what has become of them?

Over across the water in the UK they have The X Factor and while I hate the concept of it, it has produced a few stars even though they don’t last long in the whole scheme of things.

But The Voice of Ireland seems to generate false excitement with the winner ending up become more anonymous than they already were. And it is costing families a fortune in the process.

While the programme is a ratings winner, strangely, it has resulted in those getting through to the final stages investing huge amounts of money in the hope that they will receive enough votes to get through to the next stages.

So, suddenly, it is not about the voice or the talent involved, it is all about votes and who the participants can convince to pledge their support for them. So it is obvious that talent goes out the window.

It means that someone with half a talent could realistically win the whole thing if they generated enough support behind them. From now on, the judges will be taken out of the equation and it will be left to the public to generate income for some phone operator.

Those who get through to the live performances have to engage in a massive publicity campaign in an effort to win votes which makes this whole effort a pure sham. It is no longer about their ability and just an effort to win appeal.

While the initial process does involve some vetting of the acts, now it becomes a general election type exercise in which the most popular will win the competition and the judges will have no say whatsoever.

It is a bit like the recent Eurosong in which the judging panel across the country voted for their favourite song, which incidentally was the best of a very bad lot, but then this was overturned by the public who chose a relatively crap song to represent us.

But again, this was all down to convincing the public about who to vote for rather than having any bearing on the quality on offer. There are times that genuine talent becomes overlooked because of the need to extract money from the voting public.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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