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Vincent de Paul in turmoil over LGBT split



The Society of St Vincent De Paul (SVP) has insisted that its decision to disband a committee which awarded €45,000 to a resource centre for the gay community had nothing to do with the vehement opposition of the Bishop of Galway.

In a statement from its public relations firm, the society said that it would not comment on internal matters following reports that it had ‘stood down’ the SVP St Augustine’s Conference which administered the Maureen O’Connell Fund.

The Irish Times claimed the move followed “disagreement over governance arrangements between the SVP at national and local level”.

SVP spokesman Jim Walsh told the Connacht Tribune it had “absolutely and categorically nothing to do with comments the Bishop made 18 months ago”.

The charity would make good on its promise to allocate the funding to the support group Amach to open a new resource centre for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Galway, which had been approved by the organisation’s National Management Council (NMC).

“SVP believes that it is an excellent concept in supporting vulnerable people. It is committed to supporting the resource centre, but as trustees the NMC require reasonable governance arrangements to be in place for the operation and management of the centre in order to satisfy the society’s obligations in the stewardship of resources,” he stated.

“Discussions have taken place with members of the board of Amach to arrive at an appropriate solution to the governance requirement for the grant to the resource centre and this dialogue is not yet complete.”

He also insisted that the fund was “winding down” as over 90% of its funds had been spent or approved for 60 beneficial projects, including funding for several resource centres and day care centres in Galway city and county as well as social housing and for a range of education projects for children.

No grants from the fund came from any public donations to SVP, the spokesman stressed.

“A final audit has yet to be made. But from the residual benefit of the legacy received by SVP (€7.8m) and interest accruing since 2007, there is approximately €350,000 which has not been allocated or approved,” said Mr Walsh. That will now be managed by the NMC.

Nuala Ward, vice-president of Amach, said the Teach Solais LGBT Resource Centre would be open by Christmas with the final preparation work now underway.

Galway City Council recently granted planning permission to Amach to change ground floor retail space at Victoria Place off Eyre Square into a drop-in centre and resource space.

The project overcame another significant hurdle when the local authority also approved €25,000 towards the cost of renting the building after an initial disagreement that it should go to the cost of buying a property.

“Amach are also in the final stages of drawing down the first installment of the grant from the Maureen O’Connell fund towards Teach Solais. We have received confirmation that the St Augustine Conference group has been suspended. However, the funds will be released by the SVP National Management Council,” she explained.

Once the SVP funding is received, interviews for a part-time community development support worker will be held.

The Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan last year slammed the charity’s large allocation towards a gay resource centre, which he said promotes a culture that was “morally wrong”.

In an outburst which prompted widespread criticism, Dr Drennan said the “moral judgment” involved in making the decision had damaged the reputation of the charity, with their supporters questioning whether they should they support SVP any longer.

In letters sent to the SVP demanding an explanation, the Bishop hinted that allocation could jeopardise the relationship between the Church and the charity.

According to the planning file, the centre will be “a safe, accessible environment to combat the effects of isolation, homophobia and transphobia on the overall health and well-being for LGBT and their families”.

The centre will be used in the evenings from 6.30pm to 10pm for meetings, peer support, the operation of a LGBT helpline and education, training and counselling workshops.

An area to the front of the premises will provide space for the sale of merchandise such as t-shirts, cards, keyrings.

Publican Maureen O’Connell, who was unmarried and without children, left her landmark pub in Eyre Square to the charity when she died in 1998, specifying that it should only go towards projects in Galway.

Legal wrangling over the will meant that it did not go on sale until the height of the Celtic Tiger when it was sold in 2006 for €14m. The cost of a settlement with a tenant in the pub and legal bills as well as capital gains tax swallowed up over €6m of the sale price.


Council rows back on ‘reduced delays’ projections for Kirwan junction



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Motorists have described it as ‘a disaster’ and a former mayor has said the project gave very poor value for money, but Galway City Council have this week asked the public to be patient with the revamped Kirwan junction, close to the Menlo Park Hotel.

Since the four-arm signalled junction opened early last week, motorists have complained of traffic queues stretching back to the Quincentenary Bridge and Corrib Park.

And now the Council has rowed back on its consultants’ claims that the junction would increase capacity by 15% and reduce waiting times by 25%.

Former mayor and local taxi driver, Cllr Frank Fahy, told the Galway City Tribune that given the negative impact of the junction on traffic, the €5 million spent on the project represented ‘very poor value’ as regards taxpayers’ money.

“I will admit that the junction is now safer for pedestrians in that they can hit a button to give them a safe crossing, but since it opened there have some very serious traffic tailbacks,” said Cllr Fahy.

However, City Council Acting Director of Services for Transport, Uinsinn Finn, told the Galway City Tribune that the new junction needed time to ‘bed in’ with a familiarisation process.

“The main objectives of this project were to make far safer for pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate, as well as making it safer for motorists too, without impacting [negatively] on the traffic flow,” said Mr Finn.

He added that since it opened – and over the coming few weeks – data on all aspects of how the junction was functioning would be compiled which could involve changes to light sequencing, lanes and peak traffic flows.

One motorist who contacted this newspaper said that the daily “nightmare” journey from the Barna Road to the Headford Road during the morning peak traffic time had added up to 40 minutes to his journey time.

“The two lanes are regularly gridlocked from the junction, back the N6, over the Quincentenary Bridge and back to Corrib Park.

“In the mornings, it’s now easier to go down Taylor’s Hill and into town, past Eyre Square and up Bohermore to get down to the Headford Road.

Councillors were told by consultants in 2017 and again in 2018 – when they voted to proceed with the changeover to a junction – that average delays would be reduced by 25% and junction capacity would increase by 15%.
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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Man hospitalised following Eyre Square assault



Gardaí have appealed to the public for information into an assault in Eyre Square last weekend which led to a young man being hospitalised.

The victim of the assault – a man in his early 20s from the city area – suffered a cut to his knee and may have had a substance sprayed towards his eyes.

Following the incident – that occurred close to the Eyre Square taxi rank shortly after midnight on Saturday night last – the victim was taken by ambulance to University Hospital Galway.

It is understood that the victim was released later that morning and has made a full recovery. This week, Gardaí are poring over CCTV footage in an effort to try and identify the perpetrators of the assault.

The assailants are understood to have fled on foot after the incident towards St Patrick’s Avenue on the east side of Eyre Square.

A Garda spokesperson has appealed for anyone who was in the vicinity of the taxi rank on Eyre Square between 12 midnight and 12.30am on the Sunday morning (Saturday night) of July 25 last, and who may have witnessed the incident to contact them.

(Photo: the assailants fled on foot towards St Patrick’s Avenue off Eyre Square)
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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Council turns down controversial phone mast plan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Galway City Council has refused an application by Eircom to erect a 12-metre telecoms mast in a housing estate in Knocknacarra.

The local authority turned down the company’s application for planning permission to install the structure in the heart of Drom Óir over concerns that it would create a visual obstruction in a residential area – and would have a detrimental impact on property prices.

Eircom had also sought retention to keep a concrete foundation for the mast in situ after it was forced to abandon works earlier this year, amid protests from residents in Drom Óir and Leitir Burca. This was also rejected.

City planners issued the company with a warning letter in April to cease works after contractors on site drew the ire of nearby residents, who accused Eircom of seeking to install the mast ‘by stealth’.

A total of 26 letters of objection were submitted to the Council from residents of the two estate.
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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