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Connacht Tribune

Voting pact in jeopardy after bitter row on Údarás job

Dara Bradley

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The mayoral and voting pact, which brought the Civil War parties together on Galway County Council, was on the brink of collapse this week over a State board appointment.

During a dramatic day at County Hall, untold damage was done to the trust between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil councillors as they traded insults and veiled threats during a tetchy discussion on the appointment of a board member to Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Exchanges became heated in particular between Fine Gael party whip, Jimmy McClearn, and Seamus Walsh, the Fianna Fáil nomination for the position.

Though two Fine Gael Councillors – McClearn and Tom McHugh – voted against Cllr Walsh; and two – Niamh Byrne and Frank Kearney – abstained, the Oughterard man prevailed in a vote, beating Independent Seósamh Ó Cualáin by 24 votes to nine.

However, the win may come at a cost.

As well as causing a rift between the two main ruling parties, who are involved in a voting arrangement, the appointment also stirred friction within Fianna Fáil.

The party’s twelve councillors were late returning from lunch and missed an important vote on the Local Property Tax – when they did return, Martina Kinnane intimated that they had been discussing the appointment of one of their members to the Gaeltacht body.

Prior to returning to the Council Chamber, Fianna Fáil members convened in a side room to thrash out who their nomination would be. Passersby on the corridor outside could hear heated exchanges between them.

Fianna Fáil whip on the Council, Mary Hoade, during an adjournment of the meeting, was involved in a raised-voice discussion inside the chamber with Cllr Walsh, who sits beside her.

Before the item was discussed, Cathaoirleach Eileen Mannion (FG), called for a brief adjournment but this was resisted by Cllr Walsh. He said there wasn’t a need for an adjournment. “I can’t go out and renege on an agreement . . . I gave my word to people . . . I wouldn’t stab them in the back,” said Cllr Walsh.

At this stage Cllr McClearn accused Fianna Fáil of arrogance, but Donagh Killilea (FF) countered: “You’re the one who is arrogant.”

When they resumed after five minutes, Tomás Ó Curraoin and Jim Cuddy (Ind) proposed Cllr Ó Cualáin for the position, Fianna Fáil nominated Seamus Walsh, and in a surprise move Fine Gael nominated a second Fianna Fáil man, Seán Ó Tuairisg.

All three initially agreed to allow their names to go forward, but just before the vote, Cllr Ó Tuairisg crossed the chamber, walked over to Cllr McClearn, and whispered into his ear. When he resumed his seat, he said: “I suppose I have to go with the party. I withdraw. I reluctantly withdraw.”

Tensions rose just before the vote as McClearn and Walsh exchanged barbs.

Cllr McClearn said his party “will not be a doormat for anybody”, and he referred to the agreement FG and FF had for the past three years.

Cllr Walsh countered: “Do you want me to tell them what I know? I’m the one who promised you no banana skins . . . Wasn’t I in Tuam last night with you? . . . Would I have driven to Tuam from Oughterard? . . . I promised you no bananas. I kept my word. I didn’t put out any bananas.”

Cllr McClearn said, “I told you in Tuam I couldn’t make any commitment” and Cllr Walsh replied: “There’ll be again in it” and “it’s a long road”. Pointing at the Fine Gael Cllrs he added: “Will ye wake up now”.

Cllr McClearn said if Walsh loses the vote, “it’s your own fault”.

There was a roll-call vote, and when Cllr Ó Tuairisg was asked to choose between his party colleague and Ó Cualáin, he said: “It’s a hard one . . . I suppose I have to go for what the party said.” After hesitating, he voted for Walsh.

Speaking as Gaeilge after being elected by 24 votes to nine, with two abstentions, Cllr Walsh thanked the members who voted for him. His name will now go forward as the Council nominee for the Údarás, to be ratified by the Gaeltacht Minister.

Connacht Tribune

Covid lockdown returns for Kildare, Laois and Offaly

Enda Cunningham

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The Government has announced localised lockdowns for people living in Kildare, Laois and Offaly, following a surge in Covid-19 cases over the past week.

People from outside of those counties have been asked not to travel their unless for work or essential travel.

The restrictions affect travel, pubs, restaurants, swimming pools and cinemas.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the clusters of new cases were of serious concern and described the restrictions as “limited”.

“Over the past 14 days 292 cases of Covid-19 have arisen in Kildare, Laois and Offaly. These represent almost half of all cases detected in Ireland during that time.

“These measures are being put in place to protect the vulnerable in these counties as well as to stop the spread of the virus.

They are in place for two weeks from midnight tonight (Friday) until midnight on Friday, August 20. The situation will then be reviewed,” the Taoiseach said.

Travel and transport

You can only travel within your county, other than for the following reasons:

  • to travel to and from work where that work cannot be done from home
  • to attend medical appointments, collect medicines and other health products
  • for vital family reasons, like providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, but excluding social family visits
  • for farming purposes, food production or care of animals

You should not travel into any of these counties, other than for the reasons above, and you need to travel through these counties to get somewhere else. You should not stop in Kildare, Laois or Offaly unless for essential purposes.

Public and private transport

You should not use public transport unless it is absolutely necessary to do so, and where possible you should not share private vehicles with others from outside your household.

Education and childcare

The following services remain open with appropriate protective measures in place:

  • education and childcare
  • outdoor playgrounds, play areas and parks
  • Economic activity and work
  • Anyone in these counties who can work from home should work from home.

Social

Cafes and restaurants

  • All cafes and restaurants, including bars operating as restaurants, should only offer takeaway or delivery, or outdoor dining (maximum 15 people with strict physical distancing).
  • Hotels can remain open but must limit occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons. Existing guests can remain for the duration of their booking.

Indoor gatherings

  • All indoor gatherings should be restricted to a maximum of 6 people from no more than 3 households in total, while maintaining physical distancing.

Outdoor gatherings

  • Outdoor gatherings should be limited to a maximum of 15 people, while maintaining physical distancing.

Cultural and religious

  • All cinemas, theatres, casinos, betting shops, bingo halls, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools, exercise and dance studios are required to close.
  • Attendance at a funeral service and burial or cremation ceremony should be limited to 25 outdoors. Indoor events connected to the funeral are limited to a maximum of 6 people.
  • Places of worship remain open for private prayer, while services are to be held online.

Sport

No sporting events or matches should take place, with the following exemptions:

  • non-contact training outdoors in a maximum group of 15 people may continue
  • professional and elite sports and horse-racing may continue behind closed doors
  • inter-county training (max 15 people) and fixtures may continue behind closed doors

Residential and healthcare facilities

*Visiting in long-term residential care facilities, acute settings and prisons will generally be suspended in the first instance with the exception of the most critical and compassionate circumstances (for example end of life).

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Connacht Tribune

Relocation homebuyers head to the west

Dara Bradley

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Clifden....popular destination.

The Coronavirus pandemic has encouraged a new exodus of homebuyers to relocate to the west, with remote working now a viable option for many employees.

Galway’s busiest auctioneer has noticed increased interest in properties in the city and county from workers relocating from Dublin, its commuter belt and the Midlands.

The availability of high-speed broadband, which can facilitate working from home, is a determining factor in many homebuyers’ decisions to move to the West.

But the high cost of renting remains the single biggest incentive for people to get on the property ladder, according to Niall Browne, senior sales negotiator at O’Donnellan and Joyce Auctioneers.

“People are paying such high rent that it’s the equivalent to a mortgage repayment and that’s when you buy. That’s the biggest incentive to buy – you’re not giving away dead money,” Mr Browne said.

The property market locally had quietened in the initial months of the Covid-19 lockdown – but it has been buoyant in the past two months in particular, he said.

Mr Browne suggested there was an element of pent-up demand for housing that was now being realised as the Covid lockdown restrictions focused people’s minds on their desire to purchase a home.

“We typically try to get eight to ten sales per month by private treaty, and we had 28 or 29 last month. The previous month was six and the previous month was eight. This month (July) we’re up to 26, and that’s outside of our auction,” he said.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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Connacht Tribune

Nursing Homes shun student nurses over Covid fears

Stephen Corrigan

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Student nurses in Galway are facing financial doom as part-time employers shun those currently on work placement in hospitals over fears they are at high-risk of contracting Covid-19.

First year nursing student at NUI Galway Ciarán Mac an tSaoir told the Connacht Tribune that this had become a particular issue for first and second year students who would traditionally take on healthcare assistant roles in nursing homes, where the fear of spreading the virus is at fever pitch.

“After semester one in first year, you are essentially qualified as a healthcare assistant and a lot of students would take that up as an option. Since Covid-19 came in, a lot of work places are fearful of cross-contamination and that’s not unjustified.

“It’s very understandable that a nursing home wouldn’t want a student who might be going between five or six clinical areas in an acute hospital to be then coming into work in the nursing home,” said Mr Mac an tSaoir.

Nursing students, for whom a large proportion of their university experience is spent on unpaid work placement, spend up to 35-hours a week in a clinical setting and so that could mean them travelling between a Covid-19-free setting of a nursing home to a respiratory word in a hospital such as UHG, he explained.

However, this wasn’t a HSE policy but rather the decision of individual care facilities who were doing their best to ensure coronavirus was kept out.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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