Representatives from Galway’s sister county, Washington County in the US State of Wisconsin, said they were “honoured and privileged” to be part of Galway County Council’s 1916 Centenary commemorations – beginning with a flag raising ceremony outside County Hall.
Speaking at a special meeting of Galway County Council on Monday afternoon, Chairperson of the Washington County Board, Richard Gundrum, said that the delegation were overwhelmed by the reception they have received. “It’s safe to say that there isn’t a bad one out of you,” he joked, to murmurs of “give it time”.
At the meeting, members and invited guests were presented with a ‘Proclamation for Our Time’ developed by a diverse range community groups from around the county.
In a revamped version of the original document, read from the steps of the GPO in Dublin by Pádraig Pearse 100 years ago, the new document reaffirms the commitment to equality and fairness – as well as looking at the changing needs of modern Ireland.
The document, created by groups representing the elderly to the young, the travelling community, the LGBT community and the disabled federation of Ireland – the new proclamation reflects a diverse and multicultural society.
It pledges civil and religious liberties, equal opportunities, justice and fairness for all – and recognises the importance of protecting Ireland’s natural resources.
The Irish Diaspora is noted for its importance and it is said that no person should be forced to leave Ireland by economic necessity. The right to a home, education tailored to every individual’s own ability, care for the sick and vulnerable and an appreciation of the elderly are all key parts of the re-imagined document.
Following the presentation, councillors were given the opportunity to speak about their own connections to the rising and reflect on the issues that had been presented to them.
Cathaoirleach Peter Roche reflected on the struggle that faced the volunteers of 1916. “In April 1916, creating an equal society was a challenge – and it remains so today,” he said.
In a moment of comic relief, ‘New Dawn’, the haunting tune gifted to the people of Galway by Ger Fahy as part of the commemorations, spontaneously erupted across the chamber while Cllr Pat Hynes spoke about his own families connections with the rising. “It must be their spirits,” he said, to much laughter from the American guests.
Cllr Michael Fahy spoke of the debt owed to the generation who fought for Ireland 100 years ago.
“I look forward to, on December 6, 2021, that a referendum can be held in the 32 counties of Ireland,” said Cllr Fahy. “Within our lifetime, a united Ireland can take place.”
It was the intention of the visiting delegation to present the council with a replica Liberty Bell – the symbol of independence in the US – however councillors had to settle for a picture of one for now with the bell itself needing liberating from customs.
Teenager caught with €20,000 worth of cannabis
A teenager was stopped and searched by Gardaí in Eyre Square on Monday evening, and found in possession of an estimated €20,000 worth of cannabis.
Members of the Galway Divisional Drugs Unit stopped the man, aged in his late teens, at around 6pm and searched him under the Misuse of Drugs Act. During the search the man was found in possession of a €20,000 of suspected cannabis herb. The drugs seized will be sent for forensic analysis.
He was arrested and detained at Garda Headquarters in Renmore and was released from custody this morning. A file is now being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Level 5 ‘lockdown’ restrictions from midnight Wednesday
‘Crass stupidity’ to allow Leisureland close
The looming threat of closure for Leisureland after Christmas amounts to “crass stupidity” and requires an urgent commitment for funding from Government, according to a local TD.
Deputy Catherine Connolly told the Galway City Tribune she had raised the issue in the Dáil with the Minister of State for Local Government and he had expressed an openness to meeting with a delegation from City Hall in relation to the City Council-owned facility’s dire financial situation.
“It’s simply not acceptable that a public swimming pool would close when we have the Minister for Finance announcing a budget of €18 billion this week – that’s Monopoly money.
“We have €18 billion to dispense and the challenge is to do that in a way that ensures a basic level of services below which we cannot go, and that requires funding the local authority. The local authority is fundamental in any civilised society, as are the services it provides,” said the Independent Deputy.
Raising the issue in Leinster House, Deputy Connolly said that Leisureland was an excellent public facility that had been open since 1973 and had broke even for the last number of years, but had run into major funding shortfalls as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.
“It is a fantastic swimming pool. I must declare a conflict of interest as I use it every weekend, It helps to keep me semi-sane and semi-fit.
“No public swimming pool makes money and few of them break even. This pool needed money due to Covid-19 and the difficulties experienced by every public swimming pool in the country. The management in the City Council said it was not in a position to give it money and that the swimming pool would have to close,” said Deputy Connolly, adding that the decision had been made and staff were informed.
Due to public pressure and resistance from local councillors, the decision was reversed and €207,000 in funding had been provided by the Council Executive.
“However, it pointed out that the money was coming out of next year’s budget, so it could not continue, and it would not be in a position to fund it.
“I do not expect miracles, but I expect commitment from the Minister and the Government that, regardless of what happens, we are not going to close public swimming pools or public libraries. They are essential services,” said Deputy Connolly.
She said €2.5 million in funding had been made available for “swimming pools with public access” in the private sector as part of the Government’s July Stimulus package, but nothing for publicly-owned facilities.
“It is very ironic if we are going to keep private swimming pools open once they have some limited access to the public, while we close down the public swimming pools,” she added.
Responding, Minister Peter Burke said his Department was keeping spending and cash flow at local authorities under constant review and would continue to work with Galway City Council to address issues.
“My Department is engaging with representatives of the local government sector and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the financial challenges facing local authorities as a direct consequence of the pandemic, in terms of additional costs incurred as part of the local government response and decline in local authority income streams.
“I will do my very best with regard to the Deputy’s ask. I would be willing to meet a delegation from the City Council in connection with this issue. However, there are going to be significant asks emanating from this crisis. We are doing our very best to make what we have go as far as it can. It presents a major challenge,” said Minister Burke.