Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column by Dara Bradley
Around 20 Travellers decamped to City Hall on Monday to register a protest about housing for their community, or rather the lack of it.
Led by the impressive Margaret O’Riada of Galway Traveller Movement, the group demanded “Traveller Homes Now”. Armed with placards, they were more vocal than usual.
Their backs were up, and with good reason. The previous week in the Galway City Tribune, Councillor Declan McDonnell, the Chairperson of the Council’s Housing Strategic Policy Committee, said the city’s homeless figures were distorted by the inclusion of Travellers.
Some 50% of those registered as homeless in Galway City were classified as Travellers, which “doesn’t make sense” he said, particularly given that just 2.2% of the population of the city are Travellers.
“It’s not like 50 years ago when you had substantial numbers of Travellers living on the side of the road,” said McDonnell, while suggesting some people were ‘gaming the system’.
The message was clear: Travellers on the housing waiting list, and registering as homeless, are taking the place of non-Travellers.
Though he was playing to the prejudices of some of his voters, Travellers understandably were angry.
In calling for his resignation, Traveller representatives said he showed “disrespect” to their community, and they listed a litany of failures of the local authority to meet its housing commitments to Travellers.
That’s the background. But back to Monday, and the protest.
In anticipation of the arrival of the protesters, Galway City Council had two security guards at the entrance to City Hall, checking everyone’s reason for being there.
As luck would have it, and by complete coincidence, no doubt, the public gallery was cordoned off with ticker-tape, the likes of which you might find at a crime scene or building site, and several ‘wet paint’ signs. This was because a fresh coat of paint had been applied to the public seating area, mar dhea.
Councillors confided afterwards that there was neither sight nor smell of fresh paint in the room. Two Traveller representatives did make it into the Council chamber and were made to sit in the area usually reserved for reporters.
Of course, the timing of the ‘paint job’ had nothing to do with the previous time Travellers protested at City Hall, in June, when their behaviour was branded “unbecoming and unnecessary” by Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath after they stormed a meeting in protest at being evicted from a halting site.
*For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune
Allegations over Galway homeless hub that’s nominated for award
A unique social housing development in the city, which has been nominated for an award, was the subject of complaints and allegations by a resident living there.
The Westside Modular Family Hub has been shortlisted for the Irish Council of Social Housing Allianz Community Housing Awards 2021.
Opened in May last year, the purpose-built family homeless service was developed by Galway City Council and Peter McVerry Trust with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and the Housing Agency.
The 15 units were installed at a cost of €2 million after what Galway City Council described as, “extensive public consultation and engagement with local residents and local representatives in advance and during the project to ensure all issues of concern were addressed”.
In a press release announcing the accommodation was nominated for an award, the City Council said that, “there is strong support from the local community for the development”.
It has been nominated for an award, which is determined by public vote.
However, it has emerged that at least one resident of the hub complained to the City Council about anti-social behaviour.
The resident made allegations of drug-taking, late-night house parties and drinking, and fighting earlier this summer.
The resident detailed an alleged attack in which a woman bit another woman’s shoulder and an ambulance was required.
The complainant also said that families were not being moved-on to longer-term accommodation within six months.
The complaints were made to the Housing Department at City Hall and it’s understood they were referred on to the service-provider, Peter McVerry Trust.
A Peter McVerry Trust spokesperson said: “The service offers good quality accommodation and professional supports to homeless families. Since opening the service in May 2020 we have supported 28 families, comprising of 38 adults and 60 children and helped 13 families move into housing with a further move-on expected in the coming week.
“From time to time issues do arise within the service, and PMVT staff will speedily and assertively respond to such issues to support and protect all residents as best we can. We have 24/7 staff supports on site, intensive key worker assistance and household specific care plans in place. Ultimately, our priority for each family in our care at Westside is to secure a housing pathway for them in order to exit homelessness.”
Asked for comment, a City Council spokesperson said: “I am advised by colleagues in the Housing Directorate that any issues that may arise in the Hub are dealt with by Peter McVerry Trust who are the service providers of this facility and a service level agreement is in place to deal with any issues that may arise.”
When the 15 units were installed in 2020, City Councillor Colette Connolly highlighted at a Council meeting that there was a leak in the roof of some of the homes. The Council confirmed “water ingress” in windows in a number of the units, which would be rectified by the supplier at no additional cost to the local authority.
Announcing the award nomination last week, the Council said the hub was designed to “temporarily house families while they seek a long-term solution to their housing need,” with the assistance of the Peter McVerry Trust management who are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It features 15 own-door two-bed and three-bed units, each with a kitchen, dining space and bathroom. There is also an on-site playground.
New fire station for Athenry gets stamp of approval
Councillors have given their stamp of approval to a new fire station for Athenry – voting unanimously to grant planning for the development at Ballygarraun South.
The site of just under two acres, located between the new Presentation College and the railway line, will house a station as well as a training tower and parking.
Chief Fire Officer Paul Duffy told a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week that they hoped to have a contractor appointed by the end of October, with works to get underway soon afterwards.
“We have worked very hard to get this project to a tangible position and it’s great that the ‘Part 8’ planning application [one which requires a vote by councillors] has been adopted today,” said Mr Duffy.
“This will hopefully get underway this year and we can move on to other stations [in the county], with another one planned for next year and another the year after,” he added.
The plans include the construction of a 361 square metre fire station with finishing materials common to the area which ‘will link the development on the site to the context overall’.
Permission has been granted from the IDA, which owns the site, for Galway County Council to proceed with the development on their lands.
The meeting heard that consideration had been given to the sightlines for exiting fire trucks and that amendments had been made to the original plans to ensure they were adequate.
Local area councillor Gabe Cronnelly (Ind) said the progression of a new fire station for the town was hugely welcome, adding that it had been years in the making.
“We have to give huge credit to Paul Duffy who pursued this. Athenry is one of the busiest stations in the county. We secured an extension for the existing station six years ago and when the Department was granting that, they could see that, from the amount of calls it was getting, that a new station was justified,” said Cllr Cronnelly.
Cllr Shelly Herterich Quinn (FF) said she was ‘delighted’ that the area’s representatives had given the proposal their unanimous backing.
Plan for ‘world-class’ campus with potential for 10,000 jobs at Galway Airport
From this week’s Galway CIty Tribune – A proposal to transform the former Galway Airport into a ‘world-class’ business and technology campus has been drawn up by Galway County Council – with the potential to create up to 10,000 jobs.
The plan, which was compiled as part of the Draft County Development Plan, proposes a multi-million-euro investment in the 115-acre site owned jointly by the County and City Councils.
According to the vision document, the airport site at Carnmore could become a key economic driver that would “attract and secure long-term investment in Galway and the western region, and underpin the development of the Galway Metropolitan Area”.
Among the sectors identified as potential occupants are renewable energy, biodiversity, food science and logistics.
Some of the structures included for are a ‘landmark building’; commercial units; park amenity and recreation space; a renewable energy park; and a multi-purpose leisure facility.
A contemporary development with the potential to accommodate emerging industries is promised, with projected employment numbers ranging between 3,500 to 10,000 over time.
However, county councillors raised concerns at a meeting this week that the proposal they had seen in the Development Plan had been ‘sitting on a shelf’ since last March – and they still hadn’t seen what was dubbed ‘the masterplan’ for the airport site.
Cllr Liam Carroll (FG) told the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District meeting that the recent news that Oranmore was among the locations being looked at by multinational tech giant, Intel, put fresh focus on the future of the airport.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.