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Adventurer Damian rows in to support Galway Sick Kids Foundation



Adventurer Damian Browne, who recently completed his historic row from New York to Galway, was on board to officially launch a new event to raise vital funds for the paediatric unit at University Hospital Galway.

The record-breaking athlete showed his support at the launch of the first Galway Sick Kids Foundation Gala Ball, which will take place at the Galway Bay Hotel on Saturday, February 4 next.

With his feet firmly back on solid ground after his voyage across the Atlantic for Project Empower, he said he was “delighted to support such a worthy cause.” At 6’5”, the former rugby player joked that he was happy to share his “considerable weight” to launch the event.

“The organisers work selflessly and tirelessly for the community,” he said. “They work to support children who are in such a vulnerable situation. This is such a worthy cause, and I am delighted to be able to support it.”

The Galway Sick Kids Foundation supports children and their families from Galway, Donegal, Sligo, Roscommon, Mayo, and North Clare who are attending the paediatric unit of UHG. Among their recent initiatives is the installation of a self-contained cubbie sensory hub, providing a calm and relaxing environment for children with sensory issues. And they provided a wheelchair friendly swing in the playground by Galway company, Creative Solutions.

“This is our first gala ball, and it is an important chance to raise vital funds and to showcase the work of the charity,” said Chairperson of the Galway Sick Kids Foundation, Colm Kennelly.

“We are a small committee and together have raised over €100,000 since the charity began five years ago. One of our greatest achievements to date has been the installation of the cubbie sensory hub at the hospital. It has been described as a gamechanger by the medical team as it is a sanctuary for children, especially those with sensory issues, where they can relax and feel calm.”

For John Reilly, Chairperson of the Knocknacarra Football Club, the Galway Sick Kids Foundation is the perfect partnership for the organisation, given their shared focus on community.

Speaking at the launch of the gala ball, Mr Reilly explained how it is a “natural fit based on our ethos to serve the people and children of the locality.”  He noted how the reach of the charity goes far beyond the boundaries of the county.

“The paediatric unit serves everyone from Doolin to Donegal, it’s not just for Galway, it is for the west and northwest of Ireland. We have 1,200 children in our club, and what I love about this charity, is the immediacy with which any funds raised go straight to the unit. These are personal items that really make a difference to the children and to the running of the unit.

“We feel very privileged to be a partnered with the charity. And we are all looking forward to the ball in 2023.”

Also at the launch, Mayor of Galway City, Cllr Clodagh Higgins praised the work undertaken by the charity which “touches the hearts of so many homes”.

“The work undertaken by The Sick Kids Galway Foundation is simply incalculable,” she said, “and it was my great pleasure to attend the launch of their upcoming gala ball. Having Damian Browne attend as a special guest was fitting because like the charity, he too makes a difference.  It truly added to the magic of the occasion.”

MCs on the night will be Galway Bay FM’s Mollie and Ollie, with music from the Ignite Gospel Choir, rousing classic hits and covers from Galway band Pyramid and late-night entertainment from DJ Doc. Tickets cost €85 and include a four-course meal and wine.

Tickets can be purchased at Colm’s Life Pharmacy, Salthill, and the Treasure Chest on William Street, or by phoning Michelle on 087 9550841.

(Photo by Brian Harding: Adventurer Damian Browne launching details of the Galway Sick Kids Foundation Gala Ball, which will take place at the Galway Bay Hotel on Saturday, February 4, and pictured with Emma Barry, Ruby Meaney, Iarla Bourke, Tiernan Bourke and Daithi O’Flaherty from Knocknacarra Football Club).


Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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Official opening of Galway’s new pedestrian and cycle bridge



The new Salmon Weir pedestrian and cycle bridge will be officially opened to the public next Friday, May 26.

Work on the €10 million bridge got underway in April 2022, before the main structure was hoisted into place in early December.

A lunchtime tape-cutting ceremony will take place on Friday, as the first pedestrians and cyclists traverse the as-yet-unnamed bridge.

The Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, previously said the bridge, once opened, would remove existing conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and traffic “as well as facilitating the Cross-City Link public transport corridor over the existing 200-year-old bridge”.

The naming of the new bridge has been under discussion by the Council’s Civic Commemorations Committee since late last year.

One name that has been in the mix for some time is that of the first woman in Europe to graduate with an engineering degree – Alice Perry.

Ms Perry, who was from Wellpark, graduated from Queen’s College Galway (now University of Galway) in 1906. The university’s engineering building is named in her honour.

The bridge was built by Jons Civil Engineering firm in County Meath and was assembled off-site before being transported to Galway. Funding for the project was provided in full by the National Transport Authority and the European Regional Development Fund.

(Photo: Sheila Gallagher captured the city’s new pedestrian footbridge being raised on the south side of the Salmon Weir Bridge in December. It will officially open next Friday, May 26).

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Minister branded ‘a disgrace’ for reversing land rezoning in Galway City



From the Galway City Tribune – Minister of State for Local Government and Planning, Kieran O’Donnell was labelled a “disgrace” for overturning councillors’ decisions to rezone land in the new City Development Plan.

Minister O’Donnell (pictured) confirmed in a letter to Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath last week that he was reversing 25 material alternations made by councillors to the CDP 2023-29. He made the decision on the advice of Office of Planning Regulator (OPR).

Minister O’Donnell directed that 14 land parcels that were subject to land-use zoning changes by councillors as part of the Material Alterations to the Draft CDP should be reversed.

He directed that a further 11 land parcels in the city should become “unzoned”.

The Minister found that the CDP had not been made in a manner consistent with recommendations of the OPR, which required specific changes to the plan to ensure consistency with the national planning laws and guidelines.

At last week’s Council meeting Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) asked for clarity on the process by which councillors could rezone the lands that had been changed by the Minister’s direction.

Cllr Declan McDonnell said, “What he [Minister O’Donnell] has done is an absolute disgrace”.

And he asked: “Do we have to have another development plan meeting to deal with it?”

Both Cllrs Hoare and McDonnell wondered what would become of the lands that were rezoned or unzoned by the ministerial direction.

Mr McGrath said the Council had put forward an argument in favour of retaining the material alterations in the plan, but ultimately the Minister sided with OPR.

He said if councillors want to make alterations to the new plan, they could go through the process of making a material alteration but this was lengthy.

The Save Roscam Peninsula campaign welcomed the Minister’s decision.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, it said the direction would mean the Roscam village area on the Roscam Peninsula will be unzoned and a number of land parcels would revert back to agriculture/high amenity.

A spokesperson for the campaign said: “the material alterations made by city councillors following lobbying by developers continued the long-standing practice of councillors facilitating a developer-led plan rather than an evidence- and policy-based plan that meets the needs of the city.

“The Minister’s direction is an important step in restoring confidence in the planning system. It is clear from the City Council’s own evidence on future housing projections that there was no requirement to zone these lands for residential purposes in order to meet the needs of the targeted population increase up to 2029,” the spokesperson added.

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