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Court bid to shift illegal Traveller site at Doughiska



Galway City Council is seeking a Circuit Court injunction against Traveller families who are illegally encamped in Doughiska, beside Merlin Woods.

Director of Services for Housing, Tom Connell, confirmed at a local authority meeting that the Council’s law agents have been instructed to seek a court date to secure the injunction.

“The occupation is illegal and we’ll be seeking that the vacate the site,” said Mr Connell.

One councillor claims the families concerned – who were previously illegally encamped in Knocknacarra, Galway Airport, City Hall and Ballyloughane Beach – have run up legal costs in excess of €250,000 for the Council.

Cllr Mike Crowe (FF) said the area of the illegal encampment is in an awful condition and said it had become a health and safety and environmental matter now.

He said there are hundreds of pieces of toilet tissue on paths and gravel and stone had been brought onto the site to create “well-drained” bays for caravans, and fencing had also been erected between caravans.

“It appears to have become a more permanent fixture. That was one of the busiest parks in the city. People are being threatened, clubs interfered with in regards to training etc.

“They broke down out bollards and entered our property. Has any of this damage been reported to the relevant authorities?” he asked.

Terry O’Flaherty (Ind) asked if the €250,000 legal fees figure was accurate.

“That’s a lot of money. It’s difficult for this Council to get funds. Where is this money coming from?” she asked.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) said: “Have you consulted with the Traveller representatives and asked them to intervene? These are the same three families as before. They pulled bollards out of the ground which is trespassing.”

Mr Connell said he did not know where the €250,000 figure had come from, but “significant legal costs have been incurred”.

“We’re aware of the condition of the site; environmental and housing staff have been on site.

“We’ve reported the issue to Gardaí – we’re going back into court as soon as we get a date,” said Mr Connell.

Meanwhile, councillors from the City Central Ward hit out at Mr Connell over a meeting on the Traveller Accommodation Plan last March, which they claim they were never notified of.

Mr Connell said that meetings had been arranged for all three wards and councillors informed of the dates, and in the case of City Central, there was no attendance.

An angry Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind) said: “What was the date of that meeting? You said in July you’d come up with the date. The Director is saying nobody turned up. That’s wrong. I want that corrected.”

Cllr Ollie Crowe (FF) said: “The Director should withdraw his comments that elected representatives were contacted. There was no meeting held or agreed. Members of City Central were not contacted.”

“I’ll double check the record. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. It went out more than likely by email,” responded Mr Connell.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

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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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