The horror crash that claimed the life of an NUIG PhD student, his wife and child – along with the driver of the other car – made up one-third of the total fatalities on Galway’s roads over the last twelve months.
A dozen deaths were recorded across the city and county in 2021, in marked contrast to the trend across the country as a whole. Because while provisional figures reveal the number of road deaths in Ireland at a record low – making 2021 the safest year on Irish roads since 1959 – that total of twelve fatalities on Galway’s roads resulted in an increase of 140% on the five deaths in 2020.
According to the figures published by Road Safety Authority (RSA), following analysis of provisional fatal collision reports by An Garda Síochána, Galway was the least safe county for fatal road collisions last year after Dublin.
Nationally, according to RSA, a total of 133 people died in 120 fatal road collisions in 2021 compared to 146 deaths in 135 fatal road collisions in 2020. This represents 13 fewer deaths or a 9% drop in road fatalities.
One third of Galway’s road deaths in 2021 were attributed to that horror crash in August which claimed the lives of four people, including a child. The multiple vehicle collision occurred along the M6 Motorway at Poolboy near Ballinasloe on August 19.
Kurdish family Karzan Sabah Ahmed, Shahen Qasm and their eight-month-old daughter Lena all died when another motorist, Jonasz Lach, entered the motorway on the wrong side and crashed head-on into their vehicle. Mr Lach also died.
Karzan Sabah was conferred with a posthumous PhD from NUI Galway in October. Originally from the Kurdistan region of north Iraq they had been living in Galway city while he was completing a PhD in Environmental Science at NUIG.
Nationally, of the 130 road deaths, 18 were pedestrians, the lowest number of pedestrian deaths over the last 25 years.
There were increases in fatalities among drivers (70, up nine) and motorcyclists in 2021 (21, up four). Seven cyclists lost their lives on the roads in 2021, three fewer than 2020. Some 24% of fatalities occurred on an urban road and 76% occurred on a rural road.
Of the 86 drivers and passengers killed, 37 (44%) were wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision; 24 (29%) were not wearing a seatbelt; and for the remaining 23 fatalities, it is not yet known (27%).
Over half of fatalities were aged between 16 and 45 years (55%). Some 45% of fatalities occurred between 12pm and 8pm.
Provisional figures indicate that 1,091 serious injuries were recorded up to the 21 December 2021 compared to 1,105 in 2020.
Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, the Galway West TD, said: “It is very welcome news that there has been a reduction in the number of road deaths and serious injuries this year. I want to thank road users for making it a safer year, especially after 2020 was such a bad year for road safety. However, I am conscious that this news will come as cold comfort to those who have been injured and the families left grieving the loss of a loved one. It reminds us that one death or serious injury is one too many.
“This is reflected in the ambition of the recently launched Government Road Safety Strategy 2021 to 2030, ‘Our Journey Towards Vision Zero’. It aims to reduce deaths and serious injuries by 50% over the next decade and achieve no deaths or serious injuries on the road by 2050.”
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.”
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).
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.