From the Galway City Tribune – The GAA family in Galway City was hurtling towards a civil war-style fallout over plans by one club to develop pitches in neighbouring clubs’ heartlands.
Salthill Knocknacarra GAA’s announcement last week that it intended to apply for permission to develop new pitches and clubhouse at its site in Mincloon, Rahoon provoked an immediate backlash from Rahoon/Newcastle and St Michael’s GAA Clubs.
CLG Bearna also added its weight to the opposition to the plans.
SKGAA insisted again this week the new facilities were desperately needed to satisfy growth in membership over the past decade, particularly among girls, ladies football and camogie.
A spokesperson said it had exhausted all other options to develop pitches within its parish, including at three schools, but failed and had decided to proceed with the Mincloon proposals. It insisted it is not breaching any ‘parish’ rules.
But both St Michael’s and Rahoon/Newcastle vowed to robustly defend their ‘patch’.
Rahoon/Newcastle, which fields hurling and camogie teams, declared it would be “strongly opposing” the proposal.
Officials from the club met the development committee of SKGAA last Thursday night, and afterwards issued a statement expressing “huge disappointment and dismay”.
“We will fight for our club and for our community,” the 134-year-old club’s statement said.
“We will be strongly opposing this proposal which would see Salthill Knocknacarra move 3km from their club in the Prairie to within just 500m of our club in Tonabrocky.
“This violates parish boundaries and the spirit of the GAA whose ethos is to promote Gaelic games and culture as a community based, volunteer led organisation which enriches lives and communities,” Rahoon/Newcastle said.
SKGAA denied the move to Rahoon violates any GAA rule.
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A spokesperson on Wednesday pointed to Dublin and Cork cities, where clubs share facilities or use pitches outside of their catchment due to shortages of recreational and amenity land.
“Under Galway GAA bylaws, there are no parish boundaries in the city. So in the same way Rahoon are doing nothing wrong going into Knocknacarra schools, we’re doing nothing wrong developing this land,” the spokesperson said.
St Michael’s, which traditionally fielded players from Shantalla, Claddagh, and ‘The West’, and in recent years pulled from Bushypark, Newcastle, and Westside, is opposed to the plans.
Delegations from both clubs met last week, and afterwards St Michael’s vowed to “strongly oppose this development”.
It said it was “naïve” to claim it does not violate the spirit of the GAA ethos of respecting parish catchments.
“In a city, there is always a certain element of members playing with clubs while living outside the immediate catchment area – we are all familiar with that – but building this new state-of-the art facility within the catchment area of St. Michael’s and Rahoon/Newcastle, flying the SKGAA flag, is nothing short of a threat to the future of our club,” St. Michael’s said.
The club’s executive said it agreed the city needs more sports infrastructure.
“But not as a facility controlled by one dominant GAA club – to truly promote GAA sport in an equitable, competitive manner it needs to be shared by several GAA clubs.
“A new, improved, shared facility would level the playing field for all. St Michael’s would welcome meaningful discussion with Galway GAA County Board, Galway City Council and all city GAA clubs. Together we could understand everyone’s position and see how a shared facility of this nature could come to life for the equitable development of all,” it said.
A spokesperson for SKGAA said it wants a strong St. Michael’s club, in order for Gaelic football in Galway to flourish. Slots would be made available at the pitches for other clubs and schools. He pointed out that 70% of City Council pitches were for soccer, yet GAA had far greater membership than soccer clubs.
Chairman of SKGAA, Paddy Lynch said his club fielded 64 teams last year, and had launched a nursery section for children aged four to six, which was “hugely popular”.
“This growth has resulted in the club facilities being seriously overwhelmed. The development of new playing facilities is critical to the future of our club and continuing to provide the most opportunity to play sport to the young people of our communities,” Mr Lynch said.
In an updated statement issued Tuesday, SKGAA said it was “disappointed” with the stance taken by Rahoon/Newcastle, and urged them to reconsider its “most unfair” position.
“In recent years, Rahoon/Newcastle has been active and present in the local schools of Knocknacarra which would clearly be considered our ‘traditional’ parish area.
“We have never raised objections to their club being active in our traditional area and recruiting members outside their traditional area because it is our sincere belief that all our children should be provided with the greatest number of options possible to access sport,” it said.
A spokesperson for Rahoon/Newcastle, told the Galway City Tribune, the application caught his club members off guard.
He said there was “disappointment” SKGAA publicly launched its pitch website last Thursday, prior to briefing Rahoon/Newcastle.
“We’re very open and transparent in our dealings with other clubs, and we show a lot of respect towards other clubs, and support them. We’ve always worked with clubs in the locality, be it amalgamating teams at different times when we were both struggling, or supporting fundraising events, or helping out in different aspects when challenges come to different doorsteps be it grievances or death, and we’re disappointed this has come to the level it has come to without proper discussion before submitting anything,” the spokesperson said.
He said the issue affects three clubs, and residents of Clybaun, Rahoon and Mincloon; and ultimately it will be decided by planning experts. He said there should be “proper discussion” at executive level between clubs, and the GAA rather than in public forums.
On Wednesday, CLG Bhearna confirmed its opposition.
Following a meeting of Barna GAA’s executive Tuesday, its statement said it had similar difficulty securing and developing land, “but have done so and will continue to do so, within the local catchment areas in accordance with the GAA values and ethos”.
CLG Bhearna said these plans infringed its catchment area.
“Specifically, one of the three primary schools in our parish, Boleybeg National School which is an integral part of the Bearna/Na Forbacha parish, is located bedside the proposed new facility for SKGAA.
“We have recently appointed a full-time coaching development officer to work with our three parish schools in Na Forbacha, Bearna and Bolybeg . . . to promote GAA games and offer children the opportunity to experience and enjoy sport with their friends and community in their local GAA club,” it said.
CLG Bhearna said the proposed facility will likely have an adverse impact on its future player base.
In response, SKGAA said it respected the position of other clubs.
Galway GAA was contacted for comment.
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.