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Fine Gael ready Frank for election on eastern front



Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Former mayor Frank Fahy may be on the move. A city councillor for Galway City Central since 2014, the political strategists in Fine Gael are trying to lure him to run in City East next time out.

Fahy started electoral politics in City East, unsuccessfully contesting the 2009 Local Election there. But City Central is his stronghold. And he’s nurtured a vote in Menlo that is loyal to him, irrespective of his party brand.

In 2019, in two Menlo boxes, Fahy polled just shy of 52% of first preference votes. That’s one in every two voters in Menlo giving Frankeen a number one.

So it’s understandable that he’d be reluctant to move east, scrounging for votes in Roscam and Doughiska where he’s relatively unknown.

He may have no choice. The Blueshirt bigwigs are teeing Frank up for a transfer to City East. That’s partly because they have two seats in City Central (Eddie Hoare, his running mate last time, held Pádraig Conneely’s seat).

Mostly, though, it’s because City East has become a political wasteland for Fine Gael and they’re struggling to find credible candidates.

Taxi driver Frank polled just 4.5% of the vote in his unsuccessful City East bid in 2009. But back then Fine Gael had a three-candidate strategy, including rising star Brian Walsh, who secured the seat and went on to become a TD.

Brian’s brother, John, held the seat in City East in 2014, but lost it in 2019, meaning Fine Gael had no elected rep on the local authority in this part of the city for the first time ever.

A similar result again in 2024 would be fairly disastrous. Yet there’s no obvious choice of candidate; hence, the pressure on Frank to switch wards.

It may happen. If a constituency review, following the Census, re-jigs the boundaries and moves Menlo into City East, then Frank would be mad not to follow his supporters. He has consolidated his Menlo base and is stuck in everything out there – from the parish council finance committee, to being chairman of the graveyard committee.

But if the boundary change is minimal or doesn’t happen at all, as some rivals have speculated might be the case, it would be nonsensical for Frank to transfer, even if a resurgent Sinn Féin means Mark Lohan will be snapping at his heels.

Of course, Frank Fahy could run in both City Central and City East. If he won both, there’d be a co-option. It might be a bit hungry-looking, though. It could also lead to accusations from voters in both wards that he’s not committed to one or the other.

Whatever ward he runs in, Frank has been prepping for the campaign trail – he’s still got blisters on the soles of his feet after walking 170 kilometres on the Camino last month.

(Photo: Fine Gael City Councillor Frank Fahy, pictured recently on his bog in Menlo while his colleagues met with Green Minister Eamon Ryan at City Hall. He may be moving east if party bigwigs get their way).

This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. See this week’s Galway City Tribune for more. You can buy a digital edition HERE.


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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