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Frankie marks 40 years as a fire fighter



Having been born in the fire station, it could be said that there was an element of destiny being fulfilled when Frankie Dolan became a fire fighter – but to give 40 years of his life to public service certainly takes a bit more than destiny.

Last month, Frankie celebrated this remarkable accolade, but as the man himself explains, when he started back in 1977, it was very much in keeping with the family tradition.

Frankie’s grandfather began what would become a four generation-long association with the fire and rescue services – something that continues to this day with Frankie’s son now working full-time with Cork City Fire and Rescue.

“The first brigade was in 1928 and my grandfather was the driver – my father was in the Second World War and when he came back, he took over his job.

“He had five brothers in it and it became known as Dolan’s Fire Brigade,” Frankie laughs.

In 1977, Frankie’s father passed away and he soon found himself following in his Dad’s footsteps.

Growing up in one of three houses connected to the Fr Griffin Road Fire Station, Frankie’s ambitions to become a fire fighter started early.

He says it took a push from the “right people” to get him on the road that has seen him spend four decades in the service – continuing to work as a Station Officer to this day.

“I was born in the fire station in 1960 and I always wanted to be a fire officer.

“The Chief Fire Officer, Brendan Sugrue, Seán Cleary, Walter Hegarty and John Philbin – between them, they were always pushing me in the right direction.”

Frankie says that he had to love the job in the beginning – because it certainly wasn’t for the money that he was doing it.

“There was feck all money really, £18 and it went up in stages – that wasn’t a lot, even in those days.

“But I have always said that I don’t think that there was any other job that would entice me.”

One of the most enjoyable parts of the job for Frankie is his work as an instructor – travelling the country training recruits and passing on the knowledge and experience he has built up over the years.

“I became and instructor for the Department, which is an honour – instructing other officers around the country.

“It’s was a tradition in Galway really with Brendan Sugrue and Sean Cleary and others working as instructors before they retired, so I was just continuing with that.”

To be in the same job from the age of 17 to 57 takes some staying power – and part of what has made that easy is the simple fact that no two days are the same.

“There is one thing about the job – you go on duty at nine o’clock and you don’t know what time you’ll get home.

“Every day is different and every day, there are different calls coming in – you’re helping people a lot.

“One thing that we are all trained in is Emergency First Response but we are not doing that at the moment and it’s something we could be doing.

“We’re in around the city and we’re there to save people and help people – we could cover in some cases for the ambulances.

“All our engines do carry a defibrillator and it is all about saving lives in minutes – most people don’t even realise we have a defibrillator.”

Frankie says that there may be some misconceptions about the work that they do – hastening to add that saving cats from trees isn’t something that regularly happens – the lives of people take priority.

“The Fire Brigade has changed a lot – when I joined, it was all dealing with fires and crashes.

“We are now trained in rope and line rescue which is rescue from the water and we are trained in first aid.

“For flooding, we’ve trained for slush water rescue and one thing about Galway Fire Station is that we are the headquarters for the county – the county is well organised but we are always there to back them up.”

Flooding has been a recurring issue that Galway Fire and Rescue has had to deal with in recent years – with Frankie explaining that it takes certain skills to ensure that these situations don’t end in tragedy.

“With the major floods that time in Salthill in 2014 – we went out to help because of the fear that the water would reach the power station.

“We had to carry out searches on cars to make sure that there was nobody sleeping in cars – that is something that comes with homelessness.”

Galway Fire and Rescue have to deal with some of the most testing conditions – not only dealing with forest fires, entering burning buildings and carrying out water rescue – but they are often the first at the scene of some of the most harrowing road traffic accidents.

Frankie says that when an accident took the life of a close relative, that hit him harder than all of the accidents he had to deal with before – despite not being at the scene.

“It’s peculiar because I’ve been 40 years going out and you’ll never really look at the person you’re cutting out – you are still very respectful, but you probably wouldn’t recognise them if you were to see them again.

“What really affects us is if it is a younger person – it’s difficult to handle it because you know what is being lost.

“The family’s lives are destroyed, the young person loses their life and there is just a mountain of people that are affected by it.”

To combat what Frankie says is a belief among younger people that they are “invincible”, he takes part in regular road shows that show them what it is to be cut out of a car.

And despite being unsure of how much this really works, he hopes that some people walk away with a better understanding of what is at stake.

While it hasn’t always been easy, Frankie still loves his work and says that there have been highlights.

Having met Pope John Paul II and US President, Ronald Regan, when they visited Galway – Frankie says his job has given him opportunities he never would have otherwise had.

He doesn’t have to retire until he is 65 – this due to having a contract that dates back to before the compulsory retiring age of 55 was enforced.

He insists that he has a few years in him yet – and wonders what his life would be without the job he has done for a very large part of it.

“There is great banter in the station but once the bells go, it becomes serious business – I still enjoy the job.

“When you see a family – some of them send in little things to say thanks; it’s a small thing but it is great.

“Some people say they wouldn’t be able to do what I do, but I wouldn’t be able to be a nurse – some people are just made for a particular job.”


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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