Galway City Councillors have pleaded with City Hall officials to show leniency to motorists, who were ticketed for parking illegally, documents reveal.
Former city mayor, Councillor Noel Larkin (Ind) requested the Traffic Section of the Council to withdraw a Fixed Penalty Notice issued to a person he knows who was parked illegally on a footpath.
And Councillor Clodagh Higgins (FG) made representations to the Council to quash fines issued to three pharmacy employees who had parked illegally – she argued an exception should be made for the frontline workers, who she said did not realise parking enforcement had resumed after the lockdown.
Other public representatives who contacted management of Galway City Council relating to parking tickets issued by wardens were: Alan Cheevers (FF), Frank Fahy (FG) and Eddie Hoare (FG).
Records of the representations were released following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
Cllr Larkin contacted City Hall and “respectfully requested the withdrawal of a parking ticket” issued to a person known to him.
The individual was, “parked on the footpath, which he understands is a violation of the Bye-laws”, the Cllr explained.
“However, he was collecting some bags of waste from his partner’s house, for disposal. The timescale was relatively short, and he endeavoured to only partially block the footpath, being respectful of pedestrians using the path.
“He would have to carry the waste bags a considerable distance if he could not park outside the house, which would cause considerable hardship to both parties concerned, due to age,” said Cllr Larkin, in an email to the Traffic Section.
He asked “can an exception be granted on this occasion due to exceptional circumstances?”.
Cllr Larkin added the individual who was ticketed has “always been respectful of the laws” and “I can vouch that there will not be a re-occurrence”.
The representation had no effect on the fine, according to the records, which show the motorist subsequently paid the fine.
Asked to comment on the representation, Cllr Larkin in a statement to the Galway City Tribune, said: “Galway City Council does not take representations from anyone regarding parking fines other than the registered owner of the vehicle in question. Any attempts I made on behalf of my constituents were when there was a disability of the driver/owner involved.”
Cllr Higgins asked City Hall to quash three separate parking tickets issued to employees of a city pharmacy, after being contacted by the owner.
“Usually, I would never get involved in parking fines, however on this occasion I agreed to make representations due to the fact that the staff are frontline workers and over the past number of months, I like everyone else in Ireland are [sic] very proud of these workers,” she said.
Cllr Higgins said that the three workers were “unaware” that the Traffic Section was “back working” after the lockdown when traffic enforcement was relaxed.
“I would be obliged if consideration could be given to quashing their fines given the fact that the staff are frontline workers that were on duty at the time and were genuinely unaware that enforcement had resumed the week prior,” she said.
When Cllr Higgins followed up the request with a reminder email 11 days later, she was told that all three individuals had appealed the parking tickets, and they had been told that the appeals were refused and the “penalty remained payable”. She was told they could have a second appeal, adjudicated by an “independent officer”.
Asked to comment on her representations, Cllr Higgins said: “I made representations on behalf of three frontline workers who had incurred fines while at work during the Covid 19 pandemic.
“Given the huge demands on all healthcare workers at that time and despite the fact I would never intervene in any breach of the law, I felt there were mitigating circumstances given the unprecedented times we found ourselves in.
“I acted in good faith believing there were extenuating circumstances. I respected the final determination of Galway City Council and did not make further representations on the matter.”
Cllr Hoare wrote to the Council to clarify if a parking ticket “may have been issued in error”. He said he was contacted by a motorist who said that “no ticket was placed on his car and he was only informed when a reminder came in the post”.
The ticket, he said, related to parking on a grass verge at Blackrock, and the driver claimed, “he never parks that far down on the road”.
The Council official said the warden had photographic evidence of the car parked on a grass verge. “From information available it appears that the ticket was correctly issued,” Cllr Hoare was told.
Cllr Hoare told the Galway City Tribune that he was merely querying to confirm if a ticket had in fact been issued.
“The area in question was along the grass verge at Blackrock. I believe better parking facilities should be provided by Galway City Council here. This amenity is used daily by a number of Galwegians and the parked cars are posing no danger to the public or oncoming traffic,” he said.
The records show that Cllr Fahy left a 21-second voicemail for an official last September, in relation to ticketing in Claddagh, where residents’ parking spaces had been blocked during repair works.
Notes of the voicemail read: “Works being carried out by Irish Water staff in Grattan Road area. This has obstructed vehicular access by residents to their off-street parking spaces.
“Parking tickets issued this week to individuals who could not access their space. This matter has caused concern and the off-street tickets must reflect same.”
Cllr Fahy said he contacted City Hall because he felt it was a genuine injustice against residents in Claddagh. He insisted that he would have “absolutely no sympathy for people caught illegally parking on footpaths or in disabled parking spaces”.
According to the documents, Cllr Cheevers made a request about a Fixed Charge Notice issued for a bus set-down violation. The data records that the appeal was refused, and the fine was subsequently paid.
The Council said fines are issued to the registered owners of a vehicle, and they have two attempts to appeal. All appeals must be made by the owner.
“If a councillor makes representations on behalf of a constituent he or she would be advised of this procedure,” it said.
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.