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Galway’s top honour for Magdalen heroines



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Two women pivotal in helping the women and girls who endured inhumane conditions at the Magdalen Laundry on Forster Street are to be awarded the Freedom of the City.

The announcement that Patricia Burke Brogan and the late Ena McEntee are to be given Galway’s highest honour was made to mark International Women’s Day by Mayor Colette Connolly, who had put forward the motion a special meeting of Galway City Council.

She initially brought the proposal to the Policy and Procedures committee meeting after being approached about how both women could be acknowledged officially by the McEntee family and Breda Murphy, spokesperson for the Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance. The matter was discussed privately by councillors before reaching unanimous agreement.

The Mayor described Patricia Burke Brogan as an activist, humanitarian, poet, artist and playwright while Ena McEntee was a “woman of courage, an innovator, a caring soul, kind and considerate, mother, friend and rescuer to women in the Magdalen Laundry.”

A young novice nun with the Order of the Mercy Sisters, Patricia Burke Brogan emerged as one of the first people in Ireland to expose the conditions endured by young women incarcerated in these institutions.

Teaching school children during term, in school holidays she was sent to the Laundry on Forster Street to supervise the women at work and was immediately shocked at the sight of them dressed in drab, ill-fitting hard clothing, young women who appeared to blend with the machinery, slaving in shocking conditions without payment or pension.

As the oppressive smoke, heat and damp conditions mingled, she was moved to describe the scene as ‘Dante’s Inferno’.

After being forced to pay a sum of £50 to Bishop Michael Browne to leave the Order, once outside she put pen to paper to document her experiences. She later wrote a three-act play called ‘Eclipsed’, which depicted the daily lives of five ‘inmates’ inside a Magdalen Laundry in 1963 who dreamt of life outside.

Rather than being celebrated for speaking out, Patricia was ostracised for a time. She struggled to get her work published as it depicted the nuns in a poor light.

Ena McEntee, originally from New Road and who later moved to McHugh Avenue in Mervue, became a friend to the Magdalen women when she began working alongside them in the laundry.

In the 1960s Ena managed to help more than 15 women escape the laundry, with the support of her husband Hugh and three sons, Hugo, Andy and Declan, along with neighbours.

After picking them up and hiding them in a van, the girls would be taken to their home in Mervue where they would stay for weeks at a time.

Despite being of very modest means, Ena gave the women enough money to purchase a train ticket to Dublin and to travel to England. She also ensured that the women would depart from Woodlawn or Athenry rail station to avoid the Gardaí, who often returned ‘escapees’ trying to board a train at Ceannt Station in the city centre back to the laundry.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read more on the Patricia and Ena, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. 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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