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Housing crisis forces refugees to remain in asylum seeker hostels



Galway’s chronic housing shortage is forcing people to remain living in the city’s two direct provision centres far longer than they need to.

New figures reveal that a total of 11% of the people living in the Eglinton in Salthill and Great Western House in Eyre Square have been granted ‘leave to remain’.

This means that they are staying in direct provision even though they have been granted refugee status or have been given permission by the Department of Justice to remain in Ireland, and they have not been returned home usually on humanitarian grounds.

They would have been residing in direct provision centres in the city up until they were granted permission to remain and they are then free to find alternative accommodation.

However, the new figures suggest that the housing crisis is forcing these people to stay in direct provision because they cannot find alternatives in the community.

Some 22 of the 170 people living in the Eglinton have leave to remain; and 13 of the 142 in the Great Western have leave to remain.

This is higher than the national average of 9%, although in Dublin more than a third of people in direct provision have leave to remain, reflecting the acute housing crisis in the capitals.

The figures were provided in the Dáil to Róisín Shorthall, leader of the Social Democrats.

Responding to the figures, the party’s city-based Galway West candidate, Niall Ó Tuathail, said: “The Galway housing emergency is really hitting the most vulnerable hardest and this is another example. Asylum seekers have fled their homes in hope of safety in Ireland. They were then put in cramped accommodation where they can’t work, cook for themselves, nor have any level of privacy. They go through a drawn-out process, sometimes taking more than a decade, for the Department of Justice to say their case is genuine.

“And then on being allowed to remain and build a life in Ireland, they can’t find a place to live and remain stuck in direct provision accommodation due to the housing emergency. It’s a terrible failure of a government that can’t do the bare minimum in ensuring there’s a basic functioning housing market.”

Mr Ó Tuathail said the city’s housing crisis will get worse before it gets better, because new builds are not even keeping up with Galway’s population growth, let alone the housing shortage that has built up.

“The Social Democrats advocate starting a multi-billion euro fund that would finance or build high-quality affordable homes in Galway and other cities.

“It would then sell up to 70% as affordable homes, and keep the rest for social housing provision, making it a net contributor to the State finances. That kind of solution would ensure we don’t continue to fail people in direct provision, as well as people on low incomes, students and young families,” he added.

Minister of State at the Dept of Justice, Denis Stanton said: “The provision of housing for persons coming out of the protection process has been incorporated in the recently published Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness.

“Some families in centres who have sourced their own accommodation in the community may defer their move until breaks in the school year to minimise disruption to their children’s education. As the annual major school break approaches, it is anticipated that a number of families will move during that period.

“Following a recent call for proposals under the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund, a number of charities and NGOs have been successful in applying for funding for projects with the specific aim of providing assistance to those transiting from state provided accommodation to permanent homes in the community. While this work has only just begun, I am confident that it will prove of great assistance and benefit to all concerned.”


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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