A last ditch bid to broker a compromise between the chief executive of Galway City Council and the swimming and water polo clubs who have refused to return to Leisureland over price increases failed this week after a series of heated meetings.
City Chief Executive Brendan McGrath has now issued the five clubs with a deadline of March 9 to come back to him with a deal or he will reallocate the slots – which brought in income of around €250,000 before the fee hikes.
The clubs are standing firm in their opposition to any increased charges, insisting they were already paying double the national average to use the public facility before it was closed for 11 months due to storm damage.
A row over a proposed increase of 55% in charges for the clubs led to five of the seven board members of Leisureland resigning. That was negotiated down to 20% by Mr McGrath following fractious meetings with the club.
The tone of those meetings was conveyed in an email later sent by Vincent Finn, Connacht Regional Support Officer with Swim Ireland, to Mr McGrath, which he in turn then forwarded to councillors in an update on the negotiations.
In the email, Mr Finn said following six meetings, the Chief Executive had not listened to a word the club representatives had said.
“Instead you choose to believe the tripe that was fed to you by your staff. You choose to ignore the unanimous decisions of the board and the entire elected City Council,” he wrote.
“Good luck with your plan B and C. You had the chance to save clubs who work so hard to provide a structured and safe environment for children in the city of Galway, but you choose to fail them. Well done.”
One of the board members who did not resign, Cllr Padraig Conneely, said the Chief Executive had bent over backwards to reach a deal.
“The clubs have become hard line. They certainly haven’t been cooperative in arranging meetings. For example they wanted seven days written notice before meeting with the Chief Executive and then only after working hours,” remarked Cllr Conneely.
“The Chief Executive has facilitated them at every turn, last Monday he stayed in City Hall until 11pm to meet them – this is not the way to do business.
“Leisureland will have to move on if the clubs don’t agree to compromise like everyone else. We cannot wait forever. Four months has already been lost since €4.4m was spent on refurbishing it. It is losing €400,000 a year, paid for by the taxpayer, it can’t continue to be a drain on city finances and must be run as a more commercial enterprise.”
Mr Finn rejected any criticism of the clubs by Cllr Conneely.
“The clubs are in negotiation with Mr McGrath and until those are concluded we will be making no comment. We are hopeful we will be able to come to an agreement and get this sorted,” he told the Galway City Tribune.
“As far as Cllr Conneely is concerned, he hasn’t picked up the phone to the clubs since this all happened. He voted twice not to increase prices. We have no interest whatsoever what he has to say.”
West has lower cancer survival rates than rest
Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.
A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.
For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.
These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.
“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.
In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.
Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.
Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races
On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.
But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.
“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.
“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”
We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.
Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.
To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.
He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.
Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.
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.”