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Local Councillor highlights fears across the city in aftermath of Tullamore murder



Concern... the stretch of footpath between Blackrock and the caravan park.

By David Cendon Garcia

A local councillor’s call-out to women to highlight areas in the city where they felt threatened or unsafe has seen him swamped with responses.

And Cllr Owen Hanley said he could already see numerous black spots across the city that he said ‘dramatically tie together as being of similar concern’.

The Social Democrats Councillor reached out through social media following the recent murder of Ashling Murphy – encouraging women in the city to share parts of their daily walks that they felt were unsafe.

The purpose was to bring to the attention of the Galway City Council areas that could be repaired or improved to better ensure the safety of all.

But the responses identified areas right across the city.

One woman highlighted that the footpath on Upper Salthill between Blackrock and the caravan park as an area of concern for her – referencing a ‘dodgy experience’ she had.

“It was the summer of 2020. I was at the Salthill Summer Garden’s Festival beside the Caravan Park. I left before it finished. It was probably about a quarter past ten, and I was walking up along Upper Salthill Road, but it was kind of dark there, so I was trying to flag a taxi,” she said.

“I put my hands out when cars were coming by, and a guy stopped and offered me a lift. I told him I didn’t want to take a lift with him. He got really aggressive with me and told me to ‘get the f**k in the car’,” she added.

She went on to say that it was only the timely arrival of a real taxi that spooked the man before he could get out of his car, driving off.

“I phoned the Garda station, and they told me that I shouldn’t have been walking home by myself, that I should have more sense as a middle-aged woman,” she said.

“I gave them the registration and said, ‘you need to go out and find him before he throws some girl into the boot of his car’.

“I hadn’t been drinking, but I could see why, if you were a bit drunk, you might not even notice that he wasn’t a taxi driver and get in the car with him,” she said.

Other locations brought to the attention of Cllr Hanley included a laneway in Renmore, the Briarhill pedestrian pathway, and Cabbage Lane near Cill Ard in Bohermore.

One woman even highlighted Eyre Square as a potentially dangerous and poorly lit part of Galway.

Cllr Hanley said he was “taken aback by just the sheer amount of spaces that have been flagged as concerning, that just means the council and all those involved with the management of public spaces need to double on down their efforts to make sure that everybody is included in these spaces”.

He has now submitted the responses and suggestions to the Council’s Public Realm Strategy steering group, members of which have already contacted Cllr Hanley to develop a more co-ordinated approach.

This is still to be considered formally by the group since it only meets quarterly.

“It is a gap in our Public Realm Strategy that safety, although mentioned once or twice, isn’t an overarching thematic issue to be addressed, and I don’t think a gendered perspective to planning has been something that has been done fully in the council,” he said.

While it is now a matter of finding a funding stream for these public projects, Cllr Hanley is aware of its importance to the public.

“A lot of women might not go out for a walk or run at night after 6pm because it gets too dark. But if we create spaces where they feel safe that they can do that, then we created a culture where there are more people out and about in their local communities and that alone might be preventative,” he said.

Cllr Hanley recognized that there are “more meaningful and larger impacts that we need to make, and we need to start a broader conversation amongst men about the changes we need to see,” but also that “that designing out crime does matter, designing out negative behaviour can make a positive difference.”



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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