There’s a push on to promote activities other than drinking alcohol in Galway City at night.
It comes as a former city mayor claims Ireland is not mature enough for the proposed new licensing laws that will allow venues to remain open until 6am and to serve alcohol until 5am.
Galway City Council plans to hire a ‘night mayor’ early in the New Year to encourage more retail outlets to open for late-night shopping, and to entice more cafes to trade later.
The new employee, officially known as a Night-Time Economy Advisor, will also be tasked with encouraging arts and culture organisations to improve their offering at night.
It’s one of the recommendations of the Night-Time Economy taskforce set-up by Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin (Green Party).
Revised licensing laws including later opening hours for pubs and nightclubs up to 6am was the headline recommendation of the taskforce.
But the Chairperson of Galway City Joint Policing Committee (JPC) this week warned Ireland may not be ready for liberal alcohol laws.
“We have an issue with drink in this country. I don’t know if we are grown-up enough to know how to drink until 6am,” said JPC Chair, City Councillor Niall McNelis (Labour).
The City Council’s Tourism Officer, Ruairi Lehmann gave a presentation to the JPC on Monday about plans for the city’s night economy.
He said a key element of the initiative would be an “extensive consultation process, leading to the development of an action plan setting out a range of interventions to support the co-ordinated development of the area’s night-time economy”.
Interventions may include incentives for late-night retail and other businesses, and late-night use of venues such as the Galway Museum and Galway Arts Centre.
These and other venues have opened late on Culture Night, he said, but they would have to examine the viability of and demand for late openings for longer periods.
Garda Chief Superintendent Gerard Roche warned about the cost of Garda resources to police the city later into the night as a result of this initiative.
Chief Supt Roche said the Garda Commissioner would not be happy with him after he submitted the Garda overtime bill for this December that is necessary to police the city’s night-time economy in the build-up to Christmas.
It was sustainable in the short-term, but if Galway was going to be busier at night for a sustained period, then the issue of Garda resources had to be factored in.
He pointed to Limerick, where retailers pay the cost of two uniformed Gardaí to patrol shopping centres for six to eight hours.
Chief Supt Roche also called for consultation and feedback with residents on the plans. He said that lack of engagement with residents was a theme highlighted regularly at JPC meetings.
Senator Pauline O’Reilly (Green) said Galway needed to grasp this opportunity. She said there was a ‘concentration on alcohol’ in Galway’s night-time economy but this initiative would allow arts and culture to flourish and encourage more families into the city at night like in other European cities.
Providing late-night buses and alternatives to the car, would be important for this, she said.
Councillor Alan Cheevers (FF) suggested she should contact another Green Minister, the party’s leader, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan, about securing funding for night buses for Galway to support the night-time economy action plan.
In his presentation, Mr Lehmann outlined how €4m in funding from Minister Martin’s Department this year, post-Covid, was allocated to 18 venues in the city to support entertainment off-peak and to increase footfall. He said with the exception of one, all venues that received funding were bars, pubs or hotels.
Mr Lehmann said the Council’s new employee will be asked to set up a night-time economy committee for the city, conduct an extensive consultation process and develop an action plan for the night-time economy.
The new employee should be hired by March, when Mr Lehmann agreed to give an update to that month’s JPC.
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.