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Town Hall initiatives lay foundation for return to normality for performers and artists



James Riordan of Brú Theatre is encouraging applicants from across a range of artistic disciplines.

Galway’s Town Hall Theatre, which devised a range of innovative schemes to provide work for artists since lockdown began last March, has launched a new programme of supports, worth over €150,000.

The venue’s Director, Fergal McGrath, described the scheme – which will involve commissions, awards and residencies – as “ground-breaking”.

All the money will be distributed before July, helping artists in Galway to develop and create work, especially “in these difficult times”.  Funding has come from the Arts Council and Galway City Council, among other sources.

Playwright Christian O’Reilly (Inside I’m Dancing, The Good Father) will take part in a residency scheme at the theatre and is being commissioned to write a new play. Other Artists in Residence include writer and performer Little John Nee and James Riordan of Brú Theatre. There will also be a dance residency with choreographer and dancer Breandán de Gallaí.

All four will engage with local artists and audiences, Mr McGrath explained.

The venue is also running a series of Open Call commissions. This includes a second series of the successful Bringing It All Back Home project for which theatre-makers, musicians and writers engaged with residents of nursing homes and care homes across Galway last summer and autumn. The digital stories they created as a result are available to watch on the Town Hall website. Up to ten commissions are planned for Bringing It All Back Home 2021, supported by Creative Ireland. On top of that, the Town Hall is now offering a module of Bringing It All Back Home to all Transition Year classes in Galway City.

Projects such as Bringing It All Back Home demonstrated the value of arts during Covid, according to Mr McGrath.

“But we need to remember there can be no arts without artists and arts workers. Through these initiatives, we hope in some small way to help artists cope with this devastating pandemic. And, like the Arts Council, we believe the work being done by artists and arts organisations will inspire Irish society as we recover from the pandemic.”

Another artist-support initiative from last year, Remote Control, will return and is being extended.

This mentoring programme is being run by James Riordan of Brú Theatre, and by Galway Dance project. It involves four artists receiving remote mentorship. There will also be in-person engagement, networking and professional development events when that’s possible. These four places are Open Call. For information on how to apply visit

The venue is also establishing a Theatre Development Programme to support independent and emerging artists. This will be facilitated by the Director of Decadent Theatre, Andrew Flynn.

He and a panel of experienced theatre-makers from across various disciplines will share their knowledge and experience with independent artists, and will also work with artists and companies to develop their art form.

The Town Hall Theatre introduced its Patron Donation Awards last year to help fund its work. This was a great success, said Mr McGrath, and next month the venue will hold an Open Call for the 2021 awards. These will support Galway-based artists, companies or producers to research, develop and complete original, ambitious projects “which have something to say about the times we live in”.  The venue will offer at least five awards of up to €5,000 each. In addition, participants can avail of rehearsal/development space in the Town Hall Theatre and mentoring, as required and when feasible.

The Town Hall is also working with An Grianán Theatre in Letterkenny on the commission of a new play by Sarah Jane Scott.

“We might be locked down, but we are not out and there’s so much we can do help artists,” said Mr McGrath.



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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