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Travellers make claim of ‘cultural genocide’ in new report



The Cúl Trá halting site at Lower Salthill

Decades of “institutional racism” characterised by neglect and discrimination by Galway City and County Councils has amounted to “cultural genocide” for the Travelling Community.

That’s according to the Galway Traveller Movement (GTM) which this week released its third Monitoring Report where it claims that the failure of both local authorities to provide adequate and appropriate accommodation for Travellers was wearing people down and forcing them to assimilate “by accepting houses out of desperation”.

Poor accommodation with minimal insulation; a lack of cooking facilities; windows that won’t close; kitchens and toilets sinking into the ground; serious structural defects; and vermin infestation are just some of the problems that are plaguing Traveller families across Galway.

The ‘Traveller Homes Now’ report examines the state of 18 sites Traveller-specific sites and housing schemes across city and county and has identified a plethora of issues.

This bi-annual exercise is carried out by GTM to assess the compliance of the State and local authorities on their obligations under national and international law – and according to this most recent publication, the Traveller family tenants of Galway City and County Councils are “experiencing extremely poor, unsafe and unhealthy accommodation conditions”.

The Traveller Accommodation Programmes of both local authorities are described as “flawed”, while existing accommodation is “in the main, sub-standard and insufficient”.

In the city, the report criticises Galway City Council for failing to draw down the available State funding to provide Traveller accommodation.

“The Local Traveller Action Committee is not fit for purpose. Galway City Council continues to fail to draw down its Traveller accommodation budget.”

Similarly, the report said the Council is “forcing” families into housing that is culturally inappropriate and there were no actions in the Traveller Accommodation Programme to rectify this.

“The Nomadic needs of the Traveller Community are not being met, as currently the so-called transient site is being used to accommodate families on a permanent basis.”

As a result, GTM has called for the responsibility for Traveller accommodation to be taken from local authorities.

“Both local authorities have failed to meet their targets over a 15-year period and now, unfortunately, the new [Traveller Accommodation Programmes] are weak and do not inspire confidence that the targets to meet the needs of the Traveller Community will ever be delivered.

“This cannot continue and we propose that the responsibility for the provision of culturally-appropriate accommodation be taken away from the local authorities.”

The report highlights how those living in Cúl Trá in Salthill feel they are constantly under threat of eviction.

“There is huge overcrowding on the site with some bays accommodating up to 12 or 13 people on a regular basis. The original six families are in a state of limbo with the City Council.”

Severe damp and mould are identified as a major problem in the Fána Glas estate in Ballybane – with ranges in the houses failing to heat beyond the kitchen.

“The houses have no insulation with tenants forced to stuff the windows to keep out draughts.

“The tenants have no idea of the long-term plans for the development. The empty houses that were filled with rubbish have been cleared out by the Council. All of the houses around the development in the wider area were insulated except this site.”

At Beal na Srutha in Ballybane, tenants have resorted to approaching a local representative to tackle ongoing problems at the site.

“There are gaps in the windows with mould visible in the rooms. Wooden doors are rotting and a large amount of slates that have come off the roofs have not been replaced. Tenants are forced to put sheets over the windows to stop the draught coming in. Most ranges barely heat the houses, with one house having no heat source at all.

“The tenants have approached a TD, they’ve asked a doctor to write to the Council and they’ve rang the maintenance department in the Council.”

At Carrowbrowne, the temporary site is reported to have an infestation of rats, exacerbated by ongoing sewerage issues.

At the Carrowbrowne transient site, the green area at the centre has no play facilities and is too small for children to play in – with many forced to play on the road side, according to the report.

Bridget Kelly of GTM said Travellers were being forced to choose between their cultural rights and the basic need for decent accommodation – something that was “unjust, undeniable and unforgivable”.

“Traveller families are being forced to live in these disgraceful and stressful conditions for decades now because our landlords – Galway City and County Councils – continue to blatantly ignore the rights of our community to safe and healthy culturally appropriate accommodation.

“This is not a question of a lack of money, laws or policy. It is a question of institutional racism it its rawest form,” said Ms Kelly.


Beal na Srutha, Ballybane
Gaps in windows with mould visible in rooms. Wooden doors are rotting, roof slates not replaced. Tenants forced to put sheets over windows to stop draughts. One house has no heat source.

Carrowbrowne Temporary Site
Tenants dealing with infestation of rats at back of bays. Thirteen new welfare units promised but not delivered. Sewers blocked and potholes not fixed.

Carrowbrowne Transient Site
Ongoing infestation from rats, mice and flies. CCTV reinstalled without consultation with families. No play facilities for kids. Plumbing needs to be overhauled. Sewerage needs to be addressed and power lines fixed to end electricity difficulties.

Clós na Choile, Ballybane
Gullies around bays regularly overfill and cause damage to flooring. Heat escapes through gaps in windows. Toilets sinking into ground.

Cúl Trá, Salthill
Huge overcrowding with some bays accommodating 12-13 people. Families being forced into houses rather than culturally-appropriate accommodation.

Fána Glas, Ballybane
Houses have no insulation and tenants forced to stuff windows to keep out draughts. Ranges don’t heat houses beyond the kitchen.

Tuam Road
Overcrowding has gotten worse with many bays at full capacity. Tenants told path at back of bays is preventing extension of the units.

St Nicholas Park Group Housing, Doughiska
No action to address rodent problem. Structural problems need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. No progress on Traveller specific accommodation to reduce overcrowding or hidden homeless.

St Nicholas Park Halting Site, Doughiska
No progress on Traveller specific accommodation to reduce overcrowding or hidden homeless. No progress on regular structural maintenance (insulation, drainage, damp and mould).


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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