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Up to 80 city shops now empty



Date Published: {J}

Around 80 retail units in Galway City are lying empty, with the prospect of further closures after the January sales, a city businessman has warned, while Galway Chamber has said that jobs will be lost unless people ‘shop local’ this Christmas.

Councillor Niall McNelis, who runs two businesses in the city centre, said that the City Council, landlords and banks need to “change their ways” if businesses are to survive.

He called on the Council to introduce free parking on weekday mornings in order to attract shoppers. Otherwise, he said, the first three months of next year could be a “bloodbath” with job losses and business closures.

“It is so important that businesses stay open. You hear of factories closing with big job losses, but you rarely hear about the small retailers that disappear. But you have to remember that each small business might mean at least three jobs,” said Cllr McNelis.

“The Council should introduce free parking, say from 9am to noon on Monday to Thursday. At the moment, their carparks are lying empty, they’re down €1m on parking revenue in the past year. If people aren’t spending money, businesses aren’t paying rates to the Council, and then roads aren’t being swept or bins emptied.

“January, February and March will be a bloodbath, so the Government needs to look at some sort of incentive in the Budget next week for businesses.

“You can see a lot of people are already struggling, and we’re [his two businesses] are finding it hard too. It’s happening across the board.

“Developers bought premises around the city centre at the height of the boom for stupid money, and they are under pressure from the banks to make repayments, so they won’t reduce rents. Then you have empty units,” said Cllr McNelis.

He said that during the Summer, he counted 64 empty retail units in the city, and this figure is now likely to be closer to 80. Despite the closures, he stressed Galway is still an excellent shopping location.

“I would sing Galway’s praises. There is still brilliant choice in Galway. We have great shops like Brown Thomas and Anthony Ryans, and smaller retailers. Born is one of the coolest shops in the country, that’s why Galway is so good,” said Cllr McNeils.

He said that Dublin City Council has made 3,500 parking spaces available free each day, and that Galway should follow suit.

“If people support Galway and shop local, remember that these local businesses are the ones that sponsor local events and give donations,” said Cllr McNelis.

He added that the Government decision to ban ‘upward only’ rent reviews from next February was welcomed. Deputy Frank Fahey said the ban would reduce pressure on businesses in the city.

Michael Coyle, Chief Executive of Galway Chamber told the Galway City Tribune that jobs are seriously at risk unless people shop locally.

“These are exceptionally difficult economic times we’re in. People need to understand that our ‘Shop Galway’ campaign isn’t about lining the pockets of traders. It’s about saving jobs. Unless people spend locally, the people they see in shops around town and in shopping centres will lose their jobs,” said Mr Coyle.

He said that the City Council’s response to their request to discount parking for the Festive season was “disappointing”.

“We’ve called on the Council and private carpark operators to support the business community by discounting charges, to boost trade. The Council’s response has been disappointing. If Dublin City can introduce a suspension of the ‘bus gate’, then we should be discounting or free parking here. It would definitely have an impact,” he said.

He said that commercial rates as well as high rents were also a major burden on retailers. The business chief said the Government needs to provide ‘risk capital’ to banks, similar to in the 1980s, so funding would be available to struggling businesses.

“It’s a difficult situation for all concerned. Banks are cautious about lending to businesses with deteriorating trade, and the businesses cannot survive without a higher overdraft.

“What is at risk is our current employment base, and the Government have an onus to protect jobs,” he said.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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