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Youth counselling service on brink of closure



A local free counselling service run by Youth Work Ireland Galway, is on the brink of closure due to a lack of stable funding.

Young people aged 12-21 years could avail of a counselling service in their local area for the past five years without worrying about finding money to pay for appointments. However, the Youth Counselling Service are experiencing long waiting lists and are unable to cater for young people’s needs with their current funding.

Local Councillor Niall McNelis expressed his bemusement over the lack of funding for the service, describing it as a “no brainer” for the HSE.

“I had Alan Kelly, who is now the Labour Party spokesperson for Health, in town last week and this was one particular group we met with.

“It’s very minimal, the amount of money they’re looking for. As a father of kids myself, I have to say that this is something that I would hate to see gone,” he said.

Young people are planning on hosting a public meeting in the first week of July to raise awareness of the need for the service to be funded and they will be inviting all local politicians to the meeting to show their support for youth mental health in Galway city and county.

What is unique about the Galway-based Youth Counselling Service is that young people and their families can ask for the service themselves without a clinical (medical) assessment.  All the counsellors hold full accreditation with a recognised professional body and are experienced in working with adolescents.

In 2016, over 190 young people accessed the counselling in Galway, Ballinasloe, Tuam and Loughrea with 154 of them in the 12-15 year age range.

The Youth Counselling Service have also had meetings with TDs Anne Rabbitte and Sean Canney in relation to the counselling service, as well as correspondence from other TDs and Councillors

The Youth Counselling Service have been receiving €35,000 in funding per annum but Counselling Coordinator Deirdre Bermingham explained that this was not sufficient given the demand for the service in Galway City, in particular.

“€42,000 would be enough to cover Galway, Tuam, Loughrea, and Ballinasloe,” she said.

Ms Bermingham also spoke about the need to offer the service in other parts of the county, ensuring that the service is available to all young people.

“If the service was extended to Carna, Clifden and Gort, it would cost €62,000. We have been asked by agencies in these areas to extend the service,” she added.

Currently, Youth Work Ireland Galway’s Youth Counselling Service run a 15-hour-a-week service during the academic year. The service is delivered within existing youth spaces and no venue costs are charged. It costs approximately €250 per person to receive six free counselling sessions.

Cllr McNelis outlined the steps he and Deputy Kelly will take to try and ensure that the funding required to keep this service open is provided.

“We will make sure that the new Minister for Mental Health (Jim Daly, TD) and the Minister for Health (Simon Harris, TD) will be made known of this,” he said.

“We want the money secured. There should be money given every year for this service. We will be using every channel that we have to find that this decision is turned around,” he added.

The figures speak for themselves in proving the importance of this service. In 2016, 120 females between the ages of 12 and 21 availed of the service, as did 71 males in the same age bracket.

The Counsellors help young people through any difficulties they might be experiencing including anxiety, bullying, exam stress, substance issues, family conflict and more.

Ms Bermingham concluded by expressing the Youth Counselling Services desire to remain open and provide help and support to those in need.

“We would like funding to keep the whole service open. It’s a service that is needed for young people in the city and county.”


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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