Mayor of Galway Pearce Flannery has hit out at the amount of disinformation regarding the Council decision on busking and performance byelaws which were passed at Monday’s meeting of the City Council.
He says that it should be noted that at no stage whatsoever was it ever proposed to ban busking in Galway nor is there a ban on busking now.
“Initially a draft code of conduct for buskers and street performers was adopted but it was felt by many that this was not working. Others thought it was and needed more time to become established.
“A series of draft bylaws were drawn up and the basic aims of these plans were threefold:
Ban amplified busking on certain streets primarily shop Street down to end of Quay Street.
Allow amplified acts and large scale circle acts to perform at suitable sites such as Eyre Square and Spanish Arch.
Make it mandatory for Under 16s to be accompanied by a parent or Guardian.
“Shop Street/Quay Streets are medieval narrow thoroughfares that have a huge footfall on a daily basis. As councillors we have had huge numbers of representations from the general public and the business community regarding the noise levels due amplification of busking in this area.
“The problems were the increased noise levels and the difficulties people had in going up and down the street when certain acts were performing. The amplification was causing particular distress for people working in shops and living in apartments. Remember for many of us we walk past and are oblivious to the noise levels and the problems faced by those they must endure highly amplified and repeated versions of the same song. The issue of the obstructions caused was also brought to the fore.
He said that the idea of limited power from amplifiers was mooted and did receive much scrutiny and study but that this did prove difficult if not impossible to police and the Council were advised by the relevant authorities that it was impossible to enforce. So the choice ultimately came down to amplification or no amplification.
“It is my view that the solution to the problem was to facilitate continued busking on these streets but without the use of amplification. Therefore the ambiance and musical enhancement of the area would remain without the distress caused to people working in shops and living in the vicinity.
“Amplification is only essential for a small number of buskers and we have made provision for those. The majority of buskers are unaffected.
In my younger days as a student I busked on Shop Street without amplification. I have much experience in this area and as such I feel I was in a position to make an informed decision. The problem caused by what are known as circle acts was also significant. Frequently people were prohibited from going up or down the street due to the large crowds gathered around certain acts at particular times.
Circle acts blocked access for the disabled
“This problem was exacerbated for the disabled who had particular difficulty in making their way up and down these streets. Everybody has a right to peaceful and safe passage without obstruction of any kind. The solution to this is to allow amplified acts and circle acts to perform in Eyre Square. Indeed such was our commitment to facilitating the busking community we also made provision for a band stand to be erected in Eyre Square to facilitate such acts.
Under 16s are minors and we have a duty of care to ensure we legislate for their protection. The idea of permits for under 16s was mooted but was also believed to be unworkable. U16s having a parent or guardian in attendance is a sensible and practical solution.
Monday’s vote ended in a 9-9 tie and Mayor Flannery had to use a casting vote and did so in favour of the byelaws.
“These by laws are a major step forward. We must legislate for the majority and protect the minority. This we did do. Nobody is stopped from busking nor is amplified busking banned. Amplified busking and circle acts are simply deemed unsuitable for certain streets.
“Personally I feel that in an age when we in Galway are faced with immensely important issues such as our traffic and housing crises, litter management, surfacing on Shop Street etc I am a little perplexed that this matter has become so divisive and highly charged.
“Either way the message we send out is important. Busking is not banned in Galway. In fact the quality of busker will now increase as they can no longer rely on backing tracks and recorded music and many of them must now make music themselves. Galway, the home of the busker is open for business.”