With just two weeks until its annual budget meeting, Galway City Council has been criticised for its delay in releasing funding to AMACH!, the local organisation representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, which is seeking to open a resource centre. There is also ongoing controversy about the provision of funding to MADRA - the charity aiming to reduce the rate of dog euthanasia in the city.
The money being sought by both organisations is extremely small in the context of the city’s overall budget at potentially just €10,000 for MADRA and €25,000 for AMACH! respectively.
The funds for AMACH! were approved in November 2014 at a city council meeting to decide the 2015 budget. The decision to seek funding towards the running costs of the centre was taken when it was established that the council did not own a suitable premises for use as an LGBT resource centre in order to fulfill a commitment in the City Development Plan. The centre is aimed at benefiting the overall health and well-being of LGBT people, their families and friends. It will be a safe space, to be utilised by a number of LGBT peer support groups and will be open to the wider community to access information, enjoy a cuppa, and participate in relevant events.
AMACH! is now calling on the council to honour its decision and release the funds immediately as a matter of urgency. Due to the council decision to sanction funding to the organisation, AMACH! signed a lease agreement for its centre in August. The delay in receiving the funding has meant that the group has not opened the centre, and is two months in arrears with its rent. AMACH! is concerned that any further delay will damage the good working relationships and transparent governance the group has established over the years.
Social Democrat general election candidate Niall Ó Tuathail is unhappy about the city council’s reluctance to release funding for the LGBT resource centre and is calling on the local authority to honour the agreement. “This incredible volunteer team at AMACH! have poured their hearts and souls into getting the resource centre ready to open. The centre is much needed by a community that still faces daily discrimination resulting in much higher than average mental health issues and suicide rates.”
Meanwhile MADRA is calling on the local authority to make provision in its upcoming budget for dog welfare, due to the embarrassing statistic that Galway city has the second highest dog euthanasia rate in the country. In 2014, Galway City Council put 104 dogs to sleep and transferred 26 dogs to MADRA. This gives the city a 47 per cent euthanasia rate.
MADRA spokesperson Eileen Keleghan says the council’s euthanasia rate could have been as high as 60 per cent last year, had MADRA not taken in the 26 dogs. “The council cannot ignore this issue any longer. This is a service that has been seriously under-funded for far too long. The council spent €15,000 on veterinary services last year, and we assume the majority of this went towards euthanising and disposing of dogs. Surely it makes more sense to give this money to a rescue organisation to help them to give a dog a second chance.’’
MADRA has offered to rescue approximately 100 dogs from Galway City Pound in return for funding provision of between €20,000 and €25,000 in 2016 – if figures remain comparable with previous years this could see the euthanasia rate reduced to as low as 11 per cent.
Ms Keleghan says there is evidence there to support that working with rescue organisations is a viable solution. “Putting dogs to sleep is costly. Our proposal may only cost the council less than €10,000 when the adjustment to veterinary fees is taken into account. Surely this is a small price to pay for saving so many dogs from destruction.”
Ms Keleghan says the organisation is appalled that so many dogs can be put to sleep in a progressive city like Galway. “We feel it is our duty to put a proposal in place and to continue to highlight the issue until something is done.”
The MADRA proposal is back on the agenda for the November meeting of Galway City Council next week.