Westside halting site a ‘knee jerk reaction’ to Traveller accommodation crisis, Cubbard warns

Katie Geoghegan of Oughterard at the  Fashionable and Fizzy Afternoon in the Galway Bay Hotel on Sunday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Katie Geoghegan of Oughterard at the Fashionable and Fizzy Afternoon in the Galway Bay Hotel on Sunday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Cllr Mike Cubbard has said he will not support plans to install a temporary halting site on a site owned by Galway City Council in Westside if this comes before the Galway City Council later this month.

Cllr Cubbard made his comments following a public meeting on the proposed halting site at the weekend, where a number of residents in Westside raised concerns over both the suitability of the site and the welfare of the families who would be housed there.

The meeting on Saturday was attended by more than 100 people, including local residents, business owners, and representatives of the Galway Traveller Movement.

“The meeting was to inform those present of the current situation and where this proposal came from,” Cllr Cubbard said. “Initially I spoke of the Traveller Accommodation Programme adopted by Galway City Council in March 2014, before this current council was elected. A programme which includes the provision to deliver three permanent halting sites across the city in the period 2014 to 2018. No halting site has been delivered yet.

“I informed those present of the urgency to re-house families in severe overcrowding in Cul Trá in Salthill and that the proposal for a temporary site in Westside was announced by the executive in December, without any consultation with elected members or the general public, a move I am heavily critical of. The debate raised genuine concerns for the welfare of the families in question, however equally the suitability of this site.”

The site, located beside the astroturf pitch in Westside, is landlocked between houses, the shopping centre, enterprise park, and the all-weather pitch which is used by local sports clubs, sometimes until 11pm at night.

Cllr Cubbard said there were concerns about how the noise and lighting from the pitch would affect children trying to sleep at night in the proposed halting site.

Councillors from the Galway City Central local electoral area received a report on Traveller accommodation across the city at a meeting on Monday.

“I took my concerns and the concerns of the public to this meeting,” Cllr Hubbard said. “Unfortunately many of the questions and concerns raised remain unanswered. How long is temporary, was the most frequent question raised on Saturday, but the response from the executive will not ease concerns as they simply advised ‘as long as it is necessary’. I was advised that the proposed site for Westside would have eight bays, but again a concern raised regarding the measures in place to ensure barriers are not cut and others moving in were not answered.

“We had over 20 cases last year on other sites in Galway where barriers were cut down and damaged, more caravans than permitted entered sites yet nobody has been charged with criminal damage, therefore it begs the question as to how Galway City Council can reassure residents the same won’t happen in Westside.”

Cllr Cubbard said there were also concerns locally about access to the site and how access would affect parking in the area.

“Overall, there is agreement that families in severe, unsafe, overcrowding need assistance but this site is not the answer,” he added. “It raises too many questions and concerns locally and will not receive my support if a proposal comes before Council to install a halting site here. We must work together to find proper long term solutions and not operate in this manner, which is simply a knee jerk reaction to the crisis we face.”

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