The new Council season commenced this week with some significant and positive announcements, not least of which is the acquisition of the new Childrens Cultural Hub at Lenaboy Castle (St Annes ), Taylors Hill. I am delighted to preside as Mayor over this great news story for both the children of Galway and the cultural sector.
This facility will provide a lasting cultural legacy for generations to come.The impact this initiative will have on the artistic and cultural output of the city is immense but let us not forget the impact this will have on the physical and mental health of so many people, not to mention the powerful support it will provide to the economic output of our city and ultimately in employment.
It is a win-win for all concerned.This large beautiful castle built in 1862 is to be used as an Arts and Cultural Hub and will contribute handsomely to the City of Culture legacy for the City. It will have space for the teaching and development of a wide range of artistic and cultural pursuits.
Congratulations to all involved especially the City Manager and his team for their hard work on this project. We should note also the generosity of Sister Mary Glynn and her colleagues in the Mercy Order. The religious orders are often the subject of criticism, some of it perhaps justified, but it is important we acknowledge the positive role they played in seeing this initiative through to fruition.
Staying with the positive news for a moment we have movement at last on the issue of the paving in Shop Street and surfaces on surrounding areas. We have secured funding of up to €5 million to commence resurfacing and this problem will soon be the subject of significant remedial works.I am delighted to confirm that the City Council unanimously agreed to offer a Civic Reception to both the Galway Senior and Minor hurling teams at a time, date and venue yet to be decided. I will keep you posted on this as developments occur.
As chair of the Council meetings I was happy to preside over the successful passing of the mid-term Traveller Accommodation Programme. We can now look forward to the provision of culturally appropriate housing on the explicit understanding that this does not mean the provision of hard-stands. Rather it will be the provision of appropriate housing in line with the consultation process undertaken with the Travelling community.So hopefully we have made significant progress on this emotive and contentious issue to the satisfaction of all stakeholders involved in the travelling and wider community.
The sale under a Section 183 notice for the disposal of Lands at Dún na Mara Renmore in order to facilitate the development of a site for a number of houses was an issue of great debate and has been one that has exercised many in the local community. Many residents of Dún na Mara opposed this move, some people in the locality were in favour. The motion to sell the public lands to the developer was carried by the narrowest of margins 9-8. I opposed the sale as I felt then as I do now that there was an alternative entrance that could have facilitated both the building of houses, the protection of a green space and taken into account the wishes of the residents of Dún na Mara. I believe the wishes of local residents in local area plans should always be taken strongly into account. However democracy prevailed and the motion was carried.
As budgets are getting tighter and revenues are under pressure this month we too were under immense pressure to increase the local property tax. The local Property Tax is now an essential component of the funding streams for local authorities. Nobody likes a tax, that is obvious and some oppose paying taxes in any form.
But we do need services and these must be paid for. I am pleased that we were able to withstand the pressures to increase it and leave it as is for this coming year in recognition of the pressures people are already facing in their domestic lives. Significant progress was also made on the provision of slow zones in housing estates and speed limits throughout the city making it a safer environment for all and especially our children.This was a positive and constructive meeting and credit is due to all Councillors for their hard working and businesslike approach to the agenda. I feel we still get bogged down on the minutes as they took 75 Minutes to pass and to me this is time wasted.
As Paul Brady once sang it is difficult to make progress when you are “trying to reach the future through the past”.The minutes are a record of past items and meetings and spending 75 minutes on them is at the expense of addressing current issues and getting proactive work done which will enhance our city going forward.
In the futureI hope with the help of all my fellow councillors that we will shorten the time spent on such unproductive matters. All in all this was a productive council meeting and I hope we can keep the positive energy and productivity to the fore for the rest of the council season.