"Urgent clarification" is needed on what the Galway City Council intends to do with five vacant houses on Lower Merchants Road. Are they to be turned into artisan dwellings or will they be used to house people?
These are the concerns being raised by Independent Galway West TD, Catherine Connolly, regarding the five houses, which the council purchased in 2007 and 2008, but which have remained unoccupied since. "In the midst of a housing crisis it is totally unacceptable," said the TD.
In August, city council chief executive Brendan McGrath confirmed that the five houses would to be developed as cultural/arts venues. He also confirmed that a "significant enhancement" and extension to Galway City Museum was in progress and that a "substantial funding application" was being made through Fáilte Ireland's Large Grants Scheme. He added that the intention of the enhancement and extension project was to "copper fasten" the role of this part of the city as a cultural quarter.
'It’s essential the museum remains a public museum under the control of the council, is open and available to all, and remains a protector and showcase for our heritage'
In December the council sought and received approval to raise a €3.5 million loan to progress this development. This money will underpin the council’s matched funding commitment to the project, with its drawdown subject to funding from Fáilte Ireland of not less than €5 million.
Dep Connolly has welcomed the progress, noting that the "Galway City Museum has become an integral part of the fabric" of Galway city and has "always embraced diversity and opened its doors to a broad range of groups". However she said the amount of public money involved in the development and expansion of the museum was "substantial" and must be "openly accounted for", while "every step of the drawdown" must also be publicly accounted for.
She has also called for "full disclosure of the nature of the agreement" between Fáilte Ireland and the council. "It’s essential the museum remains a public museum under the control of the council, is open and available to all, and remains a protector and showcase for our heritage," she said. "This is the essence of what a museum is all about and it is one of the great success stories of the Galway Museum, that more and more people are visiting this public building and using it as an educational facility. Moreover, any proposal to charge for entry would be totally unacceptable."