Consultation is an under-rated concept. But it is key as it helps engender the support that decisions need to be successfully implemented. The importance of it is to the fore in Galway this week because of two major projects. One which is just starting out, and the other which is midway through.
Last Friday, NUI Galway announced that it is engaging on a major consultation process to start a collective train of thought that will eventually, they hope, create a civic, academic, and cultural space on Nuns’ Island that will link the university to the city inextricably, by bringing its campus right to the core. It is a project that is exciting and pivotal to the development of Galway over the next century. The way the project has been handled so far has been welcoming; it encourages input from diverse voices, and it will proceed to fruition when a consensus of what will be the optimum blueprint has been reached.
And then on Monday came the surprising news that the planning permission for the new, larger, and much needed Galway Hospice at Merlin Park had been overturned by An Bord Pleanala.
The decision has led to a great deal of emotion on both sides of the argument. Galway Hospice management and staff are understandably extremely disappointed that this decision had been reached, because they had ambitious plans for their hospice to meet the ever-growing needs of those suffering from life-threatening illnesses.
The councillors who proposed the rezoning of the land for that purpose are also miffed at what some of them see as the pandering of planning authorities to minority interetss, to the neglect of what they see as the greater good.
And the third party to this, those who fought valiantly to protect the biodiversity of the wildlife at that location and who highlighted that such a plan was going against the grain of the Council’s own planning guidelines. They emphasise that the campaign was against the location, not the Hospice.
And then behind all of these parties are the people who will be using the Hospice — that’s you and I, and our families and our friends and relations. I wrote once that in terms of fundraising, you can never do too much for Galway Hospice. Its wonderful staff bring relief and dignity and care to thousands and thousands who find themselves in a situation they would have never hoped for.
The bottom line is that there has to be a bigger Galway Hospice to cope with the expected range of services, as technologies to battle cancer get more and more advanced. It has outgrown its Renmore base. It needs a larger facility where its residents can heal and reflect in a dignified and discreet location, giving them an inner peace.
One would hope that when the dust has settled on this, that a more intense process of consultation will take place that will give the Hospice a greater chance of being built.
Ideally now, after some reflection on what has happened, I hope that all parties can get together and get behind a blueprint that will be accepted by all. A blame game in this helps nobody.
Galway Hospice has to be built. And the sooner the better. It is incumbent on whoever can help, to do so.