The City I Want Galway to be After Covid-19

A platform in which Galway puts forward ideas on how, after the pandemic, we can transform the city for the better

Cllr Niall McNelis; Cllr Alan Cheevers; Derrick Hambleton.

Cllr Niall McNelis; Cllr Alan Cheevers; Derrick Hambleton.

Niall McNelis

Labour Galway City West councillor

We know our neighbours better now. We’re driving our cars less. We’re more attuned to the effects of loneliness and isolation. We appreciate every patch of green, bothrín and slice of neighbourhood nature much, much, more now. Let’s suspend grass mowing each May so we can see bees and hear the birds: it’s bliss.

Reacting to Covid19 did not make us love our homes or our areas any more, it just reminded us of what is on our doorsteps across Galway city. Let’s try not to take so long to forget again.

'We are missing the arts, but the creativity of Galway is bubbling on beneath the surface, bursting to break free onto our streets again'

Maybe people are that little bit kinder? More appreciative of others? We’ve always - quite rightly - applauded the work of our heroic hospitals and blue light services. Maybe moving forward, we might appreciate our shophands, shelf stackers, transport workers, bin men, bus drivers, and care workers? It is they, their colleagues and families, who grease the wheels of our society. We need to pay them to reflect the true value of their labour.

We are missing the arts, but the creativity of Galway is bubbling on beneath the surface, bursting to break free onto our streets again. Through bad weather, bad luck, and a bad old bug, our time in the limelight as European City of Culture has been overshadowed. Yet our children’s simple chalk scrawls on quarantined garden walls teach us how important creativity and expression really is.

Covid frightened us about lacking resources in case of emergency. This pandemic is not over yet. We must merge Galway’s city and county councils to create a safer local government, and that conversation must hinge on services, not funding.

'We are the City of Tribes, Ireland’s most multicultural city. Our experience of lock-down shows the strength of unity that comes from our diversity'

The State has protected us during this pandemic. It has cocooned all of us. It has paid us when we could not work, nursed us when we were sick, and enforced the unpleasant, but necessary, temporary restrictions to our liberty, while its front-line medics fought to save our loved ones’ lives.

Galwegians have shown that we do not need much direction or coercion to act in the common good. More people across our county volunteered their time, money, expertise, or facilities than councils and charities could accept. That is who we are: We are the City of Tribes, Ireland’s most multicultural city. Our experience of lock-down shows the strength of unity that comes from our diversity.

I don’t want a new normal. I recognise that there was an old abnormal.

Alan Cheevers

Fianna Fáil Galway City East councillor

As we slowly exit from lockdown I applaud the people of Galway for their great work so far and making our county one of the lowest in Covid infection numbers in the country, while never forgetting the people from our city and county who lost their lives during this pandemic.

As we get back to reopening businesses, we also need to look at ways we can bring tourism back into our city over the next few months. The foreign tourist market will be more or less non-existent, so we need extra measures to attract the domestic tourist market, aka 'staycationers'.

'Another area that could be looked at is the American style drive-in cinema located at say, the Racecourse. In these times it would be a great alternative'

It is time for Galway to use it's great resources to get our city back up and running again, such as implementing the Mobility Plan by the Galway City Council and to trial run a 'pedestrian only' period on some of city centre streets such as Cross Street, Market Street, Eglinton Street, and areas of West End of the city. This is an opportunity for businesses to have extra tables outside, especially for those cafés, bars, and restaurants who may be limited with numbers due to Covid health guidelines.

Galway is the food capital of the country and we need to capitalise on this. I propose we could look at an alfresco food trail, getting all the restaurants involved packaged to the tourist market, and offering different packages and types of cuisine to suit their tastes.

I would also like to see Galway introduce a night market for summer, something which is in operation in other European cities. This could be along the lines of a craft/food market and would be popular with tourists and the residents of the city.

'An urban playground in Eyre Square, allowing music, dance, poetry, or storytelling, would be an opportunity for artists to showcase their work'

Another area that could be looked at is the American style drive-in cinema located at say, the Racecourse. In these times it would be a great alternative. It would also accommodate people from the county, and it could also lead to drive-in gigs. Somewhere like the Blackbox would be the ideal venue for bands.

I would also like to see an urban playground in Eyre Square, allowing performance spaces and programming bespoke activities unique to Galway, be it music, dance, poetry, or storytelling. It would be an opportunity for artists to showcase their work, and it is so important that we now support local artists.

Derrick Hambleton

Retired taxi driver, campaigner on planning and environmental issues

Derrick Hambleton

We live in a city where the Development Plan is centred on a vision for the city to be a successful, sustainable, socially inclusive, regional capital. It aspires to create prosperity while also being environmentally responsible.

All talk of growth means nothing today when Galway has been confronted by Covid-19. It has reduced our ability to continue to live as we always did, as part of a sociable, productive, Ireland. Instead, we have been reduced to the state where, as parents we cannot even kiss a new grandchild's head or shake our neighbour’s hand. Many people have been unable to say goodbye to deceased family members! This most tragic of circumstances, almost unbearable, has stretched our humanity, and while there are signs of light at the end of the tunnel, we are being urged by the Chief Medical Officer to be patient.

'Our education and health systems need serious review in the best interests of the public, not of private businesses'

As someone that has acquired a reputation for being a contrarian, I have found it difficult enough to conform, to be disciplined, to keep the correct social distance until the storm passes. However, science is telling us that another virus is even now developing out in the ether. What we are experiencing today is but one of a succession of other diseases which have crossed into humans, such as Lassa fever, which was first identified in 1969 and SARS from China, which travelled to 30 countries in 2002–03. Some, like Zika and West Nile virus, which emerged in Africa, have mutated and become established on other continents.

The Coronaviruses have been identified in multiple species of bats; and the genome of that virus is 96 per cent identical to the virus SARS-CoV-2 which first appeared in Wuhan, China.

Climate change, biodiversity loss, and the Covid-19 pandemic are interlinked components of a global “problematique” which must be addressed as potential system collapse, caused by human intervention - and it is only by our own actions can its consequences be mitigated or prevented.

'We must also study the potential negative impact of continuing growth and material resource consumption'

To move Galway forward we must look carefully at how we in future live, play, and get to work. Our education and health systems need serious review in the best interests of the public, not of private businesses. Instead of consigning our older citizens into dangerous care situations, we must look again at what is working best elsewhere. Families used to look after extended family at all ages! Perhaps we need to look at our own history to know this can work again?

Therefore while we are all about planning for the future growth of Galway, we must also study the potential negative impact of continuing growth and material resource consumption. If we cannot manage that, then the next episode could be worse.

 

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