New spaces for a new society

Over the years in this game, there has been many a fanciful idea that has been mooted and gave us all great headlines, but which ultimately come to nought. There was the much vaunted Corrib bridge from Knockferry to Kilbeg that would have diverted thousands of cars daily from near Headford to Connemara without ever bringing them into the city.

There was the plan by the late Dr Patrick Geraghty to construct a massive concert arena that would have seen the likes of Garth Brooks and Metallica playing to thousands in a massive shed in Glenamaddy. It was the be the Point for the West...or Westpoint.

There was the idea proposed by Mrs Brown, I mean her alter ego, the actor Brendan O’Carroll, to launch an aviation hackney service with planes flying around Ireland and visiting regional hubs like Galway Airport every hour... and I’m sure there are many more.

But one which comes to mind every so often is the plan that was mooted to put a roof over Shop Street and Williamsgate Street and High Street to combat the inclement weather which surprisingly falls on us with great vigour given our location on the side of a rock on the edge of Europe.

I am not sure if the idea was ever costed, but at the time it would have required a considerable leap of engineering faith, given the differing heights and structural strength of the properties that line that way.

If it had been achieved it could have turned the city centre into one of those famous galleria that feature in many of the major cities in Europe. It would have allowed the outdoor to become an indoor; and an expansion of the freedoms and rights that come with such spaces.

Maybe at some stage in the future, this idea will be raised again, especially since the excellent engineers and architects we have in Ireland will be able to look at the variety of new lightweight and durable materials that would ease the completion of such a project.

But however farfetched the idea was some months ago, the idea could again take on new life as the city prepares to present itself in a way that best suits the behaviour and lifestyles and responsibilities of a post-Covid society.

Over the summer, the City Council has been liaising with many groups in this city as it prepares to reevaluate mobility on streets and thoroughfares. It has looked at the wisdom of on-street parking where there is barely room to get by on footpaths with buggies and wheelchairs.

As a city we have facilitated people being able to literally drive to the doorway of their destination, and while this is necessary for those who are challenged and need access, there are ways in which this can be achieved without everyone else rocking up in their cars as well.

The way we live and work and shop and relax has been changed irrevocably because of this crisis and it is not going to ever go back to the old ways. Using the outdoors as a new indoor can revitalise the way we do this without compromising the street space.

The atmosphere that will be generated with eateries and shopfronts, allied to all else that Galway has to offer, will ensure that the footfall that is needed to rebuild Galway will be encouraged back into the city. The creation of more and more public places of discourse and interaction and street performance, the better.

In this way, Galway will be reclaiming the land it has ceded to vehicles and help create a new atmosphere

We will never have a better reason or opportunity to follow up on these current ideas, which although not perfect, do form the basis for the creation of a new Galway. One that is seen a place where people of all ages and abilities will be able to have a safe and less stressful experience.

The shape of the city is changing over the next few years. Get involved in the debate and let the old merge with the new so that we become a place for all and not just a haunt for weekend stag and hen parties.


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