My Kind Of Town - a vision for Galway post-Covid-19

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

Paul Grealish, Cllr Eddie Hoare, Cllr Pater Keane.

Paul Grealish, Cllr Eddie Hoare, Cllr Pater Keane.

Paul Grealish

The King's Head

Paul Grealish

My family have owned and run The Kings Head since 1989. In the early years my wife and I lived over the pub on High Street. Back then the footpaths were narrow and the road clogged with traffic.

I remember once seeing a well known busker playing the bodhran on the footpath outside the pub, getting hit on the head by the wing mirror of a camper van. Thankfully he was not hurt, but It was obvious back then something had to give!

That change came in 1998 when the main artery of the city was pedestrianised. Overnight the noise and pollution from cars was gone and the streets were safer and more family friendly. This totally transformed the city centre. Pedestrians reclaimed the medieval streets and could stroll traffic-free as they would have done for hundreds of years in the past.

Pedestrian Streets

Twenty-two years later it is becoming increasingly obvious we need to build on that success and extend the pedestrianised zone. Apart from the obvious quality of life aspects, increased pedestrianisation would greatly improve Galway’s appeal as a holiday destination. When you think of it, most European tourist cities have an ‘Old Town’ which is usually entirely pedestrianised. Our narrow medieval streets lend themselves perfectly to a similar treatment and it gives even more space for our fabulous buskers to perform.

'Now, more than ever, we need the arts to nurture and sustain us. Apart from investing in people and projects we also need huge investment locally in arts infrastructure, venues, and exhibition spaces'

Like many Galwegians, I got back on my bike during the lockdown. With the fine weather and lack of traffic, it was idyllic. Now as we edge closer to reopening our economy, unfortunately old issues are re-emerging also. Traffic is generally heavy and there is a lack of cycle lanes. Cycle infrastructure needs prioritising or we risk forcing people back into cars just when the health benefits of cycling are needed more than ever.

Galway has built a huge reputation as a city of arts, culture, and heritage. This sector has taken a huge hit in the current pandemic and now more than ever we need to re-establish that reputation by investing like never before.

'Galway is an amazing place to live but, post Covid, we have an opportunity to make Galway even better'

Established arts organisations and events such as Galway International Arts Festival, Cúirt, Baboró, Tulsa, Druid, Blue Teapot, and Macnas, as well as emerging artists, musicians, and events need to be nurtured and invested in. We need to play to our strengths in the current crisis and now, more than ever, we need the arts to nurture and sustain us. Apart from investing in people and projects we also need huge investment locally in arts infrastructure, venues, and exhibition spaces.

Post-Covid I would like to see us do more to increase the use of Irish in everyday life. Greater funding is needed to promote the Irish language and to support Gaillimh le Gaeilge in establishing Galway as a truly bilingual city.

Galway also needs to go back to its roots. We have established a fantastic reputation for Festivals. The Galway Hooker has long been a symbol of Galway and it would be great to see a new week long event to celebrate the iconic craft. Finally we need to provide a permanent solution to the lack of public toilets in the city.

Galway is an amazing place to live but, post Covid, we have an opportunity to reimagine certain aspects and to make Galway even better!

Peter Keane

Solicitor, Galway City West Fianna Fail councillor

Peter Keane

Never have Galwegians witnessed such challenges, but with challenges come opportunities for a better future. Our health and well-being must be to the forefront as we enter the 'new normal'.

Credit where it is due, the suite of financial reliefs given to individuals and businesses have eased stress levels somewhat, thereby ensuring people’s sanity has been somewhat preserved.

The Galway Transportation Strategy is the most radical plan ever seen to alleviate Galway’s traffic congestion. Adopted by both Local Authorities in 2017, Galway deserves its implementation, if only from a well-being perspective. It prioritises public transport over the car as the primary mode of transport in our city and its environs. We must not shirk the big decisions necessary to guarantee delivery of this plan ridding the city of traffic congestion.

'The pandemic has illustrated there is no longer any plausible excuse on bed capacity or public waiting lists. Any post-Covid healthcare vision demands the abject failure in bed-management policy be resolved once and for all'

Galway City East and adjacent satellite towns are fast approaching zero-capacity for new development water and waste-water services. There are no current plans within Irish Water to address this catastrophic deficit, the result of which is that future developments at Ardaun and beyond cannot be delivered. Political efforts of the highest concentration are urgently required to overcome this impasse. A city’s well-being is at stake.

Covid-19 has illustrated the unbelievable sacrifices made by front-line staff in providing lifesaving healthcare in the most precarious medical environment imaginable. However, the pandemic has also illustrated there is no longer any plausible excuse on bed capacity or public waiting lists. Any post-Covid healthcare vision demands the abject failure in bed-management policy be resolved once and for all. Genuine empowerment of GPs and those providing primary health care within community settings with diagnostic capability is a key component to solving the bed-crises.

'The Sandy Road Project can see the creation of a new city centre living quarter comprising the highest standards of carbon efficient sustainable living space'

The development of publicly owned lands at the Dyke Road can expand the educational offering at our National University through the provision of dedicated research and development space, coupled with ancillary public realm space. The Sandy Road Project can see the creation of a new city centre living quarter comprising the highest standards of carbon efficient sustainable living space.

The exciting prospect of the Galway Harbour Company Limited and its assets coming under the stewardship of City Hall, and the future prospect of developing the Galway Airport lands, in collaboration with Galway County Council, through the Land Development Agency, can ensure that Galway best positions itself internationally to attract the necessary foreign direct and indigenous investment necessary, all of which will undoubtedly put our great city at the forefront of modern living cities.

Eddie Hoare

Fine Gael councillor for Galway City Central

Covid-19 has left its mark all over the world with more than half a million deaths. In Galway, and throughout Ireland, we have all shown remarkable selflessness and a collective spirit to help control this virus.

While Covid-19 will be remembered primarily for its negative impact, there will be some positives to take from it. This time last year, it would be almost impossible to imagine that remote working would now be the new norm for businesses throughout Galway.

People are generally resistant to change. This year has forced thousands of businesses to adapt to the new norm of remote working or be left behind in the marketplace. Remote working has so many benefits including reduced office costs for businesses; better work-life balance, especially for parents; less hours spent commuting; less traffic on our roads; lower emissions; and more. I hope to see employers locally here in Galway continue to offer full and/or part time remote working opportunities for staff. We now know it can be achieved and I hope to see employers embrace this.

'All affected businesses will require an extension of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, Business Continuity Vouchers, and further supports'

As our streets start to become busier we will need to open them up. The pedestrianisation of some streets in our city centre is very welcome. While only being introduced temporarily, we must embrace these changes and see if they have a positive impact. I have requested that ‘Parklets’ be installed on these streets and I understand the Galway City Council are planning to roll them out in the coming weeks.

A ‘Parklet’ is a public seating platform that converts curbside parking spaces into vibrant community spaces. They generally have a distinctive design that incorporates seating, greenery, and cycle parking, and have the potential to accommodate unmet demand for public space particularly in retail and commercial areas.

Finally, we need to support our local businesses. A number of supports have already been introduced and as an elected representative of one of the Government parties, I will be calling on our Government to make some brave decisions as part of the July Stimulus package.

The tourism and hospitality sector is the lifeblood of our city and this sector needs to be supported through a reduction in the vat rate. All affected businesses will require an extension of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, Business Continuity Vouchers, and further supports. As a nation, our credit rating is now restored. We have the capacity to put these supports in place and this will be repaid in spades through job creation and increased consumer confidence. Our city has overcome challenges in the past and I have every confidence that Galway will return to its vibrant self post Covid-19.

 

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