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

A platform for Galway to put forward ideas on how, after the pandemic, we can transform our city for the better

Rev Lynda Peilow

Rector of Saint Nicholas' Collegiate Church, Galway

Photo:- Mike Shgaughnessy

If, a year ago, we were told about the events of 2020 would we ever be prepared? And what would we squirrel away as necessary for life and living?

There would be an urgency about preparation, postponing, and planning. Perhaps if we had a chance to prepare we may not have had so many disappointments, we could have taken control. It is incredible to reflect on what we have ‘lived’ through and witnessed – the cost and loss to so many, the disappointments. In the last few months there are many who have shouldered and carried their cross in their own particular and unique way.

Yet, there were some silver linings.We realised that we had plenty and that there was joy in the simple things in life; we could sit as a family and share meals; we could hear the birds sing and how wonderful that was, we thought there were more birds, but actually there was not, we just had the time to stop and listen.

'The real and important things in life can never be bought and actively changing our mindset can bring so much good to our city and world'

The world was not so crammed with noise. We marveled at beauty in nature; we realised the importance of a phone call, a text message, a letter. We became aware that all we had taken for granted was indeed very precious, including the impact and the power of the human touch, of a hug, of seeing our loved ones and friends in person. We all came to our realisations, through the sacrifices of losing what was.

In losing part of life as we knew it, ironically we discovered a new way of being. When life is stripped bare – what is important?

What we crave and what we yearn to own is often clutter. The real and important things in life can never be bought and actively changing our mindset can bring so much good to our city and world. In all of this, I pray we come to realise the impact for good we as individuals can have on others, of how we can make a huge difference in the lives of others known and unknown, of how precious we are to one another, to our loved ones, and to God.

As we have rediscovered what is important - be it friends or family, personal faith, the ratio between leisure and jobs, time spent at home, or perhaps something else. May we celebrate, cherish, respect and hold tight to the marvelous ordinary in every day that actually makes life and living extraordinary.

Adrian Curran

People Before Profit Galway

Adrian Curran

My hope is that the past few months have made the people of Galway more empathetic. The pandemic has exposed that we need to provide secure, suitable housing for everybody; that the lowest paid in our society are often the most crucial and deserve a living wage; and that a two-tier health system is a folly.Galway can emerge from this as a fairer place for us all to live.

The sudden lack of tourists has freed up space in hostels for homeless people. It should never have taken a health emergency for us to put a roof over people’s heads. The return of staycationers to Galway cannot come at the cost of turfing people out onto the streets and Airbnb regulations must be enforced.

There is more than enough wealth, and empty buildings, in Galway and Ireland for us to comfortably house everyone who wants to live here. Imagine if the Galway City Council issued compulsory purchase orders for long term vacant houses around the city, employed people to renovate them and used them to house people?

Galway City Council was one of three councils in the State which did not apply for Traveller accommodation funding last year. Given the dire conditions many of our Travelling community live in, that is inexcusable and must change.

'Galway needs a publicly-owned venue that can be used to host events and is also available to local artists as a rehearsal space'

There are plans being drawn up for overhauls of areas of the city, such as Sandy Road and Dyke Road. These developments should be carefully planned and used for the benefit of Galway as a whole, not a select few. This means they must contain significant amounts of social and affordable housing.

I would love to see Galway leading the charge to end Direct Provision. The alternative to DP is equality. Equal access to housing, to work, and to education for all. Now is the time. We need to live up to our reputation as a welcoming city and put an end to the cruel treatment of some of the most vulnerable in society.

Traffic was at crisis levels in pre-lockdown Galway. It will be back to the same soon unless we change the car-centric nature of our city. Improved bus routes, cycle lanes, greenways, and light rail should be invested in, for the wellbeing of commuters and for the future of the planet.

Galway is famed for our arts and culture. We must cherish this and make it accessible for all. Galway needs a publicly-owned venue that can be used to host events and is also available to local artists as a rehearsal space. We must ensure that our comedy and music venues are safe spaces for women and LGBTQ+ people.

Anna Lardi Fogarty

Music for Galway executive director

Photo:- Julia Dunin Photography

It is the end of July, I find myself walking through Glenveagh National Park. We have just taken a turn up the mountain and put some distance between ourselves and our fellow staycationers.

The views are spectacular, but what strikes me more are the sounds: stillness; the buzz of the odd bee; a gust of wind, its breath through the trees. Since I was first asked what sort of Galway I would wish for, post-Covid 19, I’ve mulled it over and two things have crystallised.

I find myself returning to the one thing I loved most when things shut down initially: the sound of no traffic, of restaurant kitchen extractor fans shut down, being able to hone in on the sound of birds, hearing the waves crash while walking the Prom. However, venturing into the centre of Galway, the silence hit me in a very different way, and I realised that it is the bustle of the town that makes it after all. Here the stillness was eerie, menacing.

Could a more differentiated approach be taken when planning the city? There are certain amenities that could be brought out so much more and make the city more attractive, not only to tourists but to its inhabitants. I am not the first to suggest taking non-essential traffic off the coast; it could be made safe for cyclists young and old, pedestrians, tricycles, buggies, skaters, rollerbladers.

The second thought is part of the sadness of opportunities missed all around the European Capital of Culture programme. As we experience the loss of so much that should have been this year, it becomes yet again clear that we are missing cultural infrastructure. Still, the lack of venues for all sorts of events in Galway could be turned into an opportunity. Buildings could now be designed that would take such a crisis into account, and instead of finding itself at the bottom of the pile when it comes to such infrastructure, Galway could emerge as a leading light.

We climb back down and visit Glenveagh Gardens and castle – we are back in the buzz of people, but there is space, we feel comfortable, and after a quick cuppa, take the 45 minute walk back to the car park. Nature and infrastructure perfectly married. Could that be Galway post Covid 19?

 

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