Investment and not just policing is needed in communities
Mayor Mike Cubbard recently expressed his anger and dismay with antisocial behaviour in some areas of Galway on social media and on the local airwaves. What initially struck me was how much of this antisocial behaviour he referenced was quite vague in detail as well as being very much on the minor end of the crime spectrum. "Dogs being kept indoors and barking 24/7 and horses on green spaces" were two of the issues raised that "he was sick and tired of".
However, the central observation is the utter lack of ambition or initiative in the solutions offered to these issues by the Mayor and other councillors while also completely ignoring the causes of these concerns. Undoubtedly there are issues in communities across Galway City and County but Galway is certainly not a crime black spot as our public representatives might have you think.
In fact, Galway consistently comes in well below the national average when it comes to crime rates. Nevertheless, the rise in antisocial behaviour comes as no surprise to me given the huge cuts in funding to social supports such as youth work and community development. I am a youth worker who returned to Ireland in March and I am unable to find work due the paucity of employment in this sector in Galway. Right wing "law and order" solutions such as more police on the street and more CCTV are a failed concept as we have seen under the Tory government in the UK and elsewhere.
It is quite evident that more police on the streets in working class communities creates more tensions and often only exacerbates problems in these areas.We will not address these problems with antisocial behaviour until we tackle the true cause behind them. Right wing austerity-led policy from successive Fianna Fail and Fine Gael governments has seen huge cuts in funding to working class communities across Ireland leaving many of these areas devastated and with no alternative support services for young people. Many communities in Galway and across Ireland are left with no youth workers, no social workers, no community development workers or even community centres.
We need significant investment in our communities so that our young people are given the best opportunities in life. The old adage that prevention is better than cure should be kept in mind when our public representatives are so quick to turn to law and order solutions to the ongoing antisocial behaviour issue.
New speed limits in city will do more harm than good
The city are taking submissions from people regarding the proposed Speed Limit Bye-Laws change. But I wonder do they actually take into account feedback from the people of the city. Very few sections of the road network of the city seem to work perfectly, or even just efficiently.
And I think the proposed introduction of the 30kmph speed limit for the city centre is another example, if it is brought in. If it was suggested to be brought in to encompass the area covering Newtownsmith to Woodquay up to Eyre Square, I could understand it. While I'm not in favour of the 30kmph speed limit in general, I could see the argument for that to be brought in.
But the new speed limits are proposed to start at the Huntsman and go all the over to Fr Griffin Road and over to but not including the Quincentennial Bridge. That means all of Bohermore, Nuns Island up to the Hospital, the Headford Road and the West End. That is a vast area to have as a 30kmph zone, and in my opinion it is not feasible.
Driving a car at 30kmph is actually very difficult, you're almost spending more time looking at the speedometer than you are looking at the road. Even at a rolling speed it is easy to go over 30kmph, I can see this resulting in much more wear and tear for cars and problems with clutches and brakes being over-used, leading to unnecessary use of raw materials for replacement parts.
And the engine of most cars will be working at their most inefficient while driving at 30kmph. Not to mention vans, trucks and buses. For me, this is going to lead to a huge waste of petrol or diesel, with cars trucks and vans all consuming much more fuel than they need to and in the time of global warming it seems a backwards step.
As mentioned, the size of the 30kmph zone is massive, so if this is brought in, literally the only way to cross the city without being restricted to 30kmph is to use the Quincentennial Bridge, which by the way is having its limit increased from 50kmph to a whopping 60kmph. So now all those drivers doing 80kmph across it will only be breaking the speed limit by 20kmph instead of 30.
The Quincentennial Bridge is already at a total standstill for parts of the day, I can see this as exacerbating the already dysfunctional road network of Galway.
Getting through the city in a car can be difficult at the best of times, and I think the closure of Cross Street has made the already difficult task needlessly stressful. The knock on effect from the closure of Cross Street is that cars now have to instead use the Wolfe Tone Bridge, meaning a huge amount of extra traffic on that stretch of road.
And it has led to more and more people driving along the docks on the right hand lane and then trying to skip the queue into the left lane, bypassing traffic. Can we all just take a minute to appreciate that doing that is not a clever move, it is a d**k move and the council needs to put up bollards there to stop it from happening. They are happy to cordon off parking spaces on Dominick Street, which have been left idle and unused since doing so, but they won't cordon off a road where there is real danger of a car crash happening?
I'm awaiting the recommendations which are being made for cyclists in the city also. Will cyclists at some stage have to follow traffic light rules also? About one in four cyclists do not stop at a red light from my experience of driving around the city. And if they do stop at a red light, and they see there is no traffic coming, they just pass on through.
If it’s acceptable for cyclists to do that, is it acceptable for car drivers to do that? I know Mr Bean has done it. In general the traffic in the city is abysmal and much of it down to poor management and design. Most of the traffic light junctions are not fit for purpose, with the filter lanes at them usually not long enough to actually be used as filters lanes.
A filter lane which is 3-4 car lengths long is not fit for purpose. At the Terryland traffic lights, there are two filter lanes which are usually hard to get into due to the lane not being long enough to be accessible.
For major traffic light junctions, unless there are three lanes (one left, one right and one straight on ) it usually will be very ineffective, inefficient and hard to manage, which the majority of the junctions are in the city. It may be due to the small size of the city and the restrictions on the area available for the designs, but, is there a point in designing junctions which are not fit for purpose from the outset?
But that thinking exemplifies the strategy of the traffic management in Galway. It feels as if it’s a case of “we’ll just do it and eventually they will get used to it.” Which I feel is a very derogatory way to be designing a city’s traffic infrastructure.
PS, a few years ago a new one way traffic system was put in place which worked like a treat. Thank you to the residents who complained and got us back to the drudgery of traffic.
Kenny (Full name and address with editor )
Ireland should accept families from 'hellish' Moria camp
There has been some coverage in the media in recent days on the humanitarian disaster of Moria refugee camp, in Lesbos, Greece, the largest refugee camp in Europe. A huge fire engulfed the camp which had often been described as “hell” by many of the 20,000 people (March 2020 ) placed there by the Greek government.
The fire left 12,000 people homeless and destitute, including an estimated 4,000 children. I worked in Lesbos in the summer of 2017 where I witnessed the negative effects of the EU Turkey deal in 2016 which resulted in thousands of people being trapped in transit on five Greek islands, including Lesbos.
A critical situation developed on Lesbos where thousands of people risked their lives to travel across the eastern Aegean Sea in flimsy rafts to seek sanctuary in Greece. The tourist industry on Lesbos slumped dramatically and consequently, hostile tensions arose between the local population and the new arrivals. This has continued to be the case.
The situation has deteriorated rapidly since then. Many voices (Greek, European, asylum seekers, humanitarian organisations, medics, and lawyers ) have been united in calling for an end to this migration policy. Greek authorities, buckling under years of budget cuts and austerity measures, are struggling with 87, 461 pending applications for asylum at the end of 2019.
The Irish Refugee Protection Programme was established in 2015, in collaboration with UHNCR, in response to the humanitarian crisis that developed in Southern Europe as a consequence of forced displacement from areas of conflict in the Middle East and Africa. 1,913 refugees arrived here on resettlement under that programme between 2015 and 2019.
It is planned to increase the yearly numbers by 50 each year from 2020.
I believe that this number is inadequate and I appeal to the Irish government and relevant authorities to accept some of the individuals and families displaced in Moria. This would be a significant humanitarian gesture in the face of this global pandemic. Moreover I urge the Government to desist from cutting Ireland’s overseas aid in the forthcoming budget.
We must maintain our overseas aid budget given its positive impact in highly vulnerable countries in the global south. Thank you.