Galway Chamber of Commerce CEO Michael Coyle has criticised the “heavy handed approach” taken by the City Council and the Gardaí for their joint operation in removing signs in the pedestrianised area of the city earlier this week.
Shops and restaurants in the area were recently informed that the temporary signage comprising sandwich boards and menus were causing an obstruction and their presence was a hindrance to pedestrians and disabled people. The signs were also deemed to constitute a road traffic hazard under the Road Traffic Act.
Business people were disappointed and disillusioned when five gardaí and two wardens seized a substantial number of the signs and subsequently removed them in a van on Monday afternoon. Labour Councillor Niall McNelis says that the signs were taken without due warning and he says struggling business people feel they are “being taken for granted”.
Mr Coyle says that after rumblings earlier this year a confrontation was inevitable. “We have written to the City Council and urged them to sit down with the business community and discuss why businesses feel the need to use these signs.” Mr Coyle says that as far as he is aware there are no other big towns or cities that have this problem, and he has called on both parties to sit down and come up with an amicable solution.
He says he can understand the issue with the signs and the problems that business people and retailers are experiencing but he says poor communication is a major obstacle. He agrees that undoubtedly business people are experiencing “very different trading conditions” but dialogue was imperative in order to iron out the unresolved issues.
Mr Coyle added that the joint operation by the City Council and the Gardaí “was at best a mild irritant,” and the actions were likely to get people into a confrontational scenario and were unhelpful.
Cllr McNelis says he would have no problem with the removal of the signs, had reasonable notice been given. He believes that there should have been prior correspondence to business people outlining the problem and thus giving them an opportunity to rectify the issue.
Some of the signs are worth between €200 and €300 and it will cost €70 for businesses to reclaim them.
The implementation of permanent signage in central locations around the city centre is one solution that is being discussed according to Cllr McNelis. Mr Coyle believes that this is just one of numerous possible solutions. He says there has been a vast improvement in signage in the city since the Volvo Ocean Race but further meetings and dialogue are urgently needed for agreement moving forward.