Labour councillor ‘disgusted’ at absence of ministers

Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, and senior representatives of the Office of Public Works (OPW ) have been called on to visit Galway as a matter of urgency and to meet with city councillors and officials to discuss concerns over the extensive damage caused by the recent storms and flooding.

The motion was unanimously passed at last week’s Galway City Council meeting where one Labour councillor spoke of how he was “absolutely disgusted” that such a visit has not already taken place.

It was while discussing the Report on Winter Storms, which contained the estimated €1.3 million cost of the damage caused to the city’s shoreline and to Leisureland, that the absence of ministers was highlighted with Cllr Billy Cameron clearly voicing his condemnation.

“I’m absolutely disgusted that no minister appeared. But it’s typical, it’s the west after all. It was left to the hard work of the council and staff, and the community workers who were out in gale force winds risking their lives,” said Cllr Cameron, who added the city showed itself in a “good light with community spirit and a good council behind it”.

“The absence of ministers was shocking in the extreme,” said Independent councillor Catherine Connolly, who then proposed the motion. “Many people have had to move out of their homes in the Salthill area as a result of flood damage and some businesses still remain closed. In addition the damage on the walkway west of the diving towers, the damage to the prom itself and the bathing shelters, the Cecila Griffin Memorial Park, South Park is shocking and simply has to be seen to be believed and yet no appearance from any Government representative. In the circumstances, a visit by the Minister of the Environment to Galway is the very least the city deserves given what the residents and business community have been through.

“Moreover it must be confirmed that adequate Government funding will be provided not only to repair the damage done but to construct the necessary flood defence works to prevent future flooding,” said Cllr Connolly, who added that a letter from the OPW to the council revealed it will provide only 90 per cent of any funding and such funding will relate solely to the repair/reinstatement of built flood defences and coastal protection structures.

It is understood that on foot of the motion Galway City Council has sent a letter making the request.

Meanwhile, Independent deputy for Galway West, Noel Grealish also confirmed that he has written to the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar, and Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW, Brian Hayes, requesting that they travel to Galway to assess the situation and allocate emergency funding for essential repairs around the city and county.

Deputy Grealish said: “As a result of the cutbacks over the last number of years and the recruitment embargo neither Galway city or county councils have the money nor the manpower to carry out essential repairs from their own budgets and I am calling on the ministers to travel to Galway, allocate funding and ensure that where necessary the local authorities can recruit staff to repair storm damage.”

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