The first council meeting of 2018 proved to be a marathon nine-hour affair and again we only managed to get halfway through a large, divisive and time consuming agenda.
First up was the Chief Executive’s report on the submissions to the Ardaun Local Area plan. This will effectively become a new town for 12,000 people on the eastern suburbs of Galway City. It will involve all the facilities and amenities that a town of that scale would require. It now moves on to planning stages.
We next had to examine Regional and Spatial Economic strategy and most Councillors attended a workshop on the morning of the council meeting in order to expedite our input into this strategy which is being drafted by the North and Western Regional Assembly. This was passed with the minimum of fuss.
Alas that’s where the minimum of fuss ended as next up was the new Galway City Centre Transport Management plan.
This draft will involve radical changes to Galway’s traffic flows. It will be a major overhaul of our city and for traffic inflows and outflows. Many roads will become one-way and many routes will give priority to public transport. Some councillors were sceptical, others welcomed it while more immediately went on the warpath in a bid to undermine it before it got traction.
My own view is that it is far too early to comment on the merits or otherwise of this proposal. We need much more information and will in due course be given a more detailed information workshop. Only then can we comment on the efficiencies that the plan aspires to achieve.
In principle I welcome the draft plan. One thing is for sure, we must take action. Galway’s traffic is a serious problem. We must take action and if some of the issues involved prove to be unworkable then things can always be reversed. Sitting on our hands is not an option.
At council we are bound by standing orders. One such standing order insists that we must finish our meetings by 8.45pm, a rule I find to be both ridiculous and counterproductive. Being forced to suspend a serious matter under scrutiny because of a silly rule is to me laughable and hugely unproductive and I hope to reverse this nonsensical rule as soon as possible.
This month the 8.45 rule again raised its head as we had still to discuss Storm Eleanor and the effectiveness of Galway City Council’s response. Against my will I was forced to finish the meeting at 8.45pm on the dot. How crazy is that?
I asked the members to wait back and have an ‘informal’ discussion on Storm Eleanor. This would not be a formal meeting per-se but would at least allow for discussion and the transfer of information both factual and anecdotal. A minority of the elected members were scathingly critical of the level of preparation. Some highly offensive comments were bandied about which was regrettable.
I feel that these statements were outrageous as they appeared to me to be designed to provoke and insult rather than to achieve any discernable positive outcome. As a result I disassociate myself completely from these remarks.
The majority of those present accepted the Chief Executive’s statement that under the circumstances in this instance the council staff were blameless for the flooding and I concur with this position.
The information that was given to Council by the OPW and Met Office did not indicate that such a cataclysmic event was on the horizon. A crisis management team was not arranged on the afternoon prior to the flood because the Council were clearly told that no such crisis existed nor was there any reason for concern.
This information was clearly inaccurate and the consequences were severe. However responsibility for this does not rest with the workers in City Hall. It rests elsewhere. This must not happen again.
I want to commend and thank the teams from City Hall who worked tirelessly throughout the night. These individuals went beyond the call of duty in order to help and support the people of Galway. I feel it is a pity that certain individuals feel compelled to continually attack such selfless activity in order to get headlines. Something tells me that there must be an election around the corner.
Next month our meeting is being hosted by the GMIT. I am sure you will see or hear the fireworks all over the city.
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