Councillors engage election mode at feisty meeting at City Hall

Ballinfoile Park

Ballinfoile Park

With only three – or maybe even just two – full Galway City Council meetings left before the local elections this June, councillors were most definitely in election mode at City Hall this week.

The March meeting of the city council had a busy agenda, with a number of councillors submitting motions way beyond their remits, but they might play well with the electorate...

Fianna Fáil’s Alan Cheevers and Fine Gael’s Clodagh Higgins both want VAT rates for the hospitality sector reduced to nine percent, but it was independent councillor Mike Cubbard’s motion opposing housing to be built on land zoned residential during a housing crisis which attracted most attention.

Cubbard, who represents the City Central ward, explained to council officials how annoyed he was last month to hear at short notice of a public meeting about infill housing plans in Ballinfoile Park. “I’ve been treated like a fool; respect goes both ways,” he thundered. Infill is an urban planning term describing filling gaps between existing buildings with new ones.

Officials explained that elderly residents of the 1980s housing estate are increasingly looking to adapt their homes for improved accessibility. The Council plans to build up to ten step-down housing units in infill sites zoned residential across Ballinfoile Park to accommodate residents during renovations.

“I don’t need a history lesson on Ballinfoyle and I will not listen to waffle,” insisted Cubbard, who demanded a roll-call vote on his motion that Galway City Council does not proceed with infill housing for Ballinfoile Park, despite exhortations from Mayor Eddie Hoare that the motion was unenforceable, and direction from interim city chief executive Patricia Philbin that there were no plans to build on green spaces zoned recreation and amenity.

Labour’s Níall McNelis asked officials if such a motion “might adversely affect swift provision of housing during a housing crisis?” Yes, was their response, so he voted against Cubbard who sits next to McNelis at meetings – awkward. The motion passed 10 votes ‘for’ to five votes ‘against’ with three absentees. Councillor Peter Keane (FF ), who voted against Cubbard’s motion, claimed councillors were “gagged” because a debate on the topic was disallowed.

Knocknacarra’s Donal Lyons (Ind ) attended via Zoom with the slogan ‘Happy Days’ embroidered on a cushion behind him. It is expected his vote for Cllr Cubbard’s motion opposing housing will be discussed at the council’s next Housing Strategic Policy Committee, which Cllr Lyons chairs. He might ditch the cushion.

Journalists were kicked out of the chamber while councillors voted in secret to ratify the appointment of Galway City’s new chief executive, Leonard Cleary. Mr Cleary has previously held senior roles in Clare County Council, as had Galway County Council’s chief executive Liam Conneely, who is only a wet week into his job. Initials might be confusing between the two GCC CEOs, but we’ll muddle through.

Mervue’s only man Declan McDonnell (Ind ) is upset about plans to route new bus services through narrow streets in his bailiwick, while John Connolly (FF ) forcefully demanded elected reps should be updated on the long anticipated public consultation on the Galway Transport Strategy.

City East councillor Terry O’Flaherty (Ind ) is like a dog with a bone demanding updates on a playground in Renmore, noting that a generation of children have become young adults since plans were first mooted. The burghers of Ballyloughane will have to erect a statue to Terry once she gets the toilet by the beach she raises at every meeting.

“Toft Park is becoming a toilet” complained Clodagh Higgins, because Salthill playgrounds do not have amenities. This focused minds when Alan Curran (SD ) urged officials to update their warm weather emergency response plans.

Salthill’s Niall Murphy (GP ) promised to be brief on pedestrian crossings, the council taking charge of private estates, and CCTV policy. He won praise for keeping his word.

Council members voted to adopt the draft Annual Service Delivery Plan, which proposes which services local government will provide over the next 12 months, although nearly all councillors expressed concern on staffing levels and service delivery monitoring.

 

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