Ireland, Galway & Taxpayers' Monies diverted away from citizens to pay well-connected Property Speculators & Landowners

Below is a piece that I wrote for distribution to the local media on what is probably Ireland's longest running urban neighbourhood campaign. Thankfully, the Galway City Tribune used key element's of it in the current edition of their newspaper and it was well covered in a number of the news bulletins on Galway Bay FM radio.

"Local activists in the greater Ballinfoile Mór area held a protest on Wednesday morning outside the new Ballinfoile/Castlegar Neighbourhood and Sports Centre to express their dismay and anger at Galway City Council’s refusal to meet with representatives of local community groups to discuss the centre’s proposed management structure  as well as to accommodate a visit to the site. The residents were joined in their protest by councillors Catherine Connolly and Mike Cubbard.

In response to their direct action, senior officials from Galway City Council agreed within hours to meet community representatives on November 5th to discuss the management of the new facility. 

“We are of course pleased that City Hall officials have finally agreed to sit down and talk with us on the issue,  according to spokesperson Brendan Smith. “Activists in the Ballinfoile Mór area have been lobbying and protesting for a multi-purpose community and sports centre since 1986 which represents probably the longest running local residents’ campaign in Ireland during modern times. Since the construction of the first housing estate in the locality in the late 1970s, levies were placed on house sales to pay for recreational facilities for all age groups. But it is a sad reflection on the Irish planning system that such leisure complexes and other vital community infrastructure such as schools, cycleways and parks are not put in place in advance of housing development as is the case in many other European countries.
In Austria for instance the state ensures that land speculators do not make huge profits from rezoning by setting a maximum price valuation on land with the monies thus saved being invested into local communities. Hard earned taxpayers' monies is used to put into the pockets of the new landed gentry class, namely well-(politically) connected property speculators and landowners. Otherwise as has been our experience, generations have been born into and have left our neighbourhood without having ever enjoyed the joys of local indoor sports. Hence we feel that it is only right and just that, after waiting decades for a facility paid in part by residents’ contributions, that we should have a key role to play in the management of this long awaited local authority owned centre which is nearing completion and expected to be open within weeks. Otherwise it is a negation of local democracy. A community resource, whose purpose is to serve first and foremost the recreational and community needs of all ages living in the surrounding neighbourhoods, should have the direct involvement of local inhabitants in its present and future development. When we started the campaign Ireland in the 1980s, Ireland was a radically different country. It was primarily a homogeneous cultural society and we want to ensure that the recreational facilities fulfils the needs of all traditions in our society, both new as well as old. Furthermore while we welcome the agreement of central government to recently sanction the hiring of by Galway City Council of staff for the community centre, we are amazed that no additional funding was allocated leaving the local authority to try and scrap monies from an already over-stretched budget.” 

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