Galway council votes down plans for Salthill cycleway

Lengthy meeting hears of threats being made to councillors and city chief executive

Galway City Council has voted down both options for a controversial cycleway in Salthill, and has decided to defer further discussion of the matter until its meeting next month.

It followed a six-hour debate, four of which were taken up with the cycling issue and which began at 5pm.

There was also a 10-minute adjournment as Galway city chief executive Brendan McGrath assisted gardaí investigating threats against him.

Mayor of Galway Collette Connolly informed the meeting of this investigation but no further details were given.

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There was a further brief adjournment at 8.25pm due to a problem with security doors at the council buildings in Galway. While the meeting was held over Zoom, Ms Connolly and council staff were in the building.

A motion by Cllr Peter Keane revoking both controversial options for the Salthill cycleway was supported by 13 councillors to four, with one councillor absent.

He told the meeting “we are obliged as legislators to seek a balance in competing interests. The plan as presented in options 1 and 2 certainly does not achieve this. The solution as presented is not even palatable.”

Devoid

The council executive had “presented a plan so devoid of contingency that it beggars belief,” he said.

“We have a plan for a cycling solution in Salthill. That plan is contained in the Atkins report [presented to councillors last year],” he said, and he called on the chief executive and engineers in the council to set about implementing it.

Council officials told the meeting that in a public consultation on the two options offered for the Salthill cycleway, 63 per cent – or 4,236 of submissions received – opposed both. Included were “the blue light services” of the Garda, fire and ambulance services, as well as the HSE and Bus Éireann.

Of both options, the two-way option – option number 2 – was most favoured, with 2,104 submissions in support.

Ms Connolly made a recommendation that a modified version of this option, extending from Grattan Road to Blackrock in Salthill, be considered by councillors. This led to a prolonged debate as to whether this was in fact a motion and so could not be taken procedurally, with some councillors requesting that legal advice be sought on the matter. This then fell with the passing of Cllr Keane’s motion when that was eventually put to a vote.

Complete

It was also decided that the council would meet again on February 28th to complete Monday’s agenda, much of which was not dealt with, and so allowing for more time to be devoted to the cycling issue at the March meeting.

During the debate councillors spoke of the abuse they had been receiving over the issue, with Cllr Noel Larkin referring to the "vile and ignorant emails" sent him, while Cllr Frank Fahy said he had been "taken aback at the abuse I personally received, the threats and aggression". Similar abuse aimed at the mayor was also alluded to during the meeting.

Mr Keane described the proposed Salthill cycleway as “the single most divisive issue which we have dealt with in Galway City Council”. It had been “vitriolic”, he said.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times