Local women have been highlighting unsafe areas across Galway on social media, urging a city councillor to call for action from the local authority.
Prompted by the recent murder of Ashling Murphy, Galway City Councillor Owen Hanley reached out through social media to encourage women in the Galway City area to share parts of their daily walks that they felt were unsafe.
The purpose was to bring to the attention of the Galway City Council areas that could be repaired or improved upon to better ensure the safety of all Galwegians.
A local woman highlighted that the footpath on Upper Salthill between Blackrock and the caravan park was an area of concern for her, referencing a “dodgy experience” she had. The Galway Pulse contacted her about her harrowing encounter in the poorly lit Upper Salthill Road.
It was the summer of 2020. I was at the Salthill Summer Garden’s Festival beside the Caravan Park. I left before it finished. It was probably about 9:45PM, and I was walking up along Upper Salthill Road, but it was kind of dark there, so I was trying to flag a taxi. I put my hands out when cars were coming by, and a guy stopped and offered me a lift. I told him I didn’t want to take a lift with him. He got really aggressive with me and told me to ‘get the f**k in the car.’Anonymous
She went on to say that it was the opportune arrival of an actual taxi that spooked the man before he could get out of his car, driving off.
“I phoned the garda station, and they told me that I shouldn’t have been walking home by myself, that I should have more sense. I gave them the registration and said, ‘you need to go out and find him before he throws some girl into the boot of his car’.
“I hadn’t been drinking, but I could see why, if you were a bit drunk, you might not even notice that he wasn’t a taxi driver and get in the car with him,” she said.
Other locations were brought to the attention of Cllr Hanley, including a laneway in Renmore, the Briarhill pedestrian pathway, and Cabbage Lane near Cill Ard in Bohermore. One woman even highlighted Eyre Square as a potentially dangerous and poorly lit part of Galway.
Cllr Hanley said he was “taken aback by just the sheer amount of spaces that have been flagged as concerning”.
“That just means the council and all those involved with the management of public spaces need to double down on their efforts to make sure that everybody is included in these spaces,” he said.
Cllr Hanley has submitted the complaints and suggestions to the cross-departmental Public Realm Strategy steering group, members of which have already contacted him to develop a more strategic approach.
The Galway City Council’s Public Realm Strategy “outlines a series of project proposals of different scales that will improve Galway’s streets and public spaces “, establishing Galway’s role as a regional city.
This is still to be considered formally by the group, since it only meets quarterly, but Cllr Hanley is positive that there is a need to address the issue of unsafe areas in the council’s Public Realm Strategy.
“It is a gap in our Public Realm Strategy that safety, although mentioned once or twice, isn’t an overarching thematic issue to be addressed, and I don’t think a gendered perspective to planning has been something that has been done fully in the council,” said Cllr Hanley.
Cllr Hanley said that while it is now a matter of finding a funding stream for these public projects, he is aware of its importance to the public.
“A lot of women might not go out for a walk or run at night after 6pm because it gets too dark. But if we create spaces where they feel safe that they can do that, then we created a culture where there are more people out and about in their local communities and that alone might be preventative,” he said.
Cllr Hanley recognized that there are “more meaningful and larger impacts that we need to make, and we need to start a broader conversation amongst men about the changes we need to see,” but also that “that designing out crime does matter, designing out negative behaviour can make a positive difference.”