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Galway buskers say new street performance by-laws are 'disgrace'

Stock image of musicians playing Irish folk music on the sunny streets of Galway Image copyright bradleyhebdon/Getty
Image caption Buskers playing music on the streets of Galway

"People come from all over the world to busk the streets of Galway".

Busker Spud Kennedy is a singer and guitarist in the band, Galway Street Club.

However, because of new by-laws, he claims the famous busking scene in the city is under threat.

His warning comes after Galway City Council voted in favour of the laws limiting busking and street performance.

On Monday, councillors voted by 12 to 6 in favour of the measures, which will come into effect at the beginning of next year.

The rules will ban the use of amplification or backing tracks by buskers before 18:00 local time and also restrict so-called "circle acts", that attract crowds.

The use of drum kits will be banned at all times.

The decision comes after years of debate about the level of busking in the city centre.

However, speaking to BBC News NI, Mr Kennedy branded the laws a "joke" and "a disgrace".

He said the laws would have a negative impact on his act.

"For us, being a 10-piece band, trumpets, saxophone, drum kit, all the different instruments there's no way we can sing loud enough to overpower the instruments, we need an amplifier."

He criticised the council's decision.

"The way they (the council) are going about it is completely wrong. Nobody has actually contacted the busking community to try and create regulation that works, "he claimed.

In response, Galway City Council said there had been "formal and informal contact with both city centre business interests and representatives of buskers" since the proposals.

A spokesman added a submission had been received from the busking community as part of the statutory consultation process.

'Busking is like the heartbeat'

Mr Kennedy said busking was important for musicians.

"It's where most artists start out. You learn your craft and how to interact with people. Busking is what made me fall in love with Galway," he said.

"When you start to take it away, you start taking away part of the city, particularly in Galway where it's been known for hundreds of years as a music city."

Image copyright Getty/martin-dm

Under the terms of the new Street Performance and Busking By-Laws, those in breach of the regulations will be liable for fixed-charge penalties, starting at €75.

The by-laws set a minimum age of 16 for those wishing to busk and place restrictions on the time any one performer can stay in one location.

A busker who is under 16 years of age can only perform in circumstances where a legal guardian is present during the performance.

Councillors speaking in favour of the proposals said there was a need to take account of city centre businesses, pointing to access issues caused by crowds watching performances.

Fianna Fáil councillor Peter Keane, who proposed the measures, said they were "mild" and rejected any suggestion they were an attempt to get rid of busking.

He said buskers could seek derogations to the by laws during festival periods, subject to application to the city manager.

Some councillors cited concerns about possible implications on freedom of expression and creativity in the city.

There has been mixed reaction on social media, with some voicing concern about the changes and some in favour of the new by-laws.

Councillors were told that a total of 262 submissions were made during a public consultation process on the proposals earlier this year.

Galway City Council said the decision to adopt a by-law was a reserved function of the elected members and had been made by a majority of them.

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