Farm animals are living in better conditions than asylum seekers in Direct Provision in the city, it has been claimed.
Galway City Council has unanimously backed a motion calling for government to disband the “inhumane” Direct Provision centres.
“There are farmers in parts of this country who keep heifers in better facilities than these people are living in,” said Fianna Fáil’s Mike Crowe, who proposed the motion.
The Direct Provision system in Ireland is the scandal of our generation, he said.
“This will be our mini-Magdalen Laundries’ scandal when we look back in 10 or 20 years’ time at how these people are treated,”
Councillor Crowe said there are two Direct Provision centres in Galway – Eglinton Hotel in Salthill and the Great Western off Eyre Square – where asylum seekers are living in “appalling conditions” as they await their asylum applications to be processed.
The Direct Provision system was supposed to be a temporary accommodation but, he said, many are waiting eight or 10 years, during which time they are not allowed to work, and must survive on less than €20 per week. They can’t fend for themselves, because they’re not allowed, and they’re relying on St Vincent de Paul to survive. It is one room per family, and they are cramped.
“It is inhumane . . . it is no life for humans”.
Sinn Féin Councillor Cathal Ó Conchúir agreed that Galway’s Direct Provision establishments were bad but he noted Limerick was worse.
“It’s something like a World War II concentration camp . . . trying to live and rear children in those sort of conditions is unbelievable,” he said of teh Limerick facility.
Cllr Ó Conchúir, a teacher, pointed out that the children of asylum seekers living in Direct Provision are discriminated against – they get free education at primary and secondary level but are charged €20,000 (non-EU fees) if they wish to go to third level.
He said that a wealthy Galway benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous, has paid for many asylum seekers to go to university but Councillor Ó Conchúir wants this barrier to education removed.
Independent Donal Lyons agreed that the conditions were inhumane but he pointed out that the asylum seekers have a “great regard” for the front-line staff in the Eglington and Great Western.
Sinn Féin’s Mairéad Farrell said that not only are the children living in appalling conditions in these facilities but they are embarrassed about it and are afraid to talk about it when they go to school.
Labour’s Billy Cameron said Direct Provision is “damaging human progress” and generations to come will look back at the treatment of these people as the “Magdalene of our generation”. “It must be a breach of human rights,” he said.
Independent Noel Larkin said he was worried what would happen if Direct Provision did end.
“There are 4,600 households and the hoisting waiting list. If we call on the Government to end this, where will they go – are we asking for them (government) to make a decision to deport them? If we deport them what are they going back to? There are a lot tougher conditions in their own country than what they have living in a hotel in Salthill,” said Councillor Larkin.
Independent Mike Cubbard said that using the word “hotel” makes it sound like they are living in the lap of luxury, but the reality is the complete opposite. Ireland will be sued by asylum seekers in years to come, “and rightly so”, he said.
Concluding the debate, Cllr Crowe pointed out the hypocrisy of lobbying the White House for changes to emigration for the undocumented Irish in America while at the same time ignoring the plight of asylum seekers living in squalor among us in Salthill and Eyre Square.
“I don’t care if you’re black, white or pink or what plane you got off, nobody should be living in those conditions,” he added.
The motion was passed unanimously, and it was agreed to circulate it to other local authorities around the country so that they too would pass similar motions.
Salthill’s ‘Heart of Hope’ a beacon of light for frontline workers
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A giant illuminated heart has been erected on the Big Wheel at Curry’s Funpark in Leisureland as a poignant symbol of hope and expression of gratitude for the country’s healthcare workers.
Last month, preparations got underway to set up the fun fair, but it became yet another casualty of Covid-19. Owner Owen Curry got to work on constructing a blue ‘Heart of Hope, An Croí Gorm’ with LED lights to attach to the 120-foot wheel overlooking the Prom.
Together with his crew, and respecting the rules of social distancing, he had the heart in place on the axle of the Big Wheel within a day.
“I wanted to do something, to say to the doctors, nurses, first responders, lab technicians and everybody working in the health service how grateful we are for their incredible dedication and courage in the current crisis.
“When the other lights on the Big Wheel are switched off, the heart emits a glow and appears to float in mid air over the Prom,” he said.
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ICU consultant reveals intensive planning ahead of peak Covid demand
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A consultant in critical care at Galway’s biggest hospital has assured the public that there is still significant capacity for very ill patients fighting Covid-19.
But to help University Hospital Galway best cope with the expected surge in numbers within the next two weeks, Consultant Intensivist John Bates has pleaded with the public to follow the strict public health guidelines about staying at home.
“There’s been a lot going on – a lot of retraining, a lot of redeployment, a lot of up-equipping. We normally have twelve ventilator beds and we’re up to 24 at this stage and have significant capacity. We’re working to get beyond that but we certainly have capacity at the moment,” he told the Galway City Tribune.
Asked if the hospital would be able to cope with the peak of the pandemic – tipped to hit in the next fortnight – he said there were no guarantees.
“It depends on the size of the surge. We can’t say for sure how big the surge will be. It’s a new disease and models of how it will go are different – in some we will be okay and others we will struggle,” Dr Bates said.
“The curve appears to be flattening. Dublin is starting to come under pressure accessing critical care beds. It’s likely we will at some stage here too. But we have good capacity at this stage.”
The number of healthcare workers who will likely be affected by the pandemic has been factored into the hospital’s readiness plans. In China, ten per cent of critical care staff were out of action while in Italy it has reached 20 per cent.
Despite the high risks facing hospital staff, Dr Bates believes morale at UHG is good.
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Galway CIty Council takes ‘wait and see’ approach to emergency cuts
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A revised, emergency budget with swingeing cuts to non-essential services may have to be introduced by Galway City Council if the Covid-19 crisis is prolonged and income from commercial rates, parking and rents from social housing dries up.
However, the local authority for now is taking a ‘wait and see’ approach, and has no immediate plans to introduce a ‘slash and burn’ budget.
Some 38% of the Council’s income of €100 million comes from commercial rates paid by businesses, which in 2020 equates to €38 million.
About 60% of all the rates collected – roughly €22.5 million – comes from the hospitality and general retail sector, which has been most badly hit by mandatory and voluntary closures to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Government has confirmed that businesses have a three-month ‘holiday’ on paying commercial rates, although pressure is mounting from business groups for rates bills relating to the period of Covid-19 closures to be written off.
Regardless of the outcome of that lobbying, Chief Executive Brendan McGrath said the City Council concedes that some city businesses simply will not survive this turbulent time – and that will have a knock-on effect on the local authority’s income.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article and extensive coverage of the coronavirus impact on Galway, buy a digital edition of this week’s Galway City Tribune for €1.95 HERE. Remember, without advertising revenue and people buying our papers, this website would not be here. Thank you for your support.