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Connacht Tribune

Audi produces yet another crowd-pleaser with new Q3

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You can have all the gadgetry you want in a car but, if the basic credentials are not there, then there are compromises.

Of course, for each of us, our parameters are different, which is why there probably is a car for everyone. This week we are testing the new Audi Q3, a car that has been completely altered and has now got the tools to answer most demands in its segment.

Visually, like most Audi models, bling plays no part in their makeup and this car has a tidy, strong stance.

They have introduced a new oversized grille with the addition of vertical chrome strips that add to that sense of strength. Although how we view looks can be subjective, I like the new narrow LED headlights and the balance of the side image that stretches from the front to the back.

Sitting-up 19” alloy wheels coupled with a roof-edge spoiler and aluminium roof rails, the overall image makes a considerable contribution to the purposeful and powerful SUV stance.

Audi demonstrates once again its ability to build really smart, classic interiors that is well served with quality materials and premium seating and is so well stitched together than there are virtually no rogue noises coming into the cabin bar a little whish from the door mirrors. In all though, it is very quiet, comfortable space on all sorts of roads and surfaces.

It is good to see much of the advanced technical functions that you get in Audi’s premium cars being standard here too. These include a top-of-the-line navigation system that uses Google Earth as the background and overlaying the road onto the map, which allows you to recognise where you are instantaneously.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Sinéad is smashing through the barriers!

Denise McNamara

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Sinead O'Donnell after she was presented with her PhD at NUIG.

She has a PhD, a Masters, a degree in law as well as a basic degree. Yet despite her phenomenal academic achievements, Sinead O’Donnell is struggling to find work.

Because – so far – employers have been unable to look beyond her severe physical disabilities.

“If they only focus on what I can’t do, I’ll never get a break. But if they see past it, the skies are the limit,” she reflects.

Sinead has Cerebral Palsy which is complicated by thoracic scoliosis, profound spasticity and constant pain due to multiple surgeries over the past decade.

She requires assistance to do everything – from getting out of bed in the morning to eating, dressing and getting into her wheelchair. Which makes her educational feats even more remarkable.

She is likely to be the most decorated student with high dependency needs in the country.

But that fact has only served to whet her appetite to achieve more in life.

“I’m not where I want to be,” she confides.

“I feel a burden to my parents – I always feel that way. That’s why I work. I want to be completely self-sufficient.”

Her mother Patricia O’Donnell – a retired special needs assistant who lives in Gort – is quick to interject, insisting that she has been far from a burden.

“Sinead wanted to leave home at 18 – she wanted to be gone, she wanted to be away. She had to come home very weekend for a long time but would be away for the week.

“She didn’t like that because at home you have to go to be when your parents go to bed because she wouldn’t be able to go to bed on her own. And it’s not that we were strict or anything, she just liked the freedom of being independent.”

From the age of two, Sinead demonstrated a particularly intense interest in life and people, recalls her proud mom.

“She was always listening to what was going on, listening to people having a conversation. I was quite busy when she was in school but she could always tell me what was going on in the world.”

Born in the Netherlands eleven weeks premature in 1984, Sinead was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy Quadriplegia (CPQ) when she was nine months old.

Cerebral Palsy is caused by brain injury before, during, or shortly after birth. It is a complex neurological condition that affects a person’s posture, co-ordination and ability to move arms and legs.

As she recalls in her thesis, which is an examination of independent living for people with disabilities and high dependency needs:

“The outlook for me given to my parents about my future was bleak but from the outset they saw potential in me that others missed.

“They enrolled me in a course of Conductive Education run by the Peto Institute, renowned for its positive approach to children with CPQ, wishing to give me every chance to live as normal and independent a life as possible.

“They quickly passed on this determination to me – a wish to strive in every respect to live a full and fulfilling life.”

As a young child, she was placed with other disabled children in schools in Rotterdam and Southampton in the UK where there was no academic focus.

“After a long struggle, my parents were successful in their quest to enroll me in a mainstream school and so I woke up, started to learn, had numerous friends and went from strength to strength in my new environment.

“These early experiences of both segregation and integration tell us that unless a human being is accepted for who they are through complete integration, they will not develop and grow to their full potential.”

One she found a suitable place to live and secured personal assistance hours and social housing supports, she embarked on her third level education.

For the last decade she has lived in a supported housing estate managed by the Irish Wheelchair Association on the Headford Road.

Patricia says that, at NUI Galway, her daughter has also proved to be a ground-breaker.

“When she started in 2003, NUIG was very inaccessible. She had to go to the back of the university to the delivery area to get into the lecture hall and then have to sit on the podium away from all the other students. She was very unhappy with that situation and she was instrumental in changing the access for all students – she couldn’t even get into the library”

Sinead remembers it as a form of segregation.

“They were surprised I was speaking up.”

The challenges she faced in completing her studies were formidable. Sinead gets tired quickly particularly if she speaks or sits for too long, which can set off the severe pain.

During her six years of doctorate study, she has undergone three major operations, nearly dying from infections on a number of occasions.

Crucial to her independent living and studying regime is ‘simultaneous and consistent’ access to a personal assistant to help with day-to-day living as well as an education support worker to assist with college work. This has not always been so, she laments.

It has also proved difficult conducting research outside of the allocated support worker hours.

“Starting from the very basic task of setting up IT equipment through to locating, browsing and finding relevant reading to extracting chosen appropriate material has been a mammoth task and at times almost impossible,” she writes in her thesis.

“The disruptions by my physical support and basic needs to the day-to-day research process were constant, very time-consuming, and curtailed momentum.

“Using the bathroom, which entails hoisting, can take up to 30 minutes or more and feeding, hydration and repositioning because of pain at pressure points and postural problems all impeded the smooth flow of the necessary academic research, causing me huge frustration and loss of focus.”

In her thesis, she argues the Government should go a step further by taking the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – adopted in Ireland in 2006 – and make them legally binding in the form of a Personal Assistance Act, which would make access to personal assistance services a basic human right enshrined in law.

We are sitting in Sinead’s cosy sitting room beside a picture of her donning a cap and gown during the graduation ceremony last month.

“Half of the people who do PhDs drop out, so considering all that and my level of disability on top, I’m glad I finished it. Now it’s about finding a new purpose.”

She would like to work in an organisation like the Irish Wheelchair Association or the HSE.

“Somewhere I could use my experiences to help young people with disabilities reach their full potential and give then the courage to pursue their aspirations.”

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Connacht Tribune

Galway county councillors declare business and property interests

Dara Bradley

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Galway’s newest county councillors have filed ethics returns with the local authority, giving details of their business and property interests.

All county councillors, who were newly elected in May’s Local Elections, filed their ethics declarations with County Hall, listing land and property they own, and shares or directorships of companies they possess.

Cllr Liam Carroll (FG), in his ethics returns, lists that he sold his shares in Anchor Safety Limited, Briarhill Business Park, in November 2018. His directorship of the company, a supplier of personal protective equipment, and safety products, ceased in November 2018, he said.

The company, he said, has contracts with a total of 18 local authorities across Ireland, including Galway City and County Councils, Mayo County Council and South Dublin County Council. Cllr Carroll declared that he was also a voluntary director of Oranmore Community Development Association.

Cllr David Collins (FG) declared his home in Turloughmore and 15 acres of land for “hay and grazing”. He said he is a director of HPS Vision, a telecommunications company at Parkmore. “We currently have a contract with the Galway County Council Local Enterprise Office for 2019,” he said.

Cllr Shelly Herterich Quinn (FF) declared a rental property on the Cappagh Road in the city, and lists two voluntary directorships of Athenry Community Council and Athenry and District Community Employment Scheme.

Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) holds shares in eight businesses, according to his returns. The companies relate to property management, concrete, building, oil, retail and manufacturing. One of the businesses – DG Roofing Ltd – has supplied goods to Galway and Roscommon County Councils, according to the documents.

Cllr Geraghty owns a storage yard on the Old Bog Road in Williamstown and a business on the main street, as well as office and retail units at Racecourse Road in Roscommon, his declaration said.

Cllr Peter Keaveney (FG), a farmer and agri contractor, lists a voluntary directorship of Glenamaddy and District Development Company. Cllr Pádraig Mac An Iomaire (FG), a funeral director, lists ownership of two properties – a house and a bar – that are leased or rented out. Cllr Gerry King (FF), a fish farmer, owns farmland in Clifden, according to his returns. He is also a director of West Connemara Leisure Centre, Clifden.

Cllr PJ Murphy (Ind) in Ardrahan lists four separate occupations and professions – carpentry, honey production, teaching and suckler cow farming. He owns agricultural land in Kilchreest, and lists that he is a benefactor of farm land and buildings at Kilchreest and Ardrahan.

Headford-based Cllr Andrew Reddington (FG), a teacher, lists part-time farming, a site and a rented house in Castlebar among his interests.

Cllr Joe Sheridan (FF), a manager of a pub in Dunmore, and food science engineer, lists his home in Milltown and business in Dunmore. Cllr Alastair McKinstry (Green), an NUIG employee, listed his family home in Moycullen.

Cllr Dáithí Ó Cualáin (FF), a nurse at UHG, lists a family home in Indreabhán. Cllr Geraldine Donohue (Ind), a part-time farmer and secretarial assistant to Senator Victor Boylan, lists a family home in Kylebrack.

Cllr Colm Keaveney (FF) lists a “dwelling” in Tuam.  Cllr Albert Dolan (FF), an accountant, and Cllr Aisling Dolan (FG), a project manager at NUIG, have declared no interests.

All councillors’ completed ethics declaration forms can be inspected online.

Property tops the list for established local reps

A county councillor owns a company that does business with all local authorities in the country, according to annual declarations of interests filed with County Hall.

Cllr Seamus Walsh (FF), an engineer and planning consultant, lists farmland in Westmeath and Oughterard in his interests. He is a director of Ashford Building Services Ireland Limited, Oughterard, which is “not trading at present”, and of Esperanza Enterprises, which is involved in engineering and education, also in Oughterard. In his declaration, Cllr Walsh said that Esperanza Enterprises has contracts with “all” local authorities.

Cllr Joe Byrne (FG) lists ownership or part-ownership of residential properties in Kinvara, as well as owning shares in Greengross Development, a “non-trading” property development company in Kinvara, of which he is also a director. He is a director of Kinvara Heritage Trust, Burren Enterprise Ltd, Gort Golf Club and Yeat’s Thoor Ballylee Society.

Cllr Jimmy McClearn (FG) listed rental properties in Ballinasloe, Athlone, Galway and Portumna among his interests, as well as his family home and directorships of two not for profit organisations, Killimor Recreation and Fitness Ltd and Killimor Development Ltd.

Cllr Tom Welby (Ind), lists land he owns in Oughterard, and directorships of several not-for-profit organisations including Oughterard Courthouse Conservation and Heritage; Oughterard Community Centre; Oughterard Community Enterprise; and Corribdale Ground.

Cllr Gerry Finnerty (FF), a publican, farmer, and marts admin officer, owns faming land in Peterswell and Tubber, according to his returns.

Cllr Martina Kinnane (FF) declared a family home in Clarinbridge, as well as shares in St Mary’s funeral home in Menlough. She is a board member of Galway Rural Development in Athenry, Athenry Heritage Centre and Bridge That Gap, a community development group.

Cllr Mary Hoade (FF) lists ownership of three properties, including two rental houses, as well as directorships of Williams Motor Warehouse, Corrandulla Community Childcare and Headford Eco Park Enterprise Centre.

Cllr Donagh Killilea (FF), a farmer, and manager of City Bin Company, declared his home on 95 acres of land at Belclare in his returns.

Cllr James Charity (Ind), a barrister, lists agricultural land and shares in Greencore among his interests. He is a director of Annaghdown Parish Council, a community development company, and the Parish Office in Corrandulla, which is also voluntary.

Cllr Gabe Cronnelly (Ind), under “any other additional interests”, lists Galway Game Hunting Association, Cregmore/Athenry Anglers, Monivea Boxing Club and Athenry Tidy Towns.

Cllr Jim Cuddy (Ind) declared a quarter ownership of 35 acres of forestry in Swinford, County Mayo.

Cllr Tim Broderick (Ind), a publican in Kilconnell, had no interests to declare. Cllr Dermot Connolly (SF) declared a farm in Aughrim.

Cllr Michael Connolly (FF), a sheep farmer in Moylough, declared a directorship of Ballinasloe Enterprise Centre. He said he was the County Council’s representative on the committee and he receives “no expenses” for his membership. Cllr Eileen Mannion (FG) declared a family home and share in a rental property in Clifden.

Cllr Tomas Ó Curraoin (RSF) declared a family home in Barna; Cllr Ivan Canning, director of Canning Hurleys, declared a family home in Portumna; Cllr Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher (FG) declared a family home in Loughrea; Cllr Pete Roche (FG) listed a family home on six acres; and Cllr Karey McHugh (Ind) listed her own home.

There was nothing declared in the forms returned by Cllr Pat Hynes (Ind), Cllr Noel Thomas (FF), or Cllr Shane Curley (FF), a teacher.

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Connacht Tribune

Charities benefit from court’s poor box

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Judge Patrick Durcan

A host of deserving groups and individuals will have a brighter Christmas this year – thanks to the distribution of the €6,900 collected by Gort’s court poor box over the last twelve months.

That’s after Judge Patrick Durcan, helped by Court Service staff, decided on the amount to be allocated to each recipient with Gort.

St. Vincent de Paul, Gort Social Services, Gort Cancer Support, Kinvara Christmas Lights and Young at Heart Kinvara Alive are all benefiting this year from the much needed financial support of the court poor box.

Judge Durcan also decided that a single, undisclosed payment be made to one struggling Gort family deemed worthy of the court’s help.

Most District Courts around the country operate a court poor box system, whereby a judge has discretion to order a guilty person to make a specified donation in lieu of a conviction.

Most defendants jump at the chance to make a donation if it means they avoid a criminal record.

Depending on the mood of the presiding judge, some defendants are even given the opportunity to nominate a charity of their choice.  More often than not though, the judge or the prosecuting Garda will nominate a charity or community group.

The judge will decide on the amount a defendant donates.  Most defendants make the donation straight away in court if they have the money on them, but others are given time to pay the sum involved.

And it’s a boost for charities on a national basis, with €1.74 million gifted from the court poor box system nationwide to various groups in the run-up to Christmas last year.

The poor box system has no basis in law and there are moves afoot to abolish it with some arguing that it facilities people who can afford to buy their way out of a conviction while punishing those who cannot afford to do so.

The Government is also concerned that statutory fines are not being paid or convictions recorded.

The Department of Justice and Equality published the General Scheme of Criminal Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill in 2014.

This Bill proposes to abolish the court poor box and replace it with a statutory Reparation Fund that will apply to minor offences dealt with at District Court level.

The good news is that until the Bill is passed, the court poor box will continue to be a welcome feature of rural courts, while bolstering local charities and community groups at this most pressing time of year.

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