There were at least five suicides on a black weekend for the county – underlining a senior Garda’s warning that this is now the single biggest threat facing communities across the West.
Superintendent Gerry Roche, in Ballinasloe, said that there is an epidemic of suicides ravaging families in Galway City and County, and he warned there needs to be societal changes to tackle the problem.
“The problem is not going away,” said Supt Roche, one of the founders of Galway East Life Support (GELS), which was set up last year to tackle the problem.
“Suicide is the biggest single issue facing every community in the West of Ireland. The number of people that have contacted us in GELS in the past year in relation to the problem is just phenomenal – it’s a huge problem.”
The suicide problem, that devastates communities, was brought into sharp focus at the weekend with a total of five tragic deaths in Galway, including two in Connemara, one in the city, one in North Galway and one in South Galway.
Last year, a total of 31 people took their own lives in Galway. According to the official Garda statistics, so far this year, there have been some 22 suicides recorded in Galway.
“There have been 22 suicides so far this year, which is well up on last year at this stage,” said Supt Roche who agreed the Galway suicide figures were frightening
Supt Roche said depression, loneliness, loss of hope, financial pressures and rural isolation were among the contributory factors in the surge in suicides. He said that often consumption of alcohol can be a contributory factor.
Supt Roche said that, even though the evenings are getting brighter, it doesn’t necessarily brighten the mood. “There’s a perception that with longer evenings people are happier but that’s not always the case and obviously people are struggling, even at this time of year.”
He said it is almost impossible for untrained civilians to ‘spot the signs’ of suicide in a loved one, and he urged members of the public to get training.
The HSE west has an ongoing ASIST (Applied Suicide Interventional Skills Training) course, to help people identify the signs of suicide; a Gatekeeper suicide prevention training; as well as other intervention and suicide ‘first-aid’ training courses.
“The problem of suicide needs to be highlighted. We are looking for a societal change; we have to change minds and the approach and the stigmatization,” added Supt Gerry Roche.
Coffins have to brought by tractor over flooded North Galway road
Annual flooding on a stretch of road in North Galway requires the necessity for a tractor and trailer to bring the remains of a deceased person from the area to the local cemetery.
This was the claim at a local area meeting when it was demanded that Galway County Council carry out flood relief works on the road near Glenamaddy which is left under several feet of water every winter.
It resulted in Cllr Peter Keaveney tabling a motion at the Ballinasloe Municipal Council meeting that essential drainage works take place along the Roscommon road out of the town now that water levels are low. He wants this carried out within the next two weeks.
During one of the worst winters in recent years, the road was closed for three months and the Fine Gael councillor and agricultural contractor said that he pulled around 20 cars out of the flooded stretch when motorists decided to take the chance of driving through it.
Even in drought conditions, the levels remain incredibly high and this is mainly down to a local turlough that retains water throughout the year.
While he said that Galway County Council officials were extremely helpful, the problem lay with the Office of Public Works who would not allow drainage works as the road is situated in a Special Area of Conservation.
Senior Executive Engineer Damien Mitchell informed the meeting that Galway County Council are in a position to carry out some works but there are certain areas that only the Office of Public Works can drain.
Mr Mitchell said that the best way forward was a co-ordinated approach involving the County Council and the OPW while accepting that there was a major problem with flooding along this road.
In response, Cllr Keaveney said that this was a very acceptable move and added that a joint approach to the flooding in Glenamaddy was required at this stage and particularly with the winter approaching.
Williamstown’s Cllr Declan Geraghty said that residents were living in hell as some of them saw their houses destroyed by rising flood waters near Glenamaddy.
“There are even deceased people being brought by tractor and trailer to be buried which is an absolute disgrace. There is an opportunity to do this now or otherwise we are looking at flooding for the next 10 years.
“People have put everything into their homes only to see them destroyed when it comes to prolonged heavy rainfall.
“There is a solution to this problem and environmental issues should not take precedence,” he added.
The Independent councillor said that raising the level of the road, which leads to Creggs and onto Roscommon, was not the answer to the problem because the levels were so high.
Galway County Council have carried out several surveys of the area around the flooded road and officials told previous meetings that, subject to approval from the OPW, there was an engineering solution possible.
(Photo Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) and Cllr Peter Keaveney (FG) at the Creggs road out of Glenamaddy where flooding occurs on an annual basis.)
Teen arrested over €45,000 cocaine seizure
Gardaí have seized €45,000 of what they believe to be cocaine in Ballinasloe.
Gardaí attached to Ballinasloe Garda Station conducted an intelligence-led operation in the Dunlo Harbour area of the town yesterday.
During the course of this operation a quantity of suspected cocaine, estimated to be worth €45,000, concealed on derelict grounds was seized.
A male in his mid-teens was arrested at the scene and detained at Ballinasloe Garda Station on Sunday.
He has since been released with a file being prepared for the Garda Youth Diversion Office.
The focus of Operation Tara is to disrupt, dismantle and prosecute drug trafficking networks, at all levels.
Thousands on waiting list for student accommodation in Galway
The student housing crisis is ‘the worst it’s ever been’ – with thousands on waiting lists for rooms; hundreds relying on hostels and friends’ sofas; and countless more facing deferral or dropping out altogether.
The President of NUI Galway’s Students’ Union, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, told the Connacht Tribune that students had been left in a desperate situation, as she called for mass protests to have the issue addressed.
According to Ms Nic Lochlainn, 3,000 students were currently on the waiting lists for NUIG’s on-campus accommodation – Corrib Village and Goldcrest Village – with around 500 in line for any bed that might come up in the Westwood.
“Gort na Coiribe and Dunaras have told us their waiting lists are well into the hundreds too. I’ve only got to contact two of the hostels around town, but Kinlay and Snoozles have almost 200 students between them already – and they’re expecting more.
“The first years haven’t even arrived yet, and on top of all that, you have people in B&Bs and staying on their friends’ sofas,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn.
Pressure on the student rental market had been building for years, she said, but it had gone off the cliff edge this year as a perfect storm was created by increased student numbers and reduced bed availability.
“[Minister for Further and Higher Education] Simon Harris created new places on courses this year and talked about maximum access to education . . . I’m not sure how that works for students who are homeless.
“Because there weren’t many students around last year, some private landlords might have moved on. There was no new purpose-built accommodation delivered, and then Simon Harris creates new places with no new beds,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn of the causes of this year’s problems.”
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.