Delays in issuing annual bus passes has caused widespread anxiety among students and parents across Galway ahead of the new school term, which starts this week.
Local families fear a repeat of the ‘fiasco’ that occurred last September when many teenagers were waiting a month and a half before their bus passes were issued.
Bus Éireann, who administers the scheme, has blamed a technical glitch for the hold-up in issuing school bus tickets this year.
But parents claim it was the same scenario last year, and they are angry that it is being repeated.
“It’s a joke. There was war over this last year as well. It’s the same story – they are claiming it is an IT glitch but the same thing happened last year. I ended up having to drive my son into school every day for a month and a half because that’s how long the delay in issuing the ticket was.
“We had to pay the €350 for the year, yet for the first month and a half we were driving him in to Galway. There was no refund to make up for losing out on the first month and a half. We’ve been told this year that they will issue us with an email, for proof of payment, and that will be accepted on the buses as a temporary ticket but last year the bus inspector was rigid – nobody was allowed on the bus without a ticket,” the concerned mother said.
In this instance the teenager travels from South Connemara into Galway City for secondary school but it is understood the problem is countywide and indeed nationwide.
This mother insists she had paid up and register by the deadline of July 25, which was extended to August 1.
“To make it worse, you cannot get through to the office, they’re not answering the phone and it’s not open to the public. I spoke to one mother, and she actually got the ticket this week, but she showed me her phone and she had made over 50 phone calls to the school transport office – they’re not answering. It’s just frustrating.
“They’ll all be giving out about traffic and the increase in traffic due to the schools being back this week and next but it will be compounded by parents who are driving their children to school because the bus tickets haven’t been issued in time again this year. Last year you had half empty buses going into the city for a month and a half, at the same time parents were driving them. It’s crazy.”
Bus Éireann, in a statement, blamed a technical glitch on the delays. The problem related to the type of internet software of customers registering to pay.
It is estimated that more than 30,000 tickets have yet to be issued nationally. Bus Éireann’s temporary helpline is 1800 945 945.
Pedestrian seriously injured in Furbo hit and run
A man in his 40s is in a serious condition in hospital following a hit and run in Furbo last night.
He was a pedestrian who was walking on the R336 road near Furbo Church, when he was hit by a car around 8.30pm.
The driver of the car failed to remain at the scene.
The road is currently closed with diversions in place while Garda Forensic Collision Investigators conduct an examination of the scene.
Gardaí are appealing for any witnesses to the collision to come forward, particularly any road users who may have dash-cam footage recorded in the area between 8pm and 9pm.
Drug use in Galway at ‘frightening levels’ says top Garda
Use of illegal drugs has reached ‘fairly frightening’ levels across the city and county, according to Galway’s top Garda.
Chief Superintendent Tom Curley said that only about 10% of the drugs in circulation in society are detected by Gardaí.
He said that there had been increases in detection of drugs for sale or supply and for simple possession in the city and county so far this year.
Cocaine in particular was an issue in Galway, he said, but increased drug use was evident in “every village and town in the country”.
In his report to the latest Galway City Joint Policing Committee, Chief Supt Curley said that there had been a 22% increase in detection of drugs for sale or supply in Galway, up 14 to 78 at the end of September.
There had been 108 incidents of drugs for simple possession, up by 15%.
The amount of cocaine seized in the first nine months of the year amounted to €538,838. The level of cannabis seized amounted to €361,872.
Ecstasy (€640) and heroin (€2,410) were also seized, according to the Garda report.
Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) said it was a concern that cocaine had overtaken cannabis for the first time, in terms of the street value of the amounts seized.
Councillor Eddie Hoare (FG) said that the Garda Drugs Unit needed to be commended for the seizures.
Councillor Alan Cheevers (FF) said it was concerning that use of cocaine had escalated.
In response to Chair of the JPC, Councillor Niall McNelis (Lab), Chief Supt Curley said there were some instances where parents or siblings were being pursued by criminals over drug debts accrued by family members.
He added he would continue to allocate resources to the drugs problem.
Up to 20-week waiting period for youth mental health service in Galway
Young people in Galway have highest waiting times in the state for an appointment with the Jigsaw youth mental health service.
That’s according to Galway West TD Mairéad Farrell who revealed that waiting times for an appointment here are currently up to 20 weeks.
“Figures released through a Parliamentary Question have shown there are significant wait times for counselling appointments with Jigsaw, the mental health service which provides vital supports to young people, in Galway,” she said.
“Demand for the Jigsaw service in Galway and across the State continues to grow, however, as a result youths are waiting up to 20 weeks to get an appointment. With young people from Galway currently experiencing the longest wait times at 20 weeks.
“Every expert in child and adolescent mental health will tell you that early intervention is absolutely vital in avoiding enduring and worsening problems in the future.
“Yet, these figures reveal that if a child or young person seeks out care they are in all likelihood going to be faced with extended waiting periods which are simply unacceptable and put them and their mental health at a very serious risk,” she added.
Deputy Farrell said that young peoples’ mental health had been adversely affected during the pandemic – with loss of schooling, sports, peer supports and even their ability to socialise with friends impacting.
“Jigsaw have experienced a 42% increase in the demand for their services and this cry for help from our young people cannot fall on deaf ears,” she said.
“There is also an element of postcode politics, that depending on where you live you may get treated quicker. Some areas have a three-week waiting time while others are left waiting for 20 weeks.
“Uniformed mental health treatment is needed – so our young people can access the care they need, when they need it and where they need it.
“I have called on the Minister to urgently engage with the service to provide a solution,” she concluded.