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CITY TRIBUNE

Campaign to make Galway one of first National Park Cities

Stephen Corrigan

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The campaign to secure National Park City status for Galway kicked off in earnest on last week, with a launch celebrating the raft of ecological and environmental projects already underway across the city and county.

Spearheaded by veteran environmental campaigner Brendan Smith, this initiative seeks to make Galway one of the first national park cities in the world – something Brendan said couldn’t be more timely as the world faces down the barrel of environmental destruction.

“The world has become disconnected with nature. We have to work together to save ourselves, to save nature and to save the planet,” said Mr Smith.

Launched at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway, Mr Smith said it was an ideal location to start the campaign, as the connection between technology and environmental action would be key.

“This might seem an unusual place to launch a national park city, but the future is with smart cities and the two have to work together.

“Galway is famous the world over for its arts, and for its science and technology. We have those two big pillars, technology and the arts – the third pillar is the green,” he said.

“We’re more connected than ever before in terms of technology, but in the real world, we’re more disconnected than ever,” he added.

Some 20 speakers from different organisations and groups across the city spoke at the launch, and it was evident that the use of both technology and the arts would be vital to secure national park city designation and promoting the green environment in Galway.

Scientists from NUIG told attendees of their work on citizen science; the creation of a mobile lab with 50 sensors monitoring the atmosphere; an app to identify species of mushrooms; outdoor classrooms and laboratories; managing Ireland’s peatlands; mapping bee habitats; upcycling using 3D printing; and using an app to collect tree data.

Speakers from community and voluntary groups illustrated the importance of Galway’s waterways; the Connemara Greenway as a transport corridor from the west into the city; the urban bee project; and using Merlin Woods as an education centre for flora and fauna.

The Buildings Department at NUIG outlined their work to achieve a green campus, while Scoil Náisiúnta Iognáid (the Jes) showed the work that has gone into their outdoor classroom – with a representation from Our Lady’s College also at the launch.

From the business community, Dangan-based Aerogen outlined how their employees planted 550 trees in Terryland Forest Park during National Tree Week, and have invested in a tree nursery at Ballinfoile Community Garden – a template for businesses to engage with the environmental sector. The tourism sector was also represented with the Nox Hotel in attendance – a hotel located right at the edge of Terryland Forest Park.

This multi-sectoral approach was celebrated by guest of honour, Duncan Stewart, who said Galway was a national leader in environmental issues.

“We should be in a state of panic,” said Mr Stewart. “We should have been in a state of panic 20 years ago.”

“When you look at Ireland, we have the highest greenhouse gas emissions in Europe per person. It’s not just about the little things at the edges – we need to see fundamental change because we are stealing our children’s futures,” added the well-known environmentalist.

CITY TRIBUNE

Well-known Galwayman becomes charity ambassador

Denise McNamara

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One of Galway’s true characters has become an ambassador for the homeless charity which helped him turn his life around.

Dennis Connolly spent more than three decades on the streets of Galway battling alcoholism, which led to countless spells behind bars.

He was a regular in Judge John Garavan’s court, often for abusing passersby and breaking into shops. He previously told the Galway City Tribune he must have smashed the window at McCambridge’s around 10 times.

“There were times there that I used to have to break it to get locked up, because it was too cold. I would go in, and get the winter over.”

Dennis had known very little comfort in his younger life. Originally from Fursey Road, Shantalla, his mother died in 1959, when he was six.

Two weeks after he made his First Holy Communion, Dennis was sent to St Joseph’s Industrial School in Salthill because his father could not care for him. He remained there for nine years.

He then went to live with his aunt in the city in 1966 but was unable to settle. Despite short spells in work, he ran away to England where he first slept on the streets while still only a teenager.

He was returned home when UK authorities realised he had been reported missing. At one point he ended up being sent to St Brigid’s Psychiatric Hospital in Ballinasloe because there was nowhere else for him to go.

A brief spell with his brother Gerald in Dublin was soon followed by a pattern that would haunt his life – living rough on park benches and in doorways, in and out of hostels, while drinking himself to oblivion.

It was only after near death that he got to grips with his addiction.

On January 5, 1991, he was one of five homeless men sleeping in an abandoned van on Merchant’s Road near the Spanish Arch when a nearby 10ft wall collapsed during a storm. Minutes before he had scrambled out, pulling two of the men out behind him.

He was unable to arouse two others, Patrick “Pa” Dodd (27) and John Mongan (20), and they were crushed to death by the falling stone.

During the tragedy he had sustained broken toes which were left untreated. Eventually he was unable to get out of bed with threatened gangrene. Doctors told Dennis he would need several operations to save his legs and they would not operate unless he quit alcohol.

Faced with the prospect of losing both legs, Dennis gave up drinking on the anniversary of his mother’s death in 2004. He moved into supported accommodation run by the Galway Simon Community. Apart from some brief lapses, he has stayed sober since.

He first came into contact with Galway Simon in 1979 when some of the charity’s original volunteers visited him on their soup run.

“They were my only friends at that time. I’ll never forget how it felt to be treated like a human being, like I was worth something. At the beginning they used to come three nights a week to talk to us and bring us soup and sandwiches. Only for them I would be dead a long time ago,” he reflects.

“Back then people ignored you if you were homeless, you were kept down, you had nothing at all. I never had any possessions, only what I wore. If the shoes went, sometimes I would put cardboard in them. Christmas was the loneliest part of the year. You had nothing. You had no Christmas dinner. You never mix with anyone when you’re homeless. You’re a lonely person.”

In 2015 Dennis moved into a Council flat while still receiving support from Galway Simon.

“I’m in my own little paradise now,” he exclaims.

Dennis, who is fronting Galway Simon’s Christmas appeal, insists there are no hopeless cases.

“Look at me years ago, I changed my life and I don’t drink today. I’m years off the drink and I did it for myself. I can’t stop thinking about the people, including friends of mine, who weren’t as lucky as me. Galway Simon didn’t give up on me.”

■ Visit galwaysimon.ie to make a donation.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Poor record at UHG for ambulance ‘turnaround’ times

Enda Cunningham

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Just over 4% of patients who arrived by ambulance at UHG were handed over to Emergency Department staff within the guideline 20-minute ‘turnaround time’, according to newly-published figures.

Ambulance turnaround times measure the time interval from ambulance arrival at a hospital, to when the crew is ready to accept another call.

The statistics show that during the month of September, 1,022 patients arrived at University Hospital Galway by ambulance.

Of these, just 47 (4.6%) recorded ambulance ‘turnaround times’ within 20 minutes. That rate has dropped from 7.9% (75 turnarounds) in September 2017.

According to the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), all hospitals in Ireland should monitor the implementation of a 95% rate of patients being handed over from an ambulance crew to the Emergency Department staff in less than 20 minutes, and where this is not met, corrective action should be taken.

However, the HSE monitors it at 30 minutes, with a target of 95% turnaround in that time.

Based on the HSE’s alternative 30-minute turnarounds, the rate was 18.5% (190 transfers to ED) in September, down from 28.5% (270 transfers) in September 2017.

The figures were released to Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West, Éamon Ó Cuív, who said that urgent action needed to be taken to address the “huge deterioration” in times.

“These figures are very disappointing and extremely worrying for those who may depend on an ambulance over the winter months.

“More worrying is in 2017, the turnaround time at UHG was 7.9%. The decline in the transfer turnaround times is yet another reflection of the pressures on hospitals and the lack of capacity to cope.

“The main reason for the delay is because Emergency Departments are too busy with too few staff to process a patient coming in by ambulance.

“I will be pressing the Minister on the status of the proposed new Emergency Department at UHG which is long awaited and will go some way to reducing turnaround times,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

The highest 20-minute turnaround rates were recorded at Temple Street Children’s Hospital (60.9%) and the Rotunda (60%) in Dublin, while the lowest were Kerry University Hospital (1.7%) and Mercy UH in Cork at 2.7%.

For 30-minute turnarounds, the highest rates were the Temple Street Children’s Hospital (83.1%) and the National Maternity Hospital (81.6%) in Dublin. The lowest rates were Cork UH (12.7%) and mercy UH (15.4%).

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CITY TRIBUNE

Building and hardware giant Screwfix planning Galway store

Enda Cunningham

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The British hardware, building and DIY chain, Screwfix, is planning to open an outlet in Galway.

Through a subsidiary company, the Kingfisher Group, which also owns B&Q and GoodHome and Castorama in France, has sought planning permission for a change of use of a unit at Ballybane Industrial Estate on Bóthar na Mine.

The unit, formerly occupied by Galway Coal, would be changed to a Screwfix warehouse with trade counters, as the business primary supplies building products to trades.

Screwfix has more than 620 stores in the UK and Northern Ireland, and employs more than 8,300 people.

According to the company: “Screwfix dispatches thousands of parcels every week for next day and weekend delivery to tradesmen, handymen and serious home improvement enthusiast. Screwfix also operates a growing number of trade counters across the UK which [each] have over 11,000 items in stock, available for immediate collection.”

The company stocks tools; heating and plumbing supplies; electrical and lighting; bathrooms and kitchens; outdoor and gardening; building and decorating supplies.

“[The operator] is a potential new entrant to the Irish market, at least in terms of a physical, ‘on the ground’ presence. The primary use of their business premises would be storage of goods, with trade counters primarily for pick-up, arising from online sales.

“As a result, the unit would include ancillary trade counters aimed at local building companies including what is known as a trade plus counter, aimed at specific trades.

“Their products are principally sold to trade over the internet, via catalogue, over the telephone, as well as over the two trade counters, which typically occupies about 9-10% of the gross floorspace of any one unit,” the planning application reads.

The company usually employs six to eight staff, four of whom are full-time.

The applicants have allowed for five parking spaces and note that parking at the Screwfix premises in Ballymena, Co Antrim was observed during peak Friday lunchtime trade. Over the hour, there were 25 visits to the unit and each visit lasted 3-5 minutes.

“At any one time, there were 2-3 visitors to the store, so the demand on parking was in that range also. We have made allowance for five spaces [in Ballybane],” the application reads.

A decision is due from Galway City Council in the middle of December.

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