Date Published: 28-Apr-2011
If the world needed a reminder of what happens when nuclear energy goes wrong, it got it in March when there was an explosion at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant in the wake of an earthquake and a tsunami. One of the most developed countries in the world was forced to dump seawater from helicopters to tackle the explosions at the plant’s reactors.
Thousands of people were evacuated from the area, thousands more warned to remain indoors. Many had no running water or electricity, while vegetables, milk and even the nearby sea, were contaminated.
The Fukushima disaster was ranked as a Level 7 on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, putting it on the same scale as Chernobyl disaster, which occurred on April 26, 1986.
The millions of people in the Ukraine and Belarus, who survived that disaster don’t need any reminding about the havoc a nuclear explosion can cause.
Chernobyl’s impact on people’s lives was far worse, because the USSR government didn’t inform people of the accident until April 29, after Sweden detected contaminated ash cloud in its airspace. Also, that nuclear disaster added to social problems which were rife in the former USSR.
A quarter of a century on, Chernobyl’s impact is still being felt in Belarus, where 70 per cent of the nuclear waste fell, according to scientific reports on the accident. That is why groups like the Aughrim based Sunflower Chernobyl Appeal Children’s Charity are needed.
The group was set up in 1999 as an independent charity by Pat Dillon, who was working as a Garda in Tipperary when he was introduced to children who were visiting from Belarus, getting a break from their contaminated environment.
“I didn’t mean to get involved. It just happened,” he says with a laugh.
Pat decided to set up the voluntary group because he and others wanted to help provide badly needed building and development projects in Belarus.
“We had a lot of men involved, so it seemed like a good idea to start providing facilities for kids,” adds Pat who is joined for our interview by fellow volunteer Declan Manning, and Pat’s adopted son 11-year-old, Greb, who was born in Belarus and became part of the Dillon family when he was 18 months old.
At present, the Sunflower Chernobyl Appeal is involved in some 15 schemes to assist children whose lives are still affected by Chernobyl as well as by the many social problems in Belarus.
Pat and several members of the group are just back from Belarus where they were preparing for volunteers who are going out there in May to complete a number of building projects. They were also organising visas for 25 children to visit Ireland.
The Sunflower Chernobyl group has built day-care centres in various parts of Belarus and is now putting the finishing touches to a centre for 170 children who have special needs in an area south of the country. It’s about 150 miles away from Chernobyl in a place designated as ‘medium contaminated’.
The group of volunteers will also be completing two houses located outside the walls of an orphanage in north east Belarus. Designed for special needs orphans, these are due to open in July.
Each house will accommodate six orphans aged from 19-28. At the moment, the orphanage houses 400 people aged between four and 28, all of them with special needs. But as they get older, they are destined for an adult mental institution unless – which is unlikely – they find somebody willing to adopt them. This new facility gives those orphans a far better option.
Pat has a folder of photos – some very upsetting – of teenage boys in cots in orphanages. He doesn’t want them printed; it wouldn’t be fair on the youngsters, he says. One of them, who is now 17 or 18, has been in the orphanage’s high dependency unit for years and is just lying there. Another is about 14, although his wasted body tells a different story – he looks like a five-year-old.
“We are hoping to put in a sensory room for these children,” says Pat and Declan adds that they also intend to renovate and brighten up the rooms of bed-ridden children.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
Retail industry trade body welcomes B&Q announcement
Date Published: 07-May-2013
Retail Excellence Ireland, the country’s largest retail industry trade body, has welcomed the news that 60 jobs have been saved at the city branch of B&Q.
It’s after the home improvements store successfully exited examinership.
Under the scheme, 2.4 million euro is to be invested by parent company Kingfisher plc, and B and Q will continue to trade at eight stores
This means 640 jobs have been saved nationwide, including 60 at the outlet in Knocknacarra.
However, David Fitzsimons of Retail Excellence Ireland says landlords need to be willing to help out smaller retailers too.
Foundation reports nine Galway heart deaths each week
Date Published: 09-May-2013
Nine people die in Galway every week from heart disease and stroke.
That’s according to the Irish Heart Foundation, which is launching its Happy Hearts Appeal today. (9/5)
An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, launched the appeal today to help raise funds for the charity, which has seen increasing demand on its patient services.
The Foundation says it needs to raise at least half a million euro to maintain existing information services.
Call to tackle delays at Oranmore rail crossing
Date Published: 13-May-2013
Concerns have been raised over traffic delays at the railway crossing in Oranmore.
Councillor Jim Cuddy says he has received many representations from local motorists who have been experiencing extended delays.
He says the closed barrier can sometimes cause a traffic tailback as far as the roundabout near the Maldron hotel.
Cllr Cuddy has brought the matter to the attention of Iarnrod Eireann and has asked for an explanation as to why the crossing is closed for so long.