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.
Judge adjourns Connemara assault case
Date Published: 08-May-2013
A date will be set next October for the trial of a 52-year old Connemara man, who is charged with assaulting traditional Irish musician Noel Hill five years ago.
Michael Folan from Teach Mór, Lettermullen, is charged with intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to Noel Hill at Tí Padraig Mairtín Beag in Leitir Mór, on St Stephen’s Day, 2008.
The matter had been listed for trial on several occasions before Galway Circuit Criminal Court in the intervening period.
It was referred to the High Court in Dublin last year for judicial review after Michael Folan said he wanted his trial heard ‘as Gaeilge’and that a bi-lingual jury be made available to hear the case.
At Galway Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Rory McCabe adjourned the case for mention to October when it’s expected a date will be set for trial.
Bank of Ireland Galway Shopping Centre branch to close
Date Published: 10-May-2013
Bank of Ireland’s branch at Galway Shopping Centre on the Headford Road is to close in July.
The branch is to merge into the BOI outlet at Galway Industrial Estate in Mervue.
Galway Bay fm news reports the 14 staff impacted are to be offered redeployment and there will be no job losses.
Galway RNLI rescues three people stranded on Hare Island
Date Published: 13-May-2013
Galway RNLI Lifeboat has come to the rescue of three students who got stranded on Hare Island after getting caught in the tide off Ballyloughan Beach.
The two girls and boy, in their late teens had gone for a walk and were spotted waving from the island by a local resident who contacted the emergency Services and Galway Lifeboat.
Conditions at the time (4pm) were very changeable with heavy showers.
Three members of the Lifeboat shore crew were working in the vicinity of the station at the time and launched the boat in six minutes.
The three students were picked up safely and brought back to the Lifeboat Station at Galway Docks where they were warmed up and given tea and did not require medical attention.