For four years now, the ARD Women’s Circle (Ardaun-Roscam-Doughiska) has been bringing together women from the locality to develop networks in the community, learn new skills and at its very essence provide an opportunity to meet neighbours and friends in an area that is just finding its feet.
Coordinator and facilitator of the group, Grace Jennane, says that it all started with a realisation that countless women were dropping into the ARD Family Resource Centre but never actually interacting with each other.
Grace, who was doing a Tús Scheme – at the centre, saw an opportunity for a group that would bring women of all cultures, nationalities and religions together – and so the ARD Women’s Circle was founded.
“They weren’t talking to each other, because they were all from different cultures,” says Grace.
“There was a lot of women that didn’t even want to come in because they were feeling socially excluded for one reason or another.”
Originally, the group was set up to do art and painting, but such was the demand for joining the group that it became apparent there would be scope to do more.
“I couldn’t believe that in the first few weeks, we had over 30 people who wanted to join.
“They all realised that that even though they might be from a different belief, religion, culture, country or whatever – they all had similar experiences and similar problems in their lives,” explains Grace.
It is for that reason that Grace believes the group’s primary role, ahead of all the skill workshops and classes they hold, is that of a social outlet where local women from the area can communicate with each other for two hours every week.
“I didn’t think it would be so fluid,” concedes Grace. “But it’s amazing that there is nobody sitting there on their own – straight away, if a new person comes in, they’re actually all sitting around her and it’s really good to see that.”
In everything that the group does, each person is learning something about someone else’s culture – be that food, dress, religion or anything else. Just by talking to each other, they are educating each other.
This, according to Grace, opens people’s minds and gives them an opportunity to ignore prejudice and make their own decisions based on the people around them.
“We brought the ladies to the mosque and they went around to the Imam who talked to them and they asked questions like, ‘why do women have to wear the hijab’, so he explained that it is not necessary. While some people might think it is obligatory, it is a choice, some women wear it to feel closer to God.
“They realise that it is just a piece of material but she is the same as me,” says Grace.
Grace smiles as she talks about her pride in the group, and for the way they have worked together to create a positive impact for the women of Doughiska.
“It takes you out of that social exclusion box, which can be a very dark place,” she says.
For a group that started just to do art, its repertoire has expanded greatly over the years.
To date, the group has created mosaics, become au fait with the intricacies of decoupage, got involved in the community garden, sold Christmas gifts in a pop-up shop that they were part of setting up, not to mention the daytrips and outings they have had.
Already marked on the schedule for this year is wood coppicing, and this is something that Grace says all the members are waiting with great anticipation for.
“I think they are really looking forward to the coppicing and the wood burning because when the Galway 2020 were in the woods, Debbie, the lady who does it, they went down and they were looking at what she was doing and they were very impressed.
“We had a lady in before we started the mosaic and she did perfume making with us using flowers they found in the woods – we are also going to make jewellery with one of the women from the group,” outlines Grace as she reels off the extensive list of activities the group are involved with.
She reserved much praise for her fellow facilitator, Karen Roberts, whom she credits with organising the outings the group go on.
She explains that the process of choosing what the group will do is based on a vote by those involved – with meetings regularly attracting up to 20 attendees per week.
The group collaborates with the ARD Gardening Group, having worked on various projects with them in the past.
One of its biggest successes was the summer barbeque last year where the community had the opportunity to come together and view the work that goes on in the area.
“We had a picnic in the community garden last summer and that was with a social inclusion grant from the Council – it was amazing and the ladies from the mosque came and brought their Pakistani food and everyone absolutely loved it,” says Grace.
For all the work that the ARD Women’s Circle do, Grace believes none of it would be possible without the huge support that the ARD Family Resource Centre provides.
“We have to be grateful for a lot of people that live around us in this community for putting Doughiska first.
“There’s many different nationalities here – it’s like our own little globe and it’s working because people are working hard to make it work, and it wouldn’t if things were left.
“There’s still a lot to do, especially in the woods, where a few of the younger people are causing problems but hopefully, as they grow up, they’ll start to do things with the woods.
It will be nice to see Merlin Woods being used because it is very important for one’s mental health and wellbeing,” she says.
Grace believes that it is thanks to the dedication of those who work in the ARD Family Resource Centre that a community exists in the Doughiska-Roscam-Ardaun area – with that famous Galway friendliness extending out to the city’s newest suburb.
“Lidl is lethal now,” she laughs. “You go in and you can’t get out for two hours. It’s nice to have a smiling face when you leave your house – it makes your day a little bit less stressful and life is stressful enough.”
The ARD Women’s Circle meets every Wednesday morning from 10am in the ARD Family Resource Centre.
“We are always open and welcoming to new members. We are a non-judgemental group and we are open to all women of all cultures, races and backgrounds from all areas of Galway,” says Grace.
Swimmer James clocks up one million metres in year
From the Galway City Tribune – A keen swimmer in Galway has clocked up an astonishing one million metres in a year as part of his gruelling exercise schedule.
James Brennan reached the impressive milestone over 400 swims last years, which were split between the sea in Salthill and across the road early-morning sessions at Leisureland pool.
He would count the lengths in his head or on his watch, regularly swimming up to 240 lengths over 90 minutes in the pool and up to 2km off the beach for a half-hour. On a regular week he would swim the equivalent of 20km.
When James realised he was at 800,000 metres last November, he decided to go all-out to pass the one-million mark by the end of 2022.
So he concentrated on swimming for at least ten hours a week leading up to Christmas and celebrated passing his goal before breaking up for the festivities.
“I’ve always done a lot of swimming. I’ve competed for my local swimming club in Claremorris, County Mayo, and was involved in the Corrib Polo Water Club races. I won the Heskin League, which is a combination of the 14 different open water races in Salthill. I also won the league in Claremorris,” he reveals.
The software engineer has been living in Galway for 13 years and has been a member of Leisureland for four years.
“It’s a really great pool, it has nice facilities, the staff are all very nice,” he reflects.
Facilities Manager of the Council-owned premises, Ian Brennan, said the phenomenal distance was the equivalent of swimming from Galway to Amsterdam.
He heard about James’s achievement from Green Party Councillor and Leisureland board member Niall Murphy, who happened to be swimming in the lane beside James when the Mayo man reached the goal.
“I felt that this is a hugely worthy event and fills me with amazement that we have a superhero in our midst. The future is bright.”
Ó Tuathail not interested in Galway City Council co-option
From the Galway City Tribune – A two-time general election candidate for the Social Democrats in Galway West has ruled out filling the party’s vacant seat on Galway City Council.
Niall Ó Tuathail, a health reform advisor, has confirmed to the Galway City Tribune that he will not be co-opted to the City Council seat vacated by the shock resignation of Councillor Owen Hanley in January.
“I’m not going to be put forward for co-option,” said Mr Ó Tuathail.
The father-of-two has lived abroad for a time since taking a step back from electoral politics in the wake of his 2020 General Election defeat.
He confirmed this week he has not reconsidered his decision to take a long break from frontline politics.
“I’m still a Soc Dem member and we’re in a process looking for someone strong to represent the values of the people who voted for us in 2019,” Mr Ó Tuathail said.
He polled 3,653 first preference votes in 2020 in Galway West and was only eliminated after the 12th count in the five-seat constituency.
That was an increase on the 3,455 number ones he received in his first Dáil election in 2016, when he also bowed out on the 12th count.
Mr Ó Tuathail was synonymous with the Social Democrats’ brand in Galway, and was heavily involved with the local referenda campaigns for marriage equality and to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
It surprised many political observers when he opted not to fight a local election for the party in 2019.
That was a breakthrough election for the Soc Dems, when Owen Hanley became the party’s first ever Galway City councillor by winning a seat in Galway City East. Sharon Nolan narrowly missed out on a seat in City Central during the same election.
Mr Hanley cited allegations made against him when he announced in January that he was resigning his position.
He said that the matters were “very serious” and would take a considerable amount of time for the authorities to investigate.
The resignation of Mr Hanley left a vacancy on the City Council.
It is the prerogative of the Social Democrats to nominate a person who will be co-opted to replace him as a councillor at City Hall.
A spokesperson for the party told the Tribune last week that it has not yet chosen a successor.
“We don’t have any update in relation to the co-option. I will let you know when we have a candidate,” the spokesperson said.
One problem faced by the party is that a number of possible replacements for Mr Hanley have left the Soc Dems over policy and other issues.
Cigarettes, drugs and cash seized in Galway
Officers from the Divisional Drugs Unit seized more than €73,000 worth of cigarettes, cash and drugs after a car and residence were searched in Galway today.
As part of Operation Tara – which is targeting the sale and supply of drugs and related criminal activity in the Galway area – Gardaí searched a car in the Knocknacarra area. Cash and cannabis were seized.
A follow up search was carried out at a residence in Salthill, where cigarettes worth €70,000, along with €3,100 in cash and a small quantity of suspected amphetamine were recovered.
No arrests were made, but Gardaí say they are following a definite line of inquiry.