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City conference hears street drugs should be legalised

Ciaran Tierney

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A former Chief Constable from the United Kingdom told a conference in Galway at the weekend that he had come to the conclusion that street drugs should be legalised.

Retired officer Tom Lloyd told the first national Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) Ireland conference at NUI Galway that policemen were wasting their time chasing down and obtaining evidence from recreational drug users.

He told the audience of about 50 students that drugs were not the problem– the problem was the law.

“If you’ve got a problem with drug use, the last thing you need is to be arrested and prosecuted; if you haven’t got a problem, the last thing you need is to be arrested and prosecuted,” he explained.

Lloyd was one of four main speakers assembled by SSDP Ireland for the all-day conference at NUI Galway on Saturday.

Among those who spoke out in favour of a change in policy was Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan (Independent) who tried unsuccessfully to bring a Cannabis Regulation Bill through the Dail last November.

Criminologist Dr Paul O’Mahony and harm reduction researcher Tim Bingham also spoke in favour of changing the law.

A European Election candidate who has had both eyes removed due to glaucoma, Mark Fitzsimons, gave an emotional ten minute talk about the impact which herbal cannabis has had on his life.

The 30-year old said he discovered the medical benefits of marijuana in his teens and felt strongly that it should be made available to others.

Just three months ago, he handed himself into Gardai at Dundalk with a quantity of cannabis in a protest which was designed to challenge prohibition.

For more from this conference see this week’s Sentinel

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Connacht Tribune

Level 5 ‘lockdown’ restrictions from midnight Wednesday

Enda Cunningham

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The Government has decided that as of midnight on Wednesday, all of Ireland will be placed on Level ‘lockdown’ restrictions.

This action is based on current public health advice, the deteriorating situation with the disease across the country and the Government’s objectives to support families by keeping schools and childcare facilities open, maintaining non-Covid health services and protecting the vulnerable.

Level 5 restrictions will remain in place for a period of 6 weeks.

Given the difficulties that these restrictions place on individuals and families across the State, the risk of job losses and of poverty and homelessness, the Government has agreed that the moratorium on evictions be reinstated and that Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme be amended to reflect these challenges.

Placing the country at Level 5 Restrictions will have the following implications:

  • people are asked to stay at home. People should work from home unless providing an essential service for which their physical presence is required (see below for essential services)
  • people will be permitted to exercise within a radius of 5 km of their home
  • there will be a penalty for movement outside 5km of home, with exemptions to this for essential work and essential purposes
  • in line with current NPHET advice in respect of Level 5, schools, early learning and childcare services will continue to remain open and are deemed essential
  • in addition, in recognition of the impact on children and young people of restrictions, non-contact training can continue for school aged children, outdoors in pods of 15. All other training activities should be individual only, with some exemptions, see below
  • there should be no visits to other people’s homes or gardens
  • however, there will be the concept of an extended household (or support bubble) for defined categories of individuals to support those at risk of social isolation and/or mental ill-health (see notes to editors).
  • no social/family gatherings should take place, with the exemptions to this for weddings and funerals (see below).

It is possible to meet with one other household in an outdoor setting which is not a home or garden, such as a park, including for exercise

  • there should be no organised indoor or outdoor events.
  • essential retail and essential services will remain open (see below).
  • public transport will operate at 25% capacity for the purposes of allowing those providing essential services to get to work [School transport unaffected].
  • in line with current NPHET advice in respect of Level 5, professional, elite sports and inter-county Gaelic games, horse-racing and greyhound racing can continue behind closed doors.
  • bars, cafes, restaurants and wet pubs may provide take-away and delivery services only. Wet pubs in hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs may remain open, but only to support provision of essential services.
  • those aged over 70 and the medically vulnerable are advised to continue to exercise personal judgement. It is recommended that they stay at home as much as possible, limit engagement to a very small network for short periods of time, while remaining physically distanced. When taking exercise outdoors, it is important to maintain 2 metres distance from others and wash hands on returning home. It is recommended to shop during designated hours only, while wearing a face covering, and to avoid public transport.
  • religious services will be available online
  • museums, galleries and other cultural attractions will remain closed
  • libraries will be available for online services only.
  • outdoor playgrounds, play areas and parks will remain open with protective measures.
  • visits to Long Term Residential Care facilities are suspended with the exception of visits required for critical and compassionate circumstances

Essential purposes for travel (permitted outside 5k limit):

  • travel to and from work, where work involves providing an essential service (see below)
  • to attend medical appointments and collect medicines and other health products
  • for vital family reasons, such as providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, and in particular for those who live alone, as part of an extended household but excluding social family visits
  • to attend a wedding or funeral
  • for farming purposes i.e. food production and/or care of animals
  • to visit a grave

Exemptions for weddings (irrespective of venue): Up to 25 guests for wedding ceremony and reception.

Exemption for funerals: Up to 10 mourners.

Sports/Training/Matches

No training or matches should take place, with the exception of professional, elite sports and inter-county Gaelic games, horse-racing and greyhound racing, which are being permitted to continue behind closed doors.

Extended Household Concept

In order to support those who risk isolation, such as single adult households and those who have shared parenting or shared custody arrangements; those living alone who have mental health challenges, or those living with partner with dementia for example, it will be possible for those in such circumstances to nominate one other household with whom they can mix. This will allow for social support beyond the caring exemptions already available.

Amendments to PUP and EWSS

We know the move to Level 5 will have a significant impact on businesses – we know many people will temporarily lose their jobs on Thursday

As a result of the fact that businesses have to close we are making changes to the PUP and the EWSS

The new payment structure for the PUP is as follows, with the rate of €350 restored to those who were earning in excess of €400 per week:

Prior Weekly Earnings (Gross)PUP Payment
less than €200€203
€200 – €299.99€250
€300 – €399.99€300
more than €400€350

This change to payment rates will apply for payments issued from Tuesday 27th October (PUP is paid weekly on a Tuesday) in respect of all existing and new applicants.

The EWSS is also being amended to align with the amendment to PUP. This means here will be 5 payment rates/bands as follows:

  • 0 – €151 = €0
  • >€151 < €203 = €203
  • >€203 < €300 = €250
  • >€300 < €400 = €300
  • >€400< €1,462 = €350

The main aim of this scheme is to ensure where possible employees retain their link with their employer rather than become unemployed. This revised scheme will run to end January 2021.

Essential retail outlets:

Retailers with mixed retail offering which have discrete spaces for essential and non-essential retail should make arrangements for the separation of relevant areas.

  • outlets selling food or beverages on a takeaway basis, or newspapers, whether on a retail or wholesale basis and whether in a non-specialised or specialised outlet.
  • markets that, wholly or principally, offer food for sale.
  • outlets selling products necessary for the essential upkeep and functioning of places of residence and businesses, whether on a retail or wholesale basis.
  • pharmacies, chemists and retailers or wholesalers providing pharmaceuticals or pharmaceutical or dispensing services, whether on a retail or wholesale basis.
  • outlets selling health, medical or orthopaedic goods in a specialised outlet, whether on a retail or wholesale basis.
  • fuel service stations and heating fuel providers
  • outlets selling essential items for the health and welfare of animals (including animal feed and veterinary medicinal products, pet food, animal bedding and animal supplies), whether on a retail or wholesale basis.
  • laundries and drycleaners
  • banks, post offices and credit unions
  • outlets selling safety supplies (including work-wear apparel, footwear and personal protective equipment), whether on a retail or wholesale basis.
  • hardware outlets, builders’ merchants and outlets that provide, whether on a retail or wholesale basis –

– hardware products necessary for home and business maintenance or construction and development,

– sanitation and farm equipment, or

– supplies and tools essential for farming or agriculture purposes.

-outlets providing for the repair and maintenance of mechanically propelled vehicles or bicycles and any related facilities (including tyre sales and repairs).

  • the following outlets, insofar as they offer services on an emergency basis only:

-optician and optometrist outlets

-outlets providing hearing test services or selling hearing aids and appliances

-outlets selling office products and services for businesses or for relevant persons working from their respective places of residence, whether on a retail or wholesale basis

-outlets providing electrical, information and communications technology and telephone sales, repair and maintenance services for places of residence and businesses.

  • any other retail outlet that operates an online or other remote system of ordering goods for purposes of collection at the retail outlet
  • outlets selling food or beverages whether on a retail or wholesale basis and whether in a non-specialised or specialised outlet:

-insofar as they sell food or beverages on a takeaway basis or for consumption off the premises,

-insofar as they are staff canteens operating for the exclusive use of persons working in, or at, a particular premises, or

– hotels or similar accommodation services insofar as they sell food or beverages for consumption on the premises by residents of the service.

See the list of Essential Services HERE

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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Crass stupidity’ to allow Leisureland close

Stephen Corrigan

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The looming threat of closure for Leisureland after Christmas amounts to “crass stupidity” and requires an urgent commitment for funding from Government, according to a local TD.

Deputy Catherine Connolly told the Galway City Tribune she had raised the issue in the Dáil with the Minister of State for Local Government and he had expressed an openness to meeting with a delegation from City Hall in relation to the City Council-owned facility’s dire financial situation.

“It’s simply not acceptable that a public swimming pool would close when we have the Minister for Finance announcing a budget of €18 billion this week – that’s Monopoly money.

“We have €18 billion to dispense and the challenge is to do that in a way that ensures a basic level of services below which we cannot go, and that requires funding the local authority. The local authority is fundamental in any civilised society, as are the services it provides,” said the Independent Deputy.

Raising the issue in Leinster House, Deputy Connolly said that Leisureland was an excellent public facility that had been open since 1973 and had broke even for the last number of years, but had run into major funding shortfalls as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

“It is a fantastic swimming pool. I must declare a conflict of interest as I use it every weekend, It helps to keep me semi-sane and semi-fit.

“No public swimming pool makes money and few of them break even. This pool needed money due to Covid-19 and the difficulties experienced by every public swimming pool in the country. The management in the City Council said it was not in a position to give it money and that the swimming pool would have to close,” said Deputy Connolly, adding that the decision had been made and staff were informed.

Due to public pressure and resistance from local councillors, the decision was reversed and €207,000 in funding had been provided by the Council Executive.

“However, it pointed out that the money was coming out of next year’s budget, so it could not continue, and it would not be in a position to fund it.

“I do not expect miracles, but I expect commitment from the Minister and the Government that, regardless of what happens, we are not going to close public swimming pools or public libraries. They are essential services,” said Deputy Connolly.

She said €2.5 million in funding had been made available for “swimming pools with public access” in the private sector as part of the Government’s July Stimulus package, but nothing for publicly-owned facilities.

“It is very ironic if we are going to keep private swimming pools open once they have some limited access to the public, while we close down the public swimming pools,” she added.

Responding, Minister Peter Burke said his Department was keeping spending and cash flow at local authorities under constant review and would continue to work with Galway City Council to address issues.

“My Department is engaging with representatives of the local government sector and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the financial challenges facing local authorities as a direct consequence of the pandemic, in terms of additional costs incurred as part of the local government response and decline in local authority income streams.

“I will do my very best with regard to the Deputy’s ask. I would be willing to meet a delegation from the City Council in connection with this issue. However, there are going to be significant asks emanating from this crisis. We are doing our very best to make what we have go as far as it can. It presents a major challenge,” said Minister Burke.

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CITY TRIBUNE

HSE not paying rent to councils for use of Galway Airport

Dara Bradley

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Galway Airport is being provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) free of charge, the County Council has confirmed.

The Carnmore facility, jointly owned by Galway’s two local authorities, is being used as a drive through Covid-19 testing centre for the city and county.

It was confirmed to County Councillor Gabe Cronnelly (Ind) that neither the City nor County Council are benefiting financially from the HSE for the use of the facility. And he wasn’t happy.

He said Galway Airport was being given over to the HSE free-of-charge, at a time when the County Council budget was in deficit to the tune of €1.4 million at the latest count.

“The HSE isn’t paying anything to use the airport for testing. If it was the other way round, and the County Council was looking for something off the HSE, do you think that they would give it to the Council for nothing?” asked Cllr Cronnelly.

“They pay zero to us; yet we have a big deficit in the budget and Galway is the second-worst funded county council in Ireland. Why are we being so generous with our assets? Our budget is short again this year. We seem to have become a bit of a charity.”

Cllr Cronnelly said that not only was it not making money out of the airport, the County Council was actually spending money on holding meetings elsewhere, because County Hall cannot facilitate a socially distanced meeting.

He suggested that Galway Airport would be capable of facilitating a meeting of 39 councillors plus officials and media – and it would cost the local authority very little because it owns the site.

“It seems to me that there is an awful lot of waste of money going on,” he added.

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