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Conflict aplenty at City Hall but no conflict of interest!

Dara Bradley



Independent City Councillor Noel Larkin . . . in the wars but no conflict of interest

Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column with Dara Bradley 

If the ruling rainbow pact was trying to ‘pull a fast one’ at Monday’s City Council meeting, it backfired.
Councillors in the mayoral pact agreed to take non-contentious items 2b and 2c first and then, rather than reverting to 1a, they jumped to 4c, which proved to be very contentious.
Item 4c involved ‘filling of vacancy on a committee or approved body’; aka ‘jobs for the boys’ – or in this case, ‘girls’, too.
The report that was circulated said Noel Larkin (Ind), had resigned from the HSE West Regional Health Forum. And the rainbow pact had decided that Martina O’Connor (Greens) would take his place. It said Martina had resigned from the Joint Policing Committee (JPC); and the pact said Noel would take her place.
Declan McDonnell, Noel’s buddy, proposed the change; Pauline O’Reilly, Martina’s chum, seconded it. All was well with the world, and they could move on . . . or so they thought.
A number of councillors hadn’t even arrived in the chamber (it started at 11am, far earlier than usual, to facilitate elected members who were travelling to Lansdowne Road for Republic of Ireland soccer match) when 4c was discussed.
So, the fact that the pact tried to take it as the third item, even though there were several, more important items ahead of it on the agenda, aroused suspicion of one councillor.
Ollie Crowe (FF) smelt a rat. And he nearly self-combusted sniffing it out.
Ollie is ten and a half years on the Council, and never before has a councillor stepped down so soon (less than six months) after being appointed to a body, and without saying why. “Can we have an explanation why he’s stepping down?” Ollie requested.
Deputy Mayor Donal Lyons, ‘King of Knocknacarra’, said, “anyone can step down; they don’t have to give a reason.”
“Is there a conflict of interest?” asked Ollie, several times. “It’s undermining the role of the Council.” The King said there wasn’t.
“It’s not for you to decide what’s right or wrong,” snapped Ollie. Councillors from the Left and the Right were uniting to make a change to the HSE – that was the “first mistake”, he said. The second was not getting anything in writing from the HSE.
Niall ‘This is Politics’ McNelis (Lab) said the HSE agreed that Nurse Martina, as an HSE employee, could serve on the forum.
Ollie wasn’t satisfied. “Is there a conflict of interest?”, he repeated.
Now Noel ‘The Drone’ Larkin took umbrage, at “aspersions cast on my character”. Ollie replied: “I’m entitled to ask the question.”
“He said ‘he’, he said ‘he’, he’s referring to me,” said Noel.
The King said he, as chair, was “being very fair” to everyone. Noel didn’t agree and went nuclear – proposed a Section 50, a vote to sanction Ollie for “continuous disruption of the meeting”.
The pact left Noel hanging. He wanted a seconder. None was forthcoming.
Chief Executive Brendan McGrath confirmed there was no conflict of interest, but he hadn’t got it in writing from the HSE.
Ollie took his word for it, but still argued it wasn’t “normal procedure” for a person to resign a position without an explanation. He apologised, sort of, if he’d caused offence, which, sort of, placated, Noel.
Before voting (it passed 8-4), eagle-eyed Eddie Hoare (FG), wanted clarity on whether, “in six months’ time they (pact) can just decide to change again? The HSE is a public body, if we’re changing (members) every six months, where are we going?” Where indeed.

For more Bradley Bytes see this week’s Galway City Tribune 


Well-known Galwayman becomes charity ambassador

Denise McNamara



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 to make a donation.

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Poor record at UHG for ambulance ‘turnaround’ times

Enda Cunningham



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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Building and hardware giant Screwfix planning Galway store

Enda Cunningham



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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