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Demand spikes as donations drop for SVP

Denise McNamara



Calls to the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) in 2016 have already surpassed last year’s 3,000 mark for a large swathe of the county.

The charity is grappling with 30% fewer donations over the last few years in the face of a much higher demand, according to SVP Galway Area President Belinda Mullen.

Social welfare recipients are no longer the only callers to the service at this time of the year, she revealed.

“What we call the new poor are increasingly calling us for help. These are people working who are just about making ends meet but a single bill coming up to Christmas can tip them over the edge,” explained Belinda.

“They can be struggling to pay rent as the housing assistance payments are not enough. They might get a high ESB bill or have to fill the oil tank. Their car insurance or tax could be due. There are all these extra bits coming into Christmas – toys, more food – which cause a lot of stress.”

Belinda is head of 27 ‘conferences’ or branches in Galway city and west of the county as far as the Aran Islands, Clifden, Claregalway and Oranmore. She says demand for a dig out has never been higher.

Their annual Christmas appeal was launched locally last week and anything raised here will be used for people living in Galway. The type of help given varies from providing coal or briquettes to filling the oil tank, giving food vouchers or paying off an electricity bill.

“We’re absolutely inundated for help and it’s not even December. It’s already on a par with last year. We’re up on 3,000 calls over the year to date – the same number for the whole of last year. It had been quieter for a few years but it’s come back with a bang in the recession,” she told the Connacht Tribune

“Our income at the same time is dropping on an annual basis. We’d take in around €200,000 per year and that’s down 30-35%. People will money to the SVP and that’s what’s keeping our heads above water.”

Volunteers do home visits and ask to see bills which are causing the financial pressure.

“We’re spending public money so we have to make sure it’s going to the needy and people are not pulling the proverbial over our eyes,” explained Belinda.

“We have very, very experienced volunteers who carry out a very good assessment. People might think at times it’s intrusive but we have to know where they money is going. If we give €80 towards a bill, we’ll want to see the receipt to show it’s been paid.”

The theme of the national SVP appeal is “Your yes can last a lifetime” and the campaign features real stories which demonstrate how one problem can tip a family into a crisis.

The Society spends almost €35m per year on direct assistance.

There will be an envelope drop and church gate collections in some areas of County Galway from this week on.


Hospital worker failed to self isolate after trip to red-list country

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Management at University Hospital Galway have been asked to investigate ‘as a matter of urgency’ an allegation that a security employee at the hospital returned to work within the 14-day restriction period after coming back from a ‘red-list’ country.

The person has already worked at least two shifts at the hospital – including looking after an elderly patient – despite the fact that the restriction period would not have expired until this Sunday, September 20.

The Galway City Tribune can reveal that in a letter from SIPTU official to a senior UHG manager, it is alleged there was breach of protocol over recent days by an employee of an outsourced security company.

According to the letter to Services Manager Geoff Ginnety, while the worker was not covered under HSE employee rules, “they still must comply with the Government issued protocols”.

The letter from SIPTU states that the worker in question had told his colleagues that he was in a red-listed country and that ‘he did not have to restrict his movements’ for 14 days and could return to work.

“I request that you [Services Manager at UHG] address these concerns as a matter of urgency and provide clear guidance on how to deal with the issue,” the SIPTU letter states.

According to information accessed by the Galway City Tribune, the employee in question returned from a red-listed country on September 6 last and underwent a test for Covid-19 five days later on September 11.

Shortly after that, according to his employers, the results of his Covid tests came back as negative. The Galway City Tribune understands that he returned to his night-shift work on Tuesday night, September 15, and also worked the Wednesday night shift of September 16.

This newspaper has also been informed by reliable sources that on his first night back on duty the employee was left in charge of an elderly patient, while on his second night back at work, he was dutied to the Emergency Department.

When contacted by the Galway City Tribune, a spokesperson for the HSE said that they could not comment on issues relating to individual staff.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Leisureland sinks with €20,000 per week losses

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The plug is being pulled on Leisureland – leaving hundreds of swimmers, mostly children, and trainee lifeguards, high and dry.

Galway Salthill Fáilte CLG, the company that operates the publicly-owned facility, has confirmed it plans to shut down its swimming pool and gym, leaving members of six aquatic clubs, hundreds of schoolchildren, and the general public, without an amenity for the foreseeable future.

Swimming clubs fear they will lose a whole generation of young swimmers in Galway if the pool closes. And they have warned that it could end up costing €1 million to repair and reopen the pool after a prolonged closure.

Leisureland blamed the impact of coronavirus for its financial woes, with losses running at an average of €20,000 per week.

The company said that by August it had already spent its annual €300,000 subsidy subvention from Galway City Council, and the local authority has indicated it is not in a position to increase the subsidy further in 2020.

The planned closure – which could result in the furloughing of over 20 staff from next month – has shocked the local aquatic community.

A lengthy hiatus with Leisureland closed will mean Galway will lose a ‘whole generation’ of swimmers, according to Eamon Caulfield, President of Galway Swimming Club and member and former chairperson of Corrib Water Polo Club.

“We’re particularly upset and aggrieved that this is going ahead, it’s shocking. They should be looking to reverse this decision,” he said this week.

The majority of the five aquatic clubs that use the facility (Galway SC, Shark SC, Laser SC and Tribes and Corrib water polo clubs) are made up of children aged 10-18, including some international athletes. Hundreds of children from Galway schools also learn to swim there.

A water safety group has been using the pool every Sunday morning since it opened in 1973, he said.

“Historically it is where Galway gets its lifeguards from. How can you not have swim lessons in a public pool? How can you not have water safety taught in a pool in Galway?

“It beggars belief, we’re on the sea. The water safety people, where are they going to go, how are we going to get lifeguards for beaches? How are we going to get teachers for teaching swimming?” asked Mr Caulfield.

The clubs have roughly 150 members each and generate €150,000 revenue annually for Leisureland.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full version, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Galway Gardaí get more than 1,000 house party calls

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway Gardaí have responded to more 1,000 house calls relating to house parties during the pandemic from mid-March to early September – the vast majority of them in the city area, it was revealed this week.

Chief Superintendent, Tom Curley, told the Galway City Tribune, that the figures for house party Garda call-outs were ‘startling’ and a source of major concern.

“This is a no-brainer. For anyone thinking of a house party, the simple message is – don’t do it. A serious amount of Garda time is now being spent dealing with house-party related incidents,” he said.

Between March 18 and September 1 this year, the Galway Garda Division responded to 1,034 house-party related calls, most of them in the city area.

“This a real and pressing issue not only for the Gardaí and the health authorities but also for the general public at large.

“Large numbers of people gathering in an enclosed house setting can be potentially disastrous in terms of our efforts to contain the spread of this virus. House parties are out – it’s as simple as that,” said Chief Supt Curley.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read more on Covid in Galway, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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