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Demand spikes as donations drop for SVP



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.

Connacht Tribune

Locals in fundraising drive to protect some of Connemara’s finest beauty spots



The world-famous beaches Gurteen Bay and Dogs Bay will disappear unless work is carried out immediately to save them for the next generation.
A local conservation committee has been set up which is fundraising to carry out the work in September. They plan to remove the old fencing from the headland, which is dangerous for people and animals.
They will also want to install new fencing on the headland to keep animals off the sand dunes and to have clear access pathways to people to enjoy the dunes without causing them damage.
Sustainable chestnut fencing is then needed to re-establish the sand dunes and to save them from further collapse.
Finally the hope to replant marram grass to further stabalise the dunes.
Kieran Mullen, owner of the Gurteen Bay caravan and camping park, explained that the work was so urgent that they cannot wait another year to carry it out.
“Atlantic storms are becoming more frequent and powerful. If they find a weakness in the dunes a one metre gap is created. The next storm that widens to two and three metres and soon they’re gone forever,” he remarked.
“I know people might say I’m doing this because they’re part of my livelihood but these beaches are key to the bigger economy of Connemara. Everyone’s tied into tourism here – the shops, the builders. It only takes one influencer to post a picture on Instagram and the next week the place is packed.”
His father Pat, along with James Conneely and Joe Rafferty, undertook extensive projects such as planting marram grass, erecting fencing and stone gabions along one section of Dogs Bay beach back in the 1990s. They managed to protect and regenerate part of a highly degraded dune system.
“If it wasn’t for the huge amount of work they did back then, the beaches wouldn’t be here today. There was an Italian electrical company who came in and took away 50 tonnes of sand and my father stopped them at the gate and made them drop it off.
“They filmed Into The West here and the film donated some money to the beach and that’s how they paid for a lot of the work.”
The committee is meeting with planners to secure an exemption on planning for the work.
“Time is not on our side so that’s why we’ve gone ahead to raise the money and hope to get it done in September when the place is quieter.”
Both beaches, located outside Roundstone, regularly make the list of top 100 beaches of the world by travel guides.

To make a donation, visit GoFundMe page.

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Mercury hit 30°C for Galway City’s hottest day in 45 years



From this week’s Galway City Tribune –

Wednesday was the hottest day in the city over the past 45 years when with a high of 30.1 Celsius being recorded at the NUI Galway Weather Station.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the city dates back to June 30, 1976, when the late Frank Gaffney had a reading of 30.5° Celsius at his weather station in Newcastle.

Pharmacists and doctors have reported a surge in people seeking treatment for sunburn.

A Status Yellow ‘high temperature warning’ from Met Éireann – issued on Tuesday – remains in place for Galway and the rest of the country until 9am on Saturday morning.

It will be even hotter in the North Midlands, where a Status Orange temperature warning is in place.

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of our current heatwave has been the above average night-time temperatures and the high humidity levels – presenting sleeping difficulties for a lot of people.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Property Tax hike voted down in Galway City



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to boost Galway City Council coffers by half a million euro every year by increasing Local Property Tax (LPT) did not receive the support of city councillors.

Councillor Peter Keane (FF) failed to get a seconder at this week’s local authority meeting for his motion to increase the LPT payable on Galway City houses by 5%.

Cllr Keane said that the increase would net the Council €500,000 every year, which could be spent evenly on services across all three electoral wards.

It would be used to fund services and projects city councillors are always looking for, including a proposal by his colleague Cllr Imelda Byrne for the local authority to hire additional staff for city parks.

The cost to the taxpayer – or property owner – would be minimal, he insisted.

“It would mean that 90% of households would pay 37 cent extra per week,” he said.

Not one of the 17 other elected members, including four party colleagues, would second his motion and so it fell.

Another motion recommending no change in the current rate of LPT in 2022 was passed by a majority.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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