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Elder abuse: living in fear of the people closest to you



Date Published: {J}

The harrowing and shocking ‘angels from heaven’ court case last year, where two Galway brothers conned a 71-years-old woman cancer patient out of more than €400,000, brought the issue of elder abuse sharply into focus.

The men heard that the pensioner had received a large sum of money from the sale of land in County Galway and they quickly moved in to extract all of her savings, leaving her penniless within a year.


One of the perpetrators falsely claimed he, too, suffered from cancer and he preyed on her deep religious faith to gain her trust with the intention of extorting hundreds of thousands of euros from her.

The victim felt belittled and was living in fear of being shot by someone as one of the men had told her he had friends in the IRA – this was just another way in which threats and intimidation were used to exhort money from her. She was told lies so she would hand over money; her ATM card was used on numerous occasions to withdraw cash when she was in hospital.

During the court case in 2010, Judge Raymond Groarke remarked that this was “as mean and as miserable” a crime as he had come across. The judge didn’t mention the phrase ‘elder abuse’ during sentencing, but it was surely one of the most high profile instances of elder abuse recorded in Galway.

It’s also an extreme example of elder abuse, but on a daily basis throughout this city and county, over 65s are suffering various forms of abuse, most likely from close relatives, which is often hidden from those around them.

Although it’s a relatively new phrase or concept – elder abuse was defined in 2002 as “a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person or violates their human and civil rights” – that doesn’t mean it’s a new phenomenon. But it is becoming more prevalent as awareness increases.

“It’s a growing area, and every year we see an increase in referrals of elder abuse because people are becoming more aware of what it is,” says Susan Rodden, senior care worker for elder abuse with HSE West, who is at the coalface of elder abuse in Galway city and county.

Research by the National Centre for the Protection of Older People, which was published in 2010, showed that in a period of one year 10,200 older people were abused and 18,700 older people had suffered elder abuse since they reached the age of 65.

In 2009 – the most up to date year for which data is available – the HSE dealt with a total of 1,870 referrals of elder abuse and 21% of these were in the HSE West area. The figures for 2010, which will be published in a couple of months, will show an increasing trend.

The HSE doesn’t give a county by county breakdown of these 389 cases of elder abuse in the west – it wants to avoid ‘league tables’ or labels of the ‘worst’ counties for elder abuse – but it is safe to assume that many of them are in Galway, given that the city and county has the oldest population of any HSE local health area office in the country.

Two thirds of referrals are for woman and “almost half of all referrals are people over 80 years of age because they are most vulnerable,” says Susan.

The most common form of elder abuse is psychological (34%), which includes verbal abuse and put downs, bullying, humiliating or embarrassing the victim and intimidation. Financial abuse (22%) is the next most common followed by neglect (20%), physical abuse (14%) and sexual abuse (2%).

One of the most heart-breaking aspects of elder abuse is that it is perpetrated, in the most part, by family and close relatives – wives, husbands, sons, daughters, nieces and nephews.

The HSE West has produced a DVD where it shows fictional cases that are reflective of the instances of elder abuse they encounter in the community. It was shown last week at a Galway workshop organised by the health authority and Age Action Ireland to heighten awareness about the issue.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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