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Ex-Boyzone star Duffy for city autism opening

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Galway Autism Partnership (GAP), a local charity formed in 2011 by five proactive parents to help each other with information and general support, will celebrate the opening of their newly-renovated building in Newcastle on Wednesday with special guest Keith Duffy, formerly of Boyzone..

The charity aims to empower families caring for persons with an Autism diagnosis, by providing access to relevant training and education with the support of a positive ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) community. Six out of its seven board members have a family member on the Autism Spectrum.

Autism is referred to as a ‘hidden’ disability as people on the autistic spectrum often show no significant physical difference to their peers. Their behaviour is the distinguishing factor. Three main areas of difficulty for people with autism include social communication, social interaction and social imagination.

According to the latest figures Autism occurs in one in sixty-eight children. GAP founding member Miriam Jennings says: “Autism is now an epidemic.”

Much ambiguity surrounds the condition, and there is still no definitive answer as to what causes Autism Spectrum Disorder, though it is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function.

For people and families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder, services like those offered by Galway Autism Partnership are invaluable.

GAP’s headquarters is situated in Laurel Park, Newcastle on a site purpose-built in the 1980s as a diagnostic centre for people with autism – ‘Autism West Limited’. The driving force behind the original centre were Christy and Maisy Dooley; a parents’ labour of love for their son Ronan, who was diagnosed with ASD at age seven.

The newly-renovated building, now occupied by GAP is called ‘Tigh Ronain’ in honour of the Dooley family. Ronan is now in his fifties, his mother Maisy is in her eighties and they are warmly remembered by Galway Autism Partnership.

The autism spectrum, as Miriam Jennings from GAP, explains “refers to the broadness of what you could be living with.” And she knows all about it, the mother of four has three children on the autistic spectrum. Her eldest Jonathan (20) does not have ASD, but her son Alex (14) and twins Elliott and Isaac (8 ½) have all been diagnosed with Autism to varying degrees.

Her son Alex attends an Educate Together School and is currently accessing some of the Junior Cert Curriculum. At the other end of the spectrum is her son Elliott, who is completely non-verbal. Originally doctors suspected he may have Angelman syndrome, but he was later diagnosed with a severe case of autism.

GAP focus on key points such as: education, awareness, advocacy, inclusion, and support and community involvement. They provide fourteen active weekly social and respite clubs and run life skill workshops in schools. GAP also actively organise courses for parents, facilitators and volunteers (e.g. Lamh training, ASD Awareness Courses, CBT Courses, Studio III training and First Aid Training).

Furthermore, GAP runs Holiday Camps during Easter and Summer. And they do all of this without any state funding. They are totally reliant on fundraisers, donations, parents and grants.

“Those three hours that an individual is at a GAP club, a parent can have some time to themselves, knowing that their child is in a safe, supportive environment. It can be the difference between a very stressed and anxious parent to one who gets that essential time to look after themselves so that they can be as strong as they can to support their loved ones,” Miriam explains.

GAP is gearing up to launch an ‘Autism Friendly’ campaign. It is described as a simple business/retailer autism awareness induction so that staff members in shops, restaurants etc. can have a basic understanding of customers needs if he/she is on the spectrum.

“We have agreed with 10-15 businesses in the Latin Quarter,” said Miriam. Each business will send a representative for a two-hour training course, whereupon they will learn about the ASD spectrum and be given a run-through scenario.

Galway Autism Partnership was voted Medtronic Charity of the Year 2015.

The services they provide greatly benefits the lives of families living with ASD. They are holding a launch event on Wednesday to celebrate the opening of the newly-renovated building. It took two years of fundraising to raise the €70,000 necessary to complete the renovation.

Ex-Boyzone and Coronation Street star Keith Duffy, former ambassador for Irish Autism Action, will attend the launch in a personal capacity. “It’s going to be a colourful, happy event with children, teens, and adults from every breath of the spectrum,” said Miriam.

For further information visit their website or find them on Facebook.

CITY TRIBUNE

GAA club’s tournament honours stalwart who died at just 28

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Pictured at the launch of the Darragh Frain Memorial Tournament which takes place in Mervue this Saturday. Back: Kevin Curran, Kevin Barrett, Robert Fitzgerald, Aidan Brady, Alan O'Donnell, Donal Murphy, Eanna O'Connell, Eoghan Frain, David Henry. Front: Aodhain Ó Conghaile, Liam O'Donnell, Rory Murphy, Fionn Fitzgerald and Michael Barrett.

The untimely passing of a city GAA stalwart six years ago is still deeply felt by the club he represented but he remains an inspiration to young up-and-coming footballers who will be displaying their skills this weekend.

The Darragh Frain Memorial Tournament for under-age teams will take place in St James’ GAA grounds at Mervue tomorrow, Saturday, when many memories of a great young clubman will be exchanged.

Darragh, from Lurgan Park in Renmore, was just 28 years of age when he lost his battle with cancer in 2016. Since then his beloved club has been organising a tournament for young footballers that’s proving immensely popular.

For tomorrow’s event, the St James club will entertain local teams including St Michael’s, Salthill-Knocknacarra, Killanin and an Cheathrú Rua, as well as Kiltane (Bangor Erris) and Elphin-Ballinameen from North Roscommon.

It is a nine-a-side tournament, which takes place from 11am to 5pm, and will involve Under-11 teams who will compete against each other during the day.

The fact that Darragh’s late father, Tom Frain Senior, hailed from Roscommon means that GAA support for the event is coming from both counties – this makes it extra special, as well as adding to the profile of the tournament.

Best friend and one of the event’s main organisers, another St James stalwart David Henry explained that this was the sixth year of the tournament and that Darragh would be very pleased that his name was being associated with the development of under-age football.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Too many cafés’ as city retail continues to decline

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Barber Tom Nally outside his premises.

The changing face of Galway city centre is a source of concern to those who say it reflects a decline for people in terms of retail choices.

Those who regret the loss of several long-standing family-run operations in the city in recent years don’t believe that what has replaced them has enhanced the appearance of Shop Street, in particular.

“We are looking at a proliferation of coffee shops, bookies and mobile phone outlets in their place,” observed long-standing city centre businessman Tom Nally.

Cllr Niall McNelis agreed there were far too many coffee shops in the city centre and believed that anything that has been zoned retail by the Council should remain retail.

The Labour Councillor said a proper retail strategy needed to be adopted and some of the ‘big-name brands’ needed to be encouraged into the centre of Galway to lure shoppers into town.

Meanwhile, popular barber Tom Nally regretted the number of family operations that have ceased trading in the recent past.

“It is sad to see the long-established family businesses in the city centre going and it would be great to say that what is replacing them will enhance our streets . . . but unfortunately this is not the case,” he added.

Mr Nally who has been operating out of his High Street premises for almost 50 years, said the number of unoccupied premises in an around the city centre was a new phenomenon.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

State cracks down on quick-buck landlords

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New measures to clamp down on illegal short-term lets in the city will kick in next month, in an attempt to tackle mounting pressure on the rental market.

From September 1, sites such as Airbnb and Booking.com will no longer be allowed to advertise short-term rentals if the correct planning permission is not in place.

The measure seeks to strengthen laws introduced in 2019 which state that the use of a property for short-term letting for longer than 90 days in a rent-pressure zone requires permission from the local authority.

City Councillor Niall Murphy (Green) said the move follows on from an objection he lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI).

“The ASAI said it couldn’t be expected to police these ads so the websites like Airbnb were off the hook. But after September, they will have to ensure that those advertising on their sites have planning permission,” he said.

The proliferation of short-term lets in the city has been a contentious issue for a number of years, with scores of holiday leases available at the same time as city residents are battling it out for an extremely limited number of rental properties.

This week, almost 400 short-term lets were available on the leading website, Airbnb, while just 19 homes were up for rent on Daft.ie.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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