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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

Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A city publican who last week helped save the life of a woman who had entered the waters of the Corrib off Wolfe Tone Bridge has made an appeal for young people to ‘look out for each other’.

Fergus McGinn, proprietor of McGinn’s Hop House in Woodquay, had been walking close to Jury’s Inn when he saw the young woman enter the river.

He then rushed to the riverbank on the Long Walk side of the bridge, jumped into the water, spoke to the woman and stayed with her until the emergency services arrived.

The incident occurred at about 3.45pm on Friday last, and a short time later the emergency services were on the scene to safely rescue the woman.

“She was lucky in that the river level was very low and she didn’t injure herself on the rocks and stones just under the water.”

He also appealed to the public to support in whatever they could the work being done by groups like the Claddagh Watch volunteers.
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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CITY TRIBUNE

Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Gardaí have warned city publicans that alcohol cannot be served outside their own premises – even in newly-created on-street spaces designated by Galway City Council as suitable for outdoor dining.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said three Gardaí visited a number of city centre pubs on Thursday afternoon informing them that drinking outdoors was not allowed under licensing laws.

“They warned publicans and restaurants that the area outside their premises is not covered by the licence, and therefore under national legislation, they are breaking the law, because they are not entitled to sell alcohol in non-licensed areas.

“The operators were told that this was an official warning, and they will be back again in a few days and if it persisted, they [Gardaí] would have no option but to issue a charge and forward files to the Director of Public Prosecution. You could not make this up.

“All of the big operators were visited, and received an official warning, and they will be charged if they persist. According to the guards, they’re getting instructions from [Garda headquarters in] Phoenix Park,” he said.

The matter will be raised at a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
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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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for 50% affordable homes in new Galway City Council estates

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The next Galway City Development Plan should include a greater provision for affordable housing than that recommended by Government, a meeting of the City Council has heard.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) told the meeting that while it was the Government’s intention to introduce a stipulation that new estates should have 10% affordable housing, Galway should go further – building anything up to 50% affordable in developments that are led by the local authority.

The Affordable Housing Bill, which is currently working its way through the Oireachtas, proposes that all developments should have 10% affordable and 10% social housing as a condition of their approval.

Affordable housing schemes help lower-income households buy their own houses or apartments in new developments at significantly less than their open market value, while social housing is provided by local authorities and housing agencies to those who cannot afford their own accommodation.

The Council meeting, part of the pre-draft stage of forming the Development Plan to run from 2023 to 2029, was to examine the overarching strategies that will inform the draft plan to come before councillors by the end of the year and Cllr McDonnell said a more ambitious target for affordable housing was absolutely necessary.

“It must be included that at least 50% of housing must be affordable [in social housing developments],” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) who questioned if the City Council was ‘tied down’ by national guidelines, or if it could increase the minimum percentage of affordable housing required locally.
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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