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CITY TRIBUNE

Freemasons’ TLC project brings comfort to kids in hospital

Stephen Corrigan

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There didn’t seem to be much mystery shrouding proceedings at the Freemason’s lodge in Ballinfoile, with its door wide open and events playing out for all to see.

Perceived as an exclusive and secretive group, Galway Freemason’s Lodge on Bóthar an Choiste seemed the furthest thing from elitist as the group gathered to celebrate the success of their ‘Teddies for Loving Care’ initiative.

TLC has been running now for a number of years and involves Freemasons providing teddies for paediatric units in hospitals up and down the country.

Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest organisations for men and, having had a presence in Galway since 1722, the group certainly has staying power.

Almoner of Galway City Freemasons (Lodge 14), Basil Fenton, says that perceptions of the organisation are sometimes distorted.

He believes that ultimately, the group aims to have a positive impact on society and to the benefit of more than just their members.

“There are altruistic reasons for wanting to try and do a bit of good and that’s where the main focus is in terms of the charities,” says Basil.

TLC is a national initiative but one that has had a significant local impact – with anything up to 70 teddies being delivered into University Hospital Galway every week.

“This is where 36 hospitals within the country have A&E departments with specific facilities for paediatrics and we supply teddies free of charge to those hospitals.

“We provide the teddies and then it is at the discretion of nurses on duty – if a small child comes in distressed, they get a little teddy,” explains Basil.

“They are bought in from abroad and stored in Dublin – then by some means of distribution, they are brought down to Galway or Limerick or up to Belfast or Ballymena or wherever.

“A local member will keep in touch with nurses in paediatrics and they bring them in as they require them – the teddies are sterile and approved for hospital use,” he continued.

It is believed that the Freemasons emerged in the fifteenth century – as Basil says, “when they were really stonemasons”.

It was from here, according to him, that the symbolism and rituals originated.

“In one sense, it would have originally been almost like a trade union and you hear people talking about the secret signs and symbols – at that time you didn’t have certificates or diplomas to say what level of qualification you were.

“It was using these signs and symbols that you could prove you were really an advanced carpenter or mason and therefore eligible to earn more money,” says Basil.

To maintain tradition, the Freemasons continue to wear regalia that includes sashes and aprons – representative of the apron that stone masons would have worn to protect their trousers.

The rituals as members progress from apprentice to fellowcraft before becoming a Master Mason still continue – something that Basil concedes that his wife refers to as “play-acting”.

He feels that misconceptions of the organisation both attracts and deters – and leads to people seeking to join for differing reasons.

As a result, it is quite a laborious task to join, involving a period of scrutiny to ensure that potential members want to give back rather than just take from the organisation.

“Some people come in with expectations of rituals or sudden introduction into somewhere and that is why there is the scrutiny or screening process – to try and let the person know that your perception of what to expect is not what it really is.

“There are three basic qualifications – first of all, he has to be a man, he has got to believe in some supreme being of some sort and he must live in good repute amongst his friends and neighbours,” explains Basil.

And it isn’t some covert or secretive applications process – it is simply a matter of making an online application to be contacted.

“It isn’t for everybody but a lot of people get great enjoyment out of it – there are about 25,000 members around the country.

“People join a rugby club because they enjoy rugby – people join us because they find it enjoyable and they have similar aims in terms of trying to improve things for charities or whatever along the line,” says Basil.

As for why he joined, it was a combination of curiosity and security – with the Freemasons offering support to any families left behind if a member passes away.

“There are the Masonic charities for people who have fallen on hard times within the order – I saw security in terms of children getting support through education – children of members, if the member dies, will get support.

“The function of the Almoner is to look after the brethren so if somebody is sick, you visit them or you organise for them to be visited and you keep an eye on any widows you may have – if somebody has a problem or anything, you might help them with it,” he says.

As the Freemason’s lodge in Ballinfoile flooded with people and the table was filled with foil platters of party food and teddies, the so-called secret society seemed anything but.

“The fact is that there is a booklet that anyone can go in and collect in the Grand Lodge in Dublin that has all the names and addresses of every lodge in the country and the contact details for them.

“There’s nothing clandestine or hidden – it’s in the public sphere, identifiable and available,” says Basil.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City businesses determined to weather lockdown storm

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Despite devastation for city businesses this week amid a return to lockdown, many remain determined to weather the storm – and with the Council’s approval this week of additional measures to entice people to the city centre when restrictions ease, there is a hope that a good Christmas could save them.

Level 5 restrictions which came into force on yesterday (Thursday) have forced ‘unessential’ retailers to close their doors once again in an attempt by Government to get a handle on spiralling numbers of Covid-19.

And while those affected, mainly in the retail and hospitality sectors, are facing huge challenges to keep their heads above water, they had to remain positive that all was not lost if coronavirus could be got under control over the next six weeks.

Anthony Ryan, of the Galway City Business Association, said that while closing their clothes shops had been hugely disappointing, he had to remain optimistic.

“We just have to stay going and remain positive. Our clothes division is non-essential so that is temporarily closed, in line with the Government guidelines. Items necessary for households are essential so that means our home store remains open.

“Business had recovered quite well by September, but once Level 3 was introduced, there was a big fall off for everybody,” he told the Galway City Tribune.

Many businesses, including his own, had made huge strives to improve their online offering in recent months and it was his hope that people would continue to support local when they shopped online, even if they couldn’t get in to the physical stores.

“Online sales continue to be very strong. We hope to have our fashion website up in a couple of weeks, so there has been a lot of work going into that in the background,” said Mr Ryan.

Meanwhile, councillors this week backed a plan that will result in an overhaul of traffic flow in the city core – transforming Middle Street into a shared-surface and eliminating all cars not owned by residents on the street – ruling out full pedestrianisation due to residents’ requirements.
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

Plan for new cross-city public transport corridor go on display

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway City Council is hopeful that a proposed new public transport corridor – linking the western and eastern suburbs through the city centre – could be ready to go for planning permission next year.

This week, a six-week public consultation process began on the ‘Cross-City Link’.

The Council is hopeful that a planning application could be submitted to An Bord Pleanála next year, and if approved, it would take 12-18 months to construct.

The Cross-City Link begins at the junction of University Road and Newcastle Road and continues across the Salmon Weir Bridge, through St Vincent’s Avenue, St Francis Street, Eglinton Street, Eyre Square, Forster Street, College Road and on to the Dublin Road.

“Through traffic, with no specific destination in the city centre, will be diverted,” the City Council said.

Uinsinn Finn, Senior Engineer with the Council said: “This corridor will connect homes with places of work, study, retail and recreation, with improved public transport journey times and reliability.

“High-quality public spaces, new and upgraded pedestrian and cyclist facilities and public transport priority will be provided, making it easier to move through the city, and to access destinations by sustainable means.

“This will create a safer place for pedestrians, cyclists and the mobility-impaired, and public transport services will move more freely. Deliveries and access to carparks will be facilitated, as will access to homes or businesses.

“The Council invites the public, landowners and other stakeholders to review the proposals, and to share their feedback,” said Mr Finn.

He said that schemes such as the new corridor are key projects and are “essential” to keeping the city moving.

“They are key to supporting sustainable travel modes and to support the ambitious targets for Galway as set out in the National Development Plan,” Mr Finn added.

He said it is anticipated the proposal can be submitted for planning consent next year, and subject to permission being granted, it would take 12-18 months to complete.
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

Pilot initiative will restrict car traffic around Galway City school

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors have backed a proposal to restrict car traffic around Scoil Iognáid on Raleigh Row as part of a ‘School Streets’ pilot project.

The initiative, which involves a time-specific curtailment on cars at school drop-off and pick-up times, will result in the pedestrianisation of Raleigh Row, Palmyra Park and Palmyra Avenue – closed to traffic from 8.15am to 9.15am; and 1.15pm to 2.45pm.

Due to start on November 2, residents in the area will still be allowed access, but have been asked to “avoid using their car during the periods of pedestrianisation”, while those with blue badges will also be permitted to drive in the area.

Signage indicating the restrictions will be erected, while Gardaí and community wardens will enforce the pedestrianisation and parking respectively.

‘Park and Stride’ will be encouraged for getting children to school when no alternative is available, whereby parents park a short distance from the school and finish the remainder of the journey by foot – with registration enabling city school-goers’ parents to park for free in over 20 car parks.

Arlene Finn of the City Council’s Transport Department told councillors that 145 parents at Scoil Iognáid had already registered for this initiative, and by introducing the School Streets programme, the area would become infinitively safer and more appealing to parents and children wishing to walk or cycle to school.
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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