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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway native aims to use foundation of friendship to help in time of need

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Many’s the good idea is conceived sitting around the kitchen table. But most remain just that – ideas never realised.

One man, however – who came up with an idea on how to help a friend in need – was determined to do something so that other people who faced similar obstacles could get the help they needed to get on with their lives.

‘Cáirde – Friends Matter’ is a nationwide initiative that was conceived around a Galway table but could help countless families once it is rolled out in communities, sporting clubs and schools.

The man behind the movement is Tadhg Ó Beaglaoich from Salthill, who now lives in Newbridge, Co Kildare. Other Galway-based founding members were Andrew Murphy, Clement Shevlin, and John Joe Burke.

Tadhg saw first-hand how a friend facing mental health issues found it hard to make his way in life.

“I have been aware from a young age how problems can hinder you from getting on with your life. In my own case it was dyslexia, which I hid for years.

“There are a range of problems relating to mental health issues from social anxiety, which can be crippling, to depression, to feeling suicidal.

“But there are also other problems like domestic violence, bereavement or post-natal depression, for example, which are all issues people don’t want or feel they can’t talk about,” said Tadhg.

He said he wanted to provide a peer-to-peer support group where people could reach out to people via a network organised centrally. As he says himself, “ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine” which translates as ‘the importance of supporting one another’.

But primarily, Cáirde is an approved housing body which got charity status a fortnight ago which will be engaging with local authorities to secure accommodation for those who suffer from from any variation of mental health issue.

Tadhg is a firm believer that having a roof over your head is a basic necessity but that all too often, people can lose their homes due to their own mental health issues.

Cáirde will be providing homes by coming up with 20% of funding required per unit with the balance paid for out of public funds.

“This is not about homelessness,” stresses Cathie Farrell, a Salthill woman who has known Tadhg all her life and who has come on board to help get the movement off the ground.

Cathie, who is currently living in Dublin, is thrilled to be in a position to help and indeed is one of a handful of key people Tadhg has entrusted with a number of various strands of Cáirde.

“As well as concentrating on the accommodation aspect, we are also in the process of, through social media, publicity and word of mouth, establishing a network of people who want to volunteer.

“A group of trustees is currently being trained in first response course given by the St John of Gods in Stillorgan which will educate people on knowing what signs to look for in people suffering from anxiety, depression or whatever.

“And we also hope to roll out something similar in schools educating children as young as nine in recognising mental health issues and more importantly helping to remove the stigma surrounding all aspects of mental health and provide early intervention,” said Cathie.

Both Cathie and Tadhg acknowledge that there are other organisations providing support and backup for people with mental health issues but believe that Cáirde will fill a particular gap.

Cáirde recognises that there are many strands of mental health and that possibly social anxiety and a bout of depression for example are not always taken as seriously as other types of mental health issues.

Tadhg adds: “If your social anxiety means you can’t leave the house, it means you can’t do your job. And if you can’t do your job, you may not be able to pay for or secure accommodation.

“We have certainly lost something since the boom years. We are answerable to technology instead of to one another and I am hoping that this peer-to-peer network will address that.”

And though Tadhg, who lived in Galway from the age of one up until he moved to Newbridge three years ago, has been working on his idea for over two years, he found out recently that a very similar organisation was set up in Australia.

In fact there are any number of mentoring organisations worldwide but obviously Cáirde will be tailored to suit the Irish, a country renowned for its friendliness, its homeliness and generosity.

But Tadhg is now hoping that Irish people will direct all these good traits into helping people in their own community.

Cáirde is being officially launched in Dingle at the end of the month with a number of activities including a cycle around Slea Head, a golf classic, soccer, GAA and rugby tournaments.

Similar fundraising events will be taking place during the year in Galway and elsewhere and anyone interested in getting involved as a volunteer, to donate, sponsor or participate can get in touch with either Cathie or Tadhg at 086-8131452.

■ More information about ‘Cáirde Friends Matter’ can be accessed on their Facebook page or at cairde.org

CITY TRIBUNE

Spanish Arch project to highlight dangers of rising sea levels and flooding

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From the Galway City Tribune – The city will now receive twice-daily illuminated reminders of the potential dangers of sea surges in a joint science and art project which had its first showing this week at the Spanish Arch.

Each day, at the times of high tides in Galway Bay – morning and evening – the Spanish Arch will be it up by the Línnte na Farraige environmental group.

The Spanish Arch has been chosen as the city location for the ‘high tide illuminations’ – the Galway site is the first of a number of coastal locations selected for the light shows.

Two Finnish artists – Timo Aho and Pekka Nittyvirta – are responsible for the bars of light that will appear on the Spanish Arch, indicating the projected rise in sea levels from future storm surges.

According to the artists, the striking visual light installations are designed to ‘open eyes and minds to potential future storm surge levels around Ireland’s coastlines’.

One of the scientists involved in the project, Dr Zoe Roseby, of Trinity College, Dublin, said that the goal of the project was to ‘provoke a dialogue around rising sea levels to demonstrate that the future is still in our own hands’.

Dr Roseby said that the Spanish Arch had been picked because it was a location of local significance to highlight the link between greenhouse gas emissions and rising sea levels.

“Línnte na Farraige aims to encourage individuals to consider how collective societal action can mitigate climate change and sea level rise, to ultimately inspire a more sustainable and resilient future,” she said.

According to Línnte na Farraige – funded by the Dept of Environment’s Creative Climate Action initiative – since sea levels were first measured in Galway in 1842, they have risen by 25 to 30 centimetres.

“In recent years, Galway has become the go-to for reporting on coastal flooding associated with storms. Storm surges occur when strong winds drive water in the direction of the coast. The impacts of these events are then exacerbated by high Spring Tides,” Línnte na Farraige stated.

Galway’s most dramatic relatively recent sea surge event occurred on January 2, 2018, when Storm Eleanor caused sea waters to rise above the dock walls leading to severe flooding along Dock Road, Merchants Road, Flood Street, Quay Street, Spanish Parade and Claddagh areas.

According to Línnte na Farraige, on that occasion, the water levels had risen by 90cms above the base of the Spanish Arch, Now their line of light – first shown last Thursday – will appear 1.9 metres above that base line.

“This indicates the predicted rise in sea levels of a similar storm surge in 2150 when sea levels have risen by one metre — a moderate climate change scenario,” Línnte na Farraige point out.

The group also state that ‘solar panels and renewably powered batteries will be used as part of the installation to power the lights, which only turn on twice a day during rising tides.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Fears that interim Emergency Department at UHG will become long term

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From the Galway City Tribune – The new ‘temporary’ Emergency Department (ED) at University Hospital Galway  is due to open over the coming weeks, the HSE has confirmed.

The HSE – in a reply to a question from Cllr John Connolly (FF) – said that the ‘interim ED’, would have a capacity of 43 patient bays, as compared to 34 in the pre-Covid ED.

However, Cllr Connolly told the Galway City Tribune that while he welcomed the news on the interim ED, he feared ‘this new temporary facility could test the meaning of the word temporary’.

“I want to see a real commitment and urgency about the provision of the new permanent ED at the hospital which is to be done in tandem with the proposed maternity and paediatric units.

“As things stand, the whole process hasn’t even come near the planning stage and is currently being looked at under a public spending evaluation process. This needs to get moved on,”” said Cllr Connolly.

At this week’s Regional Health Forum, the HSE in a written reply, told Cllr Connolly that the new ‘interim, temporary ED’ – a project started in June, 2021 – would offer an improved service as compared to the previous facility.

The temporary ED will provide 43 single closed cubicles and extra resuscitation bays providing greater dignity and privacy for patients,” the HSE stated. The organisation also confirmed that the opening date for the new ED unit was the end of September or early October [2022].

In a letter last March to the Minister for Public Expenditure, Michael McGrath, Cllr Connolly recalled that in December, 2015, the then Taoiseach Enda Kenny had highlighted the problems in ED at UHG.

“On December 1, 2015, the Taoiseach told Dáil Éireann that the Emergency Department at UHG was one of the most inadequate facilities in the country and needed to be replaced and that the staff there worked under extraordinary conditions,” Cllr Connolly outlined in the letter.

He also said that while he acknowledged the need to ensure value for money in public expenditure, this shouldn’t be done at the expense of providing adequate and appropriate levels of emergency health care for people.

“Can I specifically and purposely ask, that as Minister for Public Expenditure, you would agree to tempering the demands of the Public Spending Code in a bid to hasten the progression of the project.

“I would also ask that in conjunction with the Minister for Health you would endorse this project [the permanent ED/Maternity units] progressing to planning, procurement and construction forthwith,” Cllr Connolly stated in his letter of March 29 last.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Stars for businesses who offer proper services to disabled people

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Maggie Woods is always ready for a challenge. The latest is serving as project director of the Galway Gold Star initiative, which is designed to improve accessibility and services for disabled people at businesses in Galway City.

It will be launched this Tuesday, October 4, in the Connacht Hotel from 11am-2pm and all are invited to attend

Based on the Gold Star Disability Project developed by the HSE, this scheme will allow restaurants, shops and other businesses to be rewarded with Bronze, Silver or Gold Star awards for the services they provide for people with disabilities.

Minister of State for Disabilities Anne Rabbitte and Mayor Clodagh Higgins will lead the launch, which is being run through the Galway City Partnership (GCP), and will be headed up by Maggie, a long-time disability advocate.

She started in the new position this year.

“I am delighted to be part of the Galway City Partnership (GCP) team and get the opportunity to work on a project so close to my heart,” she said.

“Like a lot of people, I love Galway but know from first-hand experience that it’s difficult to navigate the city when you have a disability, whether you use a wheelchair or have a less-visible condition like chronic fatigue or an intellectual disability. This is a way to address the lack of services and accessibility – as well as educating people about disability issues.”

She said the goal of the Gold Star initiative was to make Galway a city that was accessible to everyone, doing that through positive reinforcement rather than focusing on the negatives.

Maggie will be working with Galway restaurants, shops and other businesses along with GCP and the Access for All Galway network, finding common ground on ways to improve access and services for disabled people.

Removing barriers for disabled people is a cause she is passionate about and has been advocating for all her life. As one of the youngest survivors in Ireland of the Thalidomide drug disaster, she has faced a lifetime of adversity and succeeded through hard work and a positive outlook. She worked most of her working life for The Irish Wheelchair Association in several capacities, in Tuam Resource Centre. She was also chairperson of the Irish Thalidomide Association and negotiated with government for people born with disabilities caused by the biggest drug catastrophe in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In addition, when she was in her 30s, she organised a fundraiser for the Galway Hospice Foundation, flying a small Cessna plane from Galway to Shannon and back, and raised €8,000.

The mother of two sons and two grandsons, she celebrated a big birthday this year with family and friends, but her fight for disabled services is not slowing down.

“I came to Galway about 38 years ago with a weekend bag and never left. I know the people of Galway will work with me in making the project a success,” she says.

The Galway Gold Star initiative, which is officially titled Access Together Galway, will be administered by GCP, using money provided by the Disability Participation and Awareness Fund approved in December 2021 by Minister Anne Rabbitte.

This initiative will follow the design of similar successful Gold Star programmes in Cashel and Tipperary towns. These support the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which was ratified by Ireland in 2018.

The guest speaker at Tuesday’s launch will be Anne Bradshaw of HSE Tipperary, where the original Gold Star initiative was rolled out. Declan Brassil, CEO of GCP, will speak on how the Gold Star will benefit the entire Galway community, not just people with disabilities. Access for All chairperson Marian Maloney will give the closing address. Members of the Chamber of Commerce will also attend. Entertainment will be provided, along with light refreshments.

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