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Galway native’s story of dealing with Covid-19 emergency in Spain

Denise McNamara



A member of Spain's Military Emergency Unit disinfects handrails in Valencia.

A Galway woman living in Spain has painted a picture of how a true lockdown would look like if introduced in Ireland.

Iseult Harrington from Menlo has been confined to her third-floor apartment in a suburb of Valencia since last Saturday night with her seven-year-old daughter Ana Rosa.

Streets are patrolled with a heavy police presence to ensure that people remain indoors. Fines of between €500 and €3,000 have been levied on those caught breaking the emergency laws, with jail terms threatened for persistent flouting.

A pass is given to dog owners to walk their pets outside, but they must remain within two streets of their home.

A father out walking his child in a buggy was hit with a substantial fine when his protests of needing fresh air fell on deaf ears.

“You have to show your ID and justify why you are outside and where you are going. Only one person can go out to the pharmacy if they have a prescription or to the supermarket for groceries, which means I would have to leave my daughter at home alone,” she said.

“You can’t have more than one person in a car – people with split custody have to bring their divorce papers with them to prove they have a reason for travelling.

“Only two people at a time are allowed into the supermarket and from what I’m hearing there are two-hour queues to get inside. Once there, so many things are gone. There’s no meat at all. There are no oranges – this is Spain, we always have oranges.”

She had started buying some extra supplies over the past three weeks, so has not ventured outside so far.

Locals in Valencia only fully grasped the seriousness of the situation on the cancellation of their annual Fallas Festival, which attracts over one million people to the streets with a mix of fireworks, fire displays and elaborate costumes.

A freelance translator, Iseult is used to working from home but is unsure if the work will continue to be sent her way.

Others who find themselves without a wage are improvising.

“I know of one woman who switched her exercise class to online so that people can keep exercising at home and she can keep earning some money.”

Iseult advised people in Ireland to stock up on goods that they would need if they were stranded in a cabin for a month – sanitary towels, hair dye, comfort snacks to keep up spirits, cooking oil and dried goods and cans – and options for light entertainment such as board games and cards.

“I was guilty of complacency myself in the beginning – there was a lack of cohesion in policy. But I feel very reassured here now. I think it’s the only way.

“It’s shocking to see what’s happening in the UK and in Ireland – that people coming back from Cheltenham [Race Festival] were not forced into quarantine. I think that’s a ticking timebomb.

“It’s shocking to see how the numbers have grown here in Valencia – we had 40 cases, it’s now 500. Spain had 1,000 cases a week ago and it’s shot up to 11,000 – Italy have reached 21,000 and we’re second behind them so it is going to get a lot worse.

“The festival which had a fireworks display every evening was bringing 15,000 people into the city for the last nine nights so that could have caused a lot of damage.”

Living in Spain for the past eleven years, Iseult said she loves her adopted home but returns every August to see her family in Galway.

Speaking by phone on St Patrick’s Day, she said she is grateful for the small things.

She has a balcony that she and her daughter can enjoy some fresh air and light. It’s from here that she joins other Spaniards every evening at 8pm to honour those working in hospitals, supermarkets and pharmacies by banging pots and pans and singing aloud.

They have been told that the lockdown is likely to last a month at least.

“I have a good network, people I can talk to here and in Madrid. My daughter has been much better than I expected. She’s not anxious but is beginning to feel the lack of contact and the lack of exercise. But we’re getting used to it.”


Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher



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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Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley



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

Stephen Corrigan



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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