Galway Samaritans answered more than 900 calls every week of this year; the charity’s newly renovated city office at Nun’s Island responded to 47,219 cries for help over the past twelve months.
“The number of calls received has certainly increased in the past two years since we got the freephone number,” said Anne Wynne, Director of Samaritans Galway.
Nationally, Samaritans received some 700,000 calls from people who need help. People don’t have to be suicidal to call Samaritans.
“The nature of the calls varies. They could have mental health issues, depression and anxiety. There could be relationship issues. There could be abuse, be it physical, mental or sexual. There could be financial problems.
“Bullying is another issue. It could be historic or current bullying. And every other issue that you could think of. You mightn’t see it as much of a problem, but for the person on the other end of the line it could be a huge problem,” said Ms Wynne.
Samaritans Galway offers a 24-hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year service. The charity has a loyal band of about 100 trusty volunteers, none of whom are paid, including the director.
This time of year, is a particularly busy one for Samaritans.
“Loneliness is a big issue at Christmas and New Year,” said Ms Wynne.
“People who are on their own, and who wouldn’t hear a human voice from one day of the week until the next, can feel awful lonely. It’s so dark at this time of year, too. It’s dark when you get up in the morning, it’s dark when you’re coming home, and then the weather the way it is, it’s dull and dark all day. That has an effect on people.
“If you walk through town and you see people are having a great time at Christmas parties. They mightn’t actually be enjoying it but for someone alone or who is lonely it might appear that way.
“If you’re dealing with difficult thoughts and feelings, the festive season can make everything seem worse. Whether you’re on your own or feeling alone in a crowd, we don’t want anyone to struggle. So, remember you can call Samaritans for free from any phone and, if you’re expecting to have a good Christmas this year yourself, have a think about those around you who may not be as lucky and give them the gift of listening.”
Galway Samaritans will be working round the clock this festive season, to respond to calls for help. The new offices at 14 Nuns Island will be open from 9am to 8pm, on Christmas Day, also, for people who wish to drop-in.
It costs roughly €75,000 to run the Galway branch yearly, and less than 10% of that is funded by Government, with the rest coming from donations from the public. They also run an outreach programme to highlight the work of Samaritans in places like Loughrea and Glenamaddy and elsewhere in the county.
Proceeds from Galway Christmas Market this year went to the Samaritans, and it also helped to raise awareness of the charity. Proceeds from the Christmas carol service of GMIT’s choir went to Samaritans this year, as did a third of the proceeds of the St Nicholas’ Church service over the weekend.
“There has been a lot of goodwill and support for Samaritans. People have been generous,” said Ms Wynne.
Samaritans will be providing over 12,500 hours of listening at its 20 national branches all over Ireland this Christmas.
Yesterday, volunteers invited the public to join them at 6pm at 14 Nuns Island for a candle-lit walk to Eyre Square for carol singing to mark the Winter Solstice.
The Samaritans free phone number is 116 123, it is free to call and will not appear on your bill. Alternatively, you can text 087-260 9090 or visit Samaritans website.
Swimmer James clocks up one million metres in year
From the Galway City Tribune – A keen swimmer in Galway has clocked up an astonishing one million metres in a year as part of his gruelling exercise schedule.
James Brennan reached the impressive milestone over 400 swims last years, which were split between the sea in Salthill and across the road early-morning sessions at Leisureland pool.
He would count the lengths in his head or on his watch, regularly swimming up to 240 lengths over 90 minutes in the pool and up to 2km off the beach for a half-hour. On a regular week he would swim the equivalent of 20km.
When James realised he was at 800,000 metres last November, he decided to go all-out to pass the one-million mark by the end of 2022.
So he concentrated on swimming for at least ten hours a week leading up to Christmas and celebrated passing his goal before breaking up for the festivities.
“I’ve always done a lot of swimming. I’ve competed for my local swimming club in Claremorris, County Mayo, and was involved in the Corrib Polo Water Club races. I won the Heskin League, which is a combination of the 14 different open water races in Salthill. I also won the league in Claremorris,” he reveals.
The software engineer has been living in Galway for 13 years and has been a member of Leisureland for four years.
“It’s a really great pool, it has nice facilities, the staff are all very nice,” he reflects.
Facilities Manager of the Council-owned premises, Ian Brennan, said the phenomenal distance was the equivalent of swimming from Galway to Amsterdam.
He heard about James’s achievement from Green Party Councillor and Leisureland board member Niall Murphy, who happened to be swimming in the lane beside James when the Mayo man reached the goal.
“I felt that this is a hugely worthy event and fills me with amazement that we have a superhero in our midst. The future is bright.”
Ó Tuathail not interested in Galway City Council co-option
From the Galway City Tribune – A two-time general election candidate for the Social Democrats in Galway West has ruled out filling the party’s vacant seat on Galway City Council.
Niall Ó Tuathail, a health reform advisor, has confirmed to the Galway City Tribune that he will not be co-opted to the City Council seat vacated by the shock resignation of Councillor Owen Hanley in January.
“I’m not going to be put forward for co-option,” said Mr Ó Tuathail.
The father-of-two has lived abroad for a time since taking a step back from electoral politics in the wake of his 2020 General Election defeat.
He confirmed this week he has not reconsidered his decision to take a long break from frontline politics.
“I’m still a Soc Dem member and we’re in a process looking for someone strong to represent the values of the people who voted for us in 2019,” Mr Ó Tuathail said.
He polled 3,653 first preference votes in 2020 in Galway West and was only eliminated after the 12th count in the five-seat constituency.
That was an increase on the 3,455 number ones he received in his first Dáil election in 2016, when he also bowed out on the 12th count.
Mr Ó Tuathail was synonymous with the Social Democrats’ brand in Galway, and was heavily involved with the local referenda campaigns for marriage equality and to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
It surprised many political observers when he opted not to fight a local election for the party in 2019.
That was a breakthrough election for the Soc Dems, when Owen Hanley became the party’s first ever Galway City councillor by winning a seat in Galway City East. Sharon Nolan narrowly missed out on a seat in City Central during the same election.
Mr Hanley cited allegations made against him when he announced in January that he was resigning his position.
He said that the matters were “very serious” and would take a considerable amount of time for the authorities to investigate.
The resignation of Mr Hanley left a vacancy on the City Council.
It is the prerogative of the Social Democrats to nominate a person who will be co-opted to replace him as a councillor at City Hall.
A spokesperson for the party told the Tribune last week that it has not yet chosen a successor.
“We don’t have any update in relation to the co-option. I will let you know when we have a candidate,” the spokesperson said.
One problem faced by the party is that a number of possible replacements for Mr Hanley have left the Soc Dems over policy and other issues.
Cigarettes, drugs and cash seized in Galway
Officers from the Divisional Drugs Unit seized more than €73,000 worth of cigarettes, cash and drugs after a car and residence were searched in Galway today.
As part of Operation Tara – which is targeting the sale and supply of drugs and related criminal activity in the Galway area – Gardaí searched a car in the Knocknacarra area. Cash and cannabis were seized.
A follow up search was carried out at a residence in Salthill, where cigarettes worth €70,000, along with €3,100 in cash and a small quantity of suspected amphetamine were recovered.
No arrests were made, but Gardaí say they are following a definite line of inquiry.