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Galway Samaritans answered more than 900 calls per week this year

Dara Bradley



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.


Voice of ‘Big O’ reflects on four decades

Denise McNamara



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The daytime voice of Big O Taxis is celebrating four decades in the role – and she has no plans to hang up her headset any time soon.

Roisin Freeney decided to seek a job after staying at home to mind her three children for over a decade. It was 1981 when she saw an advert in the Connacht Sentinel for a dispatch operator.

The native of Derry recalls that the queue for the job wound its way past Monroe’s Tavern from the taxi office on Dominick Street.

“There was a great shortage of work back then. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the line of people. My then husband who was giving me a lift in never thought I’d get the job, he was driving on past and I said, let me off.

“I got it because I worked as a telephonist in the telephone exchange in Derry. But I was terrified starting off because I hadn’t been in the work system for so long.”

Back then Big O Taxis had only 25 drivers and just a single line for the public to book a cab.

“We had an old two-way radio, you had to speak to the driver and everybody could listen in. It was easy to leave the button pressed when it shouldn’t be pressed. People heard things they shouldn’t have – that’s for sure,” laughs Roisin.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Róisín’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Baby boom puts strain on Galway City secondary schools

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A baby boom in the late 2000s has left parents of sixth class pupils in Galway City scrambling to find a secondary school place for their children next September – with over 100 children currently facing the prospect of rejection from city schools.

The Department of Education is now rushing to address the issue and confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was fully aware of increasing pressure and demand on city schools

Local councillor Martina O’Connor said there were 100 more children more than there were secondary school places for next year, and warned that this would put severe pressure on schools to increase their intake numbers.

“This will put a lot of pressure on schools because they will have been working out the number of teachers and what resources they would need in October or November last year and they could be facing a situation where they will be asked to take an additional eight or 10 students.

“There would normally be a small excess – maybe two or three – but this year, it’s over 100. There is a bigger number of children in sixth class this year and there will be the same issue for the next few years,” said the Green Party councillor.

A Department spokesperson said while there were capacity issues, factors other than numbers could be at play, adding that there were approximately 1,245 children in the city due to move onto secondary school in September.
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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GMIT warns partying students they are delaying return to campus

Enda Cunningham



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Partying students have been told their actions have impacted GMIT’s plans to re-start practical classes on campus – and Gardaí are monitoring the city’s bus and train stations to catch those breaking the 5km travel restriction by returning home for the weekend.

College authorities said the current “extremely serious outbreak” of Covid-19 among students in Galway City was caused by a small minority who are “moving and mixing between different households”.

Following a meeting with Gardaí last week, GMIT contacted all students to clarify that because there are no ‘onsite’ classes, there should be no need to travel for educational purposes.

“The Gardaí have notified us that there will be checks at the bus and train stations to implement the 5km travel rule, as well as checkpoints on the roads, and that fines will be given for any non-compliance with this rule,” students were told.

In a separate communication issued this week, the college’s Covid Officer appealed to students to abide by the rules.

“This outbreak has had an impact on our plans with regard to return to onsite practical work, with consequences for all students.

“We are appealing to all students to comply with all Covid restrictions and in doing so, to help ensure that those students who have to return to onsite practical work can do so,” the email read.

Many students from outside the city have opted to stay in their accommodation for access to better broadband.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more coverage of Covid figures and vaccinations, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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