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Connacht Tribune

Galway Simon sees biggest demand in its 40-year history

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Demand for the services of Galway Simon continued to grow last year, as the homelessness charity experienced the largest number of clients requiring its help in its 40-year history.

In its annual report, released this week, the charity detailed how its housing and homelessness prevention services assisted 646 households in 2019 – an increase of 17 per cent on 2018.

Just under 450 single people accessed Galway Simon services, in addition to 184 families and 14 couples across Galway City and County.

CEO of Galway Simon Karen Golden said the organisation’s focus remained on finding sustainable solutions for those at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

“Our prevention services support people at risk of homelessness to sustain their current accommodation or find alternative housing, and to avoid entering emergency accommodation.

“Where people do become homeless, we provide shelter in our emergency and transitional housing while providing support to clients to find pathways out of homelessness, to move into their own secure and affordable home,” said Ms Golden.

The report notes that 2019 continued on the same trend as previous years, with very slow delivery of new housing across private, affordable and social housing in Galway, resulting in a lack of secure accommodation.

Throughout the year, the number of people in emergency accommodation grew from 537 in January to 557 in December – a rise of four per cent on 2018 figures.

There were just over 3,400 households on Galway City and County Council social housing waiting lists, while just 278 social houses were built across both council areas.

The housing crisis has deepened in recent years resulting in sky-rocketing rents, with private rental units costing around 50 per cent more than they did four years ago in both the city and county – averaging at €1,309 per month in the city and €934 in the county.

In all, the charity expended almost €5.3 million in 2019, and recorded a small operational deficit of just under €15,000.

Funding was made up of a mix of statutory and grant income (61 per cent); fundraising, shops and investment (25 per cent); community employment schemes (six per cent); and service charges (seven per cent).

In all, €1.27 million was raised through donations, appeals, fundraising events, sponsorship and through Galway Simon shops in 2019, while 427 people volunteered their time and efforts.

Last year was a significant year for the charity as it marked its fortieth anniversary in October, recalling the early days of Galway Simon Community with the commencement of its Soup Run.

Well-known Galway City man Dennis Connolly served as an ambassador for the event, having been one of the very first clients supported by the Soup Run.

“It was an honour to have Dennis Connolly, who has been involved with Galway Simon Community since 1979, to support our fortieth anniversary campaign,” said Ms Golden.

While the report covers the charity’s activities in 2019, it does include some details of the challenges faced in the wake of the outbreak of Covid-19 in March, which Ms Golden said gave way to a sense of fear across the community.

“The experience of homelessness can have a profound impact on a person’s physical and mental health, and many who we support are extremely vulnerable at this time. The challenge of keeping people safe and well during the pandemic was truly daunting.

“In spite of this fear, our staff and volunteers pulled out all the stops to protect our clients. I am incredibly proud to have been part of the inspirational response of our clients, staff and volunteers to this crisis. Our services have continued to support clients every single day,” said Ms Golden.

Connacht Tribune

Ethics Officer finds FF councillors did nothing wrong with €180,000 pot

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Four Fianna Fáil councillors in the Tuam area accused by colleagues of ‘hijacking’ a €180,000 fund, have been told they did nothing wrong.

The fund was allocated to Tuam Municipal Council as part of a €1 million allocation by the Government to the county’s five municipal councils in order to “strengthen municipal districts”.

While the other area councils agreed amongst themselves on where the money should be spent, agreement could not be reached.

Instead, the four Fianna Fáil councillors, who have control of the seven-member Tuam Municipal Council, decided where the money should be allocated, which infuriated the other three members.

The matter was referred to the Ethics Officer of Galway County Council who was asked to investigate if this contravened the Minister’s direction as to how the money should be spent.

Now, Fianna Fáil Chairman of Tuam Council, Cllr Donagh Killilea, has been informed that they did not contravene the ethical framework for local government and it was a democratic decision.

He said that it was a needless and expensive route to ask the Council’s Ethics Officer to investigate how they conduct their business as local representatives “given that there was never any clear evidence of wrong-doing.”

When the dispersal of the €180,000 was being discussed by the Tuam area councillors, it was the four Fianna Fáil members who used their majority vote to dictate where the money would be spent – the other three councillors were ‘left out in the cold’.

This infuriated Cllr Andrew Reddington (FG), Cllr Pete Roche (FG) and Cllr Karey McHugh (Ind) who accused the Fianna Fáil councillors of pulling ‘a political stunt’.

They also took issue with the fact that the other municipal districts arrived at a general consensus as to how the money should be spent.

A ‘behind closed doors’ meeting between the seven councillors to discuss the dispersal of the fund that was agreed, but it never took place.

In prompted Cllr Reddington to table a motion at a full Galway County Council meeting that the Ethics Officer investigate the manner in which the distribution of the €180,000 was being handled.

A report from Council Chief Executive Jim Cullen states that the Ethics Officer investigated the claims that the €180,000 was unfairly distributed between the four FF councillors.

But the official concluded that the matter was discussed at length and that the decision on the allocation of the funds was determined by a majority vote of the members.

The officer stated that the decision was based on a motion that was voted upon and duly carried and complied with the Minister’s requirements.

The Chief Executive along with the Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council, Cllr Peter Keaveney, having considered the Ethics Officer’s report, have concluded that no further action is required.

“If every time we call for an investigation when a vote is won or lost, it is my opinion that we will never get any business done as a Municipal.

“It’s time to bury the sour grapes and get on with representing the people who elected us; the distractions of the past six months have to end,” Cllr Killilea added.

(Photo: Cllr Donagh Killilea)

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Connacht Tribune

Coffins have to brought by tractor over flooded North Galway road

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Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) and Cllr Peter Keaveney (FG) at the Creggs road out of Glenamaddy where flooding occurs on an annual basis.

Annual flooding on a stretch of road in North Galway requires the necessity for a tractor and trailer to bring the remains of a deceased person from the area to the local cemetery.

This was the claim at a local area meeting when it was demanded that Galway County Council carry out flood relief works on the road near Glenamaddy which is left under several feet of water every winter.

It resulted in Cllr Peter Keaveney tabling a motion at the Ballinasloe Municipal Council meeting that essential drainage works take place along the Roscommon road out of the town now that water levels are low. He wants this carried out within the next two weeks.

During one of the worst winters in recent years, the road was closed for three months and the Fine Gael councillor and agricultural contractor said that he pulled around 20 cars out of the flooded stretch when motorists decided to take the chance of driving through it.

Even in drought conditions, the levels remain incredibly high and this is mainly down to a local turlough that retains water throughout the year.

While he said that Galway County Council officials were extremely helpful, the problem lay with the Office of Public Works who would not allow drainage works as the road is situated in a Special Area of Conservation.

Senior Executive Engineer Damien Mitchell informed the meeting that Galway County Council are in a position to carry out some works but there are certain areas that only the Office of Public Works can drain.

Mr Mitchell said that the best way forward was a co-ordinated approach involving the County Council and the OPW while accepting that there was a major problem with flooding along this road.

In response, Cllr Keaveney said that this was a very acceptable move and added that a joint approach to the flooding in Glenamaddy was required at this stage and particularly with the winter approaching.

Williamstown’s Cllr Declan Geraghty said that residents were living in hell as some of them saw their houses destroyed by rising flood waters near Glenamaddy.

“There are even deceased people being brought by tractor and trailer to be buried which is an absolute disgrace. There is an opportunity to do this now or otherwise we are looking at flooding for the next 10 years.

“People have put everything into their homes only to see them destroyed when it comes to prolonged heavy rainfall.

“There is a solution to this problem and environmental issues should not take precedence,” he added.

The Independent councillor said that raising the level of the road, which leads to Creggs and onto Roscommon, was not the answer to the problem because the levels were so high.

Galway County Council have carried out several surveys of the area around the flooded road and officials told previous meetings that, subject to approval from the OPW, there was an engineering solution possible.

(Photo Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) and Cllr Peter Keaveney (FG) at the Creggs road out of Glenamaddy where flooding occurs on an annual basis.)

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Connacht Tribune

Teen arrested over €45,000 cocaine seizure

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Gardaí have seized €45,000 of what they believe to be cocaine in Ballinasloe.

Gardaí attached to Ballinasloe Garda Station conducted an intelligence-led operation in the Dunlo Harbour area of the town yesterday.

During the course of this operation a quantity of suspected cocaine, estimated to be worth €45,000, concealed on derelict grounds was seized.

A male in his mid-teens was arrested at the scene and detained at Ballinasloe Garda Station on Sunday.

He has since been released with a file being prepared for the Garda Youth Diversion Office.

The focus of Operation Tara is to disrupt, dismantle and prosecute drug trafficking networks, at all levels.

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