Lifestyle – Growing healthy fruit, vegetables and flowers in an organic environment was the focus of a gardening weekend at Renvyle House Hotel led by experts Klaus Laitenberger and Fionnuala Fallon. JUDY MURPHY went along to learn more.
Tai Chi hadn’t been on the itinerary when we signed up for a weekend in Renvyle House Hotel that was designed for gardening enthusiasts. But unexpected and lovely things happen when gardeners get together, so there we were at 7.30 on a Sunday morning, embarking on a slow intricate series of movements designed to create stability of body and mind.
This session was courtesy of Hong Kong woman Cissy Chui who had travelled to Ireland especially for this weekend which was being led by organic gardener Klaus Laitenberger and Irish Times gardening columnist Fionnuala Fallon, who also runs a sustainably managed flower farm in County Wicklow.
Businesswoman Cissy wasn’t a Tai Chi teacher, she stressed, but was happy to share her knowledge of the ancient Chinese practice.
Generosity was the theme of the weekend which was the result of a friendship that formed when German-born Klaus, an expert in organic horticulture, came to stay in the historic Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara several years ago.
Hotel manager Ronnie Counihan is a keen gardener who has established herb beds and a polytunnel on the grounds of the building once owned by writer and surgeon Oliver St John Gogarty (1878- 1957).
He and Klaus began chatting and have since developed a strong friendship and working relationship, based on sustainable horticulture.
The presence of horticulturalist Fionnuala Fallon, who with her husband Richard Johnston, has restored an old walled garden in West Wicklow where their flower enterprise is based, ensured this weekend appealed to a broad spectrum of gardeners.
This was designed to be a practical weekend and, so couple of hours after our impromptu Tai Chi session, we were in the gardens of Renvyle House, learning how to make ‘Lazy Beds’ in which to grow potatoes.
This low-maintenance method of tillage must be the easiest way ever to grow potatoes – all that’s required for a seriously high yield is a bit of legwork at the beginning of the process.
Klaus, who lives in Leitrim and is a fount of knowledge about growing vegetables in West of Ireland conditions, is a rare creature. As a teacher he imparts knowledge and instils enthusiasm in equal measure.
So, when he says that while human beings needed to evolve over millions of years to adapt our surroundings, the same isn’t true of slugs. They have been the same forever, because “slugs are perfect”.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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New Galway centre for sexually-abused children
A new Galway centre for sexually abused children is based on an overseas model where the numbers of investigations doubled and prosecutions tripled once all services were brought under one roof.
The Barnahus Onehouse Galway service will be the first of its kind in Ireland and will be used to roll out other centres across the country.
The location has yet to be finalised but is expected to be operating within months – treating children and adolescents in the Galway/Roscommon catchment areas.
Forensic, child protection, medical, therapeutic and policing services for children who have been subjected to sexual abuse or are suspected victims will be delivered together in a child-friendly setting to avoid re-traumatising them.
At the launch at NUI Galway, the centre was described as a game-changer by Dr Geoffrey Shannon, former Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, and leading expert in child and family law on whose recommendation the centre was set up.
The Galway-born solicitor’s audit of 5,400 cases of emergency removal of children from their families by Gardaí over eight years uncovered poor and limited interagency communication and cooperation, which he declared was the key road block in child protection.
The audit was carried out following the removal of a blonde child from a Romanian family after complaints from the public that the child may have been abducted – claims that were later found to be unfounded.
The Galway centre involves three departments – Children and Youth Affairs; Health; Justice and Equality – and three agencies – Tusla; the HSE; An Garda Síochána – working together.
By co-locating the services together, essential agencies can share vital information about children and their families, he pointed out.
“Emergency powers need to be followed up by continuity of care informed by communication, cooperation that goes beyond a paper exercise,” he told the lecture hall.
“Meaningful cooperation would ensure interventions are proportionate, developmentally appropriate and culturally sensitive
“In the absence of such cooperation, there is the very real potential that services designed to ensure protection will cause further trauma.”
And after examining centres in Iceland, New York, Antrim and Oxford, it was clear the model had very tangible results.
In Iceland, twice as many investigations of child sexual abuse cases were carried out while the number of cases that were prosecuted tripled.
“It is a safe place to disclose abuse, it is child friendly, it provides a supportive environment, safe from those suspected of perpetrating abuse,” he told the press conference.
Dr Shanahan said it was reassuring to have both the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone as well as the Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan at the launch, which spoke volumes about the Government’s commitment to child protection.
Noting that there was still much work to do to help victims of sexual abuse, he said legislation was needed to allow the child victim to give evidence and be cross-examined within a short time of the event occurring using video technology.
This could then be used during the court case, allowing the child to get on with life and recover from the incident, rather than re-live it when the case eventually comes to court.
Minister Zappone said it was Dr Shannon’s 2017 audit that was a catalyst for her to set up a steering group to establish the centre which was a priority project during her tenure.
“When children cross the threshold, they feel safe, supported, loads of beautiful colours, with a section where they can play if they want to.
“It’s not just being in the place. It’s developing the processes and ways of communicating and the trust that makes the difference. And even then, it’s hard to do what it is you need to do to work with a child or young person that has so brutally been abused.
“…This is such important work.”
She said one of the most appealing aspects of the Barnahus model was the child centred of the approach which reduced the need for children to repeatedly recount their traumatic experiences as they engaged with multiple agencies. It also allowed families to be supported in caring for their child throughout a difficult process.
Minister Flanagan said all the bodies involved would “overlap, work together and become entwined”.
Officers specially trained in interviewing sexual abuse victims will be available in Divisional Protective Services Units located in all Garda divisions by the end of the year.
These officers would support the delivery of a consistent and professional approach to the investigation of sexual crime, for adults and children alike.
“This is a very positive step towards reducing the trauma and supporting victims through the criminal investigative process.”
Eilish Hardiman, who was speaking on behalf of the Minister for Health Simon Harris, noted the increased number of referrals to the Galway centre before it even opens.
“So there is an unmet need here,” she told the conference.
She said Minister Harris had promised ring-fenced funding for permanent posts to staff the centre.
Before and after the conference, a seminar also took place attended by 100 healthcare professionals with international and local speakers giving an overview of how the service would operate.
Authorities detain stricken ship close to Kinvara
Irish authorities are still detaining a ship close to Kinvara, after its hull sprang a leak while loading cargo for the Bahamas.
The 30m Evora was detained last week at Tarrea Pier near Kinvara by the Marine Survey Office (MSO) under port-state control regulations which prevent the vessel from going to sea.
Concerns about the four crew employed for the voyage also prompted a visit to the vessel by the International Transport Federation’s (ITF) Irish branch.
ITF representative Michael Whelan said he had met the crew – three Cubans and a Colombian – to check on their situation in relation to pay, conditions, and accommodation for the crew while the vessel is damaged.
The cargo ship had been due to steam to the Bahamas with a large quantity of cement when the ship’s hull was damaged during loading at Tarrea Pier.
Local residents feared that fuel from the ship might leak, causing pollution which would have a serious impact on south Galway’s shellfish industry, including its oyster beds.
The owner said there had been no fuel leak from the vessel and no pollution risk.
The pier is outside the remit of the Galway harbourmaster, and is the responsibility of Galway County Council.
It is understood residents found it difficult to get a response from the local authority, and Galway harbourmaster Captain Brian Sheridan intervened to assist.
The Department of Transport, under which the Marine Survey Office operates, said it could not comment on the details of the detention.
It said that any queries should be directed to the ship’s flag state – as in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. However, the ship’s port of registry is recorded as Panama on the vessel.
The vessel, built in France 50 years ago, was formerly owned in Rossaveal, but was sold to a new owner within the past twelve months.
The owner confirmed that the vessel had been held as the engine room was flooded, and said “no harmful substances were released into the bay”.
The ITF representative Michael Whelan said he was in regular contact with the crew, and understood they now wished to be repatriated.
He confirmed that the crew had been paid, but did not wish to stay indefinitely, as the vessel had not been inspected by flag state inspectors.
More than 2,000 submissions on waste facility licence
Thousands of objections have been lodged with Galway County Council against a proposed licence for a waste facility in Ballinasloe.
A meeting of Ballinasloe Municipal Council heard that 2,075 hard copy submissions had been lodged with the County Council by the deadline earlier this month.
Last year local residents won a High Court challenge against the granting of a licence for a waste facility at Poolboy in the town.
The court ruled that Galway County Council had erred by granting the licence for a waste facility to Barna Waste, contrary to requirements for protecting natural habitats.
At a meeting of Ballinasloe Municipal Council, Fianna Fail Councillor Michael Connolly described the town as being ‘dogged’ down through the years with dumps and said the transit of waste through Ballinasloe town again would be ‘detrimental’.
Independent Councillor Aisling Dolan said she is happy that five out of the six local area councillors are supporting the ‘Ballinasloe Says No’ campaign.
She told the meeting that one in every three people living in the urban area of Ballinasloe has lodged a formal submission to the Environment department of the county council against the proposal for a waste licence.
The opposition to the waste facility centres on concerns regarding potential health implications and road safety.
Local residents claim that waste trucks will have to navigate through the town, passing Portiuncula Hospital, schools, children’s playgrounds and homes and could increase the risk of serious accidents or fatalities.
Residents also feel that there could be health implications as a result of a potential decrease in air quality.
Among the concerns of local residents is the potential impact on tourism in the East Galway town which is part of the Hidden Heartlands initiative.
They claim that a waste facility at Poolboy would deter investment for Ballinasloe and people would be less likely to want to live and work in the area.
There was some confusion at the Ballinasloe meeting regarding how many tonnes of waste per year would be permitted at the facility, if the licence is granted.
Independent Councillor Declan Geraghty said there is a perception that hundreds of waste lorries will pass through Ballinasloe each week if the facility is granted a licence.
However he added that his calculations suggest no more than three articulated loads of waste would traverse the town if the facility is to only cater for 23,000 tonnes of waste per year.
Independent Councillor Tim Broderick said the licence would allow 23,000 tonnes of waste at the Poolboy facility at any given time.
Councillor Geraghty says he is not against the waste facility but is also supportive of the local residents and would like clarity on the figures as it would be ‘unfair to hauliers and people who are trying to create jobs’.
The location of the proposed site at Poolboy has been described as ‘wrong’ by Sinn Fein Councillor Dermot Connolly, who is arguing that an alternative site, away from the populated area, should be explored and then maybe supported. Galway County Council is due to make a decision regarding the proposal for a waste licence in Poolboy by the end of November.