Date Published: 02-Jun-2011
As a child, Geoffrey Shannon had a real sense that life was terribly unfair for some children.
Living opposite St Joseph’s Industrial School in Salthill, his mother would bake buns for the boys there. The family of five used to foster some of the kids for a period.
Although he has no recollection of hearing directly about the horrors that went on in the institution, it left an indelible stamp on his consciousness.
“I have a vivid memory of them [the children]. I remember some of the names of the children that stayed with us. I remember thinking how privileged I was to have a family and was aware of some sort of social injustice – that these children can’t enjoy the same by reason of circumstance. Even at that age you reflect on why this happened,” he recalls.
The sense of social injustice and a compulsion to do something about it was to fuel his path in life.
At school in the Jes, he remembers being involved in debates in which he would argue on behalf of the disadvantaged.
At home his father Eddie was a teacher at Moneeageisha community secondary school, his mother Ailish was with the Board of Works (now the OPW) He always wanted to study law. He was known as the one in the family who would always question.
“From the start I wanted to specialise in child law and I did that fairly quickly at UCG. I did a lot of research about foster care for my undergraduate thesis. I trained as a solicitor in Limerick and then did a masters by night, focusing on adoption and child protection,” he explains.
“The whole area was really unknown at the time. I was a couple of years ahead of other people so when these issues hit Ireland I was on top of the research. The stuff I was doing was fairly groundbreaking, the type of issues that emerged in the Murphy and Ryan Reports.
“The type of abusive behaviour that came out in these reports was no great surprise to me – I was surprised that other people were surprised because a lot of people knew the harsh approach taken in these homes.”
Geoffrey’s research led him to work with social workers in Galway in the foster care system. What stood out was that the foster carers and the children they provided a home for had absolutely no rights.
While the theory of the law led him to conclude that the legislation was hugely inadequate for children, it was the experience of it that propelled him down the road of reform.
“I remember a birth mother who had three partners and 18 addresses over the course of two years. I was acting on behalf of the foster carer and the natural mother was attempting to claim the child back.
“You saw immediately the problem from a child’s perspective, how destabilising that situation was for a child, how the child was then placed with the foster parents in a very safe and secure environment. You saw how the law needed to accommodate the child but wasn’t able to – in law the child was invisible.”
As a result of his work in the area of adoption, he was retained by the Department of Health and Children as an independent legal expert to facilitate a wide-ranging consultation process on future developments in adoption legislation.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
Appeal for information following Portumna crash
Date Published: 08-May-2013
Gardai are appealing for witnesses following a single vehicle crash at the Portumna bridge this morning.
The road from Nenagh to Loughrea reopened shortly after 11 this morning following the completion of a technical exam.
Four men were travelling in a van when they hit the Portumna bridge around 6:30 this morning.
Gardaí, ambulance and two units of Portumna fire services rushed to the scene, and one of the men was taken to Portiuncula hospital in Ballinasloe.
He is being treated for head injuries, which have been described by Gardaí as serious.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Portumna Garda station on 09-097-42060
President Higgins among GMIT’s first ever honorary fellowships
Date Published: 10-May-2013
GMIT is to honour seven outstanding individuals including President Michael D Higgins with Honorary Fellowships at a special ceremony later this month.
It’s the first time in the 40 year history of the Institute the Governing Body of GMIT has decided to award honorary fellowships.
The GMIT Honorary Fellowships will be conferred at the g Hotel in the city this day two weeks Friday 24 May at 2.30pm in front of 200 invited guests.
Galway commuters hold their breath as LRC intervenes in bus strike
Date Published: 13-May-2013
Galway commuters are holding their breath as there has been a potential breakthrough in the Bus Eireann dispute, as both sides have agreed to talks at the Labour Relations Commission.
The LRC intervened this afternoon, on day two of strike action that has seen 95 per cent of bus services disrupted across the country.
The LRC’s Director of Conciliation Services, Kevin Foley, says the National Bus and Rail Union and the company have agreed to meet for mediated talks at 8 this evening.