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.
Retail industry trade body welcomes B&Q announcement
Date Published: 07-May-2013
Retail Excellence Ireland, the country’s largest retail industry trade body, has welcomed the news that 60 jobs have been saved at the city branch of B&Q.
It’s after the home improvements store successfully exited examinership.
Under the scheme, 2.4 million euro is to be invested by parent company Kingfisher plc, and B and Q will continue to trade at eight stores
This means 640 jobs have been saved nationwide, including 60 at the outlet in Knocknacarra.
However, David Fitzsimons of Retail Excellence Ireland says landlords need to be willing to help out smaller retailers too.
Foundation reports nine Galway heart deaths each week
Date Published: 09-May-2013
Nine people die in Galway every week from heart disease and stroke.
That’s according to the Irish Heart Foundation, which is launching its Happy Hearts Appeal today. (9/5)
An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, launched the appeal today to help raise funds for the charity, which has seen increasing demand on its patient services.
The Foundation says it needs to raise at least half a million euro to maintain existing information services.
Call to tackle delays at Oranmore rail crossing
Date Published: 13-May-2013
Concerns have been raised over traffic delays at the railway crossing in Oranmore.
Councillor Jim Cuddy says he has received many representations from local motorists who have been experiencing extended delays.
He says the closed barrier can sometimes cause a traffic tailback as far as the roundabout near the Maldron hotel.
Cllr Cuddy has brought the matter to the attention of Iarnrod Eireann and has asked for an explanation as to why the crossing is closed for so long.