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Helping families cope with the ups and downs of life



Date Published: {J}

It’s very simple and very powerful,” says Mary Hanniffy of the work she does with Home-Start Athenry, a group providing support and friendship to parents with young children. Mary is a volunteer with the Athenry-based group which was set up in 2005 and which also serves Loughrea, Craughwell and Oranmore.

The volunteers assist parents who might be feeling isolated, who might be finding it difficult to cope because of illness, who may have suffered a bereavement or a separation, who might have issues with depression, or might just need help with the demands of dealing with a baby or toddler. The help the volunteers offer can be practical, emotional or both. The group which currently has 15 volunteers has helped 38 families with a total of 85 kids to date.

Home-Start Athenry began five years ago after CSO figures showed a sharp rise in the number of families with young children, many of whom were new to the area. It led to an initiative involving local agencies, including the HSE and Galway Childcare agencies, Galway Rural Development and community representatives.

“They were asking how they could support families in the Athenry area,” explains Michael Stapleton, Home-Start’s co-ordinator.

Home-start originated in England in 1973 and is now the UK’s leading family support charity. The Home-Start model has spread to Ireland with several groups in this country, including Athenry and their remit is simple, says Michael.

“This is not a scheme for families from deprived areas, it’s for any family who is under a bit of stress. It’s to offer a helping hand to families with young kids.”

From its original base in Athenry it has grown to serve Loughrea, Craughwell and Oranmore.

“We offer the services through public health nurses and social workers in these health areas,” Michael says adding that families can also refer themselves.

“Eighty per cent of our referrals are through public health nurses,” he adds, explaining that because the nurses work closely with families, they know who might benefit from the Home-Start service.

Volunteers come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some are working, many aren’t but all must be available to visit their families for two to three hours a week. The organisation recruits via parish newsletters, posters, local newspapers, and also through word of mouth. All volunteers undergo Garda vetting and must furnish two references. Volunteers should ideally be parents or have experience of children. However, while it’s an advantage to be a parent, the most important thing is attitude, says Michael.

They then undergo a 30-hour course to become familiar with the Home-Start approach, which is basically about listening, being non-judgemental and offering confidentiality.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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