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Homelessness in Galway will be a long-term problem

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New figures from Galway City Council show there are almost 4,900 households on the waiting list for local authority housing.

The most recent quarterly report from Galway City Council shows an increase in households waiting for local authority housing. Figures reveal there are 483 more on the list than in April of last year.

The majority – approximately 80% – of households on the waiting list are awaiting small scale one or two bed houses.

Galway city council currently has 485 properties under RAS (Rental Accommodation Scheme) and 139 in Long Term Leasing.

Under the RAS (Rental Accommodation Scheme), the council draws up contracts with landlords to provide housing for people with long term housing needs (generally speaking, those availing of Rent Supplement for more than 18 months are considered for RAS). The local authority pays the full rent directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant and tenants pay rent direct to City Council.

The amount payable is determined by the Council’s Differential Rent Scheme – a rent assessment procedure designed so that weekly rent charged on a property is based on the person’s ability to pay.

But in the past 12 months, 50 landlords have withdrawn from the RAS scheme – thus decreasing the number of properties available to tackle the escalating housing crisis.

Galway City Council cites market forces from the private rental sector as the likely reason for this dropout rate.

Despite the fact that landlords cannot just break a contract, a problem has emerged nationally whereby proprietors escape the contract by maintaining they are selling the property or are making it available for the use of a family member.

In reality, it is believed landlords are opting out of scheme for financial reasons. Under RAS, property owners can expect an approximate €800 per month for a 3-bed house in Galway, whereas that same property could make in excess of €1,000 in private rented accommodation.

Former Labour Party Councillor Nuala Nolan said: “I have heard where a landlord terminated a contract saying his daughter needed the house… next thing he had a gang of students living in it.”

One homeless man and his wife contacted the Galway City Tribune last week to share their story of desperation. They have been without a home since March 2015.

The couple say they were forced to leave their accommodation in Salthill last year after their landlord “had troubles with the bank”; they insist they had a good rapport with their former landlord who agreed to reinstate them as tenants once she had “sorted everything out”.

Unfortunately for the couple, the accommodation they hoped to return to was irreparably damaged by flood water and deemed uninhabitable.

The man and his wife have fluctuated between staying with friends – sleeping on couches – and sleeping in his car. He reveals the feeling of unease at waking up in someone else’s home while children are running around getting ready for school. “It’s embarrassing” he says.

The husband asserts he is unable to work due to mental illness, and confides that he suffers from severe anxiety and depression. As a result, he is wholly dependent on disability welfare. His wife is also unemployed.

COPE Galway and City Council have attempted to assist them in finding a temporary settlement solution. However, he has declined accommodation offered by COPE Galway at Fairgreen Hostel claiming his condition prohibits him from sharing with other people.

“I have anxiety and depression,” he explains. These problems – which result in an excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations – have prevented him from seeking temporary solution to his problems. “I would rather sleep in my car than share with people – I can’t,” he insists.

“I don’t know where we’re staying tonight,” he confesses, adding that this has been an everyday uncertainty for the best part of a year. “I’ve nowhere to go” he added.

Galway City Council has enlisted the couple for NABCO, a social rented housing co-op which provides housing to people recruited from Local Authority waiting lists.

In the meantime, however, they remain homeless.

And with less properties becoming available for rent, their dilemma shows little sign of abating.

Connacht Tribune

Social media ban for revenge porn accused

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A 26-year-old man has been barred from using all social media platforms since being charged with harassing his former girlfriend by allegedly posting sexually explicit photos of her online along with links to her Snapchat account.

It is the first prosecution of its type relating to image-based abuse, more commonly referred to as ‘revenge porn’ to come before the courts in Galway.

Judge Mary Fahy imposed restrictions, prohibiting the publication of the man’s identity when he was first brought in custody before Galway District Court last October.

This week, she asked Sergeant Christy Burke, prosecuting, why had she imposed the restrictions at the time. He reminded her she had imposed the restrictions then as the case involved sexually explicit material.

Garda Paraic Moran gave evidence in October of having arrested and charged the man with harassing his former girlfriend on a date unknown between August 1, 2015 and July 10, 2019, contrary to Section 10 (1) and (6) of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.

The accused made no reply when the charge was put to him at the time.

The Director of Public Prosecutions directed the charge could only be dealt with at District Court level if the man entered a guilty plea.

Judge Fahy asked Garda Moran for an outline of the allegations made against the accused so she could decide on whether or not to deal with the case in her court should he plead guilty.

Garda Moran said the man had been in a relationship with the complainant and it was alleged that sometime after they broke up, she was contacted by a couple whom she didn’t know, inviting her to meet them for sex.

As a result of this encounter, the woman discovered intimate photographs of her were circulating on the internet.

She had sent the photos to the accused when they were together and it was alleged, Garda Moran said, that after the relationship ended the accused uploaded the photos to the internet on several occasions with links to the complainant’s Facebook Snapchat account.

Judge Fahy accepted jurisdiction in October to hear the case in her court and she made an order for prosecution statements to be sent to defence solicitor, Brian Gilmartin’s office and for the accused to come to court this week and elect to either plead guilty or not guilty to the charge.

Sgt Browne informed the court this week the statements had inadvertently not yet been sent to Mr Gilmartin but they would be now.

Judge Fahy remanded the accused on continuing bail to appear back before the court in March and elect then whether he wanted to plead guilty or not guilty.

Bail was granted in October subject to conditions sought by Gardai that he have no contact with the complainant or any witnesses, by any means to include social media; continue to reside at his rental address in the city and notify Gardai of any change of address within 48 hours; sign on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Garda HQ at Murrough, Renmore; observe a nightly curfew between 10p.m. and 6a.m.; be of good behaviour and remain of sober habits; and provide a mobile phone number to Gardai and answer his phone to them at all times.

Judge Fahy added a further condition at  the time prohibiting the man from accessing Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok and all other social media platforms, pending completion of the case.

She awarded him free legal aid and also advised him that if he broke any of the bail conditions it was likely he would end up in custody, due to the seriousness of the charge he was facing.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Help at hand for smokers with resolve!

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The HSE has launched their annual free programme to help smokers at the start of the new year to try to kick the habit as research shows that 70% of smokers want to give up for good.

With packets of cigarettes now retailing at €15 a pop, there has never been a better time to quit – even if health reasons are not a consideration.

But the impact on health should help make that decision even more urgent, according to the Irish Cancer Society.

The HSE has found that half of all smokers die from smoking-related diseases. In 2015 records show that 5,950 people died as a direct result of smoking, with an additional 100 deaths thought to be the result of exposure to second-hand smoke.

The benefits of become a non-smoker quickly become apparent. The US Surgeon General’s Office insists that after 72 hours of quitting, breathing becomes easier as the bronchial tubes relax and energy levels increase.

After a fortnight circulation improves, making walking and exercise easier. After three to nine months: coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing are reduced dramatically. After five years the risk of heart attack falls to that of a non-smoker while after a decade the risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker.

“The first thing is to realise that quitting smoking is a process, and it is important to understand where you fit in the process or ‘cycle’ of change,” said a spokesperson for the Irish Cancer Society.

“You need to plan when and how you’re going to quit. If you can get through the first 30 days without cigarettes, you’ll have gone a long way towards kicking the habit.”

The Quit Smoking West Service offers six free sessions with a HSE Stop Smoking Advisor. This therapist will explore habits and any concerns you have about stopping smoking. They will assess your level of smoking addiction, provide support to deal with challenges and discuss stop smoking medications.

“We know that quitting can be extremely difficult. But by working with us, we will support you to develop a plan to help you to cope with withdrawal symptoms and cravings, and provide you with motivational tips to help keep you on track,” a spokesperson for the service explained.

Call Quit Smoking West on (091) 737262 or email quitsmoking.west@hse.ie for the free, confidential support and advice.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Community volunteers out in force for planathons on banks of Lough Atalia

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Planters…the group of community volunteers after their Lough Atalia Plantathon.

Student volunteers and community activists were out in force throughout the month of December to push back against the climate crisis – taking part in a series of ‘plantathons’ on the banks of Lough Atalia.

Planting bulbs and trees, the programme was led by Galway Community College which owns the lands involved – and aims to rewild another portion of the city, following in the footsteps of Terryland Forest Park.

While a much smaller area by size, those behind the initiative say it shows what’s possible when the community comes together.

Supported by the National Park City initiative, the creation of this woods and wildflower meadow on what were, until now pasture lands, also had the backing of several other voluntary organisation in the city as well as Scoil Chaitríona Senior, Dominican College Taylor’s Hill, Galway Education Centre and Galway Science and Technology Festival.

With the bulbs provided by the Newcastle-based multinational Aerogen, Convenor of the Galway National Park City Brendan Smith said the project epitomised how the initiative brings interested parties together to do good.

He said efforts such as those on Lough Atalia showed the determination of young people and locals to continue the great work of those who carried out the very first plantathon in Terryland almost 22 years ago.

Those efforts were required now more than ever as the impact of the climate emergency was being acutely felt.

“The frequency and severity of storms is becoming more characteristic of Ireland as a result of unstable destructive global warm weather caused by the burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of nature’s ‘carbon sinks’ such as forests and bogs.

“Storm Barra was the latest in a long list of storms to hit our shores over the last decade. But one key way to tackle the climate emergency is to plant trees – and lots of them. The Irish Government wants to have 22 million trees planted annually.

“This planting also happens to tackle the other great global crisis of our modern era, namely Biodiversity loss,” says Brendan.

“One million out of five million known species on the planet are threatened with extinction. Global populations of fauna have declined by nearly 70% since 1970.

“A forest is probably Earth’s most diverse biodiversity rich mix of ecosystems with an oak tree being able to be home to over 400 species of flora, fungi and fauna.

“Planting trees is a necessary action in helping to save the planet from humanity’s errors.”

 

 

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