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Connacht Tribune

Homelessness is worst in West of Ireland



Homelessness in the West of Ireland is increasing at a rate faster than anywhere else in the country – and without a significant increase in the number of social housing units, things are going to get far worse in 2019.

That’s according to CEO of Galway Simon, Karen Golden, who warned that the problem could get a lot worse before it gets better.

“The rate of increase in the West of Ireland, and the majority of that is in Galway City, is faster than any other region; there were 36 families in emergency accommodation in June 2014 – there were 499 in June 2018.

“We have a significant,  increasing and sustained demand for our services. I don’t think anybody saw it getting that back, that quickly,” said Ms Golden.

The number of social houses built in Galway City this year came nowhere near making a dent in these soaring figures and this is a situation unlikely to improve in 2019.

“In quarter three of 2018, 4,700 houses were completed nationally; only 18 of those were in Galway.

“That is a negligible contribution to the issue and unfortunately, I don’t see it improving. There is virtually no social housing coming on stream, and I don’t see it coming next year either,” said Ms Golden.

Social housing is vital for the people availing of Galway Simon’s services, she says, and without it, demand will continue to far outstrip supply.

The charity has now reached a point where housing that was once used for people in emergency situations for a couple of days has to be used for people on a long-term basis.

“At its simplest, we would provide a housing service where we have a number of people living in Galway Simon houses.

“That would normally be used on a transitional basis where people would stay there in emergency circumstances but that is becoming increasingly more difficult because alternatives are not available,” explained Ms Golden.

In fact, rising rents mean that when someone is served with a notice to quit from their landlord, they are at serious risk of not being able to find alternative accommodation due to ever-rising rents.

“Rents in Galway City have gone up by 41 per cent over the past three years.

“It is said that the services are ‘silting up’ which is a really awful phrase that has come into use, but it does illustrate the situation.

“People are coming into emergency accommodation for a couple of nights, a couple of weeks at most, but they are ending up there for months on end,” said Ms Golden.

An overreliance on the private sector to provide social housing is exacerbating the problem and Ms Golden said the Government’s Housing Assistance Programme (HAP) was simply not working.

“We need to see more accommodation coming on stream and more quickly. There is very little in place in the short term for Galway – we need more of a focus on that.

“We would like to see the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) having greater powers to enforce the rent pressure zone in Galway City.

“We have a four per cent cap on rent increases yet they have gone up by 16 per cent in the past year – four times that rate,” said Ms Golden.

Connacht Tribune

Gardaí in Galway operating with fewer patrol cars



Five large Garda stations in County Galway are operating with fewer Garda vehicles now than two years ago – leading to a call for the local fleet to be restored to 2020 levels.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has confirmed to Galway West TD Noel Grealish that the Garda fleet in the Galway Garda Division stands at 116 as of October of this year.

That’s greater than any of the years from 2012 to 2019, but it represents a reduction on the Garda fleet when compared with 2020 and 2021 figures.

Galway Gardaí had a dozen fewer vehicles this year, compared with 2020. There are 13 fewer patrol cars, down from 96 to 83; there was no change in the number of vans and motorcycles, and the division acquired one extra 4×4.

Garda stations in Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Tuam, Clifden and Salthill have all lost patrol cars in the past 24 months, according to the official figures.

Independent Deputy Grealish has demanded a restoration of the Garda fleet in Galway to 2020 levels.

“Gardaí have a demanding enough job to do, but it makes that important work even more difficult if they are not allocated the proper resources,” Deputy Grealish said.

“A reduction of twelve vehicles in less than two years across the Galway Division, down from 128 at the end of 2020 to 116 in October this year, is concerning.

“I have asked the Minister for Justice to explain why this has happened, that the number of vehicles in the Galway Division has fallen by ten per cent, when nationally the total fleet actually increased by 6%. I am demanding that they at the very least be restored to their 2020 levels,” he said.

Deputy Grealish pointed out that almost all areas of the county had suffered a reduction in Garda vehicles since the beginning of last year.  Ballinasloe currently has six vehicles, a reduction of two since the end of 2020; Clifden also has six, down one; Loughrea was down three to eleven; Salthill was down three to ten; the biggest reduction in Garda vehicles was in the Tuam area down five to twelve.

Galway City’s fleet increased by two vehicles, for a total of 71.

Minister McEntee said that the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was responsible for the administration and management of An Garda Síochána, including the purchase, allocation, and effective and efficient use of Garda vehicles.

“As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure their optimum use in light of identified operational needs and emerging crime trends,” she added.

Galway City Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) last month complained that the number of vehicles available to Gardaí in Salthill and Knocknacarra was insufficient.

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Connacht Tribune

Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team



Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.

The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.

Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.

Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.

“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.

It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.

“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”

She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.

“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.

There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.

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Connacht Tribune

Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78



Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.

Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968

As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.

From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.

When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.

Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.

A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.

Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later

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