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CITY TRIBUNE

Insecurity of emergency accommodation ‘grinding children down’

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School principal Michael Gallagher: "Children in Direct Provision want to do well and their parents want them to do well."

Living in emergency accommodation or Direct Provision – or even being forced to move frequently due to a volatile rental market – has a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of children in primary school, according to a local school principal.

Principal of Claddagh National School Michael Gallagher said while children were resilient and adapt as best they can to tough situations, they did at times fall victim to feelings of anxiety due to the insecurity of their home situation.

According to Mr Gallagher, while a number of families with children in the school were living in emergency accommodation, teachers would have significantly greater experience with children staying at the Eglinton Hotel Direct Provision Centre in Salthill.

“We have a lot of children from Direct Provision and while it wasn’t scientific, we did have a situation where a number of the teachers took notes of the behaviour and attitudes of the children and what we found was they generally get on well in school – they want to do well and their parents want them to do well.

“If they are in Direct Provision long-term, it really affects the mood of the children. There’s no scientific or empirical evidence, but our experience is that it wears them down in a sense – they become resigned to their fate,” said Mr Gallagher.

In situations where families are in emergency accommodation, the school had less experience – Mr Gallagher estimated three families out of 270 that he was aware of in the past couple of years.

“But that doesn’t mean there aren’t more in emergency accommodation – in some cases, families don’t necessarily tell the school,” he adds.

“We would also have had a number of families who get a letter from the landlord to leave their home, or that the rent is going up and they can’t afford it, and so they have to move.

“It has an impact – the uncertainty has a massive impact. The insecurity of not having a family home is huge, something so many of us take for granted,” continued Mr Gallagher.

While children adapt and can be resilient, not having a place to call home or being in Direct Provision meant students could find it difficult to do their homework and in some cases, coloured the way they responded to situations.

Teachers were very cognisant of students’ individual circumstances and made every effort to take into account the challenges they might be facing, continued Mr Gallagher.

“Getting homework done or getting reading done could be the least of their worries – if they have to move from where they are staying in the afternoon, it could simply be the case that they just don’t have time.

“Other problems arise like getting the right books organised, or having stuff to bring in for a project,” he outlined.

“You have children with anxiety issues caused by having worries that other children might not have; these are all generalisations, but they might act out a bit in class, or get a bit excited over something that might be perceived as a trivial issue.”

Claddagh NS also had experience of families being forced to leave Galway for more rural areas because of rising rents in the city.

“We have had a couple of families living in Galway and the Rent Allowance won’t cover the rent – say for example, a three-bed in Knocknacarra. Or they got a letter saying the landlord is selling up and they had to move out.

“A lot of families have moved to Tuam, Athenry and Loughrea where the rent is somewhat more affordable,” he said.

For those families who leave Direct Provision, additional supports were needed because, even with all its imperfections, the system did offer some support structure, said Mr Gallagher.

“When they move out, they can’t afford any rental property in Galway. And even if they do, they find themselves in a two-bedroom apartment and they can’t afford babysitting – that’s very difficult for maybe a single mother who has to work,” he said.

Mr Gallagher said ultimately, all children deserved the best start in life and it was at primary school that they were most open to diversity.

“Kids are kids – no matter what their social status, children behave like children. We have 39 different nationalities and kids don’t see religion or race. It doesn’t bother them; all they’re worried about is who is going to pass them the ball.

“We celebrate diversity and at primary school, there are very few incidences of bullying based on that,” he said.

CITY TRIBUNE

Swimmer James clocks up one million metres in year

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From the Galway City Tribune – A keen swimmer in Galway has clocked up an astonishing one million metres in a year as part of his gruelling exercise schedule.

James Brennan reached the impressive milestone over 400 swims last years,  which were split between the sea in Salthill and across the road early-morning sessions at Leisureland pool.

He would count the lengths in his head or on his watch, regularly swimming up to 240 lengths over 90 minutes in the pool and up to 2km off the beach for a half-hour. On a regular week he would swim the equivalent of 20km.

When James realised he was at 800,000 metres last November, he decided to go all-out to pass the one-million mark by the end of 2022.

So he concentrated on swimming for at least ten hours a week leading up to Christmas and celebrated passing his goal before breaking up for the festivities.

“I’ve always done a lot of swimming. I’ve competed for my local swimming club in Claremorris, County Mayo, and was involved in the Corrib Polo Water Club races. I won the Heskin League, which is a combination of the 14 different open water races in Salthill. I also won the league in Claremorris,” he reveals.

The software engineer has been living in Galway for  13 years and has been a member of Leisureland for four years.

“It’s a really great pool, it has nice facilities, the staff are all very nice,” he reflects.

Facilities Manager of the Council-owned premises, Ian Brennan, said the phenomenal distance was the equivalent of swimming from Galway to Amsterdam.

He heard about James’s achievement from Green Party Councillor and Leisureland board member Niall Murphy, who happened to be swimming in the lane beside James when the Mayo man reached the goal.

“I felt that this is a hugely worthy event and fills me with amazement that we have a superhero in our midst. The future is bright.”

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CITY TRIBUNE

Ó Tuathail not interested in Galway City Council co-option

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From the Galway City Tribune – A two-time general election candidate for the Social Democrats in Galway West has ruled out filling the party’s vacant seat on Galway City Council.

Niall Ó Tuathail, a health reform advisor, has confirmed to the Galway City Tribune that he will not be co-opted to the City Council seat vacated by the shock resignation of Councillor Owen Hanley in January.

“I’m not going to be put forward for co-option,” said Mr Ó Tuathail.

The father-of-two has lived abroad for a time since taking a step back from electoral politics in the wake of his 2020 General Election defeat.

He confirmed this week he has not reconsidered his decision to take a long break from frontline politics.

“I’m still a Soc Dem member and we’re in a process looking for someone strong to represent the values of the people who voted for us in 2019,” Mr Ó Tuathail said.

He polled 3,653 first preference votes in 2020 in Galway West and was only eliminated after the 12th count in the five-seat constituency.

That was an increase on the 3,455 number ones he received in his first Dáil election in 2016, when he also bowed out on the 12th count.

Mr Ó Tuathail was synonymous with the Social Democrats’ brand in Galway, and was heavily involved with the local referenda campaigns for marriage equality and to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

It surprised many political observers when he opted not to fight a local election for the party in 2019.

That was a breakthrough election for the Soc Dems, when Owen Hanley became the party’s first ever Galway City councillor by winning a seat in Galway City East. Sharon Nolan narrowly missed out on a seat in City Central during the same election.

Mr Hanley cited allegations made against him when he announced in January that he was resigning his position.

He said that the matters were “very serious” and would take a considerable amount of time for the authorities to investigate.

The resignation of Mr Hanley left a vacancy on the City Council.

It is the prerogative of the Social Democrats to nominate a person who will be co-opted to replace him as a councillor at City Hall.

A spokesperson for the party told the Tribune last week that it has not yet chosen a successor.

“We don’t have any update in relation to the co-option. I will let you know when we have a candidate,” the spokesperson said.

One problem faced by the party is that a number of possible replacements for Mr Hanley have left the Soc Dems over policy and other issues.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Cigarettes, drugs and cash seized in Galway

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Officers from the Divisional Drugs Unit seized more than €73,000 worth of cigarettes, cash and drugs after a car and residence were searched in Galway today.
As part of Operation Tara – which is targeting the sale and supply of drugs and related criminal activity in the Galway area – Gardaí  searched a car in the Knocknacarra area. Cash and cannabis were seized.

A follow up search was carried out at a residence in Salthill, where cigarettes worth €70,000, along with €3,100 in cash and a small quantity of suspected amphetamine were recovered.

No arrests were made, but Gardaí say they are following a definite line of inquiry.

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