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Insecurity of emergency accommodation ‘grinding children down’



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.


Concerns over reopening of Middle Arch on Tuesday



A Galway City Councillor has given a cautious welcome but has also raised concerns over the reopening of the ‘Middle Arch’ beside the Claddagh Basin next Tuesday.

Access was closed to the public last May following requests from the Gardai due to large crowds that had gathered in the days previously amid fears of it becoming a serious health and safety risk.

The concerns were raised by Cllr. Niall McNelis who said that a cautious welcome should be given but that the possibility of closing it in evenings needs to be seriously looked at.

He said “The decision to close it was earlier in year was due to it had become an area where large groups had gathered drinking and had led to calls by locals that it had become a serious health and safety risk. The area also does not have safety barriers and this has led to persons falling into the water in the past.

“Recently there has been a large number of calls made that the area should be reopened and that public space be made available to the public.”

Cllr. McNelis also said that a cautious welcome should be given but that the possibility of closing it in evenings needs to be seriously looked at.

“We can not have the same scenes repeated as we did earlier this year and in previous years. House gardens and Claddagh church grounds were used as toilets and large amounts of litter mainly drink, was left behind. I have met a number of residents this weekend who are not happy with decision and calls have been made by them to have it closed in evenings by City Council and Gardai should assist in clearing area if needs be.

“We do not have enough Garda personnel to have proper policing in our city, we need more resources for the city to tackle and enforce anti social behaviour.

“I have met this week with Gardai and have been given assurances that this will be closely monitored and occasions such as exam results nights, freshers week and good weather will be monitored,” he said.

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Council rows back on ‘reduced delays’ projections for Kirwan junction



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Motorists have described it as ‘a disaster’ and a former mayor has said the project gave very poor value for money, but Galway City Council have this week asked the public to be patient with the revamped Kirwan junction, close to the Menlo Park Hotel.

Since the four-arm signalled junction opened early last week, motorists have complained of traffic queues stretching back to the Quincentenary Bridge and Corrib Park.

And now the Council has rowed back on its consultants’ claims that the junction would increase capacity by 15% and reduce waiting times by 25%.

Former mayor and local taxi driver, Cllr Frank Fahy, told the Galway City Tribune that given the negative impact of the junction on traffic, the €5 million spent on the project represented ‘very poor value’ as regards taxpayers’ money.

“I will admit that the junction is now safer for pedestrians in that they can hit a button to give them a safe crossing, but since it opened there have some very serious traffic tailbacks,” said Cllr Fahy.

However, City Council Acting Director of Services for Transport, Uinsinn Finn, told the Galway City Tribune that the new junction needed time to ‘bed in’ with a familiarisation process.

“The main objectives of this project were to make far safer for pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate, as well as making it safer for motorists too, without impacting [negatively] on the traffic flow,” said Mr Finn.

He added that since it opened – and over the coming few weeks – data on all aspects of how the junction was functioning would be compiled which could involve changes to light sequencing, lanes and peak traffic flows.

One motorist who contacted this newspaper said that the daily “nightmare” journey from the Barna Road to the Headford Road during the morning peak traffic time had added up to 40 minutes to his journey time.

“The two lanes are regularly gridlocked from the junction, back the N6, over the Quincentenary Bridge and back to Corrib Park.

“In the mornings, it’s now easier to go down Taylor’s Hill and into town, past Eyre Square and up Bohermore to get down to the Headford Road.

Councillors were told by consultants in 2017 and again in 2018 – when they voted to proceed with the changeover to a junction – that average delays would be reduced by 25% and junction capacity would increase by 15%.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Man hospitalised following Eyre Square assault



Gardaí have appealed to the public for information into an assault in Eyre Square last weekend which led to a young man being hospitalised.

The victim of the assault – a man in his early 20s from the city area – suffered a cut to his knee and may have had a substance sprayed towards his eyes.

Following the incident – that occurred close to the Eyre Square taxi rank shortly after midnight on Saturday night last – the victim was taken by ambulance to University Hospital Galway.

It is understood that the victim was released later that morning and has made a full recovery. This week, Gardaí are poring over CCTV footage in an effort to try and identify the perpetrators of the assault.

The assailants are understood to have fled on foot after the incident towards St Patrick’s Avenue on the east side of Eyre Square.

A Garda spokesperson has appealed for anyone who was in the vicinity of the taxi rank on Eyre Square between 12 midnight and 12.30am on the Sunday morning (Saturday night) of July 25 last, and who may have witnessed the incident to contact them.

(Photo: the assailants fled on foot towards St Patrick’s Avenue off Eyre Square)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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