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Launch of ‘drowning watch’ scheme coincides with start of college year

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Arthur Carr, founder of Galway Waterways Patrol; Liam O'Carroll, Anchor Safety; Maura Fahy, Secretary, Galway Waterways Patrol; Mayor of Galway, Frank Fahy and Ken O'Sullivan, Chairman, Galway Waterways Patrol. PHOTO: IAIN McDONALD

Volunteers from the new Galway Waterways Patrol are aiming to hold their first patrol on the weekend that students return to the city.

GWP was officially launched last week at the Radisson Blu Hotel, where a number of enthusiastic volunteers listened to an outline of proposals and information on the training that will be delivered before the first patrol.

“We are very, very unique in Galway. We have nearly 200 miles of waterways in Galway City. That’s a huge amount of water,” said GWP founder Arthur Carr to those who attended the launch.

“They have one river flowing through or they have the docks in any of the other cities where these waterway patrols are being carried out.

“And, for instance, in one river in Limerick, in three years, they have saved or prevented 300 accidents. That is just one. Cork is bigger than that because they’ve been at it a little bit longer. Wexford is huge. They haven’t been at it that long.

“We have huge amounts of waterways to patrol and we need your help,” he said.

Galway Mayor Frank Fahy – who is also a taxi driver – said he regularly comes across people in distress.

“Galway Waterways Patrol is something that should have been done years ago, and in my other life as a taxi driver, I regularly come across people who are in distress, or attempting to go in the river or in the canals.

“In a lot of cases, your first responder when you see people going into the water would be the Gardaí or the Fire Brigade, and I have to say in my 25 years of experience as a taxi driver I’ve seen quite a few people going in the river.”

In many cases, he said, there are young people who don’t get into the nightclubs with their friends and end up wandering around the city on their own. According to the mayor, some of these young people accidentally end up in the water.

“It isn’t deliberate. It’s not suicide. They’re either out of it on drink or drugs or a mixture of both. We have a lot of waterways in the city that are very open, and it’s very easy to get lost and we need to do something.”

GWP are looking at having patrols at “prime risk times”, which are between 11pm and 4am – times when many young people will be out in the city.

“When you’ve a group of five or six young people and one is turned away from the nightclub, he’s on his own. It’s not acceptable in my book that nightclubs should have that policy. And if they do turn somebody away, they should have a very valid reason for why they do it,” said Cllr Fahy.

GWP are planning to provide free training to all volunteers before they go on patrol and this training will be provided by the Red Cross and Civil Defence. The role of the volunteers will be to observe and report any incidents to the emergency services, which will be on the scene, typically, within two minutes.

Volunteers will be in orange, high-vis jackets while on patrol, so that the emergency services can spot them easily. The jackets are orange so that they don’t clash with the guards or the fire services. Emergency services will recognise the colour immediately and know exactly where the emergency is.

So far, similar patrols have saved many lives, and prevented accidents all over the country and with the high number of drownings in Galway over the years, GWP is exactly what the city needs.

“Last year the lifeguards that we trained and assessed around the country plucked 831 people from actually drowning. They plucked them out of the water, about to drown,” said Deputy CEO of Irish Water Safety, Roger Sweeney, at the launch.

“400 lost children were found, lost and wandering by themselves, alone beside water, and reunited by lifeguards with their parents.

“But the 831 that nearly drowned could have been a bigger problem. One of the issues can be double drownings and that’s where somebody actually goes in to try and rescue somebody else.”

Last year, there were 114 drownings in Ireland, 12 of which were in Galway. That’s one more drowning incident than the 11 that took place in Galway the previous year. On average, according to Mr Sweeney, there are 135 drownings in Ireland every year.

“So it’s a particular problem. We had twice as many young children aged under 14 drown last year: six. Usually three drown every year. We had the same number of teenagers drowning. Six of them drowned last year – half of them suicides and half of them accidental.

“Alcohol is a big problem and if you look at the statistics overall, in one third of all drownings in Ireland, the casualty has consumed alcohol,” said Mr Sweeney.

For more information, or to become a volunteer, email galwaywaterwayspatrol @gmail.com

Connacht Tribune

Exploring the merits of moving into the west

Dave O'Connell

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Mary Kennedy with Carol Ho, one of the Galway interviewees for her new TG4 series, Moving West. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Broadcaster Mary Kennedy has an abiding image of those early mornings when she’d set out from Dublin at the crack of dawn to begin work on another day’s filming down the country with Nationwide.

“I always liked to go in the morning rather than stay there the night before – so I’d be on the road early. And from the moment I’d hit Newland’s Cross, all I’d see was a line of traffic of people trying to make it from home to their workplace in Dublin,” she says.

These were people whose day began before dawn to get their bleary-eyed kids ready to drop at a childminder along the way, so they could be on time for work – and then race home to hopefully see those same kids before they went to sleep.

But if the pandemic had a positive, it was the realisation that work was something you did, not a place you went to. As a result, many people finally grasped the nettle, moving out of the city and sometimes even taking their work with them.

Which is why Mary – busier than ever since her supposed retirement from RTÉ – is presenting a new television series called Moving West, focusing on those individuals and families who have, as the title, suggests, relocated to the West.

One of the programmes comes from Galway, where Mary met with Stewart Forrest, who relocated with his family from South Africa to Oughterard, and Carol Ho, a Hong Kong native who has also settled in Galway.

The TG4 series also stops off in Sligo, Mayo, Kerry, Clare, Roscommon and Leitrim.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Community’s tribute to one of their own – saving final cut of turf after his passing

Dave O'Connell

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Well saved...members of St Brendan's GAA Club honour their departed stalwart, John Geraghty, after a record-breaking evening saving his turf.

A local community responded in force to the death of one of their own – a man who had given so much of his life for the good of the parish – by paying one last practical tribute to him last week.

They lifted and footed his turf.

John Geraghty – or Gero as he was known – lived for Gaelic football and he’d filled every role imaginable with the St Brendan’s GAA Club since he came to live in Newbridge in 1983.

He’d cut the turf before he died last Tuesday week, but there it lay, until his old GAA friends organised a bunch of guys – made up of the football team, friends and neighbours – to meet in the bog last Wednesday evening to lift and foot/clamp John’s turf.

“Upwards of 50 fellas from the community showed up,” said St Brendan’s chairman Gerry Kilcommins.

Which was just as well, because, as Gerry acknowledged, John – himself a two-time chairman of the club in the past – had a lot of turf cut!

“It took up an area around three-quarters of the size of a standard football pitch,” he said.

Not that this proved a problem, given the enthusiasm with which they rolled up their sleeves for their old friend.

They started at 7.30pm and had it done at 7.55pm – that’s just 25 minutes from start to finish.

Read the full, heartwarming story – and the St Brendan’s GAA Club appreciation for John Geraghty – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Liver donor dad would do it all again in a heartbeat

Denise McNamara

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Daddy’s girl…Sadhbh Browne with her very special message on organ donations. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

It is nearly two years since Paddy Browne gave his daughter Sadhbh part of his liver to save her life. And just ahead of Father’s Day, he reflects on how he would do it all over again in a heartbeat, without a single moment’s hesitation.

After an initial testing time in the first six weeks when they beat a path to the intensive care unit after the operation in St King’s Hospital in London, Sadhbh has never looked back.

“She’s thrived and thrived and thrived. She skips out to school every day. She loves the normal fun and devilment in the yard. She’s now six and started football with Mountbellew Moylough GAA, she loves baking, she’s a voracious reader – she’ll read the whole time out loud while we drive up to Crumlin [Children’s Hospital].”

But it could have all been so different.

Sadhbh from Mountbellew was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia shortly after she was born. She quickly underwent major surgery to drain bile from her liver. It worked well until she reached three years old when an infection caused severe liver damage and she was placed on the liver transplant list.

She was on a long list of medication to manage the consequences of advanced liver disease. While she lived a full life, she would tire very easily.

Paddy was undergoing the rigorous process to be accepted as a living donor when one of the tests ruled him unsuitable. His brother Michael stepped forward and was deemed a good match.

Then, further tests revealed that Paddy was in fact eligible for the operation and the previous result disregarded as a false positive.

Read the full, uplifting story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.

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