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Connacht Tribune

Legal delay to report for ‘Tuam babies’ site

Stephen Corrigan

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The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has confirmed that a report on using DNA testing to identify the remains buried at Tuam Mother and Baby Home is currently being considered by her Department – but the report would require legal advice from the Attorney General ahead of its findings being made public.

Minister Katherine Zappone commissioned Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Dr Geoffrey Shannon to investigate the possibility of compiling a DNA database to compare against DNA profiles which may be generated from juvenile human remains found at the site in an effort to make positive identifications.

The report was due to examine if this can be carried out within the current legislative framework.

“I have received Dr Shannon’s report and it is under consideration in my Department. A requirement has been identified for detailed legal advice and this has been sought from the Office of the Attorney General. That advice will determine the options open to Government,” she said.

Minister Zappone was responding to a question from TD for Galway East Anne Rabbitte (FF) who is now calling on the Government to immediately implement supports for the survivors of mother and baby Homes – ahead of the publication of the Commission of Investigation’s report which is not due until February 2020.

Deputy Rabbitte called on the Minister to consider “establishing a redress or compensation scheme for survivors of mother and baby homes”.

In her response, the Minister said that while she appreciated the calls to establish such a scheme were “genuinely made” on behalf of an aging community, such a scheme could not be implemented ahead of the Commission’s report.

“Given that these specific matters have not been central to any previous inquiry, it is not feasible at this interim stage in the Commission’s work to pre-empt its findings and recommendations. To date, the Commission has made no findings about abuse or neglect in any of the institutions within its terms of reference.

“I know that many former residents are eagerly awaiting the completion of this work. When the final reports of the Commission are available, the Government will be in a position to comprehensively respond to the full account of the Commission’s conclusions on all matters regarding the experiences of former residents,” said the Minister.

Deputy Rabbitte asked the Minister to divulge the status of the working group established on supporting survivors and in her response, Minister Zappone confirmed that the group, which is a collaboration between her Department and the Department of Health, had met three times.

“The working group has been tasked with reporting by September in order to facilitate considerations within the estimates process for Budget 2020,” she said.

In relation to commemorating those who were held in the mother and baby homes, Deputy Rabbitte queried if funding could be supplied to survivors for their commemorative events – and the status of a national memorial.

Minister Zappone said her Department had already commenced the detailed scoping work necessary to implement the proposed memorial measures, which had come about in response to the first report of the Collaborative Forum of Former Residents of Mother and Baby Homes.

“When Government approved publication of the Forum’s recommendations on 16th April, it also agreed to progress a number of initial related measures. Chief amongst these was a necessity for a comprehensive analysis of all the recommendations in the report, with individual Departments to conduct an assessment of the policy, resource and legislative, of recommendations relevant to their respective Departments.

“I expect to receive feedback from relevant Departments shortly. Once this initial analysis and assessment is complete, my Department will further co-ordinate the response in respect of a number of recommendations, particularly those relating to memorialisation,” said the Minister.

Connacht Tribune

Covid lockdown returns for Kildare, Laois and Offaly

Enda Cunningham

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The Government has announced localised lockdowns for people living in Kildare, Laois and Offaly, following a surge in Covid-19 cases over the past week.

People from outside of those counties have been asked not to travel their unless for work or essential travel.

The restrictions affect travel, pubs, restaurants, swimming pools and cinemas.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the clusters of new cases were of serious concern and described the restrictions as “limited”.

“Over the past 14 days 292 cases of Covid-19 have arisen in Kildare, Laois and Offaly. These represent almost half of all cases detected in Ireland during that time.

“These measures are being put in place to protect the vulnerable in these counties as well as to stop the spread of the virus.

They are in place for two weeks from midnight tonight (Friday) until midnight on Friday, August 20. The situation will then be reviewed,” the Taoiseach said.

Travel and transport

You can only travel within your county, other than for the following reasons:

  • to travel to and from work where that work cannot be done from home
  • to attend medical appointments, collect medicines and other health products
  • for vital family reasons, like providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, but excluding social family visits
  • for farming purposes, food production or care of animals

You should not travel into any of these counties, other than for the reasons above, and you need to travel through these counties to get somewhere else. You should not stop in Kildare, Laois or Offaly unless for essential purposes.

Public and private transport

You should not use public transport unless it is absolutely necessary to do so, and where possible you should not share private vehicles with others from outside your household.

Education and childcare

The following services remain open with appropriate protective measures in place:

  • education and childcare
  • outdoor playgrounds, play areas and parks
  • Economic activity and work
  • Anyone in these counties who can work from home should work from home.

Social

Cafes and restaurants

  • All cafes and restaurants, including bars operating as restaurants, should only offer takeaway or delivery, or outdoor dining (maximum 15 people with strict physical distancing).
  • Hotels can remain open but must limit occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons. Existing guests can remain for the duration of their booking.

Indoor gatherings

  • All indoor gatherings should be restricted to a maximum of 6 people from no more than 3 households in total, while maintaining physical distancing.

Outdoor gatherings

  • Outdoor gatherings should be limited to a maximum of 15 people, while maintaining physical distancing.

Cultural and religious

  • All cinemas, theatres, casinos, betting shops, bingo halls, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools, exercise and dance studios are required to close.
  • Attendance at a funeral service and burial or cremation ceremony should be limited to 25 outdoors. Indoor events connected to the funeral are limited to a maximum of 6 people.
  • Places of worship remain open for private prayer, while services are to be held online.

Sport

No sporting events or matches should take place, with the following exemptions:

  • non-contact training outdoors in a maximum group of 15 people may continue
  • professional and elite sports and horse-racing may continue behind closed doors
  • inter-county training (max 15 people) and fixtures may continue behind closed doors

Residential and healthcare facilities

*Visiting in long-term residential care facilities, acute settings and prisons will generally be suspended in the first instance with the exception of the most critical and compassionate circumstances (for example end of life).

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Connacht Tribune

Relocation homebuyers head to the west

Dara Bradley

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Clifden....popular destination.

The Coronavirus pandemic has encouraged a new exodus of homebuyers to relocate to the west, with remote working now a viable option for many employees.

Galway’s busiest auctioneer has noticed increased interest in properties in the city and county from workers relocating from Dublin, its commuter belt and the Midlands.

The availability of high-speed broadband, which can facilitate working from home, is a determining factor in many homebuyers’ decisions to move to the West.

But the high cost of renting remains the single biggest incentive for people to get on the property ladder, according to Niall Browne, senior sales negotiator at O’Donnellan and Joyce Auctioneers.

“People are paying such high rent that it’s the equivalent to a mortgage repayment and that’s when you buy. That’s the biggest incentive to buy – you’re not giving away dead money,” Mr Browne said.

The property market locally had quietened in the initial months of the Covid-19 lockdown – but it has been buoyant in the past two months in particular, he said.

Mr Browne suggested there was an element of pent-up demand for housing that was now being realised as the Covid lockdown restrictions focused people’s minds on their desire to purchase a home.

“We typically try to get eight to ten sales per month by private treaty, and we had 28 or 29 last month. The previous month was six and the previous month was eight. This month (July) we’re up to 26, and that’s outside of our auction,” he said.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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Connacht Tribune

Nursing Homes shun student nurses over Covid fears

Stephen Corrigan

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Student nurses in Galway are facing financial doom as part-time employers shun those currently on work placement in hospitals over fears they are at high-risk of contracting Covid-19.

First year nursing student at NUI Galway Ciarán Mac an tSaoir told the Connacht Tribune that this had become a particular issue for first and second year students who would traditionally take on healthcare assistant roles in nursing homes, where the fear of spreading the virus is at fever pitch.

“After semester one in first year, you are essentially qualified as a healthcare assistant and a lot of students would take that up as an option. Since Covid-19 came in, a lot of work places are fearful of cross-contamination and that’s not unjustified.

“It’s very understandable that a nursing home wouldn’t want a student who might be going between five or six clinical areas in an acute hospital to be then coming into work in the nursing home,” said Mr Mac an tSaoir.

Nursing students, for whom a large proportion of their university experience is spent on unpaid work placement, spend up to 35-hours a week in a clinical setting and so that could mean them travelling between a Covid-19-free setting of a nursing home to a respiratory word in a hospital such as UHG, he explained.

However, this wasn’t a HSE policy but rather the decision of individual care facilities who were doing their best to ensure coronavirus was kept out.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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