The founder of Ireland’s longest running Gay Pride parade has insisted the annual event is still essential to celebrate the past sacrifices of activists and ensure visibility for the community.
There were rumblings in the wake of the definitive Yes vote in the Marriage Referendum that there was no need to hold a Gay Pride parade or festival as there was no longer legal discrimination.
However, Nuala Ward – who organised the first Gay Pride parade in 1989, which involved just 15 people in a march from Eyre Square to the Quays Bar – believes the event is still an important focal point for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the city.
“It means many different things to many different people. The Pride parade itself honours and respects LGBT people who have gone before us and have fought for human rights and had a much tougher time of it than we have today, feeling as the old joke went ‘the only gay in the village’.
“As the founder of the helpline, I know many had to emigrate so they could be themselves and be around people like them.
“Thankfully things continue to improve. Hopefully in time to come, Pride will be completely just a celebration.”
Nuala, who has done a lot of work with older LGBT people in rural communities and is currently working to set up a resource centre in the city for the community, is no stranger to public opposition.
“I always got told in the 80s ‘you’re being a fool for putting yourself out there’, people were scared. For me, I didn’t care how people viewed me. For me, visibility was important for overall mental health and wellbeing, being the ‘only gay in the village’ was not a nice place to be in.
“When homosexuality was decriminalised, people said there was no need to have a Gay Pride parade. I can’t speak for the whole community, but I feel a parade is important.
“It’s about visibility and paying respect to the people who put themselves out there at a great personal cost to win human rights.”
She also insists that ‘a lot of homophobia and transphobia’ still exists. The event also serves to highlight anti-gay conditions in other countries “which haven’t come as far as Ireland”.
Nuala was deeply involved in the Yes Equality campaign throughout the county as an army of volunteers knocked on doors.
She described the result as ‘incredible’ in raising awareness about the issues facing gay people.
“It opened up a huge national conversation and was a huge learning experience not just for the straight community but for the LGBT community who got to see a huge amount of support and understanding being expressed.
“Many were asking questions but from a great place of wanting to understand. It’s been incredible on so many levels.”
She organised the first Pride parade with two straight friends – Jane Talbot and Natalie Zebolt – as her gay friends were too scared to get involved.
Pádraic Breathnach from Macnas gave them material to make a banner and allowed them to use the workshop.
Of the 15 who showed up to march, three were lesbian, two were gay men and the rest were heterosexuals ‘dressed quite camply’, she laughs.
For a good few years, around 30 people showed up to take part in the parade before it grew to an attendance of several hundred. When other Pride festivals sprang up, numbers dropped again.
But it has continued every year since.
The 26th Galway Pride Festival will take place August 13 to 16, with the parade taking place on Saturday at 2pm followed by a family fun day at Fr Burke Park in the Claddagh.
“I’ve never missed a Pride in Galway. I have a big grá for it. I’ll definitely be in it this year and hopefully there will be a big turnout from everyone,” enthused Nuala.
Check galwaypride.com for more information on events and venues.
Cancer patients need better Covid protocols
A CITY councillor and current cancer patient at University Hospital Galway (UHG) said this week that a better system should be put in place as regards Covid procedures for those undergoing chemotherapy, radium and other acute day-care treatments.
Cllr. Alan Cheevers told the Galway City Tribune that cancer patients on day treatment programmes at UHG should be completing an antigen test prior to entering the hospital.
“This would eliminate the need for phone surveys prior to their treatments and would be a lot more efficient in indicating as to whether a person was Covid-free or not,” said Cllr. Cheevers.
He stressed that he was suggesting this, not as a criticism, but as a practical way of ensuring that both patients and staff could go about their business in a far safer environment.
“What happens at present is that patients are contacted by phone the day before they are due to go for treatment and asked a series of questions.
“Given that in most cases the omicron variant seems so mild, the patient might have no idea that they could have Covid. “What I would like to see is the HSE providing free antigen tests which the patient could undergo a day or two before going in for treatment and then be able to provide the results of those to the hospital.
“It would just take all the guessing out of whether someone going in for treatment had, or had not, the Covid virus,” said Cllr. Cheevers.
The Fianna Fáil councillor from Roscam – who is currently undergoing a cancer treatment programme at UHG – also called for changes to be made as regards cancer and other vulnerable patients who might need to be admitted to hospital if they were feeling very unwell after treatment.
“If that happens, we are currently being told to seek admission to the hospital via the Accident and Emergency Department but I really don’t think that is satisfactory for such patients,” said Cllr. Cheevers.
He said that such patients – by virtue of their condition and treatment programme – would be that bit more vulnerable to picking up colds, viruses and infections.
“I just think that it should be possible for such patients to be admitted to the hospital – rather than having to go through the Emergency Department – which can get quite crowded at times.
“I believe that a solution could be provided whereby cancer patients would be admitted to the hospital without having to go through what is a high-risk environment,” said Cllr. Cheevers.
He added that where patients were vulnerable – such as those on cancer treatment – it should be possible to admit them to the hospital without having to go through ED.
“I think that it should be possible for example to be able to admit such patients through the cancer wards of the hospital. Again, I feel, that would be a safer way of doing things for both patients and staff,” said Cllr. Cheevers.
He said that he was making those observations not as a politician but as a cancer patient of UHG where he described the treatment and care provided to him and other patients as ‘second to none’.
“The oncology department at the hospital provide the most professional and caring service for their patients – it really is a wonderful service and delivered with great expertise and compassion by all involved, I would have to say. They are exceptional.
“My two concerns about the lack of pre-treatment antigen tests and the necessity to get admission through ED, are meant as constructive suggestions in the context of the current Covid situation,” said Cllr. Cheevers.
Barna homes can be closer to sea
Members of Galway County Council have voted to allow development to take place in Barna village just 15 metres from the foreshore – as opposed to 30 metres as recommended by senior officials.
Fears were expressed that any developments that take place within 15 metres of the shoreline could be hit by flooding in the event of a storm or prolonged rainfall.
But a local councillor told a meeting of Galway County Council that he never witnessed flooding in Barna in his lifetime.
The nearest threat, according to Cllr Tomas O Curraoin, came from a prolonged storm in 2014 – but this resulted in just one boat being detached from its mooring.
He made his remarks while councillors were discussing the County Development Plan which proposed that there be a 30-metre setback from the foreshore to allow for the development of a coastal amenity park as well as the proposed Oranmore to Barna cycleway. But the independent councillor was not for moving and he proposed that a new setback of 15 metres for development from the sea be applied for Barna.
“There has never been a recording of flooding on these lands and there is no evidence that properties are at risk.
His proposal was seconded by Cllr Noel Thomas (FF) before the motion went to a vote which was carried with 19 councillors in support of the 15-metre setback, eight opposed with eight abstentions.
The only Connemara councillor to vote against the motion was Cllr Alastair McKinstry (Green) who wanted a 50 metre setback but he did not get a seconder for his proposal.
Senior planner Valerie Loughnane told the meeting that the reason for the 30-metre setback was to prevent the threat of flooding and so that the coastal amenity park could be catered for.
She urged councillors not to accept the 15-metre proposal and warned that when it came to planning applications, a flood risk assessment would be invariably sought by planners who would have to make their decisions based on the findings of this.
“There is no evidence to suggest that it could not be flooded at some point being so close to the sea,” Ms Loughnane added.
But it was pointed out by Cllr Daithi O Cualain (FF) that the coast road is a mere seven metres back from the shoreline and doesn’t flood.
He said that by having a 15-metre restriction seemed acceptable as far as he was concerned and added that he would be supporting the motion.
However, Cllr Jimmy McClearn (FG) said that he had enough experience of flooding and flood plains where he came from in South Galway.
He said that the concept of a 15-metre setback from the sea was not acceptable in his books and would be voting against the motion.
Cllr Thomas argued back that if proper structures were put in place along the coast, then there should be no threat of flooding – similar to Salthill, he added.
Galway city broadcaster is the big winner as national radio station reshuffles the pack
Lunchtime won’t be break time for one Galway city-born broadcaster from the start of next month – because Pamela Joyce has been given a primetime slot in the latest shake-up at Today FM.
The former iRadio presenter, who has also worked with RTÉ, is the new host of the lunchtime show from 12 noon to 2pm – and she’s thrilled!
“I am beyond and excited and honoured to have my name above the door at lunchtimes on Today FM,” she said.
“This is a huge step for me personally and professionally and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the show. You can expect all the best tunes, loads of craic and plenty of divilment. I can’t wait to keep the listeners company through their lunchtime.”
Pamela will make the move from her current evening slot – her latest elevation since joining the station three years ago.
She has been a regular voice on programmes across Today FM and has gained a social following for her Cardi P musical skits on Dermot & Dave.
Pamela Joyce grew up in Rahoon in Galway city, the youngest of four girls. The daughter of a Clifden father and a Ballyhaunis mother, she is a graduate of NUI Galway where she completed a BA in Theatre Studies in 2014.
She describes herself as a keen gamer and admits she lives for reality TV. She supports Man Utd, Connacht Rugby, Galway hurling and Mayo football.
Pamela speaks Irish, is fluent in Spanish – and took some time to learn French as well.
Her move is one of a number of changes that will also see Mayo native Ray Foley as the new voice of afternoons, and Ian Dempsey add an extra hour to his morning show, which means he’s now on air from 6am.
But the shake-up is bad news for another Galway-born presenter – because Today FM has confirmed that Fergal D’Arcy will depart the station. The Ballinasloe man will continue to present his afternoon show in the coming weeks – until the new schedule kicks in.