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Library service under pressure over staffless plans

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The reading public in Galway is resisting plans to introduce ‘staffless’ libraries.

More than 2,700 people have signed a petition in Galway, calling on Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Simon Coveney to halt the roll-out of staffless libraries across the country.

The petition calls on the Minister to engage with stakeholders who have a vested interest in the future of public libraries before continuing with the introduction of an ‘open library’ policy.

Open libraries allow pre-registered library members to access library buildings and facilities outside of the normal staffed opening times.

Members must be vetted first before they are issued with a special access card. Security is provided by un-monitored CCTV cameras.

The scheme is being piloted currently in Sligo and Offaly; and there are plans to roll-out staffless libraries in 23 more libraries around the country, including in Ballinasloe and Oranmore.

Representatives of the Staff Our Libraries Galway campaign took to Shop Street in the city centre recently and garnered over 2,700 signatures, heaping pressure on the minister and Galway County Council to reverse plans to introduce staffless libraries here.

Members of trade union IMPACT, have already balloted on the issue of staffless libraries – more than 90% voted in favour of industrial action if the Local Government Management Agency does not engage with staff representatives.

“Surely library staff should not have to threaten industrial action just to have their voices heard,” said Michelle Walsh, of Staff Our Libraries, Galway.

Ms Walsh outlined the feedback the campaign has received on the streets of Galway.

“Many people shook their heads sadly and wondered what the government is likely to think up next. They described open libraries as ‘daft’ and ridiculous and expressed the fear that the scheme will lead to library closures down the line. Some went so far as to suggest that this might even be the whole aim of the policy, in order to save money on another public service” she said.

Ms Walsh added: “Everyone spoke of their anger and frustration at having to do more and more of their daily business through automated telephone answering systems and machines.

“When it comes to libraries, they felt it is vital to keep the personal touch and the human contact, and for people to have an opportunity to ask a question, or get a piece of advice. On the issue of safety and security, even grown men said that they would not feel safe going into unstaffed premises at night.

“The general view from all those who took the time to offer their opinions on open libraries was that, under this scheme, the ‘soul’, ‘character’, and ‘whole atmosphere’ of the public library service will be lost.

“Minority groups within the community are upset that, under the vetting scheme for open libraries, they may be denied access to library buildings, while library workers do not want to be in a position where they have to judge the worthiness, or unworthiness, of each applicant.

“The core principle of the public library service has always been that it is open and accessible to all. Libraries are places where everyone is treated equally.”

Galway county librarian Peter Rabbitt, who oversees 30 libraries across the city, county and islands with 40,000 members, has said on the record that the scheme is no cause for alarm for the future of our libraries. Oranmore has been approved for funding of €62,000 to introduce the technology while Ballinasloe, the county’s newest facility, will get over €18,000 to convert.

“There’s a bit of a misconception about this with people thinking it will lead to unstaffed libraries. It’s to add extra hours. It doesn’t mean we’re going to reduce staff,” he said.

Connacht Tribune

Galway Lotto prize winner off to see the King!

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A National Lottery player from Conamara is still in disbelief after claiming their EuroMillions ‘Ireland Only Raffle’ ticket worth a staggering €1,005,000 this week – and is already planning a trip to Graceland!

The player, who wishes to remain anonymous, said they didn’t realise they had the winning ticket.

“I was looking at my ticket and it didn’t have any of the EuroMillions numbers, I didn’t think I’d won anything, so I threw it somewhere in the car. I completely forgot to check the raffle code on the bottom of the ticket!

“A few weeks later I decided to do a clear out of the car and I found the ticket wedged down the side of the seat. I scanned the ticket on the app and called the National Lottery Claims Team and that’s when they told me I was a millionaire! I couldn’t speak, I was in such complete and utter shock!

“I had a plan to surprise my wife for her birthday by putting the cheque in the card, but my great plan lasted all of one hour, I just had to tell her, I couldn’t keep it a secret any longer!”, they added.

The player purchased the winning EuroMillions ticket worth €1,005,000 on the day of the draw, Friday 19th August, in Costcutter in Beal an Dangan.

They revealed some plans they hope to achieve with the new life-changing prize.

“We’ve always wanted to go to Graceland in Memphis to visit the home of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll himself. That’s all we have in mind for the moment, we’re still letting it all sink in”, they said.

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Connacht Tribune

Exhumations to begin next year at Tuam Mother and Baby Home site

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A full exhumation of the bodies of children buried in the grounds of Tuam Mother and Baby Home will begin in 2023.

A ‘Director of Authorised Intervention’ is to be appointed by Government to oversee the excavation of the site where it is believed almost 800 children were interred in an unmarked grave.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman, in bringing matter before the Dáil, said it was incumbent on the State to address what was “a stain on our national conscience”.

Deputy Catherine Connolly, TD for Galway West, said while the news on the exhumation was welcome, she had “lost faith” in the Government which she said had “learnt absolutely nothing” and had to be “dragged” every step of the way.

It had failed to bring forward a redress scheme for survivors of the home, she said, and Minister O’Gorman had rowed back on a previous commitment to have an independent human rights review of the testimony provided by survivors to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

“I don’t think he should ever have promised that because he was never in a position to do it. He was never going to question the establishment narrative given to us by the three wise commissioners, the narrative that told us that the evidence of those who came forward was contaminated and should therefore be treated with caution,” said Deputy Connolly.

“We continue to begrudge and to do everything belatedly. If we are seriously interested in redress, let us do it right.”

Paying tribute to those who shone a light on the wrongdoings in the Tuam Home and elsewhere, Deputy Connolly said it was they who had forced the Government’s hand.

“On the ground, we have seen Catherine Corless and, well before her, Mary Raftery. I also want to mention Patricia Burke Brogan [activist and playwright] who died last week – may she rest in peace – with regard to the work she did in respect of the Magdalen laundries, in particular with the play Eclipsed.

“The groups on the ground have certainly forced us and dragged us every step of the way,” she said.

Agreeing, Minister O’Gorman said it was absolutely right to recognise critical the role of Tuam historian, Catherine Corless.

“We would not be here today but for her dogged persistence in highlighting what happened in Tuam.

“Deputy Connolly mentioned the redress legislation. This legislation has been worked on by my Department over the summer and I will bring it to Cabinet in October to seek approval for the final Bill and to bring it rapidly through the Houses [of the Oireachtas] and the committee, so that we can provide redress to family members,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Seán Canney, TD for Galway East, said what had happened had impacted the people of Tuam deeply and said the Director, when he or she is appointed, should be based in Galway and seek to engage with locals during the excavation process.

“It has created a sense of a stain on, or a shadow over Tuam as a town. Tuam is a very good town and has the finest people living there.

“The Minister has set out in his speech how a Director would be appointed . . . and that an office will be set up to manage the excavation and all that goes with it. However, it is important that there is local engagement with the people of the town,” said Deputy Canney.

“The office should be set in the town and there should be a liaison aspect to the brief that this director will have so people from the locality who want to know what is going on can find out,” he continued, adding that locals should be able to meet the Director in Tuam and not Dublin or anywhere else.

Minister O’Gorman outlined that the Director would oversee a phased forensic-standard excavation, recovery, analysis and re-interment of the remains.

“The order also provides that the Director will carry out an identification programme as an additional function for the intervention,” he said.

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Connacht Tribune

Customs ‘dip’ for green diesel on Aran island

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Revenue officers made an unannounced visit to Inis Mór last week – with around 10 customs officials performing spot checks for marked diesel.

The Connacht Tribune understands that three motorists were nabbed by the officers for driving with ‘green diesel’ – a fuel only permissible for off-road use, mainly in agriculture.

According to a source in Revenue, this surprise visit is a return to normal service, with spot checks having stalled during Covid.

As part of the operation, customs officers were drafted in from various locations and travelled to the island without prior notice to Gardaí.

Having arrived by ferry from both Galway Docks and Ros a’ Mhíl, officers performed a number of checks at the Pier in Kilronan and also visited Dún Aonghasa.

Vehicles were dipped for green diesel for which tax is paid at a much cheaper rate than road diesel. Those convicted of using marked diesel on the roads face a maximum fine of up to €5,000.

A garda spokesperson confirmed that a group of Revenue officers visited Inis Mór on Friday, September 16, and were facilitated by gardaí on the island.

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