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Massive turn-out expected for march to save mental health unit



A key four day period in the campaign to save a brand new €2.8 million acute mental health unit in Ballinasloe begins today (Sunday) when hundreds of people are expected to join a protest march through the town (1pm).

Four days later, on the day the Dail resumes after its summer break, a delegation from the East Galway town will meet a group of politicians in Dublin – including Labour’s Minister of State for Health Kathleen Lynch – to make the case for keeping the unit open.

The Health Service Authority (West) decision to close the brand new 22-bed unit has caused uproar throughout East Galway and Roscommon since it was announced six weeks ago.

Doctors, mental health care professionals, sports and social clubs, and the families of service users have joined a vocal campaign group which has vowed to keep the unit at St Brigid’s Hospital open.

The protest march on Sunday has been organised by the East Galway Mental Health Action Group, which sprung up after over 500 people attended an emotional meeting in the town two weeks ago.

Senior mental health service managers in the area went over the heads of the HSA (West) by writing to the National Director to call for an external review of the shock decision to close the state-of-the-art unit.

This week, the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) said the plans to remove the 22 acute beds from St Brigid’s without putting community health teams in place as an “abuse” of the national Vision for Change strategy for mental health services.

“Vision for Change is  not so much that you need to remove beds more that the needs for beds is removed, while the HSE  West is using Vision as a means of cutting beds without having the community supports in place to meet the demand for services,” said PNA National Secretary Noel Giblin.

The PNA believes adequate community based teams for older people and those with intellectual disability cannot be put in place by the end of the year, given that it took 14 years for a smiliar model to be introduced to the mental health services in Cavan and Monaghan.

Mr Giblin said the reality of the situation in Galway and Roscommon was that 32 acute beds were being taken out of the system, while there were no acute mental health teams in place who could treat patients in their own homes.

Those attending the protest will assemble at the Ballinasloe Library car park at 12.30pm, before marching through Society Street, Main Street, and New Road, before finishing in St Michael’s Square, where a number of speakers will address the protestors.


For more on this story, see the current edition of the Connacht Tribune


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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