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Missionary nun turns novelist!

Stephen Corrigan

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Sister Bernadette Joyce spent her schooldays dreaming of far-away lands as she read about the missions in a magazine she delivered as a school job.

Little did she realise back then that she would go on to become a nun and spend over 40 years on the missions – 27 of those working with the poor in the shanty towns of Chile.

It was the time the Headford native spent in Chile that has formed the basis for her new novel, ‘Eva’s Journey’. The book, centred on an eight-year old girl moving through the years to her as a woman in her forties, brings to life the sense of fear and deprivation that people felt in Chile under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

While the book is a work of fiction, the story is based on real life events that Bernadette, who is originally from the townland of Carrowbeg, witnessed and experienced whilst working in the South American country.

Eva had her life shaped by the disappearance of her grandfather, an experience common in Chile during the time Bernadette spent there, from 1974 to 2001.

Eva’s battle against the rough hand she had been dealt is a representation, according to Bernadette, of the strength of character she encountered in so many people in Chile.

The novel came about because Bernadette felt she had a story that needed to be told, despite never intending to write a book.

“I was hoping the idea would go away, but it never went away.

“It had to be done; in fact I was compelled inside my own conscience to write because of the awful experience I had towards the end. I can’t disclose that now, but it is horrific, and I said these people had to have their story brought into the light,” she said.

Capturing the sense of fear and anguish that was everyday life in Chile was no mean feat. However, Bernadette explained that having lived under it herself, she found it easier to put into words.

“It was difficult alright but when you had lived in it, you were very aware of the fear factor. And even ourselves, as the four missionaries there, we knew that we were being watched and nobody trusted anybody,” said Bernadette.

The Parish Priest the missions were sent to was very right-wing. His praise of Pinochet was something that would often cause the nuns’ ‘eyes to glaze over’.

“At one stage he said to somebody, ‘you know they aren’t that bad, I don’t think they have communist eyes’,” she laughed, recalling the way in which he viewed the missionaries.

Bernadette chose to launch her book on International Women’s Day in homage to the strength of the women of Chile and the huge contribution they made to the struggle against poverty.

“I admired the fact that the women there carried the can in every sense of the word. They paved the way, they were extraordinary women, and I’m glad I’m launching it on International Women’s Day. They deserve to be recognised and attributed,” she said.

The final part of the book is set in the Atacama Desert where the homeless went in search of a piece of land and a home, and where an ‘awful tragedy occurred’. Bernadette spent her final days in Chile with the homeless in the desert.

Bernadette takes no praise for her extraordinary life. She believed that she gained much more than she gave and was hugely thankful for the experiences she has had.

And while she now lives in the city, her links to Carrowbeg remain strong, with her nephew and his children still living there.

The village now boasts having two published authors with Bernadette joining ranks with her neighbour and friend, Tommy Walsh, known for ‘Favourite Poems we Learned in School’ – something which she is very proud of.

‘Eva’s Journey’ launched on Tuesday night last at the Ardilaun Hotel and all proceeds from it will go towards helping the families in Chile that Bernadette has written about.

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
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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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
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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