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Mother challenges law that stops daughter buying house



Date Published: {J}

By Darragh Mc Donagh

A Galway mother is calling for a change to the law that has prevented her teenage daughter from buying a house in her own name because she has Down syndrome.

Phil Kennedy of Waterlane in Bohermore claims the law clearly conflicts with the constitutional principle of equality, but fears that the stress of a protracted legal challenge would be fatally damaging to her ill health.

Parents Phil Kennedy and local author Ken Bruen wanted to buy another house in Waterlane for their only daughter, Grace (17), so that she could continue to live independently. However, the law prevents a person with Down syndrome from being a party to such a transaction.

“I’m nearly 62 and she’s nearly 18, and I’ve had cancer twice,” said Phil. “It’s very important that I see how she fares out and whatever she needs, we can put in place for her.

“I don’t have the health for a constitutional challenge. I would be able to do it; I would also win it. But it would also kill me,” she added. “I’ve fought too many battles and I’m not able to fight anymore.”

She is now calling for support in her bid to change an area of the law that she says is archaic and inconsistent with modern equality ideals.

“Down syndrome is a condition, it is not a description,” she insisted. “I have had cancer twice but I didn’t become it. What makes Grace different is that she looks her condition, and we are being punished for making her independent.”

The problem stems from a legal assumption that a person with the condition is not mentally competent to enter into legally binding contracts. However, Phil claims there is much inconsistency in the area of law.

She recalled that the man from whom she bought her home in Waterlane was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and “didn’t even know he was selling it”.

“He was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s but was brought to outside the Victoria Hotel where the auction was being held to sign the contract with his solicitors,” she said. “He hadn’t a clue where he was and he certainly didn’t know that his house had been sold.”

Phil has been informed by her solicitors that a similar case involving a man with autism who was stopped from buying a home because he was deemed to be mentally incompetent is currently being examined.

Grace passed her Junior Certificate exams at the Convent of Mercy last year and is currently on work placement during Transition Year at the city school. Her efforts to buy a home in her own name ended last Friday when her father purchased the house at Waterlane.

Her mother is calling on equality groups and Down syndrome organisations to help her bring about change in the area. “Shame on them that they never challenged this,” she said. “Nobody seems to know that the situation exists.”


Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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