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Connacht Tribune

Negotiating shared spaces in the midst of a pandemic

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TESS FINCH-LEES

It’s been a difficult week for journalist TESS FINCH-LEES, with the loss of a friend to Covid-19 – underlining again the need for everyone to be conscious of observing social protocols in extraordinary times.

I lost a friend to Coronavirus this week. That’s a sentence I wasn’t planning to write and one I hope you never have to say.

My deceased friend is survived by his partner, who is also my friend. They only had each other and now her soul mate is gone. No doubt a walk on the beach would do her good but she has to settle for a backyard the size of a postage stamp, the walls of which close in with each passing day, in lockdown. In agonising grief.

Another friend is a medic living in a flat with no garden and is going stir crazy. She’s afraid to use the park 50 yards away because of unleashed dogs approaching her dog and toddler. Once, after seven days of twelve-hour shifts, she broke down in tears pleading with someone to put their dog on a lead.

I told a mutual friend that I was worried about both of the above women being isolated and vulnerable, but he was more concerned about his own mental health.

He lives in a house with a garden in the countryside. Yet, he is ‘compelled’ to drive beyond 2km to take his dog ‘for a run off the lead’, on a beach where unleashed dogs are not allowed. Ever.

As empathetically as I could muster, I pressed him to reflect on his behaviour. What about dog owners and parents with children in high rise flats in cities? Is your mental health more important than theirs”? “If everyone behaved like you the roads and beaches would be full…”

Realising that he wasn’t responding to the intravenous dose of compassionate truth I had administered, I pulled the plug on our friendship.

This isn’t dog owner versus non dog owner. It’s irresponsible dog owners versus everyone else. The above (former) friend’s justification for not using a dog lead was “there’s no evidence that dogs can infect humans”.

There are far more unknowns than knowns with regard to Covid-19 but we’ve always known that this is a highly contagious, deadly disease for which there is no vaccine or cure. This should have triggered what scientists call the precautionary principle, which means erring on the side of caution to prevent widespread infection and preserve life.

Instead, our politicians unleashed three words which I believe, served to fuel the deadly pandemic: “There’s no evidence.”

At various times, these words have been used in relation to the following, all of which have since proved gravely mistaken: the apparent lack of community contagion, there being no need to restrict nursing home visitors, racegoers returning from Cheltenham not being advised to self-isolate unless they show symptoms despite warnings that people can be asymptomatic and contagious for 14 days. I could go on.

The absence of evidence should not be confused with evidence of absence. It just means the testing isn’t happening and/or data isn’t available.

With residents of nursing and care homes representing almost 60% of all Coronavirus related deaths, this is surely evidence that the precautionary principle should have been invoked sooner by Tony Holohan.

The World Organisation for Animal Health warns: “Now that COVID-19 virus infections are widely distributed in the human population, there is a possibility for some animals to become infected through close contact with infected humans. Studies are under way to better understand the susceptibility of different animal species to the COVID-19 virus and to assess infection dynamics in susceptible animal species”.

A number of vets have cautioned that dogs’ coats, like any other surface, can carry viruses to humans and the ISPCA, the Dog Trust, Veterinary Ireland and Galway County Council are all stipulating that dog owners keep their dogs on leads at all times in public spaces.

In the same way that social distancing and unnecessary travel is obligatory (not discretionary), so too is keeping dogs on leads in public places during this pandemic.

Not all laws and rules can be policed. For society to function, it requires shared social norms, collective responsibility and community compassion.

Never before has our behaviour in shared spaces had a more profound impact on the lives and wellbeing of others.

At a time when space is so limited and freedom of movement so restricted, encroaching on that of others is no longer just selfish, it’s reckless and anti-social.

Either lockdown applies to everyone or no-one. The choices we make today will determine the extent to which lives and friendships will be lost to this pandemic tomorrow.

This article is dedicated to the people worldwide, my friend included, whose lives have been claimed by Covid-19. Suaimhneas síoraí dóibh uile.

■ Tess Finch-Lees is an international human rights journalist, who writes for the Guardian and other outlets. She is also a therapist and lecturer in ethics and discrimination. Having spent her childhood between Dublin, Galway and Mayo, she recently returned home to live in her mother’s native Galway.

Connacht Tribune

Record crowds pack Ballinasloe to celebrate Fair’s 300th anniversary

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Crowds flock to the Fairgreen at the Ballinasloe Horse Fair.

RECORD crowds packed into Ballinasloe last weekend for the return of the famous October Fair – but it turned to be a ‘dry day’ for the punters with most of the pubs in the town taking the decision to close their doors on Sunday.

Hotels in the town also adopted either a ‘food only’ or ‘residents only’ policy through Sunday but Gardaí reported a trouble-free weekend in the town.

“There were huge crowds around and especially so on Sunday, but we had no reports of any trouble – it was practically an incident free weekend,” said a Garda spokesperson.

Many visitors to the Fair on Sunday expressed disappointment at the decision of the pubs to close  – although a few establishments did open their doors with special security arrangements in place.

The last ‘official fair’ took place in October, 2019, and while there was an unofficial event last year, it was only a small gathering due to the Covid restrictions.

An estimated 3,000 people turned out for the free open-air country music concert with Mike Denver in the Square on Sunday afternoon and Fair organisers also reported a very busy sales day with many horses changing hands.

Trustee of the Ballinasloe Showgrounds, Gerry Stronge, told the Connacht Tribune, that after a three-year break, the crowds had really thronged back into the town on Sunday.

“Most people I know that have been attending the Fair for years said that it was biggest crowd they had ever seen there on the first Sunday of the event.

“It was an incredible day – the streets were absolutely jammed with people – and it was most enjoyable with no trouble whatsoever,” he said.

Get the full story with loads of photos in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

A remarkable rally sees St Thomas’ reel in the ’Bridge

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Clarinbridge's Conor Lee tries to shake off the attentions of St Thomas' Victor Manso during Saturday's Senior A Group tie at Kenny Park. Photos: David Cunniffe.

St. Thomas’ 4-20

Clarinbridge 4-17

DARREN KELLY AT KENNY PARK

NOTHING at ‘stake’ but pride and last year’s two senior hurling championship finalists had plenty of that on Saturday as St. Thomas and Clarinbridge served up a thriller in their final group game.

Both teams were already guaranteed places in the knockout stages but for the winners, a path straight through to the quarter-finals proper was the reward and they played like that meant everything.

Obviously, neither side wanted to show weakness ahead of a potential showdown later in the year. The contest even had a half-time scuffle that resulted in yellow cards for St. Thomas’ duo John Headd and Conor Cooney.

Despite all that and the changing weather, the hurling was the only item for discussion afterwards. Three first half Clarinbridge goals gave them a 3-10 to 0-11 interval lead.  Four green flags for St. Thomas in the second period reminded the county that they still are the team to beat.

And that was the talking point before throw-in following their 22-match unbeaten streak ending with a heavy defeat to Turloughmore two weeks previously. And it wasn’t looking any better for St. Thomas’ when TJ Brennan struck a second minute goal for Clarinbridge.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Country Living

Recalling strange times that ‘shook up’ our lives

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

THE other day while doing another of those clear-outs of old documents that are well past their sell-by-date, I came across a couple of letters from my employer, which jolted me back into another world . . . but still a quite recent one.

Their purpose was to indicate that I needed to show up for work in-person (an essential employee if you don’t mind!) and if I was stopped at a Garda Covid checkpoint, then I could produce this piece of paperwork. We really did go through some strange times.

There are occasions too when I leave my desk and just for a split-second think that I’ve forgotten to don my mask. That same feeling also crosses my mind at times as I enter shops or other public places but then I realise that’s all very much of ‘yesterday’s news’.

Reminders still persist of those black days across the country mostly on visits to healthcare settings like pharmacies, GP surgeries or nursing homes, where staff still wear masks, and visitors are encouraged to do the same.

It takes me back to a Sunday evening on March 15, 2020, in my local watering hole less than 48-hours before the arrival of St. Patrick’s Day, when we were all highly sceptical about any pubs closing down.

We reassured ourselves too that such a development could never happen in a country noted for ‘the craic’ as our traditional day of national celebration approached. In our innocence, we thought we were wise old sods . . . but we had gotten things spectacularly wrong.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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