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Connacht Tribune

New Galway centre for sexually-abused children

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Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan with Children's Minister Katherine Zappone

A new Galway centre for sexually abused children is based on an overseas model where the numbers of investigations doubled and prosecutions tripled once all services were brought under one roof.

The Barnahus Onehouse Galway service will be the first of its kind in Ireland and will be used to roll out other centres across the country.

The location has yet to be finalised but is expected to be operating within months – treating children and adolescents in the Galway/Roscommon catchment areas.

Forensic, child protection, medical, therapeutic and policing services for children who have been subjected to sexual abuse or are suspected victims will be delivered together in a child-friendly setting to avoid re-traumatising them.

At the launch at NUI Galway, the centre was described as a game-changer by Dr Geoffrey Shannon, former Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, and leading expert in child and family law on whose recommendation the centre was set up.

The Galway-born solicitor’s audit of 5,400 cases of emergency removal of children from their families by Gardaí over eight years uncovered poor and limited interagency communication and cooperation, which he declared was the key road block in child protection.

The audit was carried out following the removal of a blonde child from a Romanian family after complaints from the public that the child may have been abducted – claims that were later found to be unfounded.

The Galway centre involves three departments – Children and Youth Affairs; Health; Justice and Equality – and three agencies – Tusla; the HSE; An Garda Síochána – working together.

By co-locating the services together, essential agencies can share vital information about children and their families, he pointed out.

“Emergency powers need to be followed up by continuity of care informed by communication, cooperation that goes beyond a paper exercise,” he told the lecture hall.

“Meaningful cooperation would ensure interventions are proportionate, developmentally appropriate and culturally sensitive

“In the absence of such cooperation, there is the very real potential that services designed to ensure protection will cause further trauma.”

And after examining centres in Iceland, New York, Antrim and Oxford, it was clear the model had very tangible results.

In Iceland, twice as many investigations of child sexual abuse cases were carried out while the number of cases that were prosecuted tripled.

“It is a safe place to disclose abuse, it is child friendly, it provides a supportive environment, safe from those suspected of perpetrating abuse,” he told the press conference.

Dr Shanahan said it was reassuring to have both the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone as well as the Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan at the launch, which spoke volumes about the Government’s commitment to child protection.

Noting that there was still much work to do to help victims of sexual abuse, he said legislation was needed to allow the child victim to give evidence and be cross-examined within a short time of the event occurring using video technology.

This could then be used during the court case, allowing the child to get on with life and recover from the incident, rather than re-live it when the case eventually comes to court.

Minister Zappone said it was Dr Shannon’s 2017 audit that was a catalyst for her to set up a steering group to establish the centre which was a priority project during her tenure.

“When children cross the threshold, they feel safe, supported, loads of beautiful colours, with a section where they can play if they want to.

“It’s not just being in the place. It’s developing the processes and ways of communicating and the trust that makes the difference. And even then, it’s hard to do what it is you need to do to work with a child or young person that has so brutally been abused.

“…This is such important work.”

She said one of the most appealing aspects of the Barnahus model was the child centred of the approach which reduced the need for children to repeatedly recount their traumatic experiences as they engaged with multiple agencies. It also allowed families to be supported in caring for their child throughout a difficult process.

Minister Flanagan said all the bodies involved would “overlap, work together and become entwined”.

Officers specially trained in interviewing sexual abuse victims will be available in Divisional Protective Services Units located in all Garda divisions by the end of the year.

These officers would support the delivery of a consistent and professional approach to the investigation of sexual crime, for adults and children alike.

“This is a very positive step towards reducing the trauma and supporting victims through the criminal investigative process.”

Eilish Hardiman, who was speaking on behalf of the Minister for Health Simon Harris, noted the increased number of referrals to the Galway centre before it even opens.

“So there is an unmet need here,” she told the conference.

She said Minister Harris had promised ring-fenced funding for permanent posts to staff the centre.

Before and after the conference, a seminar also took place attended by 100 healthcare professionals with international and local speakers giving an overview of how the service would operate.

Connacht Tribune

Just the spirit

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Gareth and Michelle McAllister pictured at the old mill in Ahascragh where the new whiskey and gin distillery will be estabished. Photos: Gerry Stronge.

A former grain mill in the village of Ahascragh is being converted into a distillery thanks to Gareth and Michelle McAllister who have big plans to meet growing demand for craft Irish whiskey and gin in the Far East as well as closer to home. They are also developing a visitor centre in the distillery and are currently offering people a chance to invest in their company as DECLAN TIERNEY learns.

A product that will be developed in the East Galway village of Ahascragh will find its way Asia and various other parts of the world following a courageous initiative by a couple who aim to become huge names in the distillery industry.

Given their thirst for the distilling of craft whiskey and gin, Dublin couple Gareth and Michelle McAllister are set to put the tiny village on the international map by transforming an old corn mill into a major employer as well as a tourist attraction as part of a €10 million investment.

Works have already started on giving the old mill, previously an ivy-clad eyesore in the village, a brand-new look and the couple hope to go into full production by the end of next year – ready for the 2022 Christmas market.

Employment has already commenced in the marketing and administration end of the distillery and when it’s in full production, Gareth and Michelle will create around 40 new jobs in the village.

They will be producing two whiskey products and one gin when they’re at full capacity but already they are bottling a single malt under their own product name. This is currently on the market . . . and is proving particularly popular, despite limited availability at the moment.

The distillery is a labour of love for Gareth, a chemical engineer by profession, and Michelle who worked as a psychologist but is now operating the café in Ahascragh that they opened earlier this year to coincide with the launch of the distillery.

Both worked in China for seven years in different roles and while there, they discovered that there was a big demand for Irish-made spirits. They are now determined to explore this particular niche in the market as well as developing outlets across Europe and in the market here at home.

“This has been foremost in our plans and aspirations for some considerable time,” explained Gareth. “Since our time in Asia and Singapore we discovered that Irish spirits were a much sought-after product. As part of my training as a chemical engineer, distilling formed part of this.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Fascinating final in store but St Thomas’ hold most of the aces

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Salthill/Knocknacarra's Niall McGauran on the attack against Luke Murray of Dunmore MacHales during Saturday's County U19 football A final at Tuam Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

ST Thomas’ will be attempting to achieve what has proven beyond three great Galway club hurling teams over the past 30 years when targeting a four-in-a-row of senior titles at Pearse Stadium on Sunday. During their respective periods of dominance Sarsfields, Athenry and Portumna were nearly untouchable on their best days, but winning four consecutive county senior hurling championships proved a bridge too far for each of these former powers.

Athenry went the closest of them all. Heading to Duggan Park in October 2001 – the last senior final to be played in Ballinasloe – Pat Nally’s troops stood 60 minutes away from claiming a fourth title on the trot. The red-hot favourites came mightily close too, only losing by a point (0-18 to 2-11) to a Clarinbridge outfit winning their first ever title.

Portumna pulled off the title hat-trick in 2009, but didn’t make it back to the following year’s final, and while Sarsfields – under Michael Conneely – triumphed in 1992, ’93 and ’95, they came unstuck in the 1994 decider when falling to Athenry (2-6 to 0-9). These three clubs were outstanding ambassadors for Galway club hurling, but there was no four-in-a row for any of them.

It underlines how difficult the achievement is and we must go back to the Turloughmore team of the sixties for a club to enjoy such an extended stranglehold on the county championship. They ended up winning six titles on the trot, but have only won the one since – in 1985 when overcoming Killimordaly (1-14 to 1-4) at Pearse Stadium.

Given that St Thomas’ are only one hour away from a fourth consecutive title, it’s curious that they are not yet held in the same awe as Sarsfields, Athenry or Portumna when they were at the peak of their powers. Perhaps, their lone All-Ireland club success up to now may have some influence in this regard.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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Connacht Tribune

Students see red over in-person exams

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NUIG.

NUI Galway has moved this week to deny accusations that it is ‘playing Russian Roulette’ with students’ wellbeing by proceeding with in-person exams.

The Students’ Union blasted the university for its decision to forge ahead with examinations in exam halls amid sky-rocketing Covid-19 cases.

President of the SU, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, slammed college authorities for what she described as a ‘reckless attitude to students’ health and wellbeing’.

“The stubborn refusal by university management is playing Russian Roulette with the health of students and their families.

“We are talking about forcing people to attend multiple spreader-events right before they go home to their families for Christmas. This is reckless and irresponsible from university management, particularly when there is a tried and trusted alternative available,” said the student leader.

In-person exams for the vast majority of students were cancelled last year as the university remained closed throughout the most stringent Covid-19 restrictions.

However, students have been back attending lectures since September and NUIG plans to proceed with normal exams for the first time since Summer 2019 – albeit with a number of risk mitigating measures in place.

The Connacht Tribune has learned that following applications by in excess of 500 students for ‘reasonable accommodation’ – where certified conditions that increase the risk of adverse reaction to Covid infection – there will be 1,600 instances where exams will be sat in individual rooms.

It is understood that there are 16 exam venues this year – a much greater number than in previous years – and that additional cleaning measures including ‘air fogging’ will be carried out to sanitise large venues.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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