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Connacht Tribune

New Galway centre for sexually-abused children

Denise McNamara

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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

Public meeting on sludge hub plan for Tuam

Declan Tierney

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The water treatment plant in Tuam

A public meeting to discuss the intake of thousands of tonnes of sludge from various parts of the country to Tuam is to take place next week.

And it has been stated that the proposal would result in around 80 lorry loads of sludge coming in and out of the town on a weekly basis.

The meeting on Monday in the Corralea Court Hotel at 8pm will voice resistance to the proposal – the public have until October 22 to make submissions on the proposal. Local Cllr Donagh Killilea said that the existing wastewater treatment plant in Tuam can only cater for the town itself and believed that this plan could pose a threat to the River Clare.

Irish Water have confirmed that both Tuam and Sligo are being looked at as being ‘sludge hub centres’ which would mean that waste from a variety of plants would be brought to the North Galway town on a daily basis.

It is being resisted locally on the grounds that the existing wastewater treatment plant is at full capacity and that any additional waste would prevent further development in the town.

According to Irish Water they have selected Tuam as a potential location for the effective treatment of wastewater sludge – they are inviting the public’s opinion on this issue. Irish Water say that sludge hub centres form part of Irish Water’s National Wastewater Sludge Management Plan to ensure the safe and sustainable management of sludge.

“A sludge hub centres is a centralised treatment facility for the effective treatment of wastewater sludge prior to reuse or disposal.

“The site selection report identifies Tuam and Sligo Wastewater Treatment Plants as potential sludge hub centres in the North-West region,” they have stated.

But Killilea said that if this is allowed come to Tuam, it will further damage the image of the town at I time when efforts are being made to rebuild its reputation.

“Tuam must say no to this disgusting development. Why should we take waste sludge from landfills, gas works, chemical industry and other hazardous plants, and have farmers spread it on their fields and go through our drinking facility,” Cllr Killilea added.

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Connacht Tribune

Publican prosecuted for allowing smoking

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A lit cigarette on a ledge inside a Loughrea bar during a HSE inspection led to the publican being prosecuted and fined for allowing smoking in a specified place on the premises.

Michael Dempsey of Aggie Madden’s Bar, Main Street, Loughrea, and his bar tender, Carmel Guinen, both pleaded not guilty to Section 47 of the Tobacco Act on December 9 last year.

Peter Gaffey, Environmental Health Officer with the HSE, told the Court there was a strong smell of cigarette smoke as he went through the front door of the bar and that he spotted a lit cigarette on a ledge between the pool table area and a stairs leading down to toilets and a rear exit entrance.

Downstairs, there was construction going on and he also noticed a cigarette butt on the floor of the men’s toilet, which also smelled of smoke.

He inspected the premises again on Monday evening, September 30 as part of the protocol before a Court hearing and again he got a strong smell of smoke around the premises.

He said he didn’t document whether there were ‘no smoking’ signage around the premises but equally didn’t document if there had been an absence of the signs on his first visit. However, he did notice signage on his last visit last week.

Another Environmental Health Officer, Chloe Harper, who accompanied Mr Gaffey on his December visit, said she too got a strong tobacco smell on entering the premises.

She said, after the lit cigarette was found, Ms Guinin had asked the four young men playing pool who had been smoking but they didn’t answer left the bar.

Michael Dempsey told the Court that he had run the bar with his wife for the past six years and employed three other people.

He said that he always made sure nobody smoked on his premises and told the Court that he had spent money on providing a steel canopy over the rear exit door seven months ago at a cost of €1,400 where his patrons could smoke.

He further explained that the cause of the tobacco smell on the premises was due to people leaving the front door open while they smoked outside on the street.

But he said that there was some confusion over E-cigarettes and whether it was legal to smoke them on a licensed premises or not.

“I have made every effort I can to provide a smoking area. There would be absolute war if I found anyone smoking on the premises. . .  but I don’t know if the E-cigarettes are legal or not. Some customers tell me it’s legal. I have a zero tolerance to smoking as I don’t smoke myself,” he said.

Carmel Guinen told the Court she was working on her own the night of the HSE inspection and that one of the young fellows playing pool had lit up and she had asked them to cut it out.

She had accompanied the inspectors during their visit and answered their questions.

Judge James Faughnan said he was satisfied that the HSE had made their case and convicted both Dempsey and Guinen. He said there was lots more Dempsey could do to make sure his customers didn’t smoke on the premises.

Pat Carty, defending, said Mr Dempsey was not running a thriving business and to take that into account by giving him more time to pay a fine.

Dempsey, who has a previous conviction for allowing smoking on the premises, was fined €1,000 plus €1,750 costs and has been restricted from selling tobacco for one week starting on November 1.

Guinen was fined €200. Recognisances were fixed for both and he gave them four months to pay.

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Connacht Tribune

Tuam Stadium unveils its new look

Declan Tierney

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THE OLD AND THE NEW . . . Some of the new seating that has been provided at Tuam Stadium as part of the extensive redevelopment project.

Spectators at last weekend’s county senior football semi-final at Tuam Stadium got a first glimpse of the revamped seated area that will become part of the long-awaited extended stand at the GAA venue.

That’s after planning permission was granted for the complete revamp of the stand which will involve the removal of the old ‘shed-like’ roof and the provision of new seating.

That ensures that, when completed, Tuam Stadium will have a covered stand with almost 4,000 seats, so that the venue will be able to host some of the top national football league and championship games.

Former Football Board Chairman John Joe Holleran said that works were progressing satisfactorily on the redevelopment of Tuam Stadium.

He also revealed that works would take place on the terraced areas which would provide the venue with a capacity of around 18,000 which would be sufficient to accommodate any provincial decider – although these matches are required to be played in designated county grounds…and Tuam is not.

But Mr Holleran, who is one of the driving forces behind the Development Advocates for Tuam Stadium (DAFTS) confirmed that more than €350,000 had been raised for the redevelopment of the venue and this has been boosted by a €110,000 plus sports capital grant.

However, he stressed that further funding needed to be raised in order to complete the project and that it why it was difficult for him to provide the Connacht Tribune with a timeframe for works to be completed.

Tuam Stadium was the first venue in Connacht to have a covered stand and the existing bench-type seating date back to the 1960s. They are in urgent need of replacing.

Works at the venue so far have included the provision of four new dressing rooms and the completion of a terraced area which will be equipped with around 1,800 seats that will eventually be covered in.

It was interesting to see the attendance at both the county senior semi-final between Corofin and Salthill-Knocknacarra – and the earlier county junior final between Glenamaddy and Salthill-Knocknacarra – make the most of the works that have already taken place.

Some of the maroon seats have already been provided and the white seats will be installed during this week and into next week, weather permitting.

Planning permission has been granted for the provision of a new roof for the existing stand but this will be extended over to new terraced area where the maroon and white seating have been provided.

Recently, local company Tommy Varden Limited provided €50,000 towards the provision of the provision of the new seating at the venue and that was an additional significant boost to the development.

Indeed, the late Tommy Varden, who was a staunch supporter of Galway football and an advocate of the development of Tuam Stadium, will have his immense contribution recognised at the ground.

John Joe Holleran said that the legacy that he left was immense and had to be recognised. “He was the fabric of Galway football during his whole life,” he added.

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