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Connacht Tribune

Offering crucial support in hard times

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Mary Nolan and Rosa Silva tending to flowers at Gort Cancer Support. PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.

Lifestyle – For 13 years Gort Cancer Support has been a haven for people going through illness, as well as for their families. Run entirely by volunteers, it offers a range of services and therapies in homely surroundings. Originally located in a temporary two-room space it now has a permanent base in the town centre and there are lots of plans for the future as STEPHEN CORRIGAN learns.

A cancer diagnosis lands like a bomb, bringing with it worries and angst, turning lives upside down as all those affected come to terms with an illness nobody wants to arrive at their door.

Since 2007, Gort Cancer Support has sought to be a comfort blanket for all those affected by that illness, including family and friends – and with the organisation having recently opened the newly extended Hollyblue House in Garrabeg, that vital work looks set to continue for many years to come.

At the helm is Mary Nolan, described by fellow volunteers as an unpaid manager, who jokes that her late husband John warned her as she went out to the first meeting in the summer of 2007 to be careful or she’d come home with a job – and he was right.

Since Gort Cancer Support opened in two rooms at the Old Tech, Mary has been there and has seen it transform from a very small operation into a five-days per week service, used by clients from across County Galway and North Clare.

“Back in 2007, a couple of ladies her in the town saw a great need to have a support centre – Sadie McInerney from McInerney’s Auctioneers and Anne Quinn from Quinn’s Pharmacy. Sadie is still very actively involved.

“In the beginning, all the volunteers were trained listeners. People didn’t really know what was going to be expected of the centre at the time – it was open two days a week and somebody manned the phone in the meanwhile, and that’s where we started. It was slow to take off but as time went on, more and more started to come in to us,” recalls Mary of the early days.

From the Tech, they moved to a building on the Ennis Road owned by the Brothers of Charity, but it was in 2010 when benefactors Pat and Jean Collins made what Mary calls “a very generous donation”, that they were able to purchase a permanent home.

“In 2010, there were so many properties on the market but to find a property in a suitable area was very difficult. We didn’t want somewhere in the middle of a housing estate. This building in Garrabeg came on the market and everybody thought it was in a perfect location – in town, beside the main street and yet it was private,” says Mary of the centre, just off Church Street.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Community fights back on hospital ‘downgrade by stealth’

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Raw emotion, sadness and some anger filled the air at Clifden Town Hall on Sky Road last Sunday afternoon as a shaken community gave honest, personal accounts of the impact the closure by stealth of Clifden District Hospital would have on the people of North Connemara.

The public meeting was hastily organised after fears emerged on Friday that the HSE may transfer respite services from Clifden to Merlin Park Hospital, 50-plus miles away in Galway City.

Families were told their loved ones in Clifden Hospital may have to move home, or go to Merlin Park the following Monday, due to ‘issues with staffing’.

An axe has hung over Clifden Hospital for some years, but this latest move stirred the community to fight back to retain services locally.

Galway County Councillor Eileen Mannion (FG), who organised the public meeting with Senator Sean Kyne, said 625 people signed the attendance sheets and an estimated 650 people attended.

“The community effort spreading the word was unbelievable; the turnout was unbelievable,” she said.

“It wasn’t just anger; it was raw emotion in the room. Sadness. Family members spoke about the calls they got on Friday. The feeling that their elderly person was being rejected; that they weren’t being respected.

“One man stood up, three years waiting for respite care for a family member, and then to be told after a few days in there that she’d have to be taken home or to Merlin Park.

“We’re 50 miles from Galway. If there’s no traffic you might get to the outskirts in an hour but with the traffic in Galway, you could be another hour to get to Merlin Park. Not everyone has transport either and they’ve to rely on buses.

“A young woman stood up at the meeting and said her dad was dying in Galway. And she had to go to Saint Vincent de Paul to get money to pay for a B&B so that the family would be close to him when the end came. People gave their personal stories, and it was just heart-breaking.”

(Photo by Carmel Lyden: Teresa Conneely from Roundstone addresses people at the public meeting in Clifden Town Hall).

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read extensive coverage of the Clifden Hospital story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Pilgrim took to his feet to realise dream!

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Clifden man Breandan O Scanaill, who is on a pilgrimage from his home town of Clifden to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, received a Mayoral welcome and a memorial crest when he arrived at the Asturian town of Navia last week.

Breandan, whose walk from his home outside Clifden to the reputed burial place of St James in Santiago, began in April, was walking through Navia in Spain when a local man came over to chat to him.

“He asked me about my journey and was interested in the fact that an Irish man had turned up in the town,” says Breandan, who had been admiring the Chapel of San Roque at the time.

The local man outlined the history of the building and the town to Breandan and they began chatting more generally about history and architecture – topics dear to the pilgrim’s heart.

Breandán’s new friend introduced himself as the Mayor of Navia, lgnacio Garcia Palacios, who invited the visitor from Clifden to visit the Town Hall.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Local Property Tax rate to stay unchanged despite Council chief’s plea

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Councillors have agreed to keep the Local Property Tax (LPT) rate unchanged – despite pleas from management that Galway County Council is predicted to spend at least €22 million more than it brings in for the next two years.

County Chief Executive Jim Cullen had recommended an increase of 15% on the LPT rate for 2023 and 2024 – amounting to €2.1m extra in the coffers annually – which would bolster its case when it came to pleading for a greater share of funding from central government.

In an estimation of income and expenditure for the Council, taking into account “unavoidable” expenditure and income changes set to hit, the Council would run a deficit of €9.04m in 2023 and 13.2m in 2024 – well over €22m unless there was a change in finances.

“I am hopeful of an uplift in baseline [funding] levels . . . we cannot continue to ignore the fact that other councils have raised LPT and their citizens enjoy a better standard of services that in Galway,” he stressed.

He told a meeting this week that €9m would be needed to maintain services next year at the same level as 2022. This was due to significant cost increases given that inflation is reaching 9.6% currently. Pensions, gratuities and payroll increases from the national pay agreement, increments and additional staff were all adding to bigger outgoings.

Without that extra funding, it will be necessary to reduce spending by that amount with a negative impact on service and staffing levels, he said.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the story, including the councillors’ discussions, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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