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Offering help and hope to Haiti

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Michael Nolan (second from left) at Our Little Brothers and Sisters Orphanage in Haiti where he volunteered in 2015. He is pictured with Sr Benito from the orphanage; the Papal Nuncio to Haiti and Scarriff native Fr Eugene Nugent; Westport woman Gena Heraty from the orphanage; and the Papal Nuncio to Sri Lanka, Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Tot.

Lifestyle – Retired teacher Michael Nolan fulfilled a dream in 2015 by volunteering at an orphanage in Haiti. The Ballygar man has now published a book of poems and stories to raise funds for this home and its special-needs facility. He tells STEPHEN GLENNON about Haiti’s troubled past, its current challenges and how this orphanage is a haven for abandoned children in one of the world’s poorest countries.

Essays that lay at the bottom of a dresser drawer for several years have finally been given a home by Ballygar author, Michael Nolan. He has published a collection of stories and poems to raise funds for an orphanage in Haiti where he volunteered in the summer of 2015.

In the book, Memories of Haiti And Other Stories, Michael recounts his time at Our Little Brothers and Sisters Orphanage in Kenscoff and some of his recollections are heart-breaking.

One story tells of a boy who died in hospital and the poignant scene when Westport woman Gena Heraty, who runs the orphanage’s special-needs programme, brought his body back there, to be laid to rest.

“I will never forget that,” says Michael. “We went out to meet them on the way in. Gena got out of the truck and you’d think she was about to collapse. He was about 13 or 14 when he died and all his mates, boys and girls, limped over to hug Gena. It was heart-breaking; it was so moving.”

The boy had suffered from various illnesses since birth and had been abandoned at the age of two. He was one of many being cared for at the orphanage and at Kay Cristine, which was the home for the children with special needs.

“That was really inspirational, that house,” says Michael. “Gena Heraty is an amazing woman who has been there about 25 years. She is part of the management now and is hands-on. She would be over the special needs and Kay Cristine is a special house for them, for those people with various ailments, physical and intellectual.

“They are from the ages of five up to 30 and I used to go there in the evenings for prayers. Gena is an inspirational woman. She would go around tucking the children into bed, hugging them, and making sure they were okay,” recalls Michael, who says that, due to Covid, fundraising for the facility has been difficult. “So, every €5 means a lot to them.”

For children who began their lives in abandonment, this care and love must be a shining beacon in a land that harbours a dark history. The size of Munster, Haiti has a population in excess of 10.5 million people.

Michael notes that the French, who colonised Haiti in the 17th Century, ran “one of the most brutally efficient slave colonies” until the population rebelled in what was the world’s first successful slave revolution, between 1791 and 1804. Haiti gained independence, although it had to pay a war debt to France that crippled the country’s economy.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Ethics Officer finds FF councillors did nothing wrong with €180,000 pot

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Four Fianna Fáil councillors in the Tuam area accused by colleagues of ‘hijacking’ a €180,000 fund, have been told they did nothing wrong.

The fund was allocated to Tuam Municipal Council as part of a €1 million allocation by the Government to the county’s five municipal councils in order to “strengthen municipal districts”.

While the other area councils agreed amongst themselves on where the money should be spent, agreement could not be reached.

Instead, the four Fianna Fáil councillors, who have control of the seven-member Tuam Municipal Council, decided where the money should be allocated, which infuriated the other three members.

The matter was referred to the Ethics Officer of Galway County Council who was asked to investigate if this contravened the Minister’s direction as to how the money should be spent.

Now, Fianna Fáil Chairman of Tuam Council, Cllr Donagh Killilea, has been informed that they did not contravene the ethical framework for local government and it was a democratic decision.

He said that it was a needless and expensive route to ask the Council’s Ethics Officer to investigate how they conduct their business as local representatives “given that there was never any clear evidence of wrong-doing.”

When the dispersal of the €180,000 was being discussed by the Tuam area councillors, it was the four Fianna Fáil members who used their majority vote to dictate where the money would be spent – the other three councillors were ‘left out in the cold’.

This infuriated Cllr Andrew Reddington (FG), Cllr Pete Roche (FG) and Cllr Karey McHugh (Ind) who accused the Fianna Fáil councillors of pulling ‘a political stunt’.

They also took issue with the fact that the other municipal districts arrived at a general consensus as to how the money should be spent.

A ‘behind closed doors’ meeting between the seven councillors to discuss the dispersal of the fund that was agreed, but it never took place.

In prompted Cllr Reddington to table a motion at a full Galway County Council meeting that the Ethics Officer investigate the manner in which the distribution of the €180,000 was being handled.

A report from Council Chief Executive Jim Cullen states that the Ethics Officer investigated the claims that the €180,000 was unfairly distributed between the four FF councillors.

But the official concluded that the matter was discussed at length and that the decision on the allocation of the funds was determined by a majority vote of the members.

The officer stated that the decision was based on a motion that was voted upon and duly carried and complied with the Minister’s requirements.

The Chief Executive along with the Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council, Cllr Peter Keaveney, having considered the Ethics Officer’s report, have concluded that no further action is required.

“If every time we call for an investigation when a vote is won or lost, it is my opinion that we will never get any business done as a Municipal.

“It’s time to bury the sour grapes and get on with representing the people who elected us; the distractions of the past six months have to end,” Cllr Killilea added.

(Photo: Cllr Donagh Killilea)

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Connacht Tribune

Coffins have to brought by tractor over flooded North Galway road

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Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) and Cllr Peter Keaveney (FG) at the Creggs road out of Glenamaddy where flooding occurs on an annual basis.

Annual flooding on a stretch of road in North Galway requires the necessity for a tractor and trailer to bring the remains of a deceased person from the area to the local cemetery.

This was the claim at a local area meeting when it was demanded that Galway County Council carry out flood relief works on the road near Glenamaddy which is left under several feet of water every winter.

It resulted in Cllr Peter Keaveney tabling a motion at the Ballinasloe Municipal Council meeting that essential drainage works take place along the Roscommon road out of the town now that water levels are low. He wants this carried out within the next two weeks.

During one of the worst winters in recent years, the road was closed for three months and the Fine Gael councillor and agricultural contractor said that he pulled around 20 cars out of the flooded stretch when motorists decided to take the chance of driving through it.

Even in drought conditions, the levels remain incredibly high and this is mainly down to a local turlough that retains water throughout the year.

While he said that Galway County Council officials were extremely helpful, the problem lay with the Office of Public Works who would not allow drainage works as the road is situated in a Special Area of Conservation.

Senior Executive Engineer Damien Mitchell informed the meeting that Galway County Council are in a position to carry out some works but there are certain areas that only the Office of Public Works can drain.

Mr Mitchell said that the best way forward was a co-ordinated approach involving the County Council and the OPW while accepting that there was a major problem with flooding along this road.

In response, Cllr Keaveney said that this was a very acceptable move and added that a joint approach to the flooding in Glenamaddy was required at this stage and particularly with the winter approaching.

Williamstown’s Cllr Declan Geraghty said that residents were living in hell as some of them saw their houses destroyed by rising flood waters near Glenamaddy.

“There are even deceased people being brought by tractor and trailer to be buried which is an absolute disgrace. There is an opportunity to do this now or otherwise we are looking at flooding for the next 10 years.

“People have put everything into their homes only to see them destroyed when it comes to prolonged heavy rainfall.

“There is a solution to this problem and environmental issues should not take precedence,” he added.

The Independent councillor said that raising the level of the road, which leads to Creggs and onto Roscommon, was not the answer to the problem because the levels were so high.

Galway County Council have carried out several surveys of the area around the flooded road and officials told previous meetings that, subject to approval from the OPW, there was an engineering solution possible.

(Photo Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) and Cllr Peter Keaveney (FG) at the Creggs road out of Glenamaddy where flooding occurs on an annual basis.)

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Connacht Tribune

Teen arrested over €45,000 cocaine seizure

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Gardaí have seized €45,000 of what they believe to be cocaine in Ballinasloe.

Gardaí attached to Ballinasloe Garda Station conducted an intelligence-led operation in the Dunlo Harbour area of the town yesterday.

During the course of this operation a quantity of suspected cocaine, estimated to be worth €45,000, concealed on derelict grounds was seized.

A male in his mid-teens was arrested at the scene and detained at Ballinasloe Garda Station on Sunday.

He has since been released with a file being prepared for the Garda Youth Diversion Office.

The focus of Operation Tara is to disrupt, dismantle and prosecute drug trafficking networks, at all levels.

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