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Connacht Tribune

Papal visits are worlds apart for Bishop of Galway

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Bishop of Galway, Brendan Kelly remembers vividly the visit of Pope John Paul to Galway.

The Derrybrien native was eight years ordained in 1979, and a teacher at Coláiste Éinde in Salthill, and even though he was concelebrating the mass at Ballybrit, the 72-years-old recalled being almost a mile back from the altar.

“It was a long way away in the distance. I remember vaguely what was happening on the stage, but you couldn’t see it well. What I really remember is the walk to Ballybrit from Coláiste Éinde. I don’t know how many miles it was but people were outside their houses, and there was an incredible atmosphere of joy and fellowship and friendliness. I’ll never forget that,” he said.

The latest visit of a Pontiff to Ireland this week will be different. For one, Bishop Kelly will meet Pope Francis in person both in Knock and with all other Bishops after the papal mass at Phoenix Park, which closes the World Meeting of Families 2018.

Times have changed, too. “It’s a different time, a different place, we’ve had a lot of challenges in the meantime. A lot of struggle,” he said.

“That was the time of the Vatican Council, and when I became a priest we were sure we had a new Church, we were better than what came before us. That was a little bit of the idealism of youth and cockiness of youth. My experience of the priesthood is that every year the challenge has gotten greater, but I have liked it all the more for that.”

Bishop Kelly said World Meeting of Families, “is about marriage and the family as we see it, following the teaching of Jesus Christ and the long tradition of the Church.”

“It’s about strengthening families at a time when family is under pressure,” he said.

But not all families conform to Bishop Kelly’s and the Catholic Church’s narrow view of family.

“The Pope’s attitude, and I think it’s the correct one, is you accept families as they are, even if they disagree with you or if you don’t particularly agree,” he said.

“I would prefer to see a child have a father and a mother and I think this is what the Church would propose as the optimum atmosphere in which to bring up little boys and girls.”

Single parents and people in second relationships should be supported, he said. “It’s not our job to reject them,” said Bishop Kelly.

“How do we live with people who don’t live quite the way we’d like them to live or that we think would be the best way to live? There’s no family perfect anyway, that’s the reality, every family struggles. The integration of people, for example, in same sex relationships, this is a huge question.

“We absolutely believe that God loves every single person, that’s absolutely true and it’s fundamental to the question of faith. Every single person is loved as they are, by God, and is called by God as a human person to live a life of love in that self-giving sense.”

At times, in families, there can be breakage, he said, and the “the hurt can be so deep sometimes”.

“That’s what has come up with all the abuse thing arising again. A lot of people were hurt in the family of the Church, because that’s’ what the Church is, a family of families and that’s what it’s celebrating at the World Meeting of Families. But all these people that suffered within that family of the Church, this is very hard for them,” he said.

Asked what he would say to those people who suffered abuse at the hands of priests and the Church, Bishop Kelly said: “What I would say to them is, ‘I want to hear your story, I want to hear what you have to say, I want to walk with you. I’m sorry that I haven’t listened to you better.’ The Pope himself said there are three things that are so important in a family: ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’. The ‘I’m sorry’ is so hard to say sometimes.”

He added: “I can understand they (abuse survivors) want something concrete” and that the Pope “will say more” on the subject during his visit.

“I do think at the moment what they’re talking about particularly is ‘What do you do with Bishops who have covered up (abuse) and should there not be stricter rules and regulations with regard to that and what would happen to them. I think that’s a fair enough question. That we want to know, if a Bishop is found to have been wanting, what has the Church to say about that.

“A lot of Bishops have resigned over the years but people think that that might not be enough and the rules are somehow not strong enough. They’re also saying, ‘was the Vatican itself, were there people in the Vatican, officials, who didn’t help the whole business of revealing the cover-up or accepting what was going on. We tend to be defensive very quickly. But there can be no defence or defensiveness when it comes to the abuse of children, or the suffering of children, especially the sexual abuse. The sexual abuse leaves an incredible wound.”

Bishop Kelly said abuse is not just an issue for the Church and children have “suffered grievously within ordinary families.”

“One of the wonderful things that has happened in my experience over the years since I’ve been a priest is that all of this has emerged because it was hidden, there was a silence around it, incredible silence, and that silence supported the kind of silence that the abuser very often imposes on the child whom he or she abuses because they’re terrified to say it to anybody. So, if society or the Church is silent about it, too, then that affirms to the child that he or she can’t speak.”

Bishop Kelly said it was “very significant” Pope Francis was going to Knock “because he’s putting prayer at the heart of the World Meeting of Families and of his visit to Ireland.”

“He’s going specifically to a shrine of Our Lady. It’s an enormous amount of trouble and expense, if you like, for a very short visit, but it’s about the centrality of prayer and silence, because he’s going to pray in silence in Knock for the success of the World Meeting of Families and I think that’s very significant because he’s saying something to us about ‘stop, reflect, take time out, think about the deeper questions in life. Where am I coming from, where am I going, can I do better, how do I love?’”

Bishop Kelly said the Pope’s visit can bring hope. “I’d like people to have an experience of a moment of good news and affirmation then I think that changes us and fills us with hope because so many things take away your hope,” he added.

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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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