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Connacht Tribune

People with mental illness were ‘abandoned’ in pandemic



Mary McCarthy and Fiona Coyle, CEO, Mental Health Reform

A mental health campaigner who is on a waiting list for nine months for a primary care psychology appointment has appealed to Government to invest in the ‘poor relation’ of the health services.

Mary McCarthy, a mother of four from Williamstown, said people with mental illness were abandoned during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“People with mental health problems, be it anxiety right up to serious schizophrenia, are the most vulnerable people in society but it feels like we’ve been forgotten and abandoned.

“Through the whole pandemic, what has the Government done? Nothing was put in place and yet people are crying out for help. They have just forgotten about us,” Mary told the Connacht Tribune.

She first became involved with psychiatric services in 2005, when a traumatic event from 1990 came to the forefront and she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and depression.

Since then, she “made numerous attempts at suicide and self-harming,” she said, and has had first-hand experience of the psychiatric services in Roscommon and Emergency Department in Ballinasloe.

In 2018, the 56-year-old was devastated when she separated from her husband.

She contacted local mental health services to seek support, but no appointments were available.

After waiting weeks to be seen, she eventually took an overdose.

“I feel let down,” said Mary, who added she was lucky to good family, friend support and a decent employer.

The pandemic presented its own challenges. In January, Mary suffered a mental health crisis and sought treatment from Portiuncula Hospital. Despite her distress, she had no choice but to wait in an Emergency Department for over five hours.

Due to Covid-19 health restrictions, she was kept in isolation overnight in a psychiatric ward in Roscommon, but released the following day.

For the past nine months, Mary has been on a waiting list for a primary care psychology appointment; she is tired of waiting.

“I’m waiting and waiting and waiting. What can I do but just hope for the best? I think the Government has so much to answer for,” she said.

Mary said that making psychiatric patients go through Emergency Departments was wrong; a lack of beds was another problem.

“They closed the psychiatric unit in Ballinasloe; it was done up at a cost of €2.8 million and nobody ever went through the doors as a psychiatric patient. It doesn’t make sense when people are crying out for beds,” she said.

Mary praised the new Community Mental Health Café that operates from Mr Waffle opposite University Hospital Galway after hours, but she said there should be more rolled-out in towns and villages.

She is now campaigning with Mental Health Reform, a national coalition, which is calling on the Government to invest €85 million in Ireland’s mental health services in Budget 2022.

The group, which represents 77 organisations in the community and voluntary sector, has submitted an extensive ‘shopping list’ of areas to prioritise.

It includes recruitment of primary care psychologists and assistant psychologists to reduce waiting times and divert referrals from specialist services. It also includes investing €15 million in the community and voluntary sector to support the delivery of mental health services including counselling and psychotherapy; investing €6.5 million for the expansion of the CAMHS Connect (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) model to improve out-of-hours crisis intervention mental health services for children and young people; and €2 million for national advocacy services for children and adults with mental health difficulties in hospital, prison, residences and in the community.

CEO of Mental Health Reform, Fiona Coyle, said: “Covid-19 has adversely affected the physical and mental wellbeing of many people in Ireland. Thousands more people have come forward to access support during this difficult period. Evidence is emerging of a shadow pandemic, where the burden of trauma will have a profound impact on mental health and primary care services for many years.

“This needs a clear and comprehensive response from the Government, including a step-change in funding levels. Now is the time to resource, rebuild and reform our mental health services; we cannot go back to a broken system.”

Mary agreed: “I want Government and all elected representatives to just think would they want the mental health services to be there for one of their family members? They need to get behind the people and invest money in the services. It’s pointless if the Government doesn’t listen.”

Connacht Tribune

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



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



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



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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