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Pieta House prepares for flagship suicide fundraiser



Around one million people a year worldwide take their own lives by suicide – more than those who die by homicide, war and road traffic accidents…combined.

Around 500 per year take their own life in Ireland; 400 of them male. A study of young Irish men aged from 18 to 34 found that 78% knew someone who had died by suicide, 42% knew more than one person, and 17% had a close friend who completed suicide.

This year Pieta House marks ten years in existence having opened its doors at a time when suicide was still a taboo subject.

This week the organisation is preparing for Darkness Into Light, an event that is not just the charity’s flagship fundraiser but also a sign of how much the issue is now in the public conscience.

“Nobody would even mention the word then and yet when news got out that we had opened it seemed that we had opened a flood gate of sorrow fear and unspoken grief,” remembers Pieta founder, psychologist Joan Freeman.

Ten years on, the grass roots organisation has helped over 20,000 people in suicidal distress or engaging in self harm. In 2015 Pieta House delivered 49,900 hours of therapy to 5,466 people presenting with suicidal ideation and self-harm.

Today Pieta House has nine centres with a further three planned to open in the next two years – and it depends on fundraising events for a massive 85% of its income.

The Darkness into Light charity walk will place at 4.15am on Saturday, May 7, in 89 venues both at home and abroad – eleven of them in Galway city and county.

The international events – in London, New York, Canada, Abu Dhabi, Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere – will see 50% of proceeds going to Pieta House and the other half going to a local like-minded charity in the respective area.

A real effort has been made to include the rurally isolated, especially islanders with events running on the three Aran Islands, Inishbofin, Arranmore and Tory Island.

Starting while it’s dark and finishing just as dawn is breaking, this beautiful symbolic event gives hope to people affected by suicide and self-harm.

The charity sees social isolation as a major risk factor; those living in rural areas – and particularly in farming communities – are seen to be at greater risk and have higher suicide rates.

There is no one singular cause, but Mental Health Ireland says that one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives.

For the 500 people lost to suicide every year in Ireland a further 9,500 end up in A&E departments as a result of failed suicide attempts and intentional self-harm injuries.

Donna Burke of Pieta House West explains how the removal of barriers is an essential part of Pieta’s success; all services are free and medical referrals are not required.

“The biggest thing is that it’s self-referral; a person that is feeling maybe that they need help or support can just pick up the phone themselves – they don’t need to go through a doctor, they don’t need to go through a medical service of any kind,” she says

Pride can be a major obstacle preventing people from seeking the help they need. This is particularly true with older generations and people living in small town and rural settings.

“The likes of my dad – I know there’s no way he would go to his doctor and open up about not feeling okay,” she says.

But by removing these barriers, privacy has not been compromised and there’s no waiting time. “Anyone can be seen at any time,” says Donna.

Rural isolation has been recognised as another serious cause for concern. The high rate of suicide among men in rural areas was the driving force behind the ‘Mind Our Farm Families’ campaign – a joint initiative between the IFA and Pieta House.

Farmers face many challenges – financial pressures, red tape, long working hours, and isolation are just the tip of the iceberg.

“Unforeseen changes in farming work conditions such as continual bad weather, failing a herd test, bad harvest, isolation, being over worked, financial difficulties, impending retirement, or ill health are all things that might cause a farmer distress or bring on suicidal feelings,” say the Mind Our Farm Families campaigners.

Tom McEvoy of Pieta House West says the trained vets became ‘our eyes and ears on the ground’ and since then they have seen a big increase in numbers attending therapy.

Tom, who lost his own brother to suicide, is keen to encourage men to talk and to facilitate women to empower themselves to lookout for the signs.

That helps those who turn to Pieta House to make the journey from darkness into light – next weekend, tens of thousands around the world will make that journey for real, and by doing so they’ll shine even more light on what was once a stigma in the darkest of shadows.

There are Darkness into Light walks in Galway city, Tuam, Ballinasloe, Ballygar, Clifden, Kinvara, Inismeáin, Inis Oirr, Inis Mór, Inishbofin and An Cheathrú Rua. For further information go to

Connacht Tribune

Confusion reigns – but publicans continue serving pints outdoors



Galway City publicans continued this week to serve alcohol in newly created on-street outdoor dining sections – despite warnings from Gardaí that it was against licensing laws.

The local branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) said it is hoping Government will, if necessary, introduce legislation that facilitates pubs serving alcohol in public spaces reclaimed for outdoor hospitality.

On Friday last, our sister newspaper, Galway City Tribune revealed that Gardaí had visited a number of city pubs warning they were not legally permitted to serve alcohol outdoors in temporary on-street seating areas created by Galway City Council.

Publicans were told that if they continued to flout the rules, files would be sent to the DPP.

When the crux subsequently hit the national headlines, Justice Minister Heather Humphreys urged Gardaí to ‘use their discretion’.

“The overwhelming majority of licensed premises are operating safely, and we in Government are determined to continue to support them. If local issues arise, I would urge local authorities, Gardaí and businesses to engage.

“However, I will also examine whether further measures are required from Government. Licensing law is a complex area but I have spoken to the Attorney General this morning and we will take further action if necessary,” Minister Humphreys said.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download the digital edition from

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Connacht Tribune

Apple plans second bite at Athenry data centre



An artist's impression of the proposed Apple Data Centre.

Apple intends to have another bite at plans to build a data centre in Athenry.  Apple Operations Europe has applied to Galway County Council for more time to construct a controversial data centre on a greenfield site at Derrydonnell.

The company said it will identify “interested parties to develop the project” between now and 2026 to meet global growth in demand for data storage facilities.

It will spark hope in the County Galway town of a revival of the €850 million project that was dogged for years by planning delays and court appeals and was subsequently shelved. It may also attract fresh objections.

The world’s largest technology company was granted planning permission to build a €850 million data centre near Athenry in 2015.

An appeal to An Bórd Pleanála by a handful of local residents was not successful, and the planning appeals board confirmed the local authority’s decision in 2016.

But the company ultimately aborted its plans for County Galway in 2018 after three objectors sought a review of the decision through the courts.

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Connacht Tribune

Mum’s dream holiday turns to nightmare after cancer diagnosis



Julia McAndrew, in hospital in Mexico.

A mother who went to Mexico on a dream holiday to spend Christmas with family is too weak to return home after being diagnosed with advanced cancer.

From the minute Julia McAndrew landed in the South American country, her health took a major downward spiral.

Her son and daughter were shocked when she asked for a wheelchair to make it through the airport.

She and daughter Eliska had flown out to see her son Patrick, who had relocated to Mexico to run an online learning business.

They initially thought she had fallen ill due to the rigours of a 22-hour, multi-stop flight.

But when her stomach problems did not improve and she began to lose a lot of weight and suffered from very low energy, they sought medical help.

This had to be done privately and without the financial help of an insurance company, Patrick reveals.

She was initially diagnosed with anaemia and kidney failure and underwent various treatments, including blood transfusions that appeared to be working.

But three weeks ago, medics discovered that what she had was Stage 4 breast cancer. Julia had cancer a decade ago but was given the all-clear after receiving treatment and a major change in lifestyle.

“It’s returned with a vengeance this time around. It’s spread to her pelvis, ribs and lungs,” reflects Patrick.

The cost of the treatment is $40,000 (€33,000) a month. Her family are hoping to build up her strength enough to endure the long flight home to Oranmore.

They have launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise €280,000 to pay for her treatment and in less than a week a phenomenal €36,000 has been donated.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download the digital edition from

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