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Preserving an ancient practice at St Dominic’s Holy Well

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January is not a month you would normally associate with pilgrimage – but each year the people of East Galway make a most unique journey to St Dominic’s Holy Well to prepare for the agricultural year ahead.

The well is located in the townland of Esker a short distance from Athenry – and unlike the majority of holy wells, St Dominic’s is not associated with healing or penance.

BY DR LOUISE NUGENT

The pilgrims do not come to say prayers or to leave offerings; they come to collect the holy water from the well which they take home to bless their fields, farmyards, homes and animals.

The water is taken because it is believed to have special powers of protection and healing through its connection with the saint.

Little is known about the history of this holy well.  Some believe that the well came into existence following the arrival of the Dominicans, who came to Esker after the destruction of their priory at Athenry in 1652 by Cromwellian soldiers.

Keeping a low profile and at great personal risk they continued to minister to the local people of the area. Following the relaxing of the penal laws, they built a monastery a short distance from the holy well.

The monks were gifted of 150 acres of land, by a local landlord called Daly from Dunsandle, to help support them and their charitable works. The Dominicans remained at Esker until 1896 when the monastery passed to the Diocese.

In 1903 the Redemptorist Order took over control of the monastery and by this time the modern traditions of the well were firmly established.  Through the years the Redemptorists have continued to support the well as the Dominicans did before them, and today they still providing blessings of its waters.

The traditional time for visiting St Dominic’s well is from midday on January 5 until midnight on January 6.

On the morning of January 5, troughs are placed beside the well and filled with water taken from the well.

On both pilgrimage days a mass is held at the church in the Redemptorist monastery, and this is followed by a procession from the monastery to the holy well.

A number of short prayers are said and the well and its waters of the well are blessed by the priest. This year the blessing was performed by Fr Seamus Devitt, and afterwards pilgrims fill plastic bottles and containers from the troughs surrounding the well.

On returning home, the water is sprinkled in the farmyard, the fields, just as Easter water was and is still in some places spread on the fields on May’s eve.  The water is also sprinkled on farm machinery, cars, out buildings and homes.

The remainder of water is kept throughout the year and used for sick animals and for cows and sheep during calving and lambing.

A number of people told me of what they believed were cures of animals due to these holy waters.  Others sprinkled the water again during the planting and harvesting of crops.

For generations the agricultural year of  farmers in East Galway has begun with a visit to St Dominic’s holy well – and it’s wonderful to this the tradition continuing into the 21st century.

Dr Louise Nugent is an archaeologist specialising in medieval pilgrimage and author of blog Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland (http://pilgrimagemedievalireland.com)

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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