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Connacht Tribune

Report reveals scale of West’s homeless crisis



The national housing charity prevented more than 1,000 people – including over 400 children – from becoming homeless in the West last year.

New figures from Threshold show that its Tenancy Protection Service saved 1,014 people from becoming homeless in the west of Ireland in the last year.

The figure was included in the Galway Tenancy Protection Service Annual Report 2016-17, which was launched last week by Minister of State for Community Affairs, Natural Resources, and Digital Development, Seán Kyne.

The Galway-based service opened in June 2016 and provides advice and support to households at risk of homelessness in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

Almost half of the 534 households supported by the service were families, and a total of 406 children were prevented from becoming homeless.

The report found that the two biggest factors that threatened tenancies were tenants being issued with notices of termination requiring them to leave their rented property (35%), and rents being increased by their landlord (31%).

Threshold Regional Services Manager, Diarmaid O’Sullivan revealed that many of the families supported by the Galway Tenancy Protection Service were low and middle-income households, who were finding it increasingly difficult to access affordable, secure private rented accommodation.

“The in-depth advice and advocacy support we provided made the difference between tenants remaining in their homes and falling into homelessness, with the human misery that brings,” he said.

Recent figures from the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government show that in the region of 200 homeless adults are living in emergency accommodation in the west – with a significant growth in the numbers of people sleeping rough, particularly in Galway city.

“Historically, homelessness has primarily been a problem in urban areas but it is no longer a phenomenon confined to Galway city,” Mr O’Sullivan added.

“Severe housing shortages in towns such as Loughrea, Ballinasloe, Tuam, Gort, Castlebar, Westport and Roscommon Town have increased the risk of households becoming homeless right across the west.

“While the majority of those contacting us were from the Galway area (88%), 6% were living in Mayo and 2% in Roscommon,” he revealed.

In launching the report, Minister Kyne acknowledged that having a roof over your head is something the vast majority of people always took for granted.

“The concept of homelessness was for somebody else – for most of us it was unimaginable. Unfortunately for an increasing number of citizens the concept is not only real it’s actually happened,” he said.

“Even the risk of losing your home is hugely traumatic. The worry about the effects on children, the vulnerability, the damage to self-esteem and confidence all on top of the day to day challenges life without a home brings, doesn’t bear thinking about.

For those 1,000 people, Thresholds TPS has prevented such an ordeal, and for that we must thank and congratulate their hard-working staff and management,” he added.

Minister Kyne also referred to the introduction of a Rent Pressure Zone in Galway earlier this year, which the report said, had a calming effect on the rate of rent increases.

“I had a number of discussions with Minister Coveney in the run up to the decision to include Galway City in the scheme,” said the Minister.

“The four per cent limit on rent increases has given breathing-space to hard pressed tenants, but ironically, some of the more conscientious landlords who kept their rent levels low for long term tenants are now looking at rents 50% higher in similar properties. This is inevitably going to end in a difficult situation for both the landlord and tenant.

“The Government has committed huge resources towards the housing crisis. It has challenged the Local Authorities to provide both social housing and the facilitation for an expansion in the provision of private housing.

“The streamlining of the planning process for housing is already having an effect on the timescales for delivery so we must keep the pressure on to deliver homes for our citizens,” he added.

Minister Kyne also said that last week’s approval of 23 social houses for Galway city was ‘a small but significant step’ on that road – and he added that plans for Ardaun, to the east of the city, were well on the way and would hopefully provide approximately 2,000 houses in a new community there.

Connacht Tribune

Galway’s Golden Girls mark big birthdays!



Two of Galway’s Golden Girls celebrates milestone birthdays on either side of the county this week – racking up a magnificent 210 years between them.

Oughterard’s Phyl Furness celebrated her 107th birthday this week – and Mary O’Leary marked her mere 103rd birthday in Ardrahan!

Phyl, who is originally from Nottinghamshire in England, moved to Ireland in the 1980s – and has been a wonderful part of her Oughterard community ever since.

Mary was born Mary Quinn on May 23 1919 in Ballinlisheen, Tubber, Co. Clare, to John Quinn and Mary Kate McKague. She never saw her father as he passed away before she was born, leaving her an only child.

She attended Boston National School and Gort Secondary School, and from a young age worked on the family farm.

Mary married her husband Joe O’ Leary in Tubber church in 1948.  They lived in Ballinlisheen until Joe passed away in July 1997 – and Mary then moved to Gort town.

She moved to the Little Flower Nursing Home, Labane, Ardrahan, on October 14 2011 where she has enjoyed a very fulfilled few years since.

Mary is an avid reader; she loves thrillers and romance, according to Joan Gardiner Surman, Proprietor of the Little Flower Nursing Home.

“She keeps herself informed by reading the daily paper and loves Hello magazine, she has a huge interest in the Royal family,” she said.

She celebrated her birthday in the Little Flower Nursing Home a day early on Sunday – surrounded by her family, the staff who take such great care of her and all the residents of the Little Flower.

“She received a lovely letter of congratulations from President Michael D. Higgins along with a beautiful commemorative medal,” added Joan.

Photos: Mary O’Leary celebrating her 103rd birthday and (right) Oughterard’s Phyl Furness, who celebrated a magnificent 107th birthday this week.

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Connacht Tribune

Ombudsman hears of 125 allegations against Galway Gardaí



A total of 125 allegations were made against Gardaí in Galway last year, according to a report by Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC).

There were 105 allegations made against Galway Gardaí in 2020, and so the figure of 125 last year represents a yearly increase of 19%.

It is also higher than the figure of 103 allegations in GSOC’s 2019 report.

The increase in complaints made to GSOC about Gardaí in Galway mirrors a national trend. In 2021, according to GSOC, 12% more complaints and allegations were lodged against Gardaí.

Among the most common complaints were neglect of duty, which ranges in seriousness from not returning a phone call or not properly investigating a crime; abuse of authority, which could include excessive force; non-fatal offences, which could include assault; and discourtesy, which relates to the manner in which a Garda spoke or behaved towards a person.

Meanwhile, complaints to the recently appointed Public Service Ombudsman Ger Deering reached a new high of 4,004 last year – a 17% increase on 2020, and the highest ever in the 38-year history of the Ombudsman.

And 208 of these complaints came from people in Galway; 53 were made about Galway County Council and the Ombudsman received 42 about Galway City Council. NUIG was the subject of six complaints.

Two complaints were received about Galway Mayo Institute of Technology while the Galway and Roscommon Education and Training Board was the subject of one complaint.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see the May 27 edition of the Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Flexibility needed on designation of Connemara bogs



A Galway senator has called for flexibility to make ‘small local changes’ over the coming years in relation to the SAC designation of the massive Connemara Bog complex.

Senator Seán Kyne told the Connacht Tribune that such flexibility could make a big difference to local families and communities within this SAC (Special Area of Conservation).

“There are a lot of local issues that arise. For example, people from the area can find it difficult to get planning on their own land and allowance could be made for small community projects that mightn’t necessarily tie in with the SAC requirements,” said Seán Kyne.

He said that in cases like those, where a small area could be taken out of the SAC, it should be possible to compensate with the inclusion of another similar sized portion of land on the fringes of the designation.

Senator Kyne – who raised the matter with Minister of State (Local Government) Peter Burke in a recent Seanad debate – said that the size of the Connemara Bog complex site was very large, approximately 50,000 hectares (c. 125,000 acres).

He added that there was a long-running history to the SAC application dating back to 1997 with a lot of appeals to parts of the designation for an area bounded to the north by Galway-Clifden Road (N59) and to the south by the Moycullen-Spiddal road (L1320).

“The Department is engaging in the final signing off of the SAC. I am inquiring in regard to clarification on the appeals. Will there be any future opportunities in regard to appeals?

“I am not talking about large-scale changes. In some cases, there may be a request for some minor changes to the boundaries of the SAC in the future.

“It could be to rectify some issues where there may be mistakes on the mapping, for example, or there could be areas which are commercially sensitive to somebody, and it may make sense to make a slight change in the boundary and that could be compensated elsewhere with the inclusion of another area . . .

“Can there be minor, but perhaps important, changes in the future which would benefit society, the economy and local communities, whether it is a requirement to remove a small piece to allow for a piece of amenity or commercial infrastructure? Clarification on the processes into the future is important,” said Senator Kyne in the Seanad debate.

Minister of State, Peter Burke, said in reply that the criteria used to set the boundaries of the SAC sites were purely scientific as was required in the nature directives.

He said that since the first public notification of the designation back in 1997, there were 60 appeals or objections received – nine of those were successful; 12 were partially successful; 21 were unsuccessful; and 18 were deemed invalid.

“The appeals process for this site has now concluded and the site has moved onto the final stage of the process which requires the publication of a statutory instrument, formally designating the site.

“The statutory instrument includes a description of the site, a detailed map showing the area, a complete list of habitats and species for which the area was selected and a list of activities which require the consent of the Minister before they can be undertaken in a way that affects the site.

“It is important to note that all relevant protections under Irish law apply to the site from the time [1997] it was publicly notified as proposed for designation,” said Minister of State, Peter Burke.

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