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HSE blasted for keeping charity funds

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The Health Service Executive (HSE) has been criticised for using legal technicalities to deprive of children’s cancer charity of a €300,000 donation made to it by another organisation.

Galway West TD Hildegarde Naughton raised concerns over the controversial transaction earlier this month, when she asked the Minister for Health to establish how the charitable donation had been absorbed by the HSE.

The controversy relates to a donation made by another children’s charity, Boys Hope Girls Hope, which was in the process of winding up in 2009. It liquidated its assets and donated the proceeds to charities working in the same area.

It agreed to give €300,000 generated by the sale of a property to CD Helping Hands – now called Hand in Hand – to support the charity’s work in providing assistance to families affected by childhood cancer.

It was decided that the HSE would act as an intermediary to manage the funds and release it to Hand in Hand over a three-year period. However, no money was provided to the charity until 2011, when it received just €50,000 of the total amount.

A senior HSE official met with the charity last week and presented legal advice it had sought in respect of the funds, claiming that it was entitled to retain the money. No further meeting has been scheduled.

It is understood that the legal advice presented by the HSE referred to the possibility of using the Statute of Limitations to prevent Hand in Hand from asserting a legal right to the donation.

Deputy Naughton said that the manner of the HSE’s  engagement with the charity was shameful, and described its attempt to justify the appropriation of the donation with legal technicalities as morally bankrupt.

“Hand in Hand is an excellent charity doing incredible work, but it has struggled enormously in the absence of this funding. It is in a precarious financial position now, to the extent that its continued existence is threatened unless this situation can be resolved,” she said.

“I find it repugnant that the HSE’s response to my concerns has been to seek legal advice outlining how it can keep the money. The cost of that legal opinion alone could have been used to support the good work of Hand in Hand.

“Does the HSE really propose to explain to children and families affected by childhood cancer that they can no longer avail of a service because of the Statute of Limitations or some legal technicality?” asked the Galway West TD.

“They need to come back to the table with Hand in Hand and approach this situation from a moral perspective – not a legal one – and reach a solution that will support the vital services that the charity provides.”

In a letter dated 4 May 2009, former director of Boys Hope Girls Hope John MacNamara wrote to a HSE manager, referring to the terms of the donation and enclosing a cheque for €300,000.

“I attach a cheque for €300k payable to the HSE PCCC (Primary, Community and Continuing Care) as you requested,” he wrote.

“You will have received a copy of [another director’s] letter of March 6th setting out the terms of this donation to fund CD Helping Hands Charity. In particular these terms include a commitment by you to donate €50k per annum to this charity.”

A memorandum of understanding signed by the HSE and the children’s charity in 2009 refers to a fund of €450,000, of which up to €150,000 could be drawn down each year for three years until 2011.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A city publican who last week helped save the life of a woman who had entered the waters of the Corrib off Wolfe Tone Bridge has made an appeal for young people to ‘look out for each other’.

Fergus McGinn, proprietor of McGinn’s Hop House in Woodquay, had been walking close to Jury’s Inn when he saw the young woman enter the river.

He then rushed to the riverbank on the Long Walk side of the bridge, jumped into the water, spoke to the woman and stayed with her until the emergency services arrived.

The incident occurred at about 3.45pm on Friday last, and a short time later the emergency services were on the scene to safely rescue the woman.

“She was lucky in that the river level was very low and she didn’t injure herself on the rocks and stones just under the water.”

He also appealed to the public to support in whatever they could the work being done by groups like the Claddagh Watch volunteers.
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

Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Gardaí have warned city publicans that alcohol cannot be served outside their own premises – even in newly-created on-street spaces designated by Galway City Council as suitable for outdoor dining.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said three Gardaí visited a number of city centre pubs on Thursday afternoon informing them that drinking outdoors was not allowed under licensing laws.

“They warned publicans and restaurants that the area outside their premises is not covered by the licence, and therefore under national legislation, they are breaking the law, because they are not entitled to sell alcohol in non-licensed areas.

“The operators were told that this was an official warning, and they will be back again in a few days and if it persisted, they [Gardaí] would have no option but to issue a charge and forward files to the Director of Public Prosecution. You could not make this up.

“All of the big operators were visited, and received an official warning, and they will be charged if they persist. According to the guards, they’re getting instructions from [Garda headquarters in] Phoenix Park,” he said.

The matter will be raised at a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
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

Call for 50% affordable homes in new Galway City Council estates

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The next Galway City Development Plan should include a greater provision for affordable housing than that recommended by Government, a meeting of the City Council has heard.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) told the meeting that while it was the Government’s intention to introduce a stipulation that new estates should have 10% affordable housing, Galway should go further – building anything up to 50% affordable in developments that are led by the local authority.

The Affordable Housing Bill, which is currently working its way through the Oireachtas, proposes that all developments should have 10% affordable and 10% social housing as a condition of their approval.

Affordable housing schemes help lower-income households buy their own houses or apartments in new developments at significantly less than their open market value, while social housing is provided by local authorities and housing agencies to those who cannot afford their own accommodation.

The Council meeting, part of the pre-draft stage of forming the Development Plan to run from 2023 to 2029, was to examine the overarching strategies that will inform the draft plan to come before councillors by the end of the year and Cllr McDonnell said a more ambitious target for affordable housing was absolutely necessary.

“It must be included that at least 50% of housing must be affordable [in social housing developments],” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) who questioned if the City Council was ‘tied down’ by national guidelines, or if it could increase the minimum percentage of affordable housing required locally.
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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