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Resolutions see drive for healthier lifestyles



Despite centuries of practice, our track record is poor when it comes to making New Year’s resolutions.

It is a tradition which persists in both the Western and Eastern worlds, with nearly half of us committing to a goal when the chimes toll to herald the coming of the next twelve months.

The origin of promising to take up something new or changing a bad habit originated with the Babylonians. Legend has it they made promises to the gods in the hope of currying good favour in the year ahead. They often resolved to pay off their debts.

The Romans continued the practice by making promises to the god Janus, after whom the month of January is named.

In the Medieval era, the knights took what was known as the peacock vow at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.

One of the more famous people to make ambitious resolutions is the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. He has learned to speak Mandarin, met a new person that does not work at Facebook every day, wrote a thank you note every day and became vegetarian.

This year after asking for suggestions on social media, he decided to read a new book every second week with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs and histories.

He created a Facebook Page called A Year Of Books so the public can follow his progress and join in on discussions.. So far 190,000 have “liked” the page, making it the world’s biggest book club.

A study last year in Australia involving more than 2,000 people found that 42% of participants set themselves a new year’s resolution. Almost two thirds did not succeed.

One interesting fact which emerged from the survey was that of the one third of people which managed to reach their goals, three quarters of them believed that sharing their resolutions with friends or publicly on a website helped them.

The most common reason given for failing to keep their resolutions was setting unrealistic goals. One in ten respondents claimed they made too many resolutions.

Leslie Connors, a homeopath who works in Walsh’s Pharmacy in Oranmore, knows all too well how difficult it can be to achieve resolutions.  This is the busiest time of the year for pharmacies as people seek remedies to quit smoking, lose weight and improve their health.

She believes the trend of broken promises will inevitably continue unless people break the cycle.

One way of doing that is adopting the ancient practice called recapitulation. This is described as a formal looking back at the highs and lows of the last year in a sort of Karma-cleansing ceremony beloved of yoga masters.

“Recent research indicates that hidden reservations or unconscious agendas can totally sabotage our good intentions when it comes to New Year’s resolutions,” she remarked on the pharmacy blog.

“Recapitulation is about bringing to mind any old baggage that is hanging around just waiting for a chance to lure you back to your old bad habits.”

She advises people to gather a few good friends or family members and ask each one to write down all their achievements and positive events over the past year. Include a list of things regretted; moments of conflict, anger or hurt, memories of times when you did not act your best.

“Take a moment to think about and feel good about the positive things. Also take time to feel regretful about the mistakes,” she says.

“Some people then choose to burn the list to symbolize letting go of the baggage or they just imagine tying it to a balloon and letting it float away. Your thoughts are so powerful, getting rid of the negative and letting the positive in can really help you achieve what you want.”

Last year she met with a group of friends and they wrote down what they wanted to accomplish for the year. It was sealed in a box and has yet to be opened. She did the same with her daughter a few years back and they found they each met their goals.

“If you make a mistake, it’s almost easier to walk down the same path and make the same mistakes. It’s better not to brood on things that happened and instead embrace the new.”

The heart and stroke charity Croí will hold an eight-week weight management programme by specialist dieticians based on scientifically proven methods to achieve sustainable weight loss at the end of the month.

With follow-up and motivational support at three, six and twelve months, participants are given expert advice on all aspects of healthy eating, with a special focus on lifestyle changes in the areas of diet, exercise, sleep and stress management and how to manage cholesterol, blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.

The HSE has also launched a new free personal support service to help smokers give up, with a host of interactive digital tools and trained advisors on hand to provide empathy and support over the phone, face-to-face or online.

Smokers who use the HSE’s QUIT service have been found to be twice as likely to succeed as those who try to do it alone.


Cyclists and disability groups don’t feel the love for ‘kissing gate’ barriers



From the Galway City Tribune – Cyclists and disability groups long campaigning for the removal of ‘kissing gates’ on popular routes were overjoyed to see the one at ‘the Swamp’ in the Claddagh removed last week.

But their joy quickly turned to anger when it was returned a few days later. They learned that it had only been taken out to facilitate a private company. Grant Thornton had organised a 5K run along the Salthill Promenade for corporate staff and sports teams.

Gráinne Faller, who organises the Sundays4Safety awareness campaigns in Salthill, said she could not believe how quickly the Council could act to remove, then replace the barrier when bike groups have been calling for their removal for years, only to be met with inaction.

“These gates lock so many people out of our parks and playgrounds. How can we justify blocking access to public spaces? They are ableist, ageist and they block people with buggies and bikes. They really discriminate against parents. And then we learn that the Council is claiming that this isn’t a problem? We wait. And wait. It is not okay. It’s Council-sanctioned discrimination.”

Chairperson of the campaign group, Neasa Bheilbigh, said the gates excluded families and people with mobility impairments from using safe active travel routes to school and public amenities.

“To suggest quiet routes through housing estates and parks are not active travel routes, shows a lack of understanding about how people move in our city,” she insisted.

She highlighted the fact that the National Transport Authority (NTA) has committed to providing funding to remove barriers to promote universal access.

“I always feel safer cycling than walking at night, but having to dismount leaves me feeling vulnerable. The Council don’t seem to grasp the needs of people who use non-standard bikes as mobility aids and who cannot dismount or have the strength to navigate through these barriers.”

Liam Ferrie from Menlo said he was long past retirement age but he found his e-bike was a great way of getting around Galway.

“Last Sunday I cycled a total of 28km without any difficulty – apart from a very close pass by a motorist. However, if I had come to a kissing gate I’d have had to turn back as there is no way I could lift the bike through it.”

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for the National Ambulance Service, Reg Turner, said his family cycles along the Terryland Forest park en route to school and they have to manoeuvre a large cargo bike carrying his baby son through a kissing gate.

“My seven-year-old calls them jail gates. She says she is sick of lifting her bike and asks when are they coming to remove the gates. The crazy thing is the forest can be accessed from various other exits and entrances which don’t have these gates.”

At a Galway City Council meeting last July, City Council Director of Services for Transport, Patrick Greene, told councillors the NTA had written to Councils acknowledging that kissing gates were problematic for some users.

He said the NTA was working to come up with a new design for gates that are more accessible for users such as people on cargo bikes, pram users and people in wheelchairs, and the Council would act on any recommendations from the NTA once an alternative was sourced.

He said the City Council was planning to do an audit of all kissing gates across Galway.

Cllr Noel Larkin stated that without kissing gates, housing estates and public parks would be more accessible to vehicles and could result in antisocial behaviour.

Cllr Donal Lyons said motorbikes and other vehicles could access public parks and amenity areas if they were removed and not replaced.

(Photo: A cargo bike stuck at a kissing gates. The City Council removed one in Claddagh recently for a road race but then reinstated it).

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune, September 23. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

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Council needs extra loans for home-buying scheme



From the Galway City Tribune – Galway City Council has had to draw down further loans to keep up with demand for the Local Authority Home Loan Scheme.

At a meeting of the City Council, Director of Services for Housing, Brian Barrett, said they had initially sought approval from councillors for a loan of €4.1 million but such was the demand that they required a further €1.4 million.

A renewed Local Authority Home Loan was announced in December last year and provides for Government-backed mortgages for first-time buyers and ‘fresh-start’ applicants – those who are divorced or separated, or who have undergone personal insolvency or bankruptcy.

The scheme was introduced to provide lower interest rate mortgages to those who are creditworthy but would otherwise find it difficult to access sufficient finance.

Mortgages up to 90% of the value of the property are available, with a limit of €320,000 applicable to Galway. An income ceiling of €65,000 applies to single applicants, or €75,000 in the case of a joint application.

Mr Barrett said since the original scheme was launched in February 2018, 277 applications had been received by Galway City Council and 120 had been approved.

Twenty-three of those loans applied to the Tenant Purchase Scheme for local authority tenants buying-out their homes.

“In February, councillors approved a loan of €4.1 million and we need another €1.4 million . . . we require €5.5 million,” said Mr Barrett, who explained this applied to 2022 applications only.

The funding would be borrowed by the Council from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) raised the issue of joint applications in the case of parents and an adult child who wished to buy out a local authority house under the Tenant Purchase Scheme.

“There is a situation arising where a parent with a son or a daughter in the house and the parent is in their 60s. After getting approved, they go to the Housing Finance Agency and they’re told they can only get a four-year mortgage – they waste five months getting approved to be told that,” he said, explaining that money would not be loaned for a period beyond when the parent turns 70.

“That information was not relayed to the Council,” added Cllr McDonnell.

Dermot Mahon of the Council’s Housing Department said he was aware of this issue, but it was part of the scheme.

“The loan scheme specifies that the maximum age of the eldest borrower is 70,” said Mr Mahon.

Councillors agreed to increase the loan, bringing it to €5.5 million.

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City councillors pack their bags for Dutch transport junket



From the Galway City Tribune – A group of city councillors will be packing their bags for Holland in the coming weeks as part of an initiative to introduce them to revolutionary transport solutions.

A meeting of the Council heard that the National Transport Authority (NTA) was willing to fund a trip for councillors to an area similar to Galway – in order to highlight the possibilities in relation to sustainable travel.

Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath confirmed that the NTA “feel it would be beneficial for councillors to see some of the solutions implemented in other areas”.

“It would be to a town in Holland, similar in size to Galway, to see their active travel solutions,” said Mr McGrath.

There would be no cost to the City Council, he added.

The meeting heard the trip would last three days and would be open to nine councillors – half of the full Council – while two City Hall officials would accompany them.

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