Samaritans Galway last year saw over 47,000 calls handled by its 120 volunteers around the clock – making it one of their busiest years in its 40-year history.
Between November 2016 and November 2017 some 47,219 calls were taken – and that does not include the hundreds of texts and emails dealt with as well as the drop-in callers to the Samaritan House at 14 Nuns Island.
“We were certainly very busy – I mean we’re always busy – but since the introduction of the free phone number it has been up; around a 30% increase. Before that we had a low call number but now people can call us for free 24/7, 365 days of the year and there will always be someone to listen at the other end,” explained director Anne Wynne.
In the past year, 63% of calls answered were made outside of business hours – between 6pm and 6am – which is another key reason why this service has never waned in its use.
“The fact that most calls for help are received outside of office hours shows that Samaritans provides a vital support for people in distress when other services and sources of support may not be available.”
Working as a volunteer for eleven years – and now 18 months into a three-year term as an unpaid director – Anne recalls that people rely on the Samaritans for support for very similar issues over the years.
“The reasons people call us have remained consistent over the years – relationship problems, financial worries, stress and anxiety, loneliness and health issues.
“Even at the height of the recession we might have had more calls from people with financial problems but really loneliness is the big problem – that and mental health.”
Not one person in the Samaritans Galway operation is paid, which is unusual in the charity and non-profit industry, hit with scandals about high salaries and fraud in recent years.
It is the main factor for why Galwegians have always supported the body, whose vision is that fewer people die by suicide.
“Our volunteers are the very heart of our organisation. Their dedication is unwavering and they go above and beyond to ensure that our services is available for those in need. They are ordinary people doing extraordinary work.”
Last year the Galway branch needed €63,000 to stay open.
Through donations and corporate sponsorship, their Nuns Island base was extensively renovated over two years and was reopened last September with brighter and better facilities.
“We now have a bright welcoming building suitable for both volunteers and visitors alike.”
The fundraising committee has two main collections in the year – the church gate collections in September and the flag day which took place last April.
Its main awareness events take place on July 24 – known as 24/7 to highlight that it never closes – and on the shortest day of the year, December 21.
Anyone who ring the free helpline – 116 123 – will never get an answering machine. Volunteers also respond to emails, text or letters and are available for face-to-face chats at their Nuns Island branch, 9am to 8pm daily.
There will be a recruitment drive for volunteers in September. They must commit to three hours a week after undergoing months of training.
Gardaí in Galway operating with fewer patrol cars
Five large Garda stations in County Galway are operating with fewer Garda vehicles now than two years ago – leading to a call for the local fleet to be restored to 2020 levels.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has confirmed to Galway West TD Noel Grealish that the Garda fleet in the Galway Garda Division stands at 116 as of October of this year.
That’s greater than any of the years from 2012 to 2019, but it represents a reduction on the Garda fleet when compared with 2020 and 2021 figures.
Galway Gardaí had a dozen fewer vehicles this year, compared with 2020. There are 13 fewer patrol cars, down from 96 to 83; there was no change in the number of vans and motorcycles, and the division acquired one extra 4×4.
Garda stations in Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Tuam, Clifden and Salthill have all lost patrol cars in the past 24 months, according to the official figures.
Independent Deputy Grealish has demanded a restoration of the Garda fleet in Galway to 2020 levels.
“Gardaí have a demanding enough job to do, but it makes that important work even more difficult if they are not allocated the proper resources,” Deputy Grealish said.
“A reduction of twelve vehicles in less than two years across the Galway Division, down from 128 at the end of 2020 to 116 in October this year, is concerning.
“I have asked the Minister for Justice to explain why this has happened, that the number of vehicles in the Galway Division has fallen by ten per cent, when nationally the total fleet actually increased by 6%. I am demanding that they at the very least be restored to their 2020 levels,” he said.
Deputy Grealish pointed out that almost all areas of the county had suffered a reduction in Garda vehicles since the beginning of last year. Ballinasloe currently has six vehicles, a reduction of two since the end of 2020; Clifden also has six, down one; Loughrea was down three to eleven; Salthill was down three to ten; the biggest reduction in Garda vehicles was in the Tuam area down five to twelve.
Galway City’s fleet increased by two vehicles, for a total of 71.
Minister McEntee said that the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was responsible for the administration and management of An Garda Síochána, including the purchase, allocation, and effective and efficient use of Garda vehicles.
“As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure their optimum use in light of identified operational needs and emerging crime trends,” she added.
Galway City Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) last month complained that the number of vehicles available to Gardaí in Salthill and Knocknacarra was insufficient.
Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team
Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.
The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.
Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.
Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.
“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.
It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.
“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”
She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.
“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.
There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.
Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968
As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.
From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.
When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.
Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.
A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.
Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later