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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Sexting’ workshops to be rolled out in Galway schools

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Condemning ‘sexting’ as bad behaviour will do nothing to thwart its popularity among young people – and may even harm them, according to a researcher rolling out workshops across Galway schools.

Sexting has become a real phenomenon among school children.

A study of more than 3,000 students in 30 schools earlier this year found that that 45% of sixth-year students have sent a suggestive message while 34% have sent a sext – defined as the sharing of sexual text, video, and photographic content or nudes using phones, apps and social networks.

The likelihood of sending or receiving nude pictures increases with every year of secondary school. The same study carried out by Zeeko found that 4% of first-year students have sent a sext to a non-partner whereas 34% of sixth-year students had reported doing the same.

Haley Mulligan, an education facilitator with the West Ireland Sex Education Resource (WISER) team in AIDS West, insists that sexting and nudes “is in many ways the epicentre of the sexual online digital world of young people”.

For many youths it is the modern-day flirting.

“When you think Kim Kardashian is a hero to many young people and she originally became famous for a sex tape. The whole industry of sex is internet based.

“The idea that the modern teen will explore their sexuality through the digital realm seems completely and utterly logical, although this very idea may fill parents full of dread and fear,” she states.

Many teens send the images in an act of bravado. It gives others a false sense of equality – ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’. They also mistakenly believe promises that the content will never be shared. For others it’s down to poor self-esteem.

Whatever the reasons, Haley says that labelling the practice of sexting and nudes as a ‘deviant’ act that must be stopped will have limited effect on young people, who know the risks yet continue to express themselves through images and words.

“In many ways it is similar to young people talking to strangers online. Children know the risks but still continue to communicate with strangers online – 32% of 1st Year students talked to a stranger online compared to 70% of 6th Years; 8% of 1st Years met strangers physically compared to 38% of 6th Years.

“Clearly young people know the risks, but they are driven by strong physical, psychological and social desires towards sexual expression via nudes and sexting.”

During WISER workshops on sexting and nudes delivered in city and county schools in the past year, Hayley has always been struck by how quickly so many of the students jump to blame the sender of the nude pics – rather than the person who distributed it publicly and those who continued to share it.

“If we continue to assume that ‘stupid’ girls send nudes then not only are we perpetuating the idea that there is something inherently wrong and deviant about women’s sexuality and sexual expression, we are also failing our boys by ignoring the potential harms that can arise from young boys sharing images online,” states Hayley.

Vilifying the sender of sexual images may induce feelings of fear, embarrassment, isolation or shame and demonising the practice may adversely impact how the young person feels about their sexuality or sexual expression.

Instead the emphasis should be on empathy, says the PhD candidate in the NUIG School of Law.

“It’s about flipping it and showing you have compassion with the young person who has made a mistake,” urges Hayley.

“Unless they feel that empathy they won’t come forward in the event of an image being shared on social media. And they really must go to a parent, trusted adult or the Gardaí if that happens and not feel they are alone.”

For girls who have their privacy violated it is the public shaming that can be the most devastating.

“It’s the name calling that hurts. it’s the isolation that hurts. it’s the branding of her a particular ‘type’ of girl that hurts.”

Break ups can lead to private images being shared. In the workshops, facilitators urge young people to delete all provocative images in the event of a relationship split “because it’s the right thing to do”.

■ For details of workshops log onto bewiser.ie.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council to ‘review’ Kirwan junction

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Councillors are demanding proof that the €5 million spent to transform Kirwan Roundabout into a signalised junction was money well spent – blasting the new junction as having created long delays and worsening rat-running.

A meeting of the local authority last week heard that while there was a general acceptance there would be ‘teething problems’ with the traffic-light junction after it became operational in July, ongoing issues were continuing to draw the ire of road users and local residents.

Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind) said he was one of five councillors on the previous Council to initially vote against the removal of the roundabout, based on fears that it would increase traffic through local residential areas – a fear that had been realised.

“What changes have been needed to be done since it went live,” asked the former Mayor, indicating that there had been little improvement.

Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF) said he understood that enhancement works were being done, but more were required.

“A lot of drivers are avoiding it and its driving traffic through the likes of Terryland Business Park. The Tuam Road is now gridlocked,” he said, calling on the Council to do a “PR exercise” to encourage drivers back to Kirwan.

Cllr Clodagh Higgins (FG) said the junction continued to confuse people and suggested that “overhead hanging signs” would be of assistance.

Green Party Councillor Niall Murphy said when the roundabout was slated for removal, it was promised that delays would be reduced by 25% and rat-running by 90% – but as yet, no evidence had been provided to show this.

“We need to put some science on this.

“The rat-running has moved to Dyke Road and there are some sections of that road where there are no footpaths, so it is quite dangerous for pedestrians,” said Cllr Murphy.

Acting Director of Services for Transport, Uinsinn Finn, told the meeting he believed there was a silent majority that were satisfied with the new junction.

He said that the junction’s ‘go live’ date was July 19, which coincided with the reopening of many parts of society that had been in lockdown due to Covid, and that had contributed to additional traffic.

“The first two objectives were to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety, and those objectives have been achieved.

“There will be a post project review – that is something that we always do and I would be happy to bring that back to Council for its consideration,” said Mr Finn.

Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath confirmed that review was set to get underway.

“It will go through the various elements and if issues arise following the review, they will be addressed,” he said.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Thieves target cars as owners unload shopping bags

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Galway shoppers have been advised by Gardaí not to leave their vehicles unlocked or unattended as they bring their shopping into their homes.

This follows reports in the Newcastle area of opportunist thieves ‘striking’ as the shopping bags were being moved into houses.

One resident told the Galway City Tribune that the thieves waited until the person had taken a bag of shopping from their cars to bring into their home.

“This gives the thieves a minute or two to have a quick look in the car – what they seem to be looking for are purses, bags or wallets that are left behind in the car,” the resident stated.

He added that some of local residents had notices two ‘youngish lads’ – possibly in their late teens or early 20s – hanging around the Newcastle Park Road area over the past week or two.

“I just think that people need to be on their guard for this kind of opportunist theft. They just wait until the driver goes inside the house with the shopping and before they come back out, they do a quick search of the car,” he said.

Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that opportunist thieves would always be ‘on the look out for a handy theft’.

“What I would advise is that either have someone to keep an eye on the car when the shopping is being removed – or else lock the car each time, and don’t leave any cash or valuables in the vehicle.

“It might be an inconvenience to lock the car each time you go back into the house, but it is still far better than having something stolen from your vehicle,” said Sgt Walsh.

He also urged, that as a matter of routine, no one should leave any valuables in their cars when they parked them up.

“Even the coins that some people keep in car pockets for parking or other small payments can attract thieves. Never leave anything of value in your vehicles,” he said.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Councillors back bid to ban city centre parking in Galway

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors have unanimously agreed to ask Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to limit parking to residents only in the city centre.

Pedestrians in the city are being treated like second-class citizens, according to the Mayor, who said cars continued to get the priority on Galway’s streets.

At a meeting of the City Council this week, Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind) said the city had come to a standstill in car traffic, and pedestrians and cyclists were suffering the consequences.

“At junctions, why am I a second-class citizen in my own city as a pedestrian? It rains in Galway for 300 days of the year, but I am a second-class citizen when priority is given to motorists.

“It’s always the pedestrian that waits,” she said, hitting out at the length it took to get a green light to cross at pedestrian crossings.

One way to reduce the number of cars in the city centre would be to limit parking to residents only in the city centre, said the Mayor.

In a motion she proposed, seconded by Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind), councillors unanimously agreed to write to the Minister for Transport to demand he pass the necessary legislation to enable the Council to do this.

The Mayor said residents were “sick, sore and tired” of people parking where they wanted when they visited the city and said despite a desire to introduce this measure going back almost 20 years, the Council was hamstrung by national legislation that prevented them from proceeding.

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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