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Connacht Tribune

Sexual violence casts long shadow on our doorstep

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The amount of sexual abuse, violence and rape in our society has been an eye-opener for Cathy Connolly, Executive Director of Galway Rape Crisis Centre (GRCC).

“What I didn’t realise, and what a lot of people don’t realise, is the extent of abuse. It’s so prevalent,” she says, 16 months in to her new role as head of the city-based non-governmental organisation.

“Most people will know somebody who was sexually abused, or raped, and they don’t know it, because an awful lot of people who have been sexually abused don’t want to say it because of all the stigma that’s attached to it.”

The subject matter is so shocking, people are often afraid to confide in their friends or family. And that’s where GRCC comes in.

“We offer help and a service to people who have suffered sextual trauma and sexual abuse, through non-judgemental counselling and through advocacy. If someone who was abused was homeless, for example, our counsellor would work as an advocate for them,” says Ms Connolly.

GRCC is the second biggest in the country after Dublin, and its remit includes North Clare and Roscommon. People are referred to the service by Gardaí, social workers, Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU), by supporters like family or friends, or self-referrals.

Nobody is turned away, she insists.

“We’re non-political. I can’t stress it enough. We are for everybody, no matter what their sexual orientation is, no matter what their religion, colour, creed or gender. We don’t care who you are. We are here to serve the people that have been abused. It is a service for all,” she says.

The vast majority of cases are women, but the male taboo around the subject is beginning to be broken and more men who have been abused are coming forward for help.

“A total of 12% of our clients were male last year. There’s a perception that we’re just for women; we’re not just for women, we are for everybody. People are realising that now and we are getting more men in because they are no longer afraid to come in,” she says.

The majority of people who contact the centre at Forster Court are historic child sexual abuse cases. Whereas SATU deals with sexual assaults victims in the immediate aftermath, including for forensic evidence, GRCC offers a service in the medium to long term.

Counselling given by GRCC typically takes six to ten weeks for ‘new’ cases, but for historic cases it can be much longer.

“Evidence shows that if you are raped, and come fairly immediately for help, you recover easier, you recover quicker, because it’s a new trauma. But a trauma that’s embedded in a person for as long as they’re alive, is very difficult. If it’s taken them 30 years or 40 years or 50 years to come to us, it’s not going to disappear in six sessions,” she says.

Counselling isn’t forever but the sessions are designed to give people coping mechanisms for every day life.

“No-one is ever cured. There isn’t a cure. What our counsellors do is help people to understand things and to become at ease with themselves and to maybe live with what has happened to them, especially when it is people they know, or family members.

“That’s very hard, and it’s very complex. It could be your brother, or your father, or your sister that is abusing you. You love that person and yet this is going on. It’s to help the person understand all that and what’s going on, and to help them, not to go mad, I suppose. To come to terms with it.”

Ms Connolly’s belief about the prevalence of sexual abuse are backed-up by the figures. Though it is always changing, last week there were 22 on GRCC’s ‘priority’ waiting list, and 20 on the long-term list.

Three or four new people arrive looking for help every week. In a typical month, there are between 220 and 250 appointments.

There are 11 part-time counsellors working 2.5 whole time equivalent hours but Ms Connolly says the centre needs at least twice that number of counsellors. GRCC has an outreach centre in Ballinasloe, and there are plans to set one up in Tuam and possibly Gort and Connemara as well.

“The whole thing is to make them feel safe when they come to us, and they are listened to and they are believed, and they are helped and they are given skills and taught ways of coping. Your very inner being has been destroyed. It is just so personal the violation. I’ve always thought sex between two people is the most intimate thing. But the whole impact of people doing that to another human being against their will, is massive.

“It’s just awful and humiliating and they feel like a piece of dirt. To get them back up from there, to seeing that ‘no, this isn’t your fault, this is never your fault’, someone raping you is a crime and is always going to be a crime. People talking about drink and saying ‘sure she was pissed’. It doesn’t matter. She was only pissed. No-one has a right to rape somebody,” adds Ms Connolly.

You can call or text Galway Rape Crisis Centre free telephone helpline service 1800 355355

Connacht Tribune

Take a spooky staycation this Halloween at Púca Festival

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For Halloween fans looking for a spooky staycation with a difference, Púca Festival is just the ticket. Returning to Co. Meath from 28th – 31st October, Púca celebrates Ireland as the original birthplace of Halloween. Vibrant, fun, and contemporary in feel but strongly rooted in tradition, the festival will take place in the hubs of Trim and Athboy.

Now in its fourth year, this year’s festival line-up is an exciting one, with a pool of contemporary Irish acts gearing up to re-ignite Celtic traditions through incredible music and live performances. Offering three breathtaking days and four spectacular nights of music, myth, food, folklore, fire, feasting, and merriment, Púca will boast a range of ticketed and free events, all individually priced.

From the ‘Arrival of the Spirits’ procession in Trim on Saturday 29th October right through to the ‘Coming of Samhain’ celebration at the Hill of Ward in Athboy on Halloween night, visitors will be immersed in the original and authentic spirit of Samhain.

Festivalgoers and fans of folklore will enjoy the well-rounded line-up of evening entertainment showcasing the best in contemporary Irish music, spectacle, and performance, including the talented Imelda May, Gavin James, King Kong Company, Block Rockin’ Beats, Lisa Hannigan & Cathy Davey, Jerry Fish & his Electric Sideshow Cabaret, Joanne McNally, Blindboy, David O’Doherty, Neil Delamere, and Jason Byrne. Headlining the Púca Big Top stage on October 29th, The Academic is an act not-to-be-missed. A thrilling live four-piece, their super-uplifting, hugely melodic guitar-driven sound is the product of a tight-knit gang who’ve been playing together since school.

Historic Halloween Walking Tours, Candlelit Tales Storytelling, Banshee Bingo Hall, Self-guided treasure hunts, Foraging Workshops, Circus performances, and Handfasting Ceremonies will complement the music and comedy programme, ensuring a host of diverse activities to keep visitors entertained all weekend. At Trim Castle, step back in time at the Deise Medieval Traditional Living Village. In the midst of mead and the smoke of the campfire, living history, crafts, and skills of the early to mid-medieval period come to life and will be open for all the family to discover from 29th – 31st October.

And as Samhain is a time for feasting, Jack O’Lanterns Food & Craft Markets at Trim Castle will feature local harvest offerings and Halloween favourites, in what promises to be the most spirited Púca festival yet.

Tickets are on sale now at Pucafestival.com

Book Now and Save 10%! Use Promo Code Pucafestival10 and receive a 10% Discount!

Keep up to date with PÚCA E-NEWS – Click here to subscribe to our e-newsletter and be the first to hear about all Púca Festival goings on.

Follow PÚCA on social and keep up to date with all Púca news. Use the hashtag #PucaFestival and join the Púca conversation. Facebook: @pucafestival
Instagram: @pucafestivalireland Twitter: @pucafestival

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Connacht Tribune

Italian archer brings whole new outdoor leisure pursuit to Loughrea

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An eagle-eyed Italian has converted a cohort of locals in Loughrea into archery enthusiasts – in the heart of their local forest.

Mattia Cestonaro set up Loch Riach Traditional Archery, the first field archery club in Galway to be affiliated to the Irish Field Archery Federation (IFAF).

After raising nearly €800 in public donations, he established the course geared to different levels in a forest located in Peterswell on the Slieve Aughty Mountains.

Field archery has participants shooting at various targets. The targets may be concentric circles, animal faces on paper or 3D animal targets, from a variety of distances, which can be marked or unmarked.

There is a main course layout in a loop shape, where small groups of archers, typically up to four, walk around and stop at each station to hit a target.

The club is a non-profit organisation with the main aim to promote our beloved sport in Ireland.

“This is a sport for everyone, we have kids, adults, families shooting together. It’s some mighty fun,” enthused the native of Vicenza in north-eastern Italy.

“This is an exciting new activity for the local community, as well as to visitors from other counties and clubs.”

Mattia has created three small bridges to cross the river in different points using pallets on the course located on over 160 acres of forest. There are currently 14 targets spread out over 1.5km, crossing different types of terrain.

The club teaches a ‘traditional, instinctive way of shooting’.

“It is a challenging course with different tricky shots, uphill, downhill, between trees. We tried as much as we could to use natural backstops to make the shots look as natural as possible,” he explains.

“We think our club as a group of friends who share the same passion, we organise many social activities and we encourage members to volunteer in the club’s activities.”

The main course is made entirely of 3D targets.

“We believe there is nothing else like the sight of a realistic 3D target in the forest.”

Several of the first courses held last July sold out. The courses in August completely sold out.

It costs €50 per person for four weekly classes lasting an hour and a half, with the minimum age of eight set for participants. Archers aged under 18 must have at least one parent participating in the course with them.  Adult membership of the club costs €60 for the year, while kids pay €30, which includes membership to the social club.

“There was an overwhelming response to our first beginner courses and an ever more surprising conversion rate, which saw the 100% of those who completed the course become members of the club. This was amazing and already repaid the months of hard work in the woods,” enthuses Mattia.

The club will now concentrate on making sure all the new members receive proper support during their first months in the archery world.

Mattia was doing field archery in Italy but took a few years off until he got the opportunity here over three years ago to reignite his passion.

“I went back into it thanks to my friend Enea, who is the son of the iconic Italian character Papetto, who is one of the greatest masters of Instinctive shooting and whose values and philosophy he is trying to promote and keep live for over 45 years.

“This is the same I’m trying to do with the club, I am offering beginner courses where we cover all the basics of field archery and where I try to spread my archery philosophy which has the social aspect of this discipline in his core values.

“To put it in simple words, I’m in love with this sport, and I try to transmit my passion to other people.”

The Italian moved to Ireland from Italy in 2014 looking for a change in lifestyle. After three months in Clifden, he transferred to Galway and found a job in supply chain with Schneider Electric, where he continues to work.

In December 2020 he bought a house in Loughrea and moved in with his partner Tatiana.

“It was a huge step in our life, and we couldn’t be happier with our choice. We found a lovely welcoming community, everyone is so kind with us and there is so much to do around here: from the lake which is at our doorstep, and we walk daily with our dogs, to the numerous sport activities available.”

Mattia plays with the Loughrea Rugby Club and recently helped organise a group of 14 Italian teenagers to visit Loughrea from his old club, the Rangers Rugby Vicenza. They stayed with host families and trained with the Loughrea RFC for a week.

Mike Feerick of Ireland Reaching Out said he and wife Eileen regularly get behind the bow and arrow on a Sunday morning after completing a beginner’s course earlier this summer.

He has praised Mattia’s hard work, with the support of Coillte, in turning an area of Slieve Aughties into a recreation hub.

“It’s interesting that someone has come to live among us and helped us strengthen our community, starting a new pastime in the locality which takes advantage of the wonderful hinterland we have in East Galway.”

“It is a big undertaking for any one person – but he has persevered and indeed succeeded.”

Mattia has plans to expand the course with new targets and create a bigger training range.

“We plan to create nice picnic areas for members to spend time together with benches and tables and some shelter for the rainy days. We also plan to host the first official IFAF shooting in 2023, where people from other clubs from all Ireland will come over to compete as part of the IFAF annual calendar,” he explains.

“The future ahead is exciting, and I am very proud to be able to offer something different to a community which is giving so much to me and my family in terms of quality of life.”

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Connacht Tribune

Hurdle cleared for Claregalway traffic calming and flood relief scheme

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A dispute over land acquisition that threatened to sink a long-awaited traffic calming scheme and flood relief works in Claregalway has been resolved.

A meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District councillors heard that an agreement had been reached with the landowner, enabling the Council to proceed with its plans to install a surface water drainage scheme at the bridge.

Cllr Jim Cuddy (Ind) said following repeated representations, he had been assured that a resolution had been found.

“I have been informed that we are waiting for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to come back to the Council to tell them to proceed,” said Cllr Cuddy.

This came as councillors hit out at the lack of progress on the project, with Cllr James Charity (Ind) pointing out that it had been three years since they approved the project.

“I have had a lot of complains in the last few days about flash flooding in Claregalway, on the street outside Centra . . . we’ve mentioned it in here ad nauseum,” he said.

“It is very frustrating for communities and residents up there that this is not progressing – it’s a long-standing problem that’s being put on the long finger.”

Cllr Albert Dolan (FF) said it was disappointing that having approved the project in 2019, councillors were being kept in the dark and had received no official communication from the National Roads Project Office (NRPO) to explain the delay.

“It’s three years on and we have not seen any progress . . . the Athenry Oranmore councillors are not happy that this has been delayed for so long without being given a reason,” said Cllr Dolan.

Cllr Charity suggested that a representative of the NRPO should be invited to a meeting of local area councillors to explain the lack of progress.

“If the matter is progressing, we need an update from them. Resolution with the landowner is one thing but the TII committed to this in 2019, so now there is a question of funding as well,” said Cllr Charity.

Cllr Liam Carroll (FG) concurred and said with the increasing cost of construction materials, funding would need to be addressed without delay.

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