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Snow and ice put emergency services under extra pressure



Date Published: 30-Dec-2009

The Emergency Departments of Galway’s hospitals are bracing themselves for a further upsurge in admissions for broken and fractured bones due to falls on snow and ice over the coming days, as the sub-zero cold spell looks set to continue well into the New Year.

In the past week, the Accident and Emergency Departments at UHG in the city and Portiuncula, Ballinasloe have seen a rapid surge in the numbers of people admitted with fractures and dislocations sustained in falls due to the slippery underfoot conditions.

A spokesperson for HSE West said UHG has been inundated with people who have broken ankles, hips and wrists. The Emergency Department was twice as busy as Christmas last year and dealt with more than 120 fractures – three times as many as last year – which were mostly caused due to slips and trips.

“Typically around 40 people are admitted over the Christmas period with fractures and this year it was three times that number,” the spokesperson said.

And with the freezing temperatures set to remain, hospital staff are bracing themselves for even more orthopaedic admissions in the coming days.

The cold spell will continue well into the New Year with Met Éireann forecasting temperatures of minus four degrees or below at night-time on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and over the weekend.

Met Éireann’s five-day forecast is predicting freezing temperatures up until the middle of next week with widespread hard frost, freezing fog and icy conditions expected with the risk of hail, sleet and snow showers throughout the West. North-easterly winds and polar airs will sweep in over the country at the weekend making it bitterly cold.

Meanwhile, there have been several reports of minor road accidents throughout Galway in the past week due to the hazardous driving conditions and Gardaí, Galway County Council, AA Roadwatch and the National Roads Authority have renewed their warning to drivers not to travel if at all possible on some of the more treacherous minor and county roads.

The authorities have also advised motorists not to make unnecessary journeys. If travel is necessary, motorists have been asked to slow down, exercise extreme caution and leave plenty of room between your car and the car in front.

The County Council has also asked householders to turn off their taps due to water shortages throughout the county this week. The Mid-Galway Regional water supply, Ballinalsoe water supply and other smaller water supplies in Connemara and Killimor experienced a large drop in water pressure while the pumps at Abbeyknockmoy water station were in danger of overheating.

The Council said there has been a rapid surge in consumption of water and this could be due to burst pipes and people leaving taps running day and night to avoid pipes freezing over – pressure cannot build in the mains as a result and many homes were left without water.

County Council workers have been on stand-by and remain on-call right through the holiday period gritting and salting the county’s main routes and some important regional routes. The crews have been using up to 200 tonnes of salt mixed with grit per night, every night on the roads since the severe freezing temperatures arrived and the gritting will continue well into next week.

Director of Services for the County Council, Frank Gilmore said cutbacks are not affecting its grit and salt regime. “We are doing the full range of gritting right across the county and we are not restricted by funding,” he said.

However, due to the severity and length of the freezing conditions, which began the weekend before Christmas, there is a shortage of salt at the City Council to salt the roads throughout the city. Its stock of salt was depleted just before Christmas although the City Council’s roads crews have been continuing to grit the main routes and in the city centre early every morning and in the evenings.

Director of Services Ciarán Hayes said the gritting would continue as long as is necessary, right up until the first week of January, including on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Another stock of salt has been ordered for the city and is expected to arrive in the coming week.

Many footpaths in the city will remain hazardous however as the Council does not have the resources to grit the hundreds of miles of footpaths in the city.

Age Action Ireland, a charity for older people, has urged the general public to check in on older relatives, friends and neighbours and has asked older people to take steps to make sure they remain warm in their homes.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

It’s low key start as Mervue and Salthill resume league fare



Date Published: 07-Mar-2013

Keith Kelly

AS the footballing world continues to split into opposite camps over the decision to send off Manchester United’s Nani in Tuesday night’s Champions League tie with Real Madrid, the little matter of the start of the 2013 Airtricity League season here at home has slipped even further under the radar than usual.

The Irish domestic league has long played second fiddle to the over-paid and over-hyped stars of the, ahem, ‘world’s greatest league’ in England – a league which will not have a side in the quarter-finals of this year’s premier European competition – while ignoring the entertainment on their own doorstep.

Players such as Roy Keane (Cobh Ramblers), Noel Cantwell (Cork Athletic), Paul McGrath (St Patrick’s Athletic), Kevin Moran (Bohemian FC), Ronnie Whelan (Home Farm), Steve Staunton (Dundalk) and the late Eamonn ‘Chick’ Deacy (Galway Rovers), and more recently, Kevin Doyle (St Patrick’s Athletic), James McClean (Derry City), Shane Long (Cork City) and our own David Forde (Galway United) all began their professional careers in the League of Ireland.

That’s some starting XI of talent, talent which entertained football fans at the likes of Flower Lodge and Terryland Park, Dalymount Park and Glenmalure Park, Richmond Park and Kilcohan Park. But for many, those names only became familiar once the players moved to the ‘big’ league, not realising what they were missing all along just down the road.

Mind you, the authorities running the game here haven’t exactly helped their own cause either, and that is particularly the case this year, which for the first time since 1975 will see no national domestic football at Eamonn Deacy Park (apart from the 1993 season, when the ground – then known as Terryland Park – was closed for redevelopment work).

The FAI have initiated talks between four stakeholders locally – the Galway FA, the Galway United Supporters’ Trust, Mervue United and Salthill Devon – with the aim of having a single representative Galway side in place for the 2014 season, but progress updates are scarce, with the CEO of the FAI, John Delaney, saying this week that “talks are going well”.

As a result, while Galway will have two clubs – Mervue and Salthill – in the First Division of the Airtricity League this season, the majority of football fans in the city and county continue to feel ‘locked out’ of the domestic league as attempts continue to find agreement on what is, without doubt, most beneficial to the whole football community in Galway.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune

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Archive News

Breath of hope for asthma sufferers



Date Published: 14-Mar-2013

Patrick McKeown can’t be entirely sure, but he thinks he had his mouth taped on his wedding night.

It might sound weird, but for him it was routine. Patrick, who suffered from chronic asthma since he was a four-year-old child, discovered the Buteyko method of breathing in his 20s when he was a Masters student at Trinity College – and it changed his life.

Developed by Russian doctor, Konstantin Buteyko this is a simple practice used all over the world to help those who suffer from asthma and allergies, including sinus and hay fever.

It basically involves breathing only through the nose and decreasing the amount of air entering the body – treatment is based on the idea that people with asthma breathe too much, rather than too little.

Asthma is on the increase in the Western World and Ireland has an extremely high rate of the condition. Around 470,000 people here have asthma, including one in every five children. Generally once diagnosed, people are put on inhalers and remain on some form of medication for life, with steroids and antiobiotics being required at regular intervals when attacks and chest infections occur.

But while some people are genetically disposed to having asthma the condition can be controlled by changing how you breathe, says Patrick.

Over-breathing disturbs the body, which affects the immune system. While people can’t avoid allergens they can address their breathing – and that helps them cope with allergies.

He first began to practise the Buteyko method as a student when his nose was blocked and he hasn’t looked back since. After college he worked in the corporate sector for two or three years before eventually deciding he should bring someone to Ireland to teach other asthmatics about it. The problem was, he knew nobody in Russia.

Undaunted, he rang the Russian embassy in Dublin and a woman there put him in contact with the relevant people.

He started learning through a translator and eventually was taught by Dr Buteyko. Eleven years ago this week Patrick began teaching the Buteyko method, and now teaches it in Ireland and over the Western world – two days after we spoke he was flying to Amsterdam for a conference.

If you watch somebody with asthma while they breathe, they will always breathe more heavily than somebody who hasn’t got the condition, he explains. That’s because asthmatics and people with allergies breathe too much. Because they take in large gulps of air, often through their mouths and using their upper chest rather than their diaphragm, it creates an imbalance in the body between oxygen and carbon dioxide.

We are all taught at school that oxygen is vital for life – but often what we aren’t told is that you need a balance between oxygen and CO2 in order for the body to work efficiently. That’s what Buteyko teaches.

Carbon dioxide is not just a waste gas, explains Patrick. It is vital for transporting oxygen to tissues and organs. It also relaxes and dilates blood vessels and airwaves, which means that the more calmly you breathe, through your nose, the more efficiently they work.

But because so many people with sinus or asthma problems suffer from nasal congestion, mouth breathing becomes the norm. So the first technique Patrick teaches is how to decongest the nose, so that people can make a permanent switch to nasal breathing, therefore reducing the amount of air they take in.

People with sinus and allergies frequently suffer from related symptoms including disrupted sleep, fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression, all of which have a negative impact on their lives.

“Problems with sinus affect sleep patterns,” he says simply – and that is something that anybody with the condition knows too well. However retraining the respiratory centre not to take in so much air can help. Patrick teaches exercises to do that; the problem is that while people are asleep, they revert to breathing through their mouths. That immediately creates an imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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