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Support group for LGBT Galway teens

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‘That’s so gay’ is a phrase often uttered which may not intend to cause offence.

But for a young person who is unsure about their sexuality or if they have a sibling who has come out, it can be very damaging.

“It’s such a loose term that is really popular right now,” reflects Ann-Marie Hession, a youth worker with shOUT!, a support group for young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) or who may be questioning their sexual identity.

“Pupils in national school can use it without knowing what it means but it’s being used in a negative way. It could be about pink football boots and you’re buying into that stereotyped idea that gay boys like pink. Just don’t use those terms. It’s a form of discrimination, it’s a form of bullying.”

Language is one of the things focused on in workshops conducted by Anne-Marie at schools in the city and county, the only full-time LGBT youth worker in Galway.

After securing funding from Galway County Council before Christmas, shOUT! has completed 20 workshops aimed at raising awareness of LGBT issues in country schools already this year. In the past four months students in six city schools have undergone the programme.

“We look at what is the correct terminology, what is not appropriate. We examine what homophobia and transphobia are, what ways it comes across either directly or indirectly. We look at the process of coming out and how difficult that can be. Then we go through how to change a few things that might make it less difficult for people who identify as LGBT,” explained Anne-Marie.

Statistics show that one in ten people identify as LGBT. That means no matter which class or group you are in, the likelihood is at least one person is not straight, or at least not sure if they are.

“If that person sees their friend John or brother Paul is not laughing when somebody makes a homophobic remark, that can create a space for them to go and talk about what they’re going through, maybe even come out.”

Another exercise classes engage in is what is involved with the “coming out process”.

“It can either be positive, negative or neutral. We ask them to prepare a few lines and practise them to help make it a positive experience. Maybe inside you’re shocked but that’s for you to process later. Instead maybe say, ‘thank you, you obviously think I’m a very good friend, you trust me, I know how hard it must be to say that’.”

A Gort Community School Leaving Cert student came out to his best friend in January of last year.

“All my friends were 100% behind me. Once people see your friends are with you, they back off. I knew I was gay when I was twelve. I just wanted to be like the rest of the lads but it just got too much,” he recalled.

It was on his suggestion that the workshops were held in the school, where there are several openly gay students.

“It was one my main aims before I left here. I didn’t want anyone else to go through what I did. I had nobody to talk to. I was afraid to. At least now any new student is aware of what LGBT means and you can talk to people about it.”

The workshops have also been well received by the entire school community. The school’s social education teacher Carmel Neylon said the school is a lot more open since all students underwent the programme.

“There’s been absolutely amazing feedback from students and parents and the school management, in fact some LGBT students approached me as a result and it spearheaded another project.”

Applied Leaving Cert students have created a mosaic to signify that Gort Community College is an LGBT friendly school.

“It’s going to be hanging in our assembly. It’s a positive response to what we see as a human rights issue,” Ms Neylon remarked.

Schools who hold the workshops have reported a noticeable reduction in homophobic comments.

Last week was Stand Up Week, a national campaign launched by Belong To, a LGBT youth group in Dublin, and supported by the Department of Education to encourage young people in schools to stand against homophobia and support those who identify as gay or lesbian. A family day was held in Eyre Square to mark the occasion.

Research from 2009 found that 58% of young people experience homophobia in their schools, with 34% of that coming from teachers. In the local workshops, students talk about hearing homophobic remarks at least once a day.

Same sex relationships have never been so much to the fore with the upcoming Equality Referendum, reflects Anne-Marie. Yet they are being bombarded with negative comments about homesexuality.

“The lives of our local young people will be affected by this referendum, yet they have no say over it.”

In the three years Ann-Marie has worked with shOUT!, she has noticed the age profile of those using the services decline.

“Young people are definitely coming out younger. Research has found that twelve is the average age when they first realise their sexual orientation whereas 17 is the average age they come out. That’s dropping because it’s starting to become normalised.”

ShOUT! organises drop-in sessions for young people in the community – on Saturdays, midday-1.30pm for 14-17-year-olds; for 18 to 21 year olds on the first Friday of the month. The groups feature a host of different activities – drama, art, film, cooking.  ShOUT! also organises summer camps as well as one-to-one talks with teens not ready to come to a group.

For further details email shout@youthworkgalway.ie or call 087 773 8529

CITY TRIBUNE

Murals are part of initiative to restore pride in Ballybane estate

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From the Galway City Tribune – A poem about litter forms part of a vibrant colourful new mural painted on the walls of a City Council estate in Ballybane.

The poetry and artwork by local artist Irene Naughton is part of an initiative to restore pride in Sliabh Rua.

The final two lines of Ms Naughton’s poem, called The Dragon’s Foot, read: “The land, the sea and the river all get hurt when we leave a littered footprint on the earth.”

The full poem was painted onto boundary walls as part of a large colourful mural that was created by Ms Naughton.

The street art includes handprints from children living in the estate on the city’s east side.

It also depicts an enchanted forest, a dragon sitting atop Merlin Castle, a view of the Burren, a wolf, butterflies, insects and foliage, as well as a man playing the guitar, a former resident who died.

Ms Naughton, who was commissioned by the City Council’s Environment Department, said it took about five days to complete.

“The residents were very, very helpful and kind,” she said.

Councillor Noel Larkin (Ind) explained that the mural was part of a wider, ‘Ballybane Matters’ project, which stemmed from Galway City Joint Policing Committee (JPC).

“We were doing a lot of talking at the JPC about anti-social behaviour, and it seemed to be more prevalent in the Ballybane area. When we boiled it down, it was in the Sliabh Rua and Fána Glas areas.

“Month after month it was just talking. So Níall McNelis [chair of the JPC] said we should set up a small group to hone in on exactly what was going on,” he said.

A group was formed to focus on improving the Council estate of about 40 houses.

As well as Cllr Larkin, it included: Sergeant Mick Walsh, Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer and community Gardaí Maria Freeley, Nicola Browne, Kenneth Boyle and Darragh Browne; Fr Martin Glynn; Imelda Gormley of Ballybane Taskforce; Councillor Alan Cheevers; Donal Lynch, chairperson Merlin Neighbourhood Residents’ Association; and two members of Galway Traveller Movement, Katie Donoghue and Kate Ward.

Ms Gormley carried out a survey to get feedback from residents.

“A lot of the problems people had were horses on the green, people being harassed going in and out of estates, trailers full of rubbish left around the place, the City Council not cutting the grass, and anti-social behaviour,” explained Cllr Larkin.

Small improvements, with community buy in, has helped to revitalise the estate.

Cllr Larkin praised Edward Conlon, community warden with the City Council, who has been “absolutely brilliant”.

“He looked funding that was available to get trees or shrubs and to get the grass cut more regularly,” he said.

“Fr Martin got a residents committee set up because he knew people through the church, and that means there is community buy-in, people are actually taking an interest now.

“When we started originally, Sergeant Mick Walsh mentioned ‘the closed curtain syndrome’. You go into your home in the evening close your curtain and don’t want to see what’s going on outside. Whereas now, with community pride restored to the area, if somebody is acting the maggot outside, people are keeping an eye on it and that curbs anti-social behaviour,” said Cllr Larkin.

Covid-19 delayed the project but it “came together very quickly” once work started.

Cllr Larkin said that the project will move to other estates in Ballybane, including Fána Glas and Castlepark, but they also plan to maintain the progress made in on Sliabh Rua.

“We decided to concentrate on Sliabh Rua, because if we could crack Sliabh Rua we could crack the rest of them. Pride has been restored in the community,” added Cllr Larkin.

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CITY TRIBUNE

QR codes hold the key to podcast tour of Galway City

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From the Galway City Tribune – From singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran’s teenage days busking on the corner of William Street, to the rich past of the 14th century Lynch’s Castle on Shop Street, a new interactive tour of Galway City covers modern and ancient history.

Regional tour guide Jim Ward has created a series of podcasts detailing the history of eight places of interest in Galway City.

The Salthill native has created two-dimensional QR codes that are located at each of the eight locations, which allow visitors to download the podcasts to their smart phones.

Each podcast gives a flavour of the tours that Jim gives in ‘real-time’ when he leads hordes of tourists around the city’s famous sites.

The podcasts range from five to ten minutes and are located on or near buildings at the following locations: Eyre Square, William Street, Lynch’s Castle, the King’s Head, St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, the Latin Quarter, Spanish Arch and Galway Cathedral.

During the Covid-19 Lockdowns, Jim gave virtual tours by video through sustainable tourism website, Flockeo.

He has also brought Ukrainian refugees on tours through the city streets to allow them to become familiar with Galway’s rich history.

The podcasts are hosted on his website, galwaytrails.ie and are accessed on mobile devices through via QR codes scanned onto posters.

Jim said he was grateful to the businesses of Galway, who have allowed his to put up posters on their premises near the sites of interest.

“I propose to ask Galway City Council for permission to place some on public benches and poles at a later date.”

He said the idea was to “enhance interactive tourism in Galway and bring connectivity to the city”.

He also has other plans in the pipeline, including rolling-out an interactive oral history of certain areas such as Woodquay.

This would involve interviewing local people of interest in certain historic parts of the city, which could be accessed through podcasts. The stories would be their own, or that of local organisations.

“The recordings would be accessed through QR codes on lamp posts or park benches and would provide a level of interactivity and connectedness with our historic town,” Jim added.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Renters in Galway City have to fork out an extra €11,500 annually

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From the Galway City Tribune – Renters in private accommodation in Galway City are paying, on average, around €11,500 more per annum than they were at the bottom of the market ten years ago.

According to figures published by property website Daft.ie this week, the average monthly rent in the city now stands at €1,663 – that’s up a whopping 138% since the market trough in early 2012, when it stood at around €700.

At the end of June this year, the average monthly rent had risen 16.4% – one of the biggest jumps in the country.

Nationally rents in the second quarter of 2022 were an average of 12.6% higher than the same period a year earlier, as availability of rental homes reached an all-time low.

County Galway has seen a similar pattern of increases – average rents stood at €1,184 per month, up 12.4% on the previous year. The averages have also more than doubled – up 132% – since the bottom of the market.

At the moment, there are fewer than 60 properties available for for rent in Galway city and county – the lowest figure recorded since the Daft.ie rental reports began in 2006.

A breakdown of the figures shows that a single bedroom in Galway city centre is renting for an average of €588 per month, up 19.5% on June 2021, while in the suburbs, a similar room is commanding €503 per month, up 15.9% on a year earlier. A double room is generating €633 (up 16.4%) in the city centre and €577 (up 19.2%) in the suburbs.

In the city, an average one-bed apartment is currently ‘asking’ €1,110 per month (up 17.3% year on year); a €1,297 for a two-bed house (up 15.6%); €1,542 for a three-bed house (up 16.9%); €1,923 for a four-bed house (up 21.8%) and €2,016 for a five-bed house, which is up 10.6%.

Ronan Lyons, Associate Professor of Economics at Trinity College Dublin and author of the Daft report, pointed to a resurgent economy which has accentuated the chronic shortage of rental housing in Ireland.

“The shortage of rental accommodation translates directly into higher market rents and this can only be addressed by significantly increased supply.

“While there are almost 115,000 proposed rental homes in the pipeline, these are concentrated in the Dublin area. Further, while nearly 23,000 are under construction, the remainder are earlier in the process and the growth of legal challenges to new developments presents a threat to addressing the rental scarcity,” he said.

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