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Connacht Tribune

SVP had 1,500 referrals in Galway in run-up to Christmas

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The Society of St Vincent de Paul received over 1,500 referrals in Galway City alone in the four weeks before Christmas.

According to the Regional Coordinator for the organisation, the run up to Christmas was much busier than before, with the numbers requiring help from the charity increasing year on year.

Madge McGreal told the Connacht Tribune that in 2018, there was a surge in people seeking help from the organisation for the first time.

“This year, there was an increase in people who have never used our service before – we’ve definitely had an increase.

“We deal with a lot of people who lose their job because of illness and hard times,” she said.

Poverty levels among children and lone parents remains extremely high, with increasing rents putting extreme pressure on these households, said Ms McGreal.

“We are dealing with a lot of people in rent arrears and our conference members would advocate on behalf of them, to try keep them in their homes.

“The lower and middle income workers are definitely suffering. Once their rent is paid, there is nothing left at the end of the month,” she said.

Investment in housing should be a priority, said Ms McGreal, adding that those who are renting are often in substandard accommodation with rising rents.

“They are paying high rents and there’s no insulation or anything like that so it costs more to heat these places,” she added.

Ms McGreal said the numbers of people working and struggling to make ends meet was on the up – and these are the people St Vincent de Paul want to hear from.

Nationally, the charity’s eight regional centres have been dealing with over 1,000 calls per day.

Rising numbers in emergency accommodation, particularly families, has increased demand on the organisation’s services – and in Galway, that stretches outside the city boundaries.

“There is an awful lot of people in the city in emergency accommodation but we have people in emergency accommodation in Clifden – we have people in that situation across the county.

“The people living in Direct Provision, they are really suffering because they have nothing. We have two Direct Provision centres in the city and our view is that education is the cornerstone to helping them,” said Ms McGreal.

“We do after-school clubs in the Eglinton [Direct Provision Centre in Salthill] and we help with swimming lessons for the kids, and for the adults by helping with courses,” she continued.

Ms McGreal said the perception that things are improving was wrong, with many peoples still suffering extreme financial hardship.

“The stats on poverty released in December show some moderate improvement with a three per cent decrease in levels, so they say things are getting better, but they’re not getting better for everybody,” she said.

The National Minimum Wage needs to become a living wage because it currently doesn’t match what would be considered a minimum living standard, said Ms McGreal.

Christmas is always a busy time of the year for the organisation and in the week past, the western branch of the charity’s 1,200 volunteers delivered thousands of food hampers and toys to those in to people in need across Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

Connacht Tribune

Wave goodbye to City Bypass as long as Greens are in Government

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An artist's impression of proposed Galway Ring Road.

PEOPLE in the West of Ireland should not be ‘fooled’ into thinking that vital infrastructure projects like the Galway City Bypass will get the go-ahead while Eamon Ryan remains in charge of Environment, a former Fianna Fail Minister and West Galway TD has warned this week.

That’s despite Tánaiste Leo Varadkar re-iterating on Galway Bay FM this week that the funding for the project has already been allocated – although he admitted that planning was the final hurdle.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív told the Connacht Tribune that the proposed bypass of Galway city, which has a Bord Pleanála decision due by November 19 next, would end up being choked under the headings of ‘carbon proofing and carbon rating’.

“Make no mistake about it but the word on the ground that’s filtering through to local Green Party representatives is that this project will not go ahead, and will be stopped because of carbon-proofing regulations.

“This is no red herring – over the years, I’ve seen so many road projects in Connemara that were given the go-ahead in principle but have never happened because of so-called processes and procedures,” said Éamon Ó Cuív.

However, he pledged that the six Fianna Fáil representatives across Connacht, would fight ‘tooth and nail’ not to see the West ‘left behind’ with roads projects that were vital for the future of the province.

“We will be meeting directly with Taoiseach, Micheál Martin on Wednesday next [October 20] to stress the importance of a number of roads projects across the West of Ireland, including the Galway City Bypass.

“And I would also stress that we are committed fully to environmental and carbon reduction measures, but the way to do this is not by preventing people in the West of Ireland from using their cars – the cars aren’t the problem – it’s the fuel that’s used to power them,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Connemara coffee couple are now well grounded!

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Aoife Geary and James Elcock on their opening day, with their first customers - and landlords - Roundstone natives Michael John and Catherine Ferrons, sitting outside.

Aoife Geary always felt like one of the locals in Carna. Even though her parents were living in Galway City, she was largely raised by her granny and grandad Barbara and Coleman Geary. Her first job as a 13-year-old was in the local shop in the Connemara village.

“I know it sounds a bit romantic, but I felt like I was raised by the community, not just in the community. I knew everybody in the shop and everybody knew me,” she reflects.

So, when London was about to go into the first lockdown in March 2020, she and husband James Elcock made a split decision to hop on a flight to Galway armed with two carry-on suitcases.

“Granny was terminally ill with cancer, and I wanted to help out with her care and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to travel. Little did we think we weren’t going to leave.”

Aoife was the live entertainment manager for billionaire Richard Branson’s private members club called Roof Gardens in Kensington while James, a native of Shropshire, was running a restaurant in the bank area of London. She had lived in London since 2013, her husband four years longer.

When he was made redundant, he bought himself a vintage sewing machine in Castlebar and taught himself to use it in an afternoon, setting up his first Irish business making and selling cotton face masks.

They then realised that a takeaway unit in Roundstone had become free, which was overlooking the picturesque pier and with views of the Twelve Bens. They opened My Coffee Cottage in mid-August and business was brisk from the get-go.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Budget’s grant break for college commuters

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NUI Galway.

Grants for some third level students living in certain parts of County Galway, who attend college in the city, could more than double as a result of changes in Budget 2022.

Undergraduates and students on post leaving cert courses living in areas such as Tuam, Loughrea and An Cheathrú Rua will all benefit from an adjustment to the eligibility to the non-adjacent rate for maintenance grants.  Some could get a grant boost of €1,800 next year due to the changes announced in the Budget.

People eligible for a maintenance grant are paid at either a non-adjacent rate or an adjacent rate – determined by measuring the distance of the shortest direct route from your normal residence to college.

Currently, the adjacent rate – which is lower – is paid when your college is 45km or less from where you live. The higher non-adjacent rate is paid when the college is more than 45km away from an eligible student’s home. The non-adjacent rate has been adjusted in Budget 2022 to include 30km to 45km.

This means that eligibility for the non-adjacent rate has been widened, and many students who were previously on the adjacent rate may now be eligible for a higher non-adjacent rate. It means that third level students living in Tuam, Loughrea and An Cheathrú could be eligible for the higher non-adjacent rate next September.

Get the full details on this and the impact of Budget 2022 in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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