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Connacht Tribune

Traveller couple’s plea: ‘Save us from squalor’

Dara Bradley

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A Traveller couple living on a ‘tip’ of a halting site in County Galway have appealed to the authorities to find them a proper home.

Newlyweds Martin and Ann-Louise Ward say they are living in squalor at Capira temporary halting site in Portumna, despite Galway County Council recently carrying out an upgrade worth €125,000.

They are one of three families (eight adults and three children) living at the halting site because they say they have nowhere else to go. They have no use of shower facilities on-site, there is a sewage problem with the toilet facilities and a problem with rats.

The Capira temporary halting site in Portumna.

“There was construction work recently on the site and that has stirred up a rat problem. We are concerned that a nest of rats has been disturbed – we can hear them at night,” she said.

The Wards agreed they are living at the County Council site without authorisation but said they have nowhere else to go.

“We’ve effectively been homeless for two and a half years,” said Ms Ward.

She said they want to start a family but have had to delay it until they are housed. “The thought of putting children through this is unthinkable so it has been put on hold,” said Ms Ward.

“We don’t want to be here. We just want to settle down. The site is like a tip. We’ve cleaned it since the last tenants moved on to Dublin but it’s not a safe place to live in.

“The water isn’t drinkable – there’s a strange white chalk in it. We don’t have any shower facilities. If we want to wash we have to go to the nearby gym or we have to use the public showers at the Shannon. We don’t have a washing machine and we have to wash our clothes in the town once a week.

“During the snow and Storm Ophelia this year we had no electricity, it was so cold in the caravan. The site is neglected. I’m five foot two and the grass is up to my waist.

“We have asked Galway County Council but they said they cannot help us. We don’t want to be there but we’ve nowhere else to go. We are there illegally, none of us have a tenancy, but where else can we go? I want to be housed. I want a home. I’m from Tuam and my husband is from Galway City and all we want is somewhere to live and start a family,” she said.

Fiona Whyte has three children and a Traveller partner, who have been living at Capira for three months, having previously been on the side of the road in a caravan. Ms Whyte doesn’t have tenancy but doesn’t want to be there either. 

“It’s not safe for my children. I’ve a toddler and a child going to school and they can’t even go outside to play. The state of the place. The Council workers wouldn’t live here and yet they expect us to put up with these conditions. It’s not being maintained, there is construction going on here and it’s not safe. The water is contaminated. We’ve been on the waiting list for years. I need a house. I need a home. The Council just keep ignoring us,” said Ms Whyte.

A spokesperson for the County Council said stage One of works at Capira temporary halting site commenced earlier this year. These works involved converting two of the four existing welfare units to provide shower facilities and enhance the kitchen and dining area and toilet facilities, doubling the size of the welfare units.

The contract costs for these works was €125,000 and the works are now substantially complete, resulting in a significant improvement in facilities. The plan is, subject to funding from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, to advance stage two of the works over the coming months.

These proposed works include the renovation of the two remaining units to the standard provided by the works carried out in stage one, together with surface water drainage works and other site improvements.

The spokesperson added: “The responsibility for the maintenance of the site is a shared responsibility between the Council and the residents.

“The site can only be appropriately maintained with the input and co-operation of all the residents. There are currently a number of unauthorised occupiers on site and this has presented challenges in the Council’s ongoing efforts to manage and maintain the site.

“The water supply at the site is from a public mains. The Council has never received any prior reports of poor-quality supply, however, the issue will be referred to Irish Water.”

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Connacht Tribune

Galway to complete vaccine roll-out by end of the summer

Denise McNamara

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Ninety-five year old Margaret Kenny was first person to be administered the Covid-19 vaccination Practice Nurse Deirdre Furey at the Surgery Athenry.

On the first anniversary of Covid-19’s deadly arrival into Ireland, the head of the Saolta hospital group has predicted that all who want the vaccine will have received it by the end of the summer.

Tony Canavan, CEO of the seven public hospitals, told the Connacht Tribune that the HSE was planning to set up satellite centres from the main vaccination hub at the Galway Racecourse to vaccinate people on the islands and in the most rural parts of the county.

While locations have not yet been signed up, the HSE was looking at larger buildings with good access that could be used temporarily to carry out the vaccination programme over a short period.

“We do want to reach out to rural parts of the region instead of drawing in people from the likes of Clifden and over from the islands. The plan is to set up satellites from the main centre, sending out small teams out to the likes of Connemara,” he explained.

“Ideally we’d run it as close as possible to the same time that the main centres are operating once that is set up. Communication is key – if people know we’re coming, it will put people’s minds at rest.”

Get all the latest Covid-19 coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Galway meteorologist enjoying new-found fame in the sun!

Denise McNamara

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Linda Hughes, presenting the RTÉ weather forecast live in studio.

Growing up in Galway where four seasons in a day is considered a soft one, Linda Hughes always had a keen interest in the weather.

But unlike most Irish people, instead of just obsessing about it, she actually went and pursued it as a career.

The latest meteorologist to appear on RTE’s weather forecasts hails from Porridgtown, Oughterard, and brings with her an impressive background in marine forecasting.

She spent six years in Aerospace and Marine International in Aberdeen, Scotland, which provides forecasts for the oil and gas industry.

The 33-year-old was a route analyst responsible for planning routes for global shipping companies. She joined the company after studying experimental physics in NUIG and doing a masters in applied meteorology in Redding in the UK.

“My job was to keep crews safe and not lose cargo by picking the best route to get them to their destination as quickly as possibly but avoiding hurricanes, severe storms,” she explains.

“It was a very interesting job, I really enjoyed it but it was very stressful as you were dealing with bad weather all the time because there’s always bad weather in some part of the world.”

Read the full interview with Linda Hughes in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Great-great-grandmother home after Covid, a stroke, heart failure and brain surgery

Dave O'Connell

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Mary Quinn...back home after an incredible few months.

Her family are understandably calling her their miracle mum – because an 81 year old great-great-grandmother from Galway has bounced back from Covid-19, a stroke, heart failure and brain surgery since Christmas…to return hale and hearty, to her own home.

But Mary Quinn’s family will never forget the trauma of the last three months, as the Woodford woman fought back against all of the odds from a series of catastrophic set-backs.

The drama began when Mary was found with a bleed on her brain on December 16. She was admitted to Portiuncula Hospital, and transferred to Beaumont a day later where she underwent an emergency procedure – only to then suffer a stroke.

To compound the crisis, while in Beaumont, she contracted pneumonia, suffered heart failure and developed COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – the inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs.

“Christmas without mom; things did not look good,” said her daughter Catherine Shiel.

But the worst was still to come – because before Mary was discharged, she contracted Covid-19.

Read Mary’s full, heart-warming story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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