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Vincent de Paul in turmoil over LGBT split

Denise McNamara



The Society of St Vincent De Paul (SVP) has insisted that its decision to disband a committee which awarded €45,000 to a resource centre for the gay community had nothing to do with the vehement opposition of the Bishop of Galway.

In a statement from its public relations firm, the society said that it would not comment on internal matters following reports that it had ‘stood down’ the SVP St Augustine’s Conference which administered the Maureen O’Connell Fund.

The Irish Times claimed the move followed “disagreement over governance arrangements between the SVP at national and local level”.

SVP spokesman Jim Walsh told the Connacht Tribune it had “absolutely and categorically nothing to do with comments the Bishop made 18 months ago”.

The charity would make good on its promise to allocate the funding to the support group Amach to open a new resource centre for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Galway, which had been approved by the organisation’s National Management Council (NMC).

“SVP believes that it is an excellent concept in supporting vulnerable people. It is committed to supporting the resource centre, but as trustees the NMC require reasonable governance arrangements to be in place for the operation and management of the centre in order to satisfy the society’s obligations in the stewardship of resources,” he stated.

“Discussions have taken place with members of the board of Amach to arrive at an appropriate solution to the governance requirement for the grant to the resource centre and this dialogue is not yet complete.”

He also insisted that the fund was “winding down” as over 90% of its funds had been spent or approved for 60 beneficial projects, including funding for several resource centres and day care centres in Galway city and county as well as social housing and for a range of education projects for children.

No grants from the fund came from any public donations to SVP, the spokesman stressed.

“A final audit has yet to be made. But from the residual benefit of the legacy received by SVP (€7.8m) and interest accruing since 2007, there is approximately €350,000 which has not been allocated or approved,” said Mr Walsh. That will now be managed by the NMC.

Nuala Ward, vice-president of Amach, said the Teach Solais LGBT Resource Centre would be open by Christmas with the final preparation work now underway.

Galway City Council recently granted planning permission to Amach to change ground floor retail space at Victoria Place off Eyre Square into a drop-in centre and resource space.

The project overcame another significant hurdle when the local authority also approved €25,000 towards the cost of renting the building after an initial disagreement that it should go to the cost of buying a property.

“Amach are also in the final stages of drawing down the first installment of the grant from the Maureen O’Connell fund towards Teach Solais. We have received confirmation that the St Augustine Conference group has been suspended. However, the funds will be released by the SVP National Management Council,” she explained.

Once the SVP funding is received, interviews for a part-time community development support worker will be held.

The Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan last year slammed the charity’s large allocation towards a gay resource centre, which he said promotes a culture that was “morally wrong”.

In an outburst which prompted widespread criticism, Dr Drennan said the “moral judgment” involved in making the decision had damaged the reputation of the charity, with their supporters questioning whether they should they support SVP any longer.

In letters sent to the SVP demanding an explanation, the Bishop hinted that allocation could jeopardise the relationship between the Church and the charity.

According to the planning file, the centre will be “a safe, accessible environment to combat the effects of isolation, homophobia and transphobia on the overall health and well-being for LGBT and their families”.

The centre will be used in the evenings from 6.30pm to 10pm for meetings, peer support, the operation of a LGBT helpline and education, training and counselling workshops.

An area to the front of the premises will provide space for the sale of merchandise such as t-shirts, cards, keyrings.

Publican Maureen O’Connell, who was unmarried and without children, left her landmark pub in Eyre Square to the charity when she died in 1998, specifying that it should only go towards projects in Galway.

Legal wrangling over the will meant that it did not go on sale until the height of the Celtic Tiger when it was sold in 2006 for €14m. The cost of a settlement with a tenant in the pub and legal bills as well as capital gains tax swallowed up over €6m of the sale price.


Hospital worker failed to self isolate after trip to red-list country

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Management at University Hospital Galway have been asked to investigate ‘as a matter of urgency’ an allegation that a security employee at the hospital returned to work within the 14-day restriction period after coming back from a ‘red-list’ country.

The person has already worked at least two shifts at the hospital – including looking after an elderly patient – despite the fact that the restriction period would not have expired until this Sunday, September 20.

The Galway City Tribune can reveal that in a letter from SIPTU official to a senior UHG manager, it is alleged there was breach of protocol over recent days by an employee of an outsourced security company.

According to the letter to Services Manager Geoff Ginnety, while the worker was not covered under HSE employee rules, “they still must comply with the Government issued protocols”.

The letter from SIPTU states that the worker in question had told his colleagues that he was in a red-listed country and that ‘he did not have to restrict his movements’ for 14 days and could return to work.

“I request that you [Services Manager at UHG] address these concerns as a matter of urgency and provide clear guidance on how to deal with the issue,” the SIPTU letter states.

According to information accessed by the Galway City Tribune, the employee in question returned from a red-listed country on September 6 last and underwent a test for Covid-19 five days later on September 11.

Shortly after that, according to his employers, the results of his Covid tests came back as negative. The Galway City Tribune understands that he returned to his night-shift work on Tuesday night, September 15, and also worked the Wednesday night shift of September 16.

This newspaper has also been informed by reliable sources that on his first night back on duty the employee was left in charge of an elderly patient, while on his second night back at work, he was dutied to the Emergency Department.

When contacted by the Galway City Tribune, a spokesperson for the HSE said that they could not comment on issues relating to individual staff.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Leisureland sinks with €20,000 per week losses

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The plug is being pulled on Leisureland – leaving hundreds of swimmers, mostly children, and trainee lifeguards, high and dry.

Galway Salthill Fáilte CLG, the company that operates the publicly-owned facility, has confirmed it plans to shut down its swimming pool and gym, leaving members of six aquatic clubs, hundreds of schoolchildren, and the general public, without an amenity for the foreseeable future.

Swimming clubs fear they will lose a whole generation of young swimmers in Galway if the pool closes. And they have warned that it could end up costing €1 million to repair and reopen the pool after a prolonged closure.

Leisureland blamed the impact of coronavirus for its financial woes, with losses running at an average of €20,000 per week.

The company said that by August it had already spent its annual €300,000 subsidy subvention from Galway City Council, and the local authority has indicated it is not in a position to increase the subsidy further in 2020.

The planned closure – which could result in the furloughing of over 20 staff from next month – has shocked the local aquatic community.

A lengthy hiatus with Leisureland closed will mean Galway will lose a ‘whole generation’ of swimmers, according to Eamon Caulfield, President of Galway Swimming Club and member and former chairperson of Corrib Water Polo Club.

“We’re particularly upset and aggrieved that this is going ahead, it’s shocking. They should be looking to reverse this decision,” he said this week.

The majority of the five aquatic clubs that use the facility (Galway SC, Shark SC, Laser SC and Tribes and Corrib water polo clubs) are made up of children aged 10-18, including some international athletes. Hundreds of children from Galway schools also learn to swim there.

A water safety group has been using the pool every Sunday morning since it opened in 1973, he said.

“Historically it is where Galway gets its lifeguards from. How can you not have swim lessons in a public pool? How can you not have water safety taught in a pool in Galway?

“It beggars belief, we’re on the sea. The water safety people, where are they going to go, how are we going to get lifeguards for beaches? How are we going to get teachers for teaching swimming?” asked Mr Caulfield.

The clubs have roughly 150 members each and generate €150,000 revenue annually for Leisureland.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full version, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Galway Gardaí get more than 1,000 house party calls

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway Gardaí have responded to more 1,000 house calls relating to house parties during the pandemic from mid-March to early September – the vast majority of them in the city area, it was revealed this week.

Chief Superintendent, Tom Curley, told the Galway City Tribune, that the figures for house party Garda call-outs were ‘startling’ and a source of major concern.

“This is a no-brainer. For anyone thinking of a house party, the simple message is – don’t do it. A serious amount of Garda time is now being spent dealing with house-party related incidents,” he said.

Between March 18 and September 1 this year, the Galway Garda Division responded to 1,034 house-party related calls, most of them in the city area.

“This a real and pressing issue not only for the Gardaí and the health authorities but also for the general public at large.

“Large numbers of people gathering in an enclosed house setting can be potentially disastrous in terms of our efforts to contain the spread of this virus. House parties are out – it’s as simple as that,” said Chief Supt Curley.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read more on Covid in Galway, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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