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Vincent de Paul in turmoil over LGBT split

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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.

Connacht Tribune

Help at hand for hand-pressed families this Christmas

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SVP Galway area President Séamus McManus.

Galway people struggling to cover the cost of Christmas have been urged to seek help from the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.

The SVP Galway area’s network of 27 conferences is experiencing a surge in requests for help with food, energy and heating bills as the cost-of-living soars – but Galway area President Séamus McManus insisted help was at hand.

“There is hope out there, and there is help available for people in trouble. We might not be able to do everything but we can help, especially coming up to Christmas.

“Imagine a Christmas that is cold and hungry? That would be no Christmas at all, so we have help. We want people to at least enjoy those few days of Christmas,” Mr McManus said.

SVP said it was “deeply concerned” by new Central Statistics Office data which showed a sharp rise in households going without essentials such as nutritious food, adequate heating and clothing; up by 184,000 to 875,000 people nationally compared with 2021.

SVP nationally is getting an average of 800 calls per day, which is up about 20% on last year. This is mirrored in Galway city and county, too, Mr McManus said.

“We’ve had some heart-breaking requests where the main breadwinner had a serious diagnosis and it meant their whole life has been thrown into turmoil; they can’t pay rent, they can’t pay ordinary family living expenses.

“We’ve also had students with mental health issues who have had to pull out of college and lose their SUSI grants and they’re left high and dry. We’ve had people with relationship breakdown, where maintenance wouldn’t be forthcoming and they’re left in a precarious position,” he added.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway Professor on taking the reins as country’s top doc

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Chief Medical Officer, Breda Smyth.

Three weeks after Professor Breda Smyth was appointed Ireland’s interim Chief Medical Officer (CMO), the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Monkeypox outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

It proved a baptism of fire for Tony Holohan’s successor, who already had the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in her in-tray.

But the Mayo native, who lives in Galway, took it all in her stride.

“It’s a significant responsibility. I am taking it one step at a time,” said the country’s first female CMO.

And in fairness, it’s not like she’s wet round the ears when it comes to strategising for infectious diseases.

Professor Smyth may be best known outside of medical circles in Galway for her traditional Irish musical talents, but she was also the public face of the Covid-19 pandemic as HSE West Director of Public Health.

Through that HSE role, which she held for 13 years, she became a member of NPHET (the National Public Health Emergency Team) that advised Government on how to steer the country through the pandemic; as well as being a member of the Expert Advisory Group on Rapid Testing, and a founding member of the Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group.

That experience stood to her since becoming interim CMO in July, which progressed to a permanent position in October.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Former Minister slams ‘rotten and corrupt’ IFI

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Senator Sean Kyne.

By Dara Bradley

A Galway Senator has slammed Inland Fisheries Ireland as ‘rotten and corrupt’ – and Fine Gael’s Seán Kyne has threatened to use parliamentary privilege to highlight what he labelled as ‘issues of corruption’ within IFI.

Senator Kyne is a former Minister of State with responsibility for natural resources, which encompassed IFI which itself is responsible for the protection of waters, including Lough Corrib. Speaking in the Seanad last Thursday, he referenced a review that was commissioned by the Minister for the Environment, Climate Action and Communications, Eamon Ryan, into the functioning of the board of IFI.

A report by senior counsel Conleth Bradley concluded last July and was sent to the Department and to IFI before being published on November 7.

Senator Kyne said he has read the report, which used legalese to conclude: “There is not a basis, from the alleged disclosures and the information and documentation which have been reviewed, for the Minister to be satisfied that the functions of IFI are not being performed in an effective manner such as to give effect to the removal of all members of IFI from office.”

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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