A group of 24 volunteers from Galway are finalising their annual trip to an orphanage in Belarus where they will provide a ‘Summer Camp’ for 220 children and young adults with a range of special needs.
The plight of the children is as a direct result of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion 32 years ago, on April 26, 1986, that killed 31 people at the time but has also led to thousands of cancer fatalities in the years since.
Orphanage children in Belarus are desperately short of resources and care, with physically handicapped children often having to wait until they reach adulthood before getting a wheelchair.
The Galway volunteers – headed up by Monivea woman Rose Mullins – are flying out to the Goradische Special Needs Orphanage in Belarus on June 3 next as part of the Burren Chernobyl Project.
At the orphanage, the volunteers will strive to provide the feeling of a ‘summer holiday’ for the 220 children and young adults at the orphanage, aged between four and 25 years.
The volunteers pay for their own flights with all donations and sponsorship going directly to the Burren Chernobyl, a charity founded by Bro. Liam O’Meara in Ennistymon, Co. Clare, in 1993.
The main fundraiser each year for the project are the ‘tea dances’ organised by Abbeyknockmoy woman, Della Dolan, every Sunday in the Ard Rí House Hotel in Tuam, with the help of her brother Val.
According to one of the volunteers, Leonie Finn, the provision of such basic foods as vegetables, fruit and meat for the children at picnics they organise, are real treats for them.
“During the year at the orphanage, what the four-year-old eats is the same as what the 25-year-old eats, and while nourishing in its own way, it is dished up the same way to everyone.
“A lot of our fundraising money is spent on items like yogurts and butter as we try to nourish the children as best we can while we’re there.
“One of the main purposes of our trip is to spend some quality time with the children – they have no physiotherapy available to them and in terms of people supporting them out there, the services are very much understaffed,” said Leonie Finn.
One of last year’s volunteers, trainee doctor Brian Carty, said that the memories of last year’s trip would stay with him forever.
“The children’s positive outlook and their gratitude – for even the smallest gestures – was endearing. The children have immense abilities and talents.
“A large proportion are affected by physical disabilities and the provision of physiotherapy would be a life-changing addition to them, particularly the bedbound children,” said Brian Carthy.
He said that he was ‘particularly taken’ by the case of a 15-year-old boy called Kerriel, who was incredibly enthusiastic, with an ambition to work with computers. He would have to wait another three years – until fully grown – before a wheelchair would be provided for him.
“A visiting doctor, charged with providing care for the children, that we were introduced to at the orphanage explained to us the problem of under-resourcing and under-staffing there.
“The service is wholly under-funded and the over-crowding leads to very primitive health care interventions.
“The lack of appropriate intervention was clearly evident with numerous children displaying long-term signs of medical complications which could have been avoided if appropriate care was given.
“It is a tragedy that despite the wonderful work already carried out, much has still to be done in order to give these wonderful children the basic human rights they sincerely deserve,” said Brian Carty.
For anyone wishing to donate to what is a most deserving and worthy charity venture, the Burren Chernobyl Project bank account is in the AIB Branch, Ennistymon, Co. Clare. IBAN: IE29AIBK93515801070280. BIC: AIB IE29AIBK.
Galway rowers aim for Olympic gold!
Best of luck to two Galway rowers – Aifric Keogh of Aill an Phréacháin in Na Forbacha, and Fiona Murtagh from Gortachalla in Moycullen – who are part of Team Ireland’s Women’s Coxless Fours team who compete in an Olympic final in Tokyo at 1.50am (Irish time) Wednesday.
Coverage on RTÉ 2 television begins from 1am.
Ireland – who were second in their heat after Australia, who set a new Olympic Record – are in lane two, with Great Britain on their outside, and Australia, favourites for a gold medal, in lane three.
The Netherlands, China and Poland are in lanes four, five and six at the Sea Forest Waterway.
Poor weather meant some rowing events were re-scheduled but the Women’s Fours final was not impacted.
Jim Keogh, Aifric’s father, told the Tribune he was hopeful ahead of the final.
“To make the Olympics is tough, to make the final is tough, to make the medal is tougher,” he said.
Photo: Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty.
*Full coverage of the race and reaction in this week’s Connacht Tribune and Galway City Tribune
Paedophile sentenced to a further 17 months in prison
A convicted paedophile, described by a Garda as ‘a prolific child abuser’, has had a 17-month prison sentence added to a 13-year sentence he is already serving for the rape and sexual abuse of children.
Disgraced primary school teacher and summer school bus driver, 69-year-old Seosamh Ó Ceallaigh, a native of Tuirín, Béal a’ Daingin, Conamara, had at all times denied two charges of indecently assaulting a ten-year-old boy at a Gaeltacht summer school in Béal a’ Daingin in 1979.
The offence carries a maximum two-year sentence.
A jury found him guilty by majority verdict following a four-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last month.
At his sentence hearing last week, Detective Paul Duffy described Ó Ceallaigh as a prolific child abuser who had amassed 125 child abuse convictions, committed while he was a primary school teacher in Dublin and while he operated an Irish language summer school in Beal a’ Daingin.
They included convictions for rape and sexual assault for which he is currently serving sentences totalling 13 years.
Those sentences were due to expire in August 2024, but last week, Judge Rory McCabe imposed two, concurrent 17-month sentences on Ó Ceallaigh, before directing the sentences begin at the termination of the sentences he is currently serving.
The judge noted Ó Ceallaigh’s denial and lack of remorse and the lifelong detrimental effect the abuse had on the victim as aggravating factors.
Dismay as marine park proposal rejected by planners
A lifeline project, with the potential to create around 200 long-term jobs in an area of South Connemara ravaged by unemployment and emigration, has been rejected by planners – primarily environmental grounds.
The proposed marine park or Páirc na Mara, east of Cill Chiaráin village, was viewed by many as a real chance to turn the tide for this unemployment blackspot.
Locals – and the vast majority of Galway West politicians – were supportive of the project which was viewed as one that would revitalise the area.
That said, Galway County Council’s decision to refuse permission for the marine park was welcomed by Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages which had expressed fears that the marine farm would extract huge amounts of fresh water to breed more than 1.5 million salmon smolts.
They said that millions of litres of fresh water would have been extracted on a regular basis by the salmon farm company operating the smolt rearing units – from the same lakes as the Carna and Cill Chiaráin water supply system.
“Local residents can now rest assured that their domestic water supply won’t be hijacked to line the pockets of people who have no regard for the local environment or residents,” said Billy Smyth, Chairman of Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages.
It was proposed to provide a marine innovation park Pairc na Mara on a 60-acre brownfield site at Cill Chiarain.
The development involves the provision of a number of marine-based facilities as well as education and research facilities in the townlands of Cill Chiarain, Ardmore and Calvary.
It involves the abstraction of water from Lough Scannan, its transfer to and temporary storage in Iron Lake along with impoundment and pumping to the Marine Park site with a rising main.
According to the application, Galway County Council has previously granted planning permission for aquaculture-based activities on the site of the proposed marine park back in 2002 while the first phase of the innovation park was built in 2005.
There were a considerable number of submissions supporting the application with many saying that this part of Connemara would benefit greatly from such a development.
But there were others who expressed concern over the potential impact it would have on the environment, and it would be located in a highly sensitive area.
Cllr Gerry King said that it was a valuable opportunity lost to the area given the amount of unemployment that exists. He added that there was local outrage at the decision.
The Fianna Fail councillor met with those behind the project and residents in support of the project. He said that they all agreed that this decision should be appealed to the higher planning authority.
It was refused on the basis that it would adversely affect the integrity and conservation objectives of the European sides in the vicinity of environmental value.
Planners stated that they could not be certain that the project would not adversely affect the integrity of Cill Ciaran Bay, the islands and Connemara bog complex
They also said that the Environmental Impact Assessment Report did not present a sufficient level of information on the impact it would have on human health, biodiversity, land, soil, water along with cultural heritage and the landscape.