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Who’d be a teacher as Covid comes to class?



Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Who’d be a teacher, lads? Like, seriously.

The public perception is that teaching is a cushy number. And in fairness, BC – Before Coronavirus – teaching had its attractions.

It’s a State job, permanent and pensionable, and teachers enjoy holidays rivalled only by TDs and Senators. Weekends off, teachers also clock off earlier than most nine-to-five workers.

They won’t get rich on the salary, but opportunities exist to supplement income. Some teachers provide grinds, or take second or seasonal jobs. And there are extras for principals and for teachers eligible for qualification allowances.

A common response from teachers, when slagged about just how good they have it, was to point out that everyone got the same CAO form to fill in during Leaving Cert.

Which, of course, is true. But aren’t most of you glad now that you didn’t put Mary I or St Pat’s as your first choices for university?

You’d sooner lick door-handles in University Hospital Galway for a living. Okay, not quite. But teachers are now on the front-line of the response to Coronavirus.

Lockdown one was rough. It’s hard enough trying to engage a class of 30-plus six-year-olds when they’re sitting in a classroom. Try doing it remotely, on apps or email, when some kids don’t even have iPads or computers and others have sketchy Wi-Fi, or even sketchier parents who can’t be bothered. Like most workers, it was a significant change in work practices for scant recognition.

Then, during summer, secondary school teachers faced the fear of legal writs (welcome to journalists’ world!) for allocating marks to their students’ Leaving Cert. Calculated grades was a minefield.

Lockdown two is rougher. Because now it’s becoming clear that the entire school community – teachers, special-needs assistants, secretaries, principals, cleaners and students – face other hazards.

The sneaky suspicion is that schools aren’t the safe haven the authorities would have us believe. Safer, perhaps, than many other settings, but the definition of a close contact in classrooms is ridiculous.

We all know of a school in Galway that has had a case. Teachers are worried. Even though they’re not classified as close contacts, they know they have been in close contact with children in classrooms where Covid has been confirmed. If they worked anywhere else, they would be considered close contacts.

Pubs have closed if staff tested positive. But only children in the pods with a positive case are told to stay home – everyone else is expected to pretend nothing happened.

There is also an information vacuum. Teachers are learning from their students that their colleagues are out with Covid, or are isolating because they’re close contacts. Substitute teachers aren’t told the reason they’re getting a fortnight’s work is to cover for a confirmed case.

Teachers are scared. Some are feigning symptoms to secure Covid tests for peace of mind. Others plan unpaid leave before Christmas, so they can isolate for two weeks before going home to vulnerable families.

As a society, we’ve decided we want schools open. It’s long past time we put procedures in place to make them safe.
For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.


Concerns over reopening of Middle Arch on Tuesday



A Galway City Councillor has given a cautious welcome but has also raised concerns over the reopening of the ‘Middle Arch’ beside the Claddagh Basin next Tuesday.

Access was closed to the public last May following requests from the Gardai due to large crowds that had gathered in the days previously amid fears of it becoming a serious health and safety risk.

The concerns were raised by Cllr. Niall McNelis who said that a cautious welcome should be given but that the possibility of closing it in evenings needs to be seriously looked at.

He said “The decision to close it was earlier in year was due to it had become an area where large groups had gathered drinking and had led to calls by locals that it had become a serious health and safety risk. The area also does not have safety barriers and this has led to persons falling into the water in the past.

“Recently there has been a large number of calls made that the area should be reopened and that public space be made available to the public.”

Cllr. McNelis also said that a cautious welcome should be given but that the possibility of closing it in evenings needs to be seriously looked at.

“We can not have the same scenes repeated as we did earlier this year and in previous years. House gardens and Claddagh church grounds were used as toilets and large amounts of litter mainly drink, was left behind. I have met a number of residents this weekend who are not happy with decision and calls have been made by them to have it closed in evenings by City Council and Gardai should assist in clearing area if needs be.

“We do not have enough Garda personnel to have proper policing in our city, we need more resources for the city to tackle and enforce anti social behaviour.

“I have met this week with Gardai and have been given assurances that this will be closely monitored and occasions such as exam results nights, freshers week and good weather will be monitored,” he said.

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Council rows back on ‘reduced delays’ projections for Kirwan junction



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Motorists have described it as ‘a disaster’ and a former mayor has said the project gave very poor value for money, but Galway City Council have this week asked the public to be patient with the revamped Kirwan junction, close to the Menlo Park Hotel.

Since the four-arm signalled junction opened early last week, motorists have complained of traffic queues stretching back to the Quincentenary Bridge and Corrib Park.

And now the Council has rowed back on its consultants’ claims that the junction would increase capacity by 15% and reduce waiting times by 25%.

Former mayor and local taxi driver, Cllr Frank Fahy, told the Galway City Tribune that given the negative impact of the junction on traffic, the €5 million spent on the project represented ‘very poor value’ as regards taxpayers’ money.

“I will admit that the junction is now safer for pedestrians in that they can hit a button to give them a safe crossing, but since it opened there have some very serious traffic tailbacks,” said Cllr Fahy.

However, City Council Acting Director of Services for Transport, Uinsinn Finn, told the Galway City Tribune that the new junction needed time to ‘bed in’ with a familiarisation process.

“The main objectives of this project were to make far safer for pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate, as well as making it safer for motorists too, without impacting [negatively] on the traffic flow,” said Mr Finn.

He added that since it opened – and over the coming few weeks – data on all aspects of how the junction was functioning would be compiled which could involve changes to light sequencing, lanes and peak traffic flows.

One motorist who contacted this newspaper said that the daily “nightmare” journey from the Barna Road to the Headford Road during the morning peak traffic time had added up to 40 minutes to his journey time.

“The two lanes are regularly gridlocked from the junction, back the N6, over the Quincentenary Bridge and back to Corrib Park.

“In the mornings, it’s now easier to go down Taylor’s Hill and into town, past Eyre Square and up Bohermore to get down to the Headford Road.

Councillors were told by consultants in 2017 and again in 2018 – when they voted to proceed with the changeover to a junction – that average delays would be reduced by 25% and junction capacity would increase by 15%.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Man hospitalised following Eyre Square assault



Gardaí have appealed to the public for information into an assault in Eyre Square last weekend which led to a young man being hospitalised.

The victim of the assault – a man in his early 20s from the city area – suffered a cut to his knee and may have had a substance sprayed towards his eyes.

Following the incident – that occurred close to the Eyre Square taxi rank shortly after midnight on Saturday night last – the victim was taken by ambulance to University Hospital Galway.

It is understood that the victim was released later that morning and has made a full recovery. This week, Gardaí are poring over CCTV footage in an effort to try and identify the perpetrators of the assault.

The assailants are understood to have fled on foot after the incident towards St Patrick’s Avenue on the east side of Eyre Square.

A Garda spokesperson has appealed for anyone who was in the vicinity of the taxi rank on Eyre Square between 12 midnight and 12.30am on the Sunday morning (Saturday night) of July 25 last, and who may have witnessed the incident to contact them.

(Photo: the assailants fled on foot towards St Patrick’s Avenue off Eyre Square)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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