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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.


Swimmer James clocks up one million metres in year



From the Galway City Tribune – A keen swimmer in Galway has clocked up an astonishing one million metres in a year as part of his gruelling exercise schedule.

James Brennan reached the impressive milestone over 400 swims last years,  which were split between the sea in Salthill and across the road early-morning sessions at Leisureland pool.

He would count the lengths in his head or on his watch, regularly swimming up to 240 lengths over 90 minutes in the pool and up to 2km off the beach for a half-hour. On a regular week he would swim the equivalent of 20km.

When James realised he was at 800,000 metres last November, he decided to go all-out to pass the one-million mark by the end of 2022.

So he concentrated on swimming for at least ten hours a week leading up to Christmas and celebrated passing his goal before breaking up for the festivities.

“I’ve always done a lot of swimming. I’ve competed for my local swimming club in Claremorris, County Mayo, and was involved in the Corrib Polo Water Club races. I won the Heskin League, which is a combination of the 14 different open water races in Salthill. I also won the league in Claremorris,” he reveals.

The software engineer has been living in Galway for  13 years and has been a member of Leisureland for four years.

“It’s a really great pool, it has nice facilities, the staff are all very nice,” he reflects.

Facilities Manager of the Council-owned premises, Ian Brennan, said the phenomenal distance was the equivalent of swimming from Galway to Amsterdam.

He heard about James’s achievement from Green Party Councillor and Leisureland board member Niall Murphy, who happened to be swimming in the lane beside James when the Mayo man reached the goal.

“I felt that this is a hugely worthy event and fills me with amazement that we have a superhero in our midst. The future is bright.”

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Ó Tuathail not interested in Galway City Council co-option



From the Galway City Tribune – A two-time general election candidate for the Social Democrats in Galway West has ruled out filling the party’s vacant seat on Galway City Council.

Niall Ó Tuathail, a health reform advisor, has confirmed to the Galway City Tribune that he will not be co-opted to the City Council seat vacated by the shock resignation of Councillor Owen Hanley in January.

“I’m not going to be put forward for co-option,” said Mr Ó Tuathail.

The father-of-two has lived abroad for a time since taking a step back from electoral politics in the wake of his 2020 General Election defeat.

He confirmed this week he has not reconsidered his decision to take a long break from frontline politics.

“I’m still a Soc Dem member and we’re in a process looking for someone strong to represent the values of the people who voted for us in 2019,” Mr Ó Tuathail said.

He polled 3,653 first preference votes in 2020 in Galway West and was only eliminated after the 12th count in the five-seat constituency.

That was an increase on the 3,455 number ones he received in his first Dáil election in 2016, when he also bowed out on the 12th count.

Mr Ó Tuathail was synonymous with the Social Democrats’ brand in Galway, and was heavily involved with the local referenda campaigns for marriage equality and to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

It surprised many political observers when he opted not to fight a local election for the party in 2019.

That was a breakthrough election for the Soc Dems, when Owen Hanley became the party’s first ever Galway City councillor by winning a seat in Galway City East. Sharon Nolan narrowly missed out on a seat in City Central during the same election.

Mr Hanley cited allegations made against him when he announced in January that he was resigning his position.

He said that the matters were “very serious” and would take a considerable amount of time for the authorities to investigate.

The resignation of Mr Hanley left a vacancy on the City Council.

It is the prerogative of the Social Democrats to nominate a person who will be co-opted to replace him as a councillor at City Hall.

A spokesperson for the party told the Tribune last week that it has not yet chosen a successor.

“We don’t have any update in relation to the co-option. I will let you know when we have a candidate,” the spokesperson said.

One problem faced by the party is that a number of possible replacements for Mr Hanley have left the Soc Dems over policy and other issues.

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Cigarettes, drugs and cash seized in Galway



Officers from the Divisional Drugs Unit seized more than €73,000 worth of cigarettes, cash and drugs after a car and residence were searched in Galway today.
As part of Operation Tara – which is targeting the sale and supply of drugs and related criminal activity in the Galway area – Gardaí  searched a car in the Knocknacarra area. Cash and cannabis were seized.

A follow up search was carried out at a residence in Salthill, where cigarettes worth €70,000, along with €3,100 in cash and a small quantity of suspected amphetamine were recovered.

No arrests were made, but Gardaí say they are following a definite line of inquiry.

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