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Woman sleeps in car – as houses lie empty nearby

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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A woman has to sleep in her car in a relative’s back yard – when there are dozens of empty houses on her doorstep.

But while homes in some areas are vacant and falling into disrepair, only two Local Authority houses has been built in the Ballinasloe municipal area in the past three years.

And that has left local councillors frustrated at the lack of central funding available to address the growing waiting list across the county which currently stands at 3,000 applicants.

Cllr Dermot Connolly told the Ballinasloe Municipal District meeting that in all his years as a public representative, he had never experienced the likes of it.

He stressed that the case of the woman sleeping in a car was an extreme case but he was all too aware of young couples struggling to pay private rents, if they were lucky enough to get a house to rent, and unable to save enough to meet the criteria to secure a mortgage.

And of course, they were also not meeting the criteria for getting a local authority house, not there were any new units being made available by Galway County Council.

He said that only 14 such units had been provided in the whole county in the past three years, two of them in the Ballinasloe area.

“I have come across some difficult cases but there are no houses available and I was wondering when we are going to have an overview of the situation.

“Despite the work of a number of voluntary housing agencies, we have a housing crisis. We are in a very serious situation — we had promises but nothing was delivered,” he said.

Cllr Michael Connolly said there was a number of problem with housing but he wondered if the Council could do something to encourage the use of vacant private houses to meet the housing demand.

He gave the example of Cooloo National School where the number of pupils were diminishing when there were at least ten unoccupied houses in the vicinity.

“These houses have been closed up for different reasons, mostly because the last occupants died.

“We are just not getting the funding to provide housing for those on the waiting list and making unoccupied houses available to bring people into the locality would solve a few problems,” he said.

There were a number of local authority houses also vacant but the Council wasn’t acting quickly enough in refurbishing them and meanwhile they were being stripped by a certain element, he added.

Cllr Connolly said by the time the Council did get around to fixing them up it was costing up to €30,000 instead of a few thousand euros.

Cllr Tim Broderick said they were being dictated to by central funds. Twice last year, he said, he had brought in a couple who wanted to get onto the property ladder but hoped for a start from the Council but in each case they didn’t meet the criteria for a council house.

Director of Services, Catherine McConnell said she could organise that the Director of Services for Housing speak to the councillors.

Connacht Tribune

Compliant Galwegians are keeping their distance

Francis Farragher

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Checkpoint...Garda warning for those who stray too far from home.

BOY racers, cyclists, gym users and young people attending house parties are among those in Galway who have been issued with Fixed Payment Notices (FPNs) for breaching the Covid-19 travel regulations over the past week.

However, Gardaí in Galway have reported ‘a very high-level of compliance’ from the general public as regards the travel restrictions that are a central part of the Level-5 ‘Stay Home – Stay Safe’ Covid campaign.

Over the weekend, Gardaí issued FPNs to so-called ‘boy racers’ in two separate cases on the Tuam Road outside Galway city and in the Craughwell area.

FPNs – involving a €100 on-the-spot fine – were also issued last week to a number of young people attending house parties in the Galway city area, after Gardaí had been called to the scene.

Two cyclists stopped in the Cornamona area of North Connemara last week, who were 19 kilometres from their homes – and outside their own county boundary – also faced Garda censure.

The cyclists weren’t from the same household; they weren’t wearing masks; and also, were in breach of social distancing regulations.

Gardaí also came across a case of a gym in South Galway being used by a number of people last week – also a breach of the Covid-19, Level-5 restrictions.

While Gardaí also received a number of calls about possible ‘pub-opening’ violations, on investigation, they found no sign of activity on the premises they checked out.

Galway Chief Garda Superintendent, Tom Curley, told the Connacht Tribune that overall, there was ‘a very high level of compliance’ as regards the travel restrictions which was ‘very encouraging’.

See full story – and comprehensive Covid-19 coverage – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Lessons learned on home-schooling

Denise McNamara

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Cathal Moore, principal of the Presentation Athenry.

Home-schooling is working better this time round with many teachers conducting live classes and more students actively engaging than when schools closed suddenly last March.

But virtual education is a poor substitute for the experience of the classroom with students sorely missing social interaction, according to teachers, while parents are still struggling to balance working from home with ensuring their children keep up with the school work.

The sooner that schools can reopen safely the better for everyone – although most agree that it’s looking more likely to be after mid-term than at the beginning of February.

“Everybody is in a better place this time round – schools, teachers, parents and students. Everybody expected to be back at school. It’s no secret last time we got two hours’ notice but this time round we’re better prepared,” remarks the principal of the Presentation Athenry, Cathal Moore.

The mixed secondary school is doing a mix of live and recorded classes as not every student has good broadband.

After the first week, there was feedback from students that they felt there was too much homework in addition to the virtual classes while teachers reported that they would prefer more live communication from their charges.

“It is more tiring – fatigue is definitely a factor when on a screen all day and if this goes on for a prolonged amount of time it will creep in for a growing number of students.”

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Hard-pressed hospitals down 450 staff over Covid

Dara Bradley

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More than 450 staff – including nurses at UHG and Portiuncula – are now out of work due to Covid, as staff shortages threaten the public hospitals’ ability to cope with the crisis.

The upsurge has seen UHG deal with a record number of Covid-19 patients, and the hospital had to escalate its surge capacity plan and add extra beds in ICU.

The latest CSO figures reveal that the first week of the New Year was Galway’s deadliest yet on the pandemic front, with five lives lost over those opening seven days of 2021.

That brought the total number of virus fatalities in Galway to 25, and it’s understood there have been further deaths locally since then, which will be confirmed later.

From March to the end of November there were 20 deaths notified in Galway, and no further deaths were recorded in all of December.

News of Galway’s deadliest week comes as local leaders in the HSE, Garda, and local government joined forces to warn that Covid-19 was still spreading rapidly in the community.

Nationally, between January 5 and 18, there were 263 Covid-19 deaths recorded, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC), which does not give a geographical breakdown. Of these deaths, 119 were hospitalised and 14 had been admitted to ICU.

The median age of all of Galway’s Covid fatalities is 83; the median age of the confirmed cases in Galway is 31 – the lowest of 26 counties.

See full story – and comprehensive Covid-19 coverage – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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