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Young gays at greater risk of suicide

Denise McNamara



Young gay people are four times more at risk of suicide than straight youths and in the LGBT community in Galway City alone five people have taken their lives in the past three years.

The shocking figures prompted Amach, the support group for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transexual (LGBT) community, to organise a meeting to discuss the range of supports and services available in the maldron Hotel last weekend.

They also hope to formulate a plan to try and prevent deaths, explains chairperson of Amach, Nuala Ward.

“Nationally suicide is a huge concern for everyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity but in particular for the LGBT community it has become a particularly devastating issue,” she stated.

“Our hearts have too many times been broken by the loss of friends to suicide. Over the last few years particularly, the problem seems to have escalated and caught us all off guard.

“In our own community here, we’ve lost at least five people in the last three, maybe four years and they’re not teenagers, they were people who were out.”

Amach recently organised an intergenerational creative writing project and what clearly emerged from that was the massive difference in experiences for older and younger community members.

“For older LGBT people, there can be alcohol abuse, major mental health issues, they feel very isolated in an already isolated rural setting. We have facilitated groups around the county for older people called Silver Rainbows but if we have it in a local hotel they worry about being seen.”

The workshop was given by the suicide bereavement group, Console, and the HSE suicide prevention officer Mary O’Sullivan.

“This is one of the issues that kept coming up in the interagency group, it’s one of the things we want to address and start a conversation with the community about, to figure out what steps we need to take to prevent this happening,” explained Nuala.

“We want to come up with some kind of a plan that we can roll out for the resource centre as soon as the doors open.”

Amach has received funding of €25,000 from Galway City Council and €45,000 over three years from the St Vincent De Paul’s Maureen O’Connell Fund towards establishing the resource centre. The latter prompted an outburst from the Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan, who threatened to withdraw the Church’s support for the charity in light of the donation.

The support group estimates it needs to raise a further €35,000 to open the centre on a volunteer-basis.

They have earmarked five premises where a centre could work. One of the biggest logistical concerns is accessibility so that people feel comfortable dropping in even if they are still ‘in the closet’.

“There’s an 85% chance we’ll be open by the summer. We will get it open and build on that with a view to having it open more often. A community development support worker is vital to get it organised and develop our long-term aim of becoming self-sufficient rather than running it 24/7 on a voluntary basis.”



Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
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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Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
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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