Tag Archives: Galway

Galway, last evening.

(Thanks NUIG Students Union)

Meanwhile…

Location Unidentified.

Meanwhile…

County Cork.

Above from left: Cameron Keighron (NUIG Students Union VP/Education Officer) Clare Austick (SU President), Brandon Walsh (SU VP/Welfare & Equality Officer)

This afternoon.

NUI Galway Students’ Union are asking Galway homeowners “who rented rooms on platforms such as Airbnb to consider renting to students instead” following the introduction of new regulations for short-term letting in “rent pressure zones”.

Landlords can still rent out rooms in their homes to students tax-free up to a cap of €14,000 per annum under the Rent a Room Scheme.

President of NUI Galway Students’ Union Clare Austick said

“We are asking landlords to advertise their accommodation through our websitesASAP so that students can secure housing now rather than having to wait until the week before lectures begin.

This will provide steady tax-free income for homeowners and a home for NUI Galway students who contribute so much to the local economy. The lack of accommodation here in Galway City has become a serious issue putting access to education at risk for many students.

The option is also available to just rent a room for one semester to a visiting student if homeowners are unsure about getting into a long-term arrangement…”

NUIG Student Pad

Teach Solais LGBT+ resource centre in Galway city

The West of Ireland’s only LGBT social space is in danger of being quietly extinguished.

John Donlon writes:

You might be forgiven for thinking, as you enter its unassuming premises off Galway’s Eyre Square, that Teach Solais is not a hugely consequential space.

Nothing could be further from the truth however, as this humble venue persists as the only LGBT space of its kind in all of the West of Ireland.

The result of years of hard work and planning on the behalf of Amach! LGBT Galway, even now the space is kept open largely by goodwill, blood, sweat and tears.

Its primary aims include providing a sense of belonging and community for LGBT people in the west; a place to come together in non-alcoholic setting. As per its Irish name, the space acts as a lighthouse, guiding lost souls through a stormy sea to safe harbour.

When I caught up with Cameron Keighron, Chairperson of Amach!, they reflected on the hard work that had already been done in bringing Teach Solais into being.

While the venue was secured in 2015, it has only been open since 2017 and has to date relied on Cameron, other Amach! board members and Community Employment Scheme workers to operate.

They’ve worked on providing a full social experience via the centre, by way of meditation classes, a running club, soccer club, self-defence classes and work with LGBT Ireland.

Cameron feels like they are just putting together a lot of pieces that were already there; they’re put together in once space.

He says:

‘We provide a lot of information, especially with how isolated it can be in a rural context; people come in and they have a question, or they need some condoms, we’re there to provide that information in a safe and confidential way that is accessible to them’.

In addition, the space is readily made available to other community groups in the city, including LGBT Ireland, Bi+ Ireland, and Galway Pro-Choice.

Says Cameron:

‘We open the space up for community groups to have a more affordable space and a more permanent space available to them’.

There’s a lot of intersectionality between the cohort that we’re targeting and the cohort that they’re targeting. We’re not just an LGBT centre so you don’t have to be an LGBT group to use the centre or to come in, you just have to respect the ethos of the centre’.

This hard work is all in jeopardy, however, as the space has never been given the core, renewable government funding that constitutes the lifeblood of spaces like this.

Originally set up thanks to a one-off, €25,000 fund from Galway City Council and accompanied by a €45,000 payment from the Maureen O’Connell fund, without regular, budgeted government support the space’s days are numbered.

This need lead them to start engaging with local politicians and other community groups to find out how they were funded. By and large the HSE were funding them, so Amach!
approached the relevant HSE Community Health Organization (Area 2, Galway, Mayo and Roscommon).

Though there was no new funding available the HSE were very supportive and advised them to continue to work with local politicians to contact other avenues of the HSE

Hildegarde Naughton TD helped to organise a meeting with Catherine Byrne Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy.

She suggested that they apply for a grant called Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy. Just before they submitted their application for that, Minister for Health Simon Harris visited the centre where they talked about it, so he too was aware it was going through.

Within days they got an email back letting them know they were unsuccessful, which was disheartening and disappointing for them to say the least.

They were then moved or advised towards applying for funding under Section 39 (Non-Acute/Community Agencies being provided with funding under Section 39 of the Health Act, 2004.) under which a lot of other community or advocacy groups are being funded.

Cameron recalls:

‘We applied for just over €90,000, and originally we were awarded €1,000, upon appealing then they upped that to €5,000’.

‘hey feedback was that the budget they had to work with doesn’t have enough surplus money for the budget that we submitted. It’s not that the HSE is bad or the HSE doesn’t want to fund us. The HSE do, they actually recognise the work that we do.

They recognise that this is saving money in the long term. If we can give people advice, information, it ultimately saves on the health service in the future’.

The impression one gets is of a system which has not kept pace with or allowed for the emergence of new, genuine public resources which have been put together with genuine, long-term grassroots action and devotion.

Says Cameron:

‘The reality is that funding streams like Section 39 haven’t really increased all that much in the last number of years. There’s still the same amount of groups that they were always funding, but now there’s more groups that need funding, but their money hasn’t increased.’

‘The government needs to ring fence core funding for groups like ours in a specific LGBT+ fund that’s protected, that rolls over on a yearly basis. There’s no point in giving us money for one year because in a year’s time we’ll be back in the same position’.

There does seem to be broad political support for the space and securing its future; with a recent public meeting (above) on the topic attracting Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Independent TDs along with representatives from the Green Party, People Before Profit, Social Democrats and Sinn Fein.

A shared sense of multi-partisanship was on display, with the elected representatives present at the time displaying an encouraging outlook regarding the space and its work being more important for the community than any potential political point-scoring.

As much as there is an undeniable hopefulness around the space; Cameron also admits trepidation about the future.

He says:

‘The community are scared. We’ve built this place up to be a vibrant hub for the LGBT community, the first real physical element to visibility for a really under-represented group in the west of Ireland.’

‘People rely on it for a social network, the vast majority of the time, people are coming into the centre; they all take care of each other. It really fosters a sense of family, community, the community that are coming there they really need it. They view this as another home.’

This duality, of a hard job well done but also of a space built on sand would seem to be taking its toll on Cameron and the rest of the Amach! Crew running the space.

‘We all find it really rewarding, the work that we’re doing here. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t like it. It’s also getting to the point that the vast majority of us, myself included, are heading towards burnout. There’s only so many times you can write grant after grant after grant and get a negative response.

It’s really frustrating and it’s really disheartening because we don’t know if it’s us that’s doing something wrong. We don’t know if it’s that the funding stream isn’t the right one. In these situations, the LGBT community in the west of Ireland, a lot of the community groups feel the frustration of you feel like you’re not being heard.’

If you are interested in helping Teach Solais keep its doors open, you can contribute here.

John Donlon is a Galway-based freelance journalist.

Top Pic: Connaucht Tribune

 

At the site of the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam; Minister for Children Katherine Zappone; Sr Marie Ryan, of the Bon Secours in Ireland

Yesterday.

Right to Know journalist Ken Foxe published a “strictly private and confidential” letter sent from the leader of the Bon Secours in Ireland Sr Marie Ryan  to the Minister of Children Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone last August.

The letter concerned the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway, where the State issued 796 death certificates for children but burial records only for two.

The home closed in 1961.

The letter to the minister was written in response to Ms Zappone asking to meet with members of the order so they could discuss the Tuam home and how the order could share, with the State, the “cost implications” of the current investigations at the home after “significant quantities of human remains” were confirmed to have been found at the home two years ago.

Sr Ryan, on behalf of the nuns, told Ms Zappone they were surprised she asked to meet with them while the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is ongoing.

The nun then went on to firmly state that the Tuam home was operated on behalf of the Irish Government.

Sr Ryan wrote:

“This was an institution created and operated by the Irish state.”

“Given the passage of time, it certainly appears to us, that the Home was not only under the stewardship of the Sisters at that time but under the supervision, direction and inspection of the local authority Galway County Council and also the Department of Health.”

She also said after the home closed in 1961, the nuns sent “all documentation” and “official Home Records” to Galway County Council and that the nuns haven’t had “full and open access” to these records which are now with the commission.

She said it seems Galway County Council were involved in paying for a doctor and a chaplain at the home and that Department of Health inspectors inspected the home.

Sr Ryan added:

“The deaths of the infants were registered at that time and it would seem to us that it would follow that Galway County Council, the Department of Health and the doctor employed by the local authority for the Home would have been fully aware of the fact of these deaths and no doubt then would have been aware that burial arrangements would have to be made for the remains.”

Mr Foxe tweeted the following on the correspondence:

Right To Know

Previously: The Wages Of Spin

Our Worst Fears

From top: The flag of Palestine outside Eyre Square, Galway last Friday; Keith Finnegan, of Galway Bay Fm and Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Ophir Kariv,

Not even Galway City Councillors were informed that the new Israeli Ambassador to Ireland was coming to visit the city.

It culminated in the most fawning interview with a foreign dignitary on local radio the author has ever heard

Ciaran Tierney writes:

In the West of Ireland, we don’t like to ask too many hard, tough questions or cause too much of a fuss.

We treat our visitors with respect, but a bizarre visit by a prominent diplomat last Friday has raised serious questions about who makes key decisions at a local level and why our elected representatives can be kept completely and utterly in the dark.

Who decides to invite an Ambassador to our city?

And who decides that elected city councillors – the people who actually represent us – have no right to know when a diginitary is coming to our beautiful city?

On Wednesday, I was told by someone who works for Galway City Council that the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Ophir Kariv, was set to pay an official visit to the city on Friday.

The person who called me had no idea of the schedule involved, but he had heard that there would be engagements at NUI Galway, the Galway Chamber of Commerce, and City Hall.

I’m guessing he contacted me because he was aware of my keen interest in human rights and the fact that I have written extensively about the gross injustice inflicted on the people of Palestine. I sometimes freelance for Electronic Intifada, who are based in the US and work hard to give an English language voice to the oppressed.

So I made a few calls.

I informed members of the Galway Palestine Solidarity Campaign who, in turn, contacted members of the Labour Party and Sinn Fein who have done so much to raise awareness of the Palestinian issue at City Hall over the past few years.

They raised the flag in solidarity, they called on the Irish Government to recognise the state of Palestine, and no city official had seen fit to tell them about the proposed visit by the Israeli Ambassador on Friday.

Even the Mayor, apparently, wasn’t aware of the plans.

A few pro-Palestine activists considered a peaceful and dignified flag protest at City Hall, but it was difficult to get people mobilised at such short notice, especially when nobody knew the exact time of the visit.

I heard nothing more about it, but I’m aware that elected members of the City Council could not find out anything about the ambassador’s schedule. So much for local democracy!

On Saturday, a number of people sent me a podcast of a recording on local radio station Galway Bay FM, from the previous day.

As it turned out, Mr Kariv had visited the station’s headquarters on Sandy Road for a pre-arranged interview with current affairs presenter Keith Finnegan.

The people who sent me the podcast were shocked by the nature and tone of the interview (starts here at 52 mins).

It is normal practice for a new diplomat to visit provincial cities around the country, but activists in Galway were shocked that they managed to get through an entire interview without once uttering the words ‘Palestine’, ‘West Bank’, ‘Gaza’, ‘occupation’, ‘child prisoners’, or ‘house demolitions’….(more at link below)

A secret little mission to Galway (Ciaran Tierney)

The grounds of Galway City Hall where the remains of a homeless man was discovered

Gardaí were called to the scene after midday, where the man’s remains were located in an area covered with shrubbery a short distance from the main Galway City Council building.

It is understood the man was homeless and originally from the Galway area.

His body has been taken to University Hospital Galway, where a postmortem examination will be carried out.

Man’s body discovered in grounds of Galway City Hall (RTÉ)

Aaron Burke, president of GMIT Students’ Union, and Megan Reilly, president of NUI Galway Students’ Union

This afternoon.

NUI Galway Students’ Union and GMIT Students’ Union write:

“As luxury student accommodation appears across the city, it seems students would be better off taking out a mortgage instead of renting in the current climate.

“Today, NUI Galway Students’ Union and GMIT Students’ Union have strongly criticised prices of ‘luxury’ student accommodation popping up across the city.

“This comes after new student accommodation has been advertised on the market at €250 per week in the city centre and from another complex directed towards students on Bohermore at a price of €200 per week.

“…Both unions, together with the One Galway Movement, are planning a Crisis Campout in Eyre Square on Tuesday the 11th of September to shed light on the need for purpose built student housing and social housing in general.”

Thanks Joanna Brophy