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Higgins proposes cyber bullying legislation after falling victim



Student leaders, the disabled and aspiring politicians in Galway are among those facing the anxiety of constant ‘cyber bullying’, according to locally-based senator, Lorraine Higgins.

She is currently drawing up legislation to make bullying on social media a criminal offence.

Senator Higgins – who is a qualified barrister – herself has been the victim of a barrage of abusive messages on Facebook and Twitter over the past year, some of which threatened sexual violence against her.

“It’s widespread now, and social media companies are shirking their responsibilities. Since I spoke up [about being harassed herself online], I’ve had a number of people contact me,” she told the Galway City Tribune.

“People who would be head of student groups, and one guy who is fairly disabled – they’ve been trying to undermine him and what he says, calling him a ‘cripple’.

“One girl gave me ‘screen grabs’ of what was being said about her, it was awful.

“These bullies need to be held accountable, because it is having an impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people.

“I’m used to being lampooned and criticised, that goes with the job description now, but I was receiving direct threats and abusive messages and threats of sexual violence. And these were from ‘real’ Facebook profiles, not anonymous accounts,” said Senator Higgins.

She hopes to send the wording of her proposed anti-bullying legislation to Cabinet ministers next week. The draft legislation proposes that any electronic communication designed to cause serious distress or anxiety will be a criminal offence.

“I’m not trying to curtail freedom of speech. There is a big difference between that and people who feel they can say anything they want.

“In my experience, social media companies have shirked their responsibilities completely when it comes to providing a duty of care to their users. This has been made abundantly clear to me in recent days.

“Two weeks ago, I wrote to Twitter and Facebook as a result of the inordinate number of messages I received from people who have been subjected to online abuse. Among the questions I asked were: How many complaints they have received; what is the average length of time it takes to investigate a complaint and how many complaints have referred to the Garda authorities?

“To date, they have either failed, refused and or neglected to provide me with this information. Their reluctance to acknowledge any duty of care to their users is quite simply baffling,” said Senator Higgins.

Last month, Gardaí conducted a ‘sweep’ of Senator Higgins’ home in Galway following the threats, and suggested she should carry a personal alarm.

Meanwhile, the Lions Clubs across the country have launched a nationwide bullying information campaign.

Specially-commissioned information leaflets on bullying and cyber-bulling will be distributed to all houses with school-going children of vulnerable age by Lions Clubs.

Pat Connolly, Lions Suicide Prevention and Anti-Bullying Officer in Galway said: “ “School principals have been very positive about the initiative and have given the project their full support. The leaflet contains vital information for parents including advice on identifying bullying problems, dealing effectively with a bullying issue and information on public policy in relation to bullying.”

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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