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Homeless family forced to sleep in garden shed



A Galway TD has highlighted two cases to underline the county’s housing crisis – one couple forced to sleep in a garden shed while another lived in their parked car on the street.

Galway East TD Colm Keaveney said he’d dealt with both cases in recent weeks which he described as ‘a disgrace to our society’.

“Both cases involved families with children. In both cases the children have been left sleeping on the couches and floors of relatives’ houses while the parents sleep where they can. For one couple that means a car parked on the street; for the other it means sleeping in a garden shed,” he said.

His demand for action on a national basis comes as Councils across the country struggle to deal with the problem.

Galway county needs to deliver at least 500 social housing units by 2021 – but Council officials have already admitted that current funding levels will see that fall short by around twelve per cent.

The current local authority housing stock in Co Galway – excluding the city – stands at 2,316; that’s down from 2,366 from 2011.

At present ten of those units are derelict and 72 are in need of refurbishment – but according to Galway East TD Colm Keaveney, over half of all units, 47 in total, in need of refurbishment are in the Tuam area alone.

He has called on the government to prioritise housing in Budget 2016, insisting that the crisis needs a national solution to avoid the burden falling on local authorities alone.

“Local authorities around the country are struggling to deal with the wave of homelessness that is sweeping the country,” he said.

There are over 4,000 applications on the housing list. Many of those applications are from families and couples, so the numbers of people affected by the search for a secure and stable home far exceeds the number of applications.

“That 47 housing units are in need of refurbishment in the Tuam area should not be taken as a criticism of the county council. I know from working with officials to address individual cases of homelessness that they are doing their best within highly constrained budgets.

“The government parties simply have to admit to the scale of the housing crisis in Ireland and provide monies towards refurbishing housing units and building new ones,” he added.

Figures released to Fianna Fáil under an FOI request show that numbers on the housing list nationally is almost one and a half times as great as had been previously admitted by the government parties.

The party claimed that the social housing waiting list now at 130,000 – not the 90,000 figure from 2013 that government policy is based on. The figures have been disputed by the Government parties.

But Deputy Keaveney said that his experience on the ground indicated that the situation is now reaching ‘crisis levels’

“Galway County Council and its officials are doing all that they can to address the housing crisis but are struggling in the face of a raising demand for services and the refusal of central government, and in particular Minister Alan Kelly, to provide adequate funding to Galway and other local authorities to enable them to address the deteriorating housing situation.

“Budget 2016 is approaching. It is being framed as an election budget and it appears that Fine Gael and Labour are going to prioritise tax cuts over public services. While many would welcome a cut in taxes, it must be remembered that the small cut received will be paid for by the further degradation of public services, in health, education, and in housing.

“If neglected for much longer, the housing crisis will turn into a social crisis, one that will take a generation to solve and even longer to heal,” he added.

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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