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Nurses’ leader helps secure gear for frontline HSE workers



One of the shipments of protective masks which arrived this week.

The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to healthcare professionals grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic has been the subject of much scrutiny, but efforts to address that shortage have drawn a huge amount of public support.

Galway woman and long-time advocate for healthcare workers, Mary Leahy, has been leading a crusade to ensure that nobody is left without the protection they need to carry out life-saving work – and through her founding of Heroes-Aid with a number of colleagues, has managed to raise just shy of €130,000 online in the space of just two weeks.

A bumper donation from MMA star Conor McGregor of €1 million secured by Ms Leahy a fortnight ago – and previously reported by the Galway City Tribune – has already seen PPE such as face masks, visors and gowns delivered to hospitals across the country – but the shortage goes on, and so too does the need for further donations, Ms Leahy said.

“This is a global pandemic and we’re in a global market which makes it difficult. It’s a seller’s market,” she added.

While McGregor’s donation was a huge boost – and any other millionaire wishing to make a donation will be gratefully received – every small donation counts, said Ms Leahy, who is no stranger to the frontline herself as a nurse, public health nurse and National Coordinator for Nurse/Midwife Safety.

“I actually get emotional every time I see someone donate €5, because that’s probably someone that can’t really afford it and yet, it buys two masks,” the former city councillor told the Galway City Tribune this week.

And those two masks could make all the difference as it could mean removing ‘moral distress’ for a healthcare worker.

“No nurse or doctor is being asked to care for a patient without PPE. But nurses and doctors have altruism in them – if a patient needs help, they want to run forward and give it.

“If we manage to provide one mask and that translates to a nurse or doctor being able to go to that patient, then it’s worth it,” said Ms Leahy.

It’s not the wish or intention of Heroes-Aid to replace the HSE in the procurement of PPE – they have a statutory role and are also working hard to deliver the necessary equipment, she added.

Heroes-Aid’s role, as Ms Leahy sees it, is to provide emergency support to hospitals that are on the brink of running out of PPE – and last weekend, with the assistance of the army, delivered vital equipment to seven hospitals spanning an 800km, including Naas, St James’, Limerick and Portiuncula.

There was a lot of criticism recently of PPE delivered from China that wasn’t of the required standard, and Ms Leahy said it was shameful that suppliers had sent that to the HSE, given the requirement and the money spent by the HSE to procure it.

Standards have been upped since, but Ms Leahy said there was a capability and a willingness by many companies in Ireland – including Boston Scientific in Ballybrit – to produce PPE. But sourcing component parts can be difficult.

“I’m on to Boston Scientific helping and giving guidance, and they’re able to run off prototypes in 24 hours, and I give them the link to get it out to staff in the hospitals to try it out and offer suggestions back. Boston Scientific is willing to make masks, but they need the ‘P3’ filters.

“We can make PPE in Galway; we can produce our own masks,” said Ms Leahy, but supports needed to be put in place by Government to assist businesses wishing to do so. “There is a massive ability and willingness to innovate but there is no obvious help available.”

Ms Leahy said she has a link to producers that was secure and trustworthy, and that meant she could secure PPE without having to wade through as much red tape as the HSE sometimes had to.

Her primary concern is the welfare of staff, and ensuring that they are kept safe and able to perform their job without feeling unduly stressed – and there is plenty to be stressed about, she said.

From exposure to the virus, adapting home lives and dealing with the conditions of working in PPE for 13-hour shifts, to rapidly upskilling and being redeployed to new and challenging working environments, healthcare workers are facing huge challenges every day.

A WhatsApp support group has been established by Ms Leahy for workers to share their experiences, and through Heroes-Aid, access to out-of-hours psychologists is also available.

“In the long-term, we want to extend that support to the families of healthcare workers who might be negatively affected by Covid-19.

“Staff are emotionally distressed – they are educated to give a certain standard of care and if they can’t do that, it’s upsetting. Staff are upset at hearing of patients passing away in nursing homes. It is a very distressing time for healthcare workers,” said Ms Leahy.

For more information or to make a donation, visit Heroes-Aid.


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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Official opening of Galway’s new pedestrian and cycle bridge



The new Salmon Weir pedestrian and cycle bridge will be officially opened to the public next Friday, May 26.

Work on the €10 million bridge got underway in April 2022, before the main structure was hoisted into place in early December.

A lunchtime tape-cutting ceremony will take place on Friday, as the first pedestrians and cyclists traverse the as-yet-unnamed bridge.

The Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, previously said the bridge, once opened, would remove existing conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and traffic “as well as facilitating the Cross-City Link public transport corridor over the existing 200-year-old bridge”.

The naming of the new bridge has been under discussion by the Council’s Civic Commemorations Committee since late last year.

One name that has been in the mix for some time is that of the first woman in Europe to graduate with an engineering degree – Alice Perry.

Ms Perry, who was from Wellpark, graduated from Queen’s College Galway (now University of Galway) in 1906. The university’s engineering building is named in her honour.

The bridge was built by Jons Civil Engineering firm in County Meath and was assembled off-site before being transported to Galway. Funding for the project was provided in full by the National Transport Authority and the European Regional Development Fund.

(Photo: Sheila Gallagher captured the city’s new pedestrian footbridge being raised on the south side of the Salmon Weir Bridge in December. It will officially open next Friday, May 26).

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Minister branded ‘a disgrace’ for reversing land rezoning in Galway City



From the Galway City Tribune – Minister of State for Local Government and Planning, Kieran O’Donnell was labelled a “disgrace” for overturning councillors’ decisions to rezone land in the new City Development Plan.

Minister O’Donnell (pictured) confirmed in a letter to Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath last week that he was reversing 25 material alternations made by councillors to the CDP 2023-29. He made the decision on the advice of Office of Planning Regulator (OPR).

Minister O’Donnell directed that 14 land parcels that were subject to land-use zoning changes by councillors as part of the Material Alterations to the Draft CDP should be reversed.

He directed that a further 11 land parcels in the city should become “unzoned”.

The Minister found that the CDP had not been made in a manner consistent with recommendations of the OPR, which required specific changes to the plan to ensure consistency with the national planning laws and guidelines.

At last week’s Council meeting Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) asked for clarity on the process by which councillors could rezone the lands that had been changed by the Minister’s direction.

Cllr Declan McDonnell said, “What he [Minister O’Donnell] has done is an absolute disgrace”.

And he asked: “Do we have to have another development plan meeting to deal with it?”

Both Cllrs Hoare and McDonnell wondered what would become of the lands that were rezoned or unzoned by the ministerial direction.

Mr McGrath said the Council had put forward an argument in favour of retaining the material alterations in the plan, but ultimately the Minister sided with OPR.

He said if councillors want to make alterations to the new plan, they could go through the process of making a material alteration but this was lengthy.

The Save Roscam Peninsula campaign welcomed the Minister’s decision.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, it said the direction would mean the Roscam village area on the Roscam Peninsula will be unzoned and a number of land parcels would revert back to agriculture/high amenity.

A spokesperson for the campaign said: “the material alterations made by city councillors following lobbying by developers continued the long-standing practice of councillors facilitating a developer-led plan rather than an evidence- and policy-based plan that meets the needs of the city.

“The Minister’s direction is an important step in restoring confidence in the planning system. It is clear from the City Council’s own evidence on future housing projections that there was no requirement to zone these lands for residential purposes in order to meet the needs of the targeted population increase up to 2029,” the spokesperson added.

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