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HSE blasted for keeping charity funds



The Health Service Executive (HSE) has been criticised for using legal technicalities to deprive of children’s cancer charity of a €300,000 donation made to it by another organisation.

Galway West TD Hildegarde Naughton raised concerns over the controversial transaction earlier this month, when she asked the Minister for Health to establish how the charitable donation had been absorbed by the HSE.

The controversy relates to a donation made by another children’s charity, Boys Hope Girls Hope, which was in the process of winding up in 2009. It liquidated its assets and donated the proceeds to charities working in the same area.

It agreed to give €300,000 generated by the sale of a property to CD Helping Hands – now called Hand in Hand – to support the charity’s work in providing assistance to families affected by childhood cancer.

It was decided that the HSE would act as an intermediary to manage the funds and release it to Hand in Hand over a three-year period. However, no money was provided to the charity until 2011, when it received just €50,000 of the total amount.

A senior HSE official met with the charity last week and presented legal advice it had sought in respect of the funds, claiming that it was entitled to retain the money. No further meeting has been scheduled.

It is understood that the legal advice presented by the HSE referred to the possibility of using the Statute of Limitations to prevent Hand in Hand from asserting a legal right to the donation.

Deputy Naughton said that the manner of the HSE’s  engagement with the charity was shameful, and described its attempt to justify the appropriation of the donation with legal technicalities as morally bankrupt.

“Hand in Hand is an excellent charity doing incredible work, but it has struggled enormously in the absence of this funding. It is in a precarious financial position now, to the extent that its continued existence is threatened unless this situation can be resolved,” she said.

“I find it repugnant that the HSE’s response to my concerns has been to seek legal advice outlining how it can keep the money. The cost of that legal opinion alone could have been used to support the good work of Hand in Hand.

“Does the HSE really propose to explain to children and families affected by childhood cancer that they can no longer avail of a service because of the Statute of Limitations or some legal technicality?” asked the Galway West TD.

“They need to come back to the table with Hand in Hand and approach this situation from a moral perspective – not a legal one – and reach a solution that will support the vital services that the charity provides.”

In a letter dated 4 May 2009, former director of Boys Hope Girls Hope John MacNamara wrote to a HSE manager, referring to the terms of the donation and enclosing a cheque for €300,000.

“I attach a cheque for €300k payable to the HSE PCCC (Primary, Community and Continuing Care) as you requested,” he wrote.

“You will have received a copy of [another director’s] letter of March 6th setting out the terms of this donation to fund CD Helping Hands Charity. In particular these terms include a commitment by you to donate €50k per annum to this charity.”

A memorandum of understanding signed by the HSE and the children’s charity in 2009 refers to a fund of €450,000, of which up to €150,000 could be drawn down each year for three years until 2011.

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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