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Taking the conflict out of marriage break-ups



Lorraine Lally of Helplink’s Conflict Resolution Centre: “It has been very positive, especially when it comes to children, where court is not the place,” she says. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Lifestyle – Dearbhla Geraghty hears how Helplink’s Conflict Resolution Centre eases some of the pain

Mediation is becoming a necessary alternative to the courts for couples who need immediate help in dealing with the practicalities of a marriage break-up.

Lorraine Lally of Helplink’s Conflict Resolution Centre (CRC) says that some couples are waiting up to nine months to avail of the State’s free Family Mediation Service, but that this is too long when there are more pressing matters to be dealt with.

“There can be financial difficulties, and as the housing shortage is very severe, a lot of people are trying to live in the same house (together) until their divorce is finalised – that can be up to four years,” says the centre’s manager.

“But they need immediate assistance dealing with practical issues such as space, paying bills, and sometimes even negotating with the bank.

“For these practical issues, the courts are not accessible, because they need to be separated for a certain period of time to get access – Judges want to see a minimum of two years’ separation before they come before the court, so they need to consider mediation.”

A qualified barrister herself, she says that the Family Law Act 1976, which brought mediation to Ireland, states that lawyers have to advise their clients about the option of mediation before pursuing matters in court, although she is is skeptical that this actually happens in reality.

“If you engage in court, it’s the lawyers that talk, and not the parties, so the benefit of mediation is that the parties get their own voice, and get to be heard.

“I’ve met people who’ve been in the District Court 16 times, and nothing has been resolved. And each time they have had to get a day off work, and make child care provisions – mediation gives you a certain amount of control and self-determination of the issues.”

She hopes that Judges on this side of the country will follow the lead of colleagues in Dublin by pointing couples towards mediation before even considering the courts.

“There are Judges in Dublin and they tell lawyers: ‘Don’t come into me until you have tried mediation – have you put your child’s issues before your own, and have you turned up for that (mediation).’

“Judges are changing policy and changing opinions when they tell the lawers that – by doing this, they are separating the more difficult cases from the more easily resolved matters.

“There is still a place for lawyers, and there are matters that need to go to court, such as if there were serious ideological issues – like, if one parent was a Jehovah’s Witness and did not want their child to have a blood transfusion.”

She says that with Ireland becoming a much more multi-cultural society, and it being more common for parents to come from different religious and cultural backgrounds, there are conflicts over how to raise their children.

In these cases, she says, the courts are a better place, but that mediation can resolve the less complicated ones.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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.

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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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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