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Fitzmaurice fearful for 230 more post offices

 

 

 

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice fears that the “game could be up” for another 230 post offices.

  Earlier this year, a total of 390 post offices were offered exit packages by An Post – which led to 160 postmasters and postmistresses opting to retire. However, Deputy Fitzmaurice is hugely concerned that a further 230 outlets are “still on the chopping block” and that it is only a matter of time before some of these are also closed once their existing contracts expire.

  Having received a response from An Post regarding a number of his concerns, Deputy Fitzmaurice said: “Let’s be clear here; if a postmaster or postmistress wishes to retire or passes away, the future of that post office is not guaranteed. An Post has confirmed that it will deal with each situation on a case by case basis”. 

  While An Post maintains that it will take the presence of a customer base, transaction levels and the proximity to other outlets into account when making a decision, this is still a huge blow for rural parts of Ireland, Deputy Fitzmaurice said.

  An Post has continuously stated its commitment to ‘endeavour to ensure’ that 95% of the population in rural areas will be within 15km of at least one post office and that ‘settlements with over 500 people’ will have a post office.

  Deputy Fitzmaurice: “Given the current standard of public transport services in rural Ireland, how can we expect people with no form of personal transport to travel 15km?”

  Continuing, the independent TD added: “Now the facts are out. It is clear for everyone to see that this Government is failing rural Ireland, while Fianna Fáil sits on its hands and does nothing.

  “If this trend is allowed to continue, people in rural Ireland will be left without a Garda Station, a post office or even a local pub. Those living in rural parts of Ireland have been forgotten about by this Government. Will this Government not be happy unless the majority of rural Ireland is covered in forestry?”

 

 

 

Fun Run/Walk in aid of Irish Motor Neuron Disease Association

 

 

 

All roads lead to Lecarrow for the inaugural walk/run in aid of the IMNDA (Irish Motor Neuron Disease Association) and RMN (Research Motor Neuron Disease) which takes place this Sunday, 25th of November at 1 pm from St. John’s Community Centre.

  The event is called ‘Co. Roscommon Fun Walk/Run While You Can’ and it is all about bringing communities and people across the county together to raise awareness and support for Motor Neuron Disease.

  By promoting and joining our Walk/Run, you are not only lending your voice to the call for better supports and services for people living with this condition, but making those supports possible.

  Sadly, many people in our county and clubs/organisations have been affected by this dreadful, life-limiting condition. Most of us know somebody who, unfortunately, is currently suffering with, or has died from the disease.

  50% of the funds raised will be used in the Roscommon area with the other 50% going towards Motor Neuron Research.

  This Walk/Run is for everyone, irrespective of fitness levels. There will be three different routes on the day – 2km, 7km and 10 km – all starting and finishing at Lecarrow Community Centre.

  Registration starts at 12 noon and all walks begin at 1 pm.

  Registration fee is €10 for individuals and €20 for families. Refreshments will be served before, during and after the walk.

  The committee would really appreciate your support in making this a successful fundraiser for a very worthy cause. You can support by promoting and sharing the event with your members, families, friends and associates through word of mouth or on social media.

  For further details, find the event on Facebook or ring 087-2607407.

 

News…at a glance - November 23rd

 

 

A festive appeal for throws and blankets

The “front-line workers and volunteers” in the Irish Wheelchair Charity Shop in Roscommon (beside Norio’s on Circular Road) are appealing for help from Roscommon People readers.

  They say: “In order to give a warm winter hug to our wheelchair users and our elderly pensioners, we have started an appeal to the general public to donate throws/blankets. We will gift-wrap these throws with a kind message – ‘snug as a bug in a rug’ – and distribute them free of charge to these wonderful people”.

  The group are now appealing to the general public to help by donating their unwanted throws and blankets to this worthy cause.

Athlone Choral Society Table Quiz

The Athlone Choral Society are holding a fundraising Table Quiz on Thursday, 22nd of November at 8 pm in The Bounty, Athlone. Entry fee is €40 for a table of four. Fabulous spot prizes. All welcome.

Cake sale and raffle with ‘Busy Needles’

Roscommon knitting group ‘Busy Needles’ will hold a cake sale and raffle on Friday, November 30th from 10.30 am to 2 pm in The Melting Pot Community Space in Castlecourt in Roscommon town.

  There will be some beautiful handmade Christmas decorations on offer on the day and all proceeds will go towards Jacinta’s Smile and Cancer Care West. All support greatly appreciated.

Roscommon Garden Club Gala Night

The Roscommon Garden Club annual Christmas Charity Gala Night will take place on Thursday, December 6th at 8 pm at the Abbey Hotel. There will be a floral demonstration and a finger buffet with wine, tea and coffee. There will also be a big raffle with all of the floral arrangements on the night up for grabs. Proceeds will go towards the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Roscommon branch.

  Guest demonstrator is Ethel Mitchell from Moate. A floral demonstrator for many years with a wealth of experience and knowledge, Ethel has her own shop, a converted stable in the grounds of Moate Castle. She has hosted many flower festivals including Birr, Mullingar, Moate and Galway. She has been in charge of the floral tents at the Tullamore Show and is involved in the annual plant sale which is held in Moate.

  Tickets for the Gala night are €20 and they can be bought from the reception at the Abbey Hotel and from Pat O’Rourke on 090-6625694 or 086-0774017. The organisers would be grateful if tickets could be bought in advance so we have an idea of numbers for catering purposes. All support greatly appreciated.

Table quiz in Clonown

The annual Clonown table quiz takes place this Thursday (22nd) at 8 pm in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone. Tables of 4 cost €40 and there will be tea and refreshments served as well as great prizes and a raffle on the night. Please support.

Hospice Tree lighting – an invitation

The Mayo-Roscommon Hospice invite you to attend the lighting of their Tree of Light in Knock on Sunday, 2nd of December at 6 pm. All those for whom lights are sponsored will be remembered at the ceremony.

  You can sponsor a light for the living and deceased at local pharmacies, hospice shops, hospice support groups, Knock Shrine and on www.hospice.ie up until Christmas Eve. Your support would be most appreciated.

Clothes Collection fundraiser

Lisaniskey N.S. Parents’ Association have organised a clothes collection. Bags of clothes will be collected at Clooneycolgan Community Centre on Sunday, 25th of November from 10.30 am to 11.30 am and on Tuesday, 27th of November and Wednesday, 28th of November from 9 am to 10 am. Your support is greatly appreciated.

 

Orphaned at eleven, Bashar seeks a new life

 

 

The backlash surrounding the proposed use of the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey as a centre for asylum seekers is nothing new to the people of Ballaghaderreen, where refugees fleeing war-torn Syria have been arriving since last year.

  The Emergency Reception Centre at the former Abbeyfield Hotel in Ballaghaderreen has been a source of controversy since it opened in 2017 with locals and public representatives questioning the decision to locate those in need in a town which was hit hard by the recession. While the mostly Syrian refugees have been mainly positive about their experiences in Ballaghaderreen, there have been concerns as to what exactly the next step in their journey will be.

  For young Syrians like Bashar Samiz, that feeling of uncertainty has been a common theme throughout their lives. Bashar is 17-years-old and arrived in Ballaghaderreen just six months ago. He said he was just eleven-years-old when his entire family was killed by what his neighbours described as a “gas bomb”. He had been away from the family home at the time of the explosion but returned home to a scene of devastation.

  “We left Syria because there were a lot of problems and war and bombs five years ago.I came with my uncle because my mother, father, two brothers and sister all died in Syria.

  “It is very hard but it is life. I don’t like to speak with other people about my family. I keep that in my heart. It is hard but when I speak to people they can’t do anything for me. It doesn’t help and it doesn’t do anything. My uncle and aunt are my family now.

  “When I went back to the town (that day) people came and told me that (a bomb had hit the town). I didn’t see the bomb or anyone die but they told me that everyone died,” he said.

  Bashar was told that after the gas bomb there was a fire and many people were burned. He still doesn’t know where the bomb came from but believes that it came from one of the “many” planes that were in the skies above Syria at that time. His uncle Khalid took him in and became his guardian.

 Bashar said that shortly after his family’s tragic deaths he left Syria and travelled to Turkey with his mother’s sister.

  “I stayed in Turkey for six months and I met with my uncle Khalid in Turkey. I went to live with him and we decided to come to Europe”.

  Bashar said his uncle, a brother of his father, and himself a married man with five children, took him to Greece where they stayed for over two years before arriving in Ireland six months ago.

  Bashar and his aunt had initially made a cross border crossing in Turkey by bus. He says he made the dangerous journey into Greek waters by way of an inflatable ring at the age of fourteen. He was met by officials who brought him ashore and took them to a camp where they were fed and given clothes.

  Later Bashar said that he and his uncle would spend six months in a tent in a Greek town before police brought them to the countryside where they lived in a caravan at a camp before moving into a house.

  “The UN called us and ask ‘Do you want to go to Ireland?’ We said yes”.

  The UN carried out “many interviews” ahead of their journey to Ireland according to Bachar, asking him questions about his background and circumstances. Earlier this year Bashar arrived in Dublin and was taken to Ballaghaderreen.

  He said he made the trip with his uncle’s family  because he didn’t feel safe in Turkey and claimed that Syrian workers had been exploited by Turkish businessmen.

  While he described Greece as “beautiful”, he said that there was no work for him there. He said he wants to go to college to study design. School had finished in Syria when he was eight but he resumed his studies in Greece where he learned Greek before moving to the Emergency Reception and Orientation Centre in Ballaghaderreen where he is learning English.

  He described Ballaghaderreen as a “beautiful town” adding that he felt safe, but he said that there weren’t enough opportunities and facilities in the town for young people.

  “I want to learn English. I want to go to college and I want to work. I want to start a new life,” he said before adding that that would require moving to “one of the cities”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asylum seekers for Rooskey

 

 

 

Department “in discussions” with owners

 

In a statement to the Roscommon People earlier this week, the Department of Justice confirmed that it was “currently in discussions with representatives of the Shannon Key West Hotel for its use as an accommodation centre for persons seeking asylum in Ireland”.

  The Department added that the hotel would not be used as an Emergency Reception and Orientation Centre similar to the Abbeyfield Hotel in Ballaghaderreen.

  The Department refused to make any further comment until discussions with the owners of the hotel had been concluded but said that “as much information as possible” would be provided when that process had been completed.

  The statement came following a private meeting which was chaired by Fine Gael Local Area Representative Andrew Reynolds on Monday night where local community groups, the local school principal and the two local GPs raised concerns over the future of the hotel. That meeting was also attended by former Longford Town Fine Gael councillor James Keogh, whose sister Christina Barry is one of the directors of Abbey Castle Accommodation, who are rumoured to be in the running to manage the premises should it be used to accommodate asylum seekers.

  Andrew Reynolds said he had been invited to a meeting with James Keogh last Monday morning. He said that Mr. Keogh informed him that he was acting “on behalf of Abbey Castle Accommodation” who he said had been successful in obtaining a contract from the Department of Justice to operate a centre for asylum seekers in the hotel. Mr. Reynolds said that Mr. Keogh asked him if his catering business could “provide 70 hours of labour” for the centre but he had declined this offer. He then informed Mr. Keogh that he would have to make that offer known to the public and invited him to the subsequent meeting that Monday night.

  Local politicians meanwhile, have expressed their concerns over the possibility of the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey being used to accommodate asylum seekers.

  Independent TD Denis Naughten confirmed that he has written to Minister of State Denis Stanton to highlight his concerns while Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy accused the Government of acting under a “secret type of cover”. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice said that Rooskey was not a suitable location for asylum seekers while Fine Gael Senator Maura Hopkins claimed that “lessons have not been learned by the Department from the experience in Ballaghaderreen”.

  Former Roscommon County Councillor, Tom Crosby, has called for an emergency public meeting and said that he was “very disappointed” to hear that up to 80 refugees would be placed in the hotel.

  “A similar situation occurred in January 2001 when it was speculated that 20 asylum seekers were being brought to Strokestown, again without any consultation with the community. At that time, as chairman of Roscommon County Council, I immediately called a public meeting which took place in Strokestown on February 5th 2001 where six representatives where nominated from the various communities groups from around the town.

  “I was delegated to make the case to the department highlighting the various reasons that Strokestown was not a suitable location because of the lack of facilities to cater for these people which in many cases were fleeing war torn large cities.

  “It is ludicrous to propose to bring four times the number of those unfortunate people to a small village like Rooskey without any consultation with the community. I am calling on our elected public representatives to immediately call a public meeting and communicate with the Department of Justice before it is too late for all concerned,” he concluded.

 

Our questions to the Department…

 

Roscommon People: Are there plans to use the former Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey as an EROC and if so who will operate such a facility?

Department: (We) are currently in discussions with representatives of the Shannon Key West Hotel for its use as an accommodation centre for persons seeking asylum in Ireland. This will not be an EROC like the premises in Ballaghadereen (sic).

 

Roscommon People: If so, what would be the suggested timeline for such a move?

Department: Until we conclude those discussions we cannot make any further comment on the matter at this time.

 

Roscommon People: Will financial support be provided for the relevant services which will be required should the move go ahead?

Department: When those discussions are concluded we will provide as much information as possible.

 

Roscommon People: With the contract for the Ballaghaderreen EROC (the former Abbeyfield Hotel) set to end in December of next year when will the centre begin the process of winding down?

Department: (No response).

 

Roscommon People: Will there be any further arrivals at the Ballaghaderreen EROC and when and where will the current residents be rehoused?

Department: Residents will continue to reside in Ballaghaderreen in 2018 and 2019. Residents are rehoused following availability of housing. Any queries regarding the housing of refugees should be addressed to the Department of Housing.

 

Roscommon People: Will the lessons that have been learned at the Ballaghaderreen EROC in terms of services and timelines for rehousing be adhered to in the planning for a similar centre in Rooskey?

Department: (No response).

What our TDs have to say on Rooskey...

 

 

 

 

Denis Naughten (Independent)

“I have written to Minister Stanton, who has responsibility for immigration, outlining my concerns at the proposal to accommodate asylum seekers in the former Shannon Key West Hotel.

  “This is an isolated location which cannot provide the facilities that will be needed by the families that would be accommodated in such a centre.

  “These people would have to travel to other locations to avail of the services needed and I have asked Minister Stanton to consider this before deciding on a location”.

Eugene Murphy (Fianna Fáil)

“Over the last few days the village of Rooskey was told that a refugee centre was moving to the former Shannon Key West Hotel, nobody in the community was informed (prior to this).

  “Why is the Government doing this under a secret type of cover? Why not go to the communities first and then the communities could meet these challenges head on and support these people? Extra support in schools and doctors’ surgeries, etc. is talked about but it isn’t happening – just like it didn’t happen in Ballaghaderreen. Local communities need back-up and support to be able to help these communities.

  “I have tabled a number of parliamentary questions with the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan seeking clarification on a number of issues relating to the refugee centre in Rooskey”.

Michael Fitzmaurice (Independent)

“Many people came to a public meeting not too long ago and it was anticipated that the hotel would be opening for events or opening on a full-time basis. If this had come to pass, I would have said that it would have led to a new dawn for the area.

  “Firstly, this is not about being against asylum seekers; but Rooskey is a very small village. The medical, educational and transports services that would be required to house these asylum seekers are just not there.

  “In the local area, medical practitioners are at capacity. Are we going to see what happened in Ballaghaderreen, where people were – through no fault of their own – foisted by the HSE on top of services that were already bursting at the seams?

  “It is my view that The Shannon Key West Hotel is not a suitable location for asylum seekers”.

* In conversation with Dan Dooner

 

Hopkins: ‘No lessons learnt’

 

 

 

Fine Gael Senator Maura Hopkins believes that lessons have not been learned from the Emergency Reception and Orientation Centre in Ballaghaderreen after the Department of Justice confirmed on Tuesday that it was in discussions with the owners of the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey with a view to using the premises to accommodate asylum seekers.

  Senator Hopkins said she has raised her concerns with the Taoiseach as well as the Minister for Justice.

  “I have made it very clear to them that the north Roscommon region is doing its fair share in supporting individuals seeking refuge through the Emergency Reception and Orientation Centre established in January 2017.

  “I strongly believe that this is a shared responsibility which should be borne right across the country. It is unacceptable that one small area of north Roscommon should carry a significant portion of our national responsibility.

  “I am very aware, having been actively involved with the EROC in Ballaghaderreen, that proper resources and service provision need to be put in place to support both the refugees and the local community. From the experience in Ballaghaderreen, proper planning and funding for additional resources and services were not put in place.

  “It seems to me, that lessons have not been learned by the Department from the experience in Ballaghaderreen. I am very concerned about these proposed plans in a village the size of Rooskey,” she concluded.

Hospital’s claims on respiratory services disputed

 

 

The local man who first highlighted concerns over respiratory services at Roscommon Hospital is disputing HSE claims that the service is still available at the hospital.

  This week Roscommon Hospital moved to allay fears that respiratory services at the hospital may be closing.

  The hospital confirmed that the vacancy which arose because of the resignation of the permanent Respiratory Consultant almost three years ago has still not been filled.

  In a statement, the hospital went on to say that it had been decided that respiratory patients would continue to be seen by a Consultant Physician at Roscommon University Hospital and referred on to a Consultant in Respiratory Medicine in another hospital, as required.

  The hospital stressed that all respiratory patients should continue to attend their appointments at Roscommon University Hospital as scheduled.

  Castleplunkett resident Henry Hughes, who first highlighted this issue on Shannonside Radio, is not happy with the HSE/hospital response.

  Mr. Hughes says that people with serious respiratory problems will not be treated at Roscommon Hospital and that COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) clinics will not be held there. Alarmed at the HSE stance – which went public earlier this week – Mr. Hughes contacted the Roscommon People.

  “I spoke to a Risk Manager at Roscommon Hospital on Wednesday (yesterday) and she confirmed the position. She said there will be no more clinics for anyone with COPD”.

  Mr. Hughes said that people who have minor respiratory issues will be treated and that all patients with appointments are indeed being advised to attend the hospital. However, he contends, people with serious respiratory problems, on turning up for their appointment, will be told they are not being treated in Roscommon and that they can choose an alternative hospital (at which to be treated).

 

 

Business as usual? What the hospital said

 

In correspondence to Deputy Eugene Murphy, Mary Garvey, General Manager of Roscommon University Hospital, wrote: “In January 2016 the permanent Respiratory Consultant in Roscommon University Hospital resigned. The respiratory service continued with a locum consultant while efforts to recruit a permanent replacement were ongoing. Unfortunately the post did not attract any suitable candidates.

  “It was decided that respiratory patients would continue to be seen by a Consultant Physician at Roscommon University Hospital and referred on to a Consultant in Respiratory Medicine in another hospital, as required.

  “Roscommon University Hospital has a specialist respiratory nurse who works closely with the Consultant Physicians in Roscommon and the Consultant in Respiratory Medicine in Portiuncula University Hospital in managing these patients according to their clinical needs.

  “All respiratory patients should continue to attend their appointments at Roscommon University Hospital as scheduled”.

  Deputy Murphy noted the reply, stating that the response points out that the hospital has been unable to fill the permanent respiratory consultant post following the resignation of the consultant in January 2016.

  This, he said, opens up a bigger question as to problems attracting and retaining consultant posts in hospital such as Roscommon.

  Deputy Murphy said that it would appear from the hospital statement that respiratory services are still available at Roscommon and patients are being referred on to a consultant in respiratory medicine in another hospital as required.

 

 

 

 

Bord na Mona blow: Murphy calls for €250m fund

 

 

 

Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy says that a €250m deal which was put in place to support the Spanish coal-mining industry is exactly the type of initiative that’s needed in the Midlands in light of Bord na Mona’s decision to transition away from its reliance on peat-harvesting based employment.



  Last week, Spain’s new Government secured agreement between management, unions and other stakeholders for a €250 million deal that will see investment in Spain’s northern Asturias, Aragón, and Castilla y León regions and support for miners who may see their employment end.



  “The Spanish situation is very similar to that of the Midlands here” said Deputy Murphy. “The numbers losing their jobs in Spain is estimated at just over 600. The expected Bord na Móna direct job losses is in the same range with a similar number of indirect jobs in the region expected to be lost.
The agreement in Spain demonstrates that it is possible to make progress on the Paris 2020 targets but without wholescale damage to communities and regions”.



  Deputy Murphy claimed that his party has the solution.  “Fianna Fáil’s proposal for a Sustainable Transition Forum, underpinned by funding from the EU’s Globalisation Fund, is exactly what the Midlands needs to allow it move away from its dependency on jobs associated with peat harvesting”.



Call for hospital parking charges to be abolished

 

 

Former county councillor Tom Crosby, a declared Independent candidate in next year’s local elections, has backed calls from the Irish Cancer Society for hospital car parking charges to be abolished.

  This follows recent claims that some cancer patients are paying up to €63 a week for parking on hospital grounds.

  Mr. Crosby acknowledged that the hospitals in Roscommon and Ballinasloe Hospital offer free parking, but he said the issue of charges is very contentious elsewhere.

  “In Mullingar and Portlaoise hospitals, a visitor or patient can park for free for 30 minutes – but Mullingar charges €1.50 for the 30 minutes after that, while in Portlaoise there is a €3 flat fee after the free period elapses”.

  Mr. Crosby said that public hospitals have collected almost €13 million in a year in parking charges. He said that maximum charges for parking for a full day range from €3 to €15 and that there are currently no national guidelines governing charges for parking.

  He is now calling on the HSE to carry out a review of hospital car parking charges and to engage with the Irish Cancer Society and other patient advocacy groups.

  “This should happen without delay and they should ensure that such a review takes account of the circumstances of patients, particularly those who require long-term care, all with a view to establishing clear guidelines on this sensitive issue as a matter of urgency”.

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