Violence against women
The downturn in the economy is having an extreme effect on women in Donegal, with the Donegal Women's Domestic Violence Service (DWDVS) recording a staggering 30% increase in calls to their outreach service and helpline during the first quarter of this year.
Last year, 31 families in dire need of shelter were turned away from this refuge due to the lack of space.
Manager of the DWDVS Fiona Doherty said, "We are seeing an increase in women stating emotional and financial abuse since the recession with increasing unemployment, mortgage problems or delays with social welfare payments, for example.
“Women are trapped in relationships because they can't find a job or because they can't sell their homes. This means that domestic violence services here in Donegal are under more pressure to ensure that women and children are safe and can make vital changes to their lives."
Doherty stated that "emotional, financial and sexual abuse within relationships are as damaging as physical abuse and can be harder to prove.”
Presently the refuge in Letterkenny is full to capacity. An application has been made by the service for a larger multi-purpose center with self-contained units that could better accommodate more families, and they are hopeful that their application will be successful.
"At times you can have two women with their children sharing a kitchen, a bathroom and living areas with no privacy," Doherty said.
“There is a real need for this facility. I hope that in 2010 that the DWDVS will be able to continue to sustain the current level of service provision, as any cuts to the core funding will impact directly on women and children accessing the service."
Finola Brennan of the Donegal Women's Network echoed these sentiments.
"The impact that the proposed 60% cut on the national community development program could have an immense impact on services to women in this county. This is very much a grass-roots organization where women tend to go to first when seeking help in an indirect way."
Coping With Depression
The government should start a campaign to discourage teenagers from texting and using the Internet, and encourage them instead to meet and chat about life, according to a Limerick city priest.
"I have found that so many young people are addicted to texting and also spend so much time on the Internet. It is not healthy," said Father Joe Young.
Young is one of thousands of people in Limerick who has suffered from depression, and has made a vow to try and get rid of the stigma associated with the illness before he ends his ministry.
"I would love to get a house in Limerick where young people, and the not so young people, could meet for a chat. You would be surprised what you could solve over a cup of coffee," said the Limerick cleric.
He said that while one in four people suffer from depression, there as still a stigma attached to it.
"Internet and texting, that is the dialogue of the depressed. People get addicted and then don't get out and meet people, and then we end up with young people with depression who take their own lives,” he said.
Young says that he is one of many people who have from time to time suffered from depression and has no problems talking about it. He organized a pilgrimage to Lourdes for people who are or have suffered from the illness.
"I have no problem in saying I suffered from depression. I got medical help. But I am not alone and I want to say it is wrong for some people to say, oh, he is not the full shilling when talking about people with depression.
"I am not a depressed person, but I do suffer from depression and when I do get help and support from my doctor and friends," he says.
Teenage Drinking Escalates
When a 14-year-old girl told HURT coordinator Sadie O'Reilly that of her 25 classmates only five didn't drink and were considered to be "freaks" by their classmates, she saw first hand the stark reality of Derry's drinking culture.
O’Reilly said there seemed to be an attitude in the city, and especially among young people, that drinking won't do any real harm.
"The young girl, who had visited HURT with a friend, told me she didn't do drugs. She only ‘drank and smoked,’” O’Reilly said.
"What a lot of young people don't realize is that there are probably seven to eight times more alcohol related deaths and illnesses in this city than anything related to drug use.
"We have reached a stage with our young people where drinking is an accepted pastime. I was told that young people of 14 and 15 feel there is a lack of other things for them to do. Youth clubs can feel too childish to them, and so many turn to socializing with drink.
"The 14-year-old I spoke to said those of her age who didn't drink were considered abnormal."
O'Reilly said that what many young people didn't understand was that their bodies were not physically mature enough to deal with drinking on a regular basis, and there was a very real chance that they were doing lasting damage to themselves.
"A teenage body is not equipped to cope with large quantities of alcohol. The young girl I spoke with said the worst she ever suffered was a hangover, but that is just a sign that something else in going on in your body. You will not be aware that your liver, kidneys may have suffered lasting damage."
While HURT was set up initially to help people with drug problems, the group helps a significant amount of people who abuse both alcohol and drugs, or simply alcohol.
"We're very aware of the issues surrounding alcohol abuse in Derry. What we are really looking into at the moment is a new concept -- that of hidden harm.
"A recent report has suggested that as many as one in 11 children in the U.K. are brought up in a household where there is hidden harm -- that is their primary carer is using a significant amount of substances, be it alcohol or drugs.
"We have to ask ourselves what foundations are being laid for the future when so many young people see this kind of behavior as normal.
"Ten or 15 years ago, the average age of someone attending a centre for addiction support was mid 30s. Now you could easily take ten years off that.”
Hoteliers need help
Sligo hoteliers have called on the government to take emergency action to salvage Ireland's tourism sector, said to be in crisis amid a dramatic drop in visitors year on year.
"The bottom has fallen out of the British tourist market, which is having a significant impact on the tourism sector in Sligo," said Fergus O'Donovan, chairman of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), Sligo.
According to the latest Central Statistics Office figures the fall in visitors from the U.K. has been particularly stark, with numbers down 24% in August compared with last year.
"Not a single meaningful action of substance has been taken by the government to recover the situation, " O'Donovan claimed. "The government can no longer stand idly by and do nothing. We need imaginative solutions from our leaders.”
O'Donovan stated that it was no longer acceptable for the government to dismiss suggestions that could actually give Ireland a competitive advantage in attracting visitors from our main markets.
"Irish tourism is in crisis and in urgent need of leadership from government. What is the use in holding diaspora think-tanks in Farmleigh and inviting the best minds in Ireland to come up solutions if we are unwilling to respond creatively and with a sense of urgency to positive suggestions to deal with crises situations, particularly when they involve no additional cost to the exchequer?" he asked.
The IHF believes that Ireland is uniquely positioned to attract an increasing number of European citizens over 66 years of age -- a largely untapped market of 80 million people across the EU.
The IHF is calling on the government to extend, as a matter of urgency, the current free travel scheme for Irish citizens aged 66 to all EU citizens in this age group. Such a decisive action would provide a major boost to attempts to halt the collapse of the British tourist market for Ireland, and would encourage many within this sector of nine million people to avail of the low cost access fares to Ireland and the fantastic value packages available in Irish hotels and guesthouses.
"Retired people have the time, discretionary income and inclination to travel and we should position ourselves to benefit from this growing market. By providing free internal travel within Ireland, it would give us an added attraction and advantage in this segment of the tourism market," says O'Donovan.