Mom, child killed in accident

A 20-year-old Donegal man whose dangerous driving caused the death of his 16-year-old girlfriend and their three-month-old daughter has been given a two-year-jail sentence substituted by 240 hours of community service.

Christopher Hanlon from Lettermacaward pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the deaths of Kerry-Ann Meehan, originally from Derry and her daughter, Neisha.

Hanlon was driving of the Toyota Corolla which collided with an Isuzu Trooper jeep which was pulling a trailer containing sheep.

Letterkenny Circuit Court heard a that blow-out on a tire which had been worn down by Hanlon performing handbrake turns caused him to lose control at Tullygay outside Letterkenny on June 16, 2008.

The family had been driving from Derry -- where they had been visiting Kerry Ann's grandparents -- to Doochary, where they had recently set up home in a rented flat.

Hanlon told Gardai (police) he knew the tires were bald and he had intended to change them.
The car was traveling at between 80kph and 98kph, and while the speed was not excessive for the road it was for the condition of the tires, the court heard.

Giving evidence to the court, Hanlon said waking up to the news that Kerry-Ann and Neisha were gone and he had missed their funerals was unbearable. He apologized to the Meehan family for what he had done.

Meehan's mother, Anna, told the court she felt Hanlon should get a custodial sentence because he had been irresponsible and reckless in driving with bald tires.

Judge John O'Hagan said Hanlon was a special case who should not be categorized as a boy racer. Hanlon had already served part of his punishment and would be serving it for the rest of his life, he said.

O'Hagan imposed a two-year prison sentence substituted with 240 hours community service. Hanlon was also disqualified from driving for eight years.
- Donegal Democrat

Years wait for help

The parents of a six-year-old Portarlington boy, recently diagnosed with a learning and physical disability, has been told that there is a 3 1/2 year waiting list for crucial therapy their boy needs.

After years waiting on a diagnosis for their son, Anthony and Louise Lynch say they have now hit another brick wall.

"All we want is to provide the best for our kids like every parent in the country, but we feel the systems and paths we are forced to follow will not have the best outcome for our son," Anthony said. "It leaves us feeling like we have failed him."

A person with dyspraxia has problems with movement and coordination. Although dyspraxia does not affect a person's intelligence it can cause learning difficulties, especially for children.

Daniel's parents have been told that their son needs physiotherapy for his low muscle tone, and occupational therapy to help him develop vital social skills, but the Lynch's have been told that there are long waiting lists for both services.

"We recently received a letter from the Health Service Executive (HSE) informing us that the occupational therapist (OT) was currently out sick and would then be commencing maternity leave. The letter said that Daniel would be seen in due course," Louise explained.

"We thought this meant we would be waiting about six months but we've recently found out that the waiting list is three years. I rang the OT manager in Tullamore and he told me that he usually has six OTs for the Laois/Offaly area, but now due to the HSE recruitment embargo he now only has four.

"Daniel will be 9 1/2-years-old, by the time he will be seen. By then he will have serious problems with his muscles, his learning ability and his temper, as he gets very frustrated."

"Daniel has ambitions to be a teacher, but without OT and social skills won't be able to stand up in front of a class. He has the potential to be a teacher, but needs help to get there."

When Daniel suffered a concussion after throwing himself off the couch at 11 months old, Anthony and Louise knew something wasn't right. At two years old, Daniel climbed up a free standing wardrobe which fell on top of him, but he wasn't seriously injured in the fall.

Louise explains, "We started bringing him to our GP, but he just said it was the terrible twos and that he needed more socialization now that his older brother, Dylan was in school."

But Anthony and Louise instinctively knew that there was something wrong with Daniel.

Louise sought a second opinion. "Without even seeing Daniel, the doctor said it sounded like dyspraxia,” she said.
- Leinster Express

Unemployment drop

The numbers of people signing on in Sligo have fallen for the second month in a row, but the level of unemployment locally remains at a record level.

There were 5,149 people in the county on the live register at the end of October. That is down by 119 on the September figure.

The level of reduction in Sligo of people claiming various types of unemployment assistance is roughly in line with the national situation. There has been a drop of 12,864 on the September total, bringing the national live register figure to 429,553.

Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cuív said the fall "is a very welcome development,” and pointed out that the October figure is the lowest monthly total since December 2009.

He pointed out that the live register includes those who have employment albeit on a part time basis, and receive a payment from his department for part of the week.

However, while the Sligo figure is now down by 796 since August and is roughly what it was this time last year, the number of people unemployed locally is still at an historically high level.

While in more recent times larger numbers of women than men have been signing on, males still make up the biggest numbers of those unemployed at 3,365 to 1,784 females.
- Sligo Weekender

Fertility awareness urged

Widespread concern among fertility experts that women are leaving it too late to have children has led to calls for a national fertility awareness campaign, beginning in the classroom.

The support for an awareness-raising campaign comes at a time when births to first-time mothers are at a 50-year high, and the average age of mothers has risen to 31.4.

Experts in reproductive medicine who took part in an Irish Examiner investigation of treatments, costs and success rates at fertility clinics around the country agree women need to be made aware they have a finite number of eggs, and that technology has not advanced enough to make age irrelevant when it comes to having children.

Dr. Edgar Mocanu, consultant-in-charge at the Human Assisted Reproduction Unit in the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, said the education system should include male and female reproduction classes.

"It is important for school children to understand that fertility is a finite opportunity and one should consider having a family young rather than when too late. Career is important but should be developed in parallel to achieving the desired fertility potential," he said.

Dr. John Waterstone, medical director of the Cork Fertility Center, said the "big message" that needed to get across was that age and fertility are inextricably linked.

"They (women) don’t realize just how important the age thing is and they think, ‘I feel young, I look young, I exercise, I’m in good shape,’ but they don’t realize that the aging of the ovaries is inexorable. It doesn’t matter if you look young or feel young, this is beyond your control."

Dr. Declan Egan, medical director of the Galway Fertility Unit, said the problem of deferred motherhood is getting worse.

"People are coming later and later. It’s getting married late, it’s leaving it until the last minute hoping they’ll pull it off without having to come near a fertility clinic,” he said.

Egan said he believes fertility awareness should be incorporated into schools’ safe sex education programs and should target both genders as sperm count also worsens with age.  Waterstone said a fertility awareness campaign could follow the format of other Health Service Executive (HSE) public health campaigns.

In a statement, the HSE said, "Information with respect to fertility has been included in the TRUST pack -- which is a resource for teachers of relationship and sexuality education at senior cycle. It is a resource that has been developed in partnership with Department of Education and Science, HSE and Crisis Pregnancy Program."
- Irish Examiner