Teen Gets Legally High

A Donegal couple has spoken of the battle to wean their 17-year-old son off the legal substances openly on sale to which he has become addicted.

The substances are totally legal, and it is accepted that the shops are completely within their legal rights to sell the substances. However, the parents from Letterkenny, who did not wish to be identified, have serious concerns for their son who uses these substances.

They have called on the government and the planning authorities to outlaw these “legal highs” that are on sale, and say they fear their son will descend into using cocaine and heroin as a result.

"We are at our wit's end. He has been able to purchase this stuff in shops that specify that only people over 18 years of age can buy it,” his father claims.

"We are fearful that a psychotic episode from using these substances will push him over the edge and lead to self-harm as has happened with other young people."

Their son had grown into his teenage years with the usual love of young pursuits. He had been doing well at school. And he had a love of music that had prompted him to learn a couple of instruments.

But somehow those progressions in his life became irrelevant. "The first sign we had was when he began missing school. We knew something was wrong and at first didn't know what it was,” the father said.

They do now. Their then 15-year-old son was drawn into the murky world of mind-altering -- life altering -- substances legally available across the counters of the legally licensed Head Shops.

And two years on, he's still ensnared in the range of highs that are sold from these outlets. His parents have done everything they can to wean him off the addiction.

"We have taken him to the Gardai (police) and to counselors. At the Garda station, they found some stuff in his sock, mind-altering stuff. But they said there was nothing they could do about it because it was legal.”

The young man's parents have gone beyond the stage of desperation. "It's a very private thing that we're going through -- you can't scream and shout about it from the rooftops,” the father says.

Much as they want to. Much as they want to ask the relevant questions as to how the government allows such shops to operate.

"Why doesn't someone stand up and do something about it?" the father asks.

They can't even give their son any money. "He might ask for some to go to the pictures but we know what he'll be doing with it. Though we also know that his friends will end up giving him the money or what he needs to keep him hooked."

Their teenage son is due to sit his Leaving Certificate this summer. "But he's not even concentrating on it. And what will happen when he's finished school and he's reached the age of 18? He'll probably get a flat somewhere and the situation will only get worse.”

Donegal Democrat

14-Year-Old Mothers

Fifteen people, themselves just children, gave birth during a single three-month period last year.

The girls, aged 14 years or younger, were among 250 under-18s who became mothers between April and June 2009.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has confirmed that despite a fall in the number of teenage births over the past decade, a significant number of cases are continuing to be reported. According to the figures, between April and June 2009, a total of 47 girls under the age of consent (17 years) gave birth in Irish hospitals, 15 of whom were not born before 1995.

A further 103 17-year-olds; 167 18-year-olds; and 257 19-year-olds also became mothers during the period, including 50 who already had a child and three who had two previous offspring.

While the number of cases is in line with a fall in teen pregnancies over the past decade, from 3,135 in 2000 to less than 2,500 in 2008, the Teen Parents Support Program said the issue was still impacting on families’ lives.

Urging the Department of Education to provide official guidelines to schools on how to cope with a crisis pregnancy, it warned that without genuine support young girls facing the situation could be left with no option but to leave the education system.

Across all age groups a total of 18,844 births were registered during the three-month timeframe, a drop of 1% on the same period in 2008. The largest number of newly registered births was in the 30- to 34-year-old age bracket, with one in three occurring outside of marriage. A further 40 births to women over the age of 45 were also detailed by the CSO statistics, seven of whom had no previous children.

Irish Examiner

Farmers’ Potato Loss

Potato growers and other farmers throughout Galway who are facing financial ruin in the wake of the flooding and more recent cold spell are now calling on the government to urgently provide assistance to save them from going out of business.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) recently warned that nationally 30% of crops in 6,000 acres remains unharvested because of the torrential rain in November and December followed by the big freeze.  The IFA says that an estimated 20% of the potatoes will not be recovered, and this will mean a loss to the country’s growers of more than ****15 million.

Local potato grower and supplier Joe Cleary knows all too well the effects that the severe weather has had on his own business, and says that for many growers and farmers in the Galway area, and nationally, there have been “savage losses” incurred.

“I grow 200 acres of potatoes which has been severely affected by a very wet autumn. October and November is when the harvesting is usually done. There was ****120,000 worth of produce left in the ground but it couldn’t be harvested because the ground was too wet,” he said.

“At Christmas we still couldn’t go in because it was all frozen. It was all destroyed. I am just one of 130 potato growers in the country. Some have lost nearly ***1 million. I am fighting for the growers in Ireland. We are in severe trouble,” he said.

Cleary, who runs a farm near Portumna and supplies 600 tons of produce to the local Galway and Mayo markets, further explained, “without government rescue we are facing financial ruin.”

He said that many growers have no hope of commencing planting in March as they will now struggle to pay land bills, and to purchase new seed and fertilizer.

IFA county chairman for Galway, Barry Donnelly, also expressed fears that farmers are going out of business, as they have been hit by one disaster after another.

“We’re looking for the (government) to realize the losses in all sectors. If nothing is done farmers are going to go out of business. They can’t keep producing at a loss. The banks will only stand by you for so long,” he said.

Galway Advertiser

Horse Cruelty

ANIMAL lovers have reacted with repulsion and anger following one of the most horrific cases of animal cruelty seen to date when a group of heartless youths attempted to set an injured horse on fire.

The teenagers aged between 13 and 16 attempted to burn the animal in broad daylight on Wednesday, January 20 on land close to the N2 southbound lane near the M50 roundabout.

The injured animal had earlier been moved there and covered in straw by six men who left it for dead.

Some time later, a passer-by spotted the gang of cruel and callous youths attempting to set the helpless animal alight.

The Gardai and the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) were called to the scene where, sadly, the animal had to be put down.

Gardai are investigating this latest cruelty incident, which is one of the latest in a long list of shocking cases in an ever-increasing equine care crisis gripping the country.

Liam Kinsella of the DSPCA, who attended the scene last week, described how the incident was one of the most disturbing cases of animal cruelty he has witnessed.

“The poor creature was in very poor condition; it couldn’t stand and was totally emaciated,” he explained.

Dublin People
Make Radiotherapy Local

A DERRY family fears their frail mother may refuse life-saving cancer treatment because she does not want to travel to Belfast.

Celine Birtles and Vivienne Johnston say their 77-year-old mother Agnes, who is battling breast cancer, has been told she'll have to take a bus to the cancer center in Belfast on Monday mornings -- and stay there for four nights during the week to receive radiotherapy.

The women have begun a campaign to demand radiotherapy treatment is made available locally as a matter of urgency, claiming the North's second city should not have to put up with "third world health care.”

"We were told that our mum needed radiotherapy at the cancer center at Belfast City Hospital but couldn't believe it when we were told she'd have to get a bus to Belfast on a Monday morning, have to stay up for four nights and be brought home on a Friday night. We've been told her treatment takes only 20 minutes,” said Birtles.

"It's ridiculous that we can't provide radiotherapy treatment locally for people, especially for older people who are vulnerable. Mum is terrified about going to Belfast. She’s never left our dad before and they've been married 55 years.  Mum weighs just five stone and is very weak."

Birtles says that, although a radiotherapy suite is due to open at Altnagelvin in 2015, they simply can't wait that long.

"There are wards lying empty in the hospital. Why can't we set up a radiotherapy suite there now?" she asked.

Derry Journal