Disabled, not drunk
A young Mullingar man who survived both a rare type of cancer and the debilitating effects of his treatment is now struggling to be allowed into late night venues in his hometown.
Kyle Haugh is 20 years old. When he was 16, doctors discovered a rare type of tumor on his brain. The doctors in Beaumont told his parents Gerry and Karen that he had a life expectancy of just 18 months.
The doctors operated to relieve the pressure on Haugh’s brain and then operated again, this time a re-section of the tumor. Haugh is this operation's only surviving recipient in Europe.
Following the operation Haugh underwent an intensive course of chemotherapy and received the maximum dose of radiation for his lifetime.
The re-section of the rare brain tumour resulted in post operative fatigue, dilated pupils and unsteadiness on his feet. These symptoms are permanent.
As a result of these symptoms, Haugh has been repeatedly refused entry to many of the town's nightclubs, on the occasions, few and far between, when he joins his friends for a Saturday night out.
"It broke my heart, the first time he came home early on a Saturday night," said his mother Karen.
"When he told me that he had been refused but not to make a fuss I was angry. I just wanted to go down there and shake some sense into that doorman.
“He tried to explain but they were not interested. He has just been through so much.
“He had 52 stitches in the back of his head but it would seem that doormen in this town need him to be imprinted with a big D for disability on his forehead too. It is unreasonable and unacceptable and it feels like discrimination."
Haugh’s father Gerry is a doorman himself, with 15 years' experience.
"I understand why a doorman would refuse a young man who is unsteady and whose pupils are dilated. So we contacted Beaumont and asked for an official letter that explains Kyle's condition, and I myself spoke to some of the nightclub doormen and explained,” he said.
“While they agreed at the time, Kyle is still being refused and we do not know what else we can do. He is a young man who is still on a slow road to recovery. It is so frustrating to see him being treated like this," says Gerry.
Kyle carries the explanation of his symptoms around in his wallet at all times. He has been stopped by Gardai (police) and asked about his appearance, but they were happy to accept his explanation when he was given the chance to make it. It is only social venues in Mullingar that will not.
"When I returned with the official certificate, which explains my condition, the doorman disregarded it and told me he wasn't a doctor and I wasn't coming in. Other doormen just refuse to read it,” Haugh said.
"I'm not going to sugar coat it. It makes me feel small and insignificant when I am turned away. I am missing out on socializing with my friends and I feel like an outcast.”
PUBS in Clare have experienced a drop of 60% in business in the past two years and are struggling to stay trading, according to Gerry Collins, chairman of the Clare branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland.
He said there are a combination of factors for the fall in business, citing commercial rates, drunk driving laws, the recession, the existence of head shops and low drink prices in supermarkets among the challenges publicans face.
Collins has been the proprietor of Charlie Stewart’s on Parnell Street in Ennis, for more than seven years.
“Business is down a lot since I took over the pub. Business is at about 40% of what it was two years ago. That’s common to other pubs around the town too,” he said.
“We are facing so many issues now and staying in business is a struggle. A lot of our regular customers would have been in their twenties and thirties, many of them are now out of work and have stopped going out in town because they are short of money.
“We cannot compete with the prices that supermarkets are selling drink at, especially beer. We have to provide events for people in the pub and hold drink promotions to coincide with them..
Collins said that the decrease in the legal limit of alcohol permissible for driving is also hitting business.
“Effectively, the drink driving level means people can really only have one drink in the pub or restaurant. A lot of people liked to come out and have a meal and share a bottle of wine but a couple can’t even do that now,” he said.
He also claimed that some people who had previously come to the pub have turned to using substances available in head shops. “There are some people who used to come to the pub who aren’t coming now because they can get high for less than ***20 on head shop substances. We can spot the people who are on drugs a mile away and we won’t let people in through the door if they have taken something, because they are liable to do anything,” Collins remarked.
There are very few busy nights in bars now, he added. He said that he didn’t have exact figures for how many pubs around the county have closed down in the past two years, but was aware of a number of pubs which had to shut up shop.
Lack of sex education
AROUND three quarters of Irish teenagers receive no education in relationships and sexuality, according to a survey of second level students.
The survey, conducted by teenagers from the Dail na nÓg Council, is the first Irish peer research on these issues, and outlines the reality of how young people experience implementation of Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in second-level schools.
The Longford Leader took to the town's streets to hear what the student population had to say in response to the survey. The overwhelming majority of respondents confirmed that they had never had sex education class in secondary school.
A repeat Leaving Certificate from St. Mel's College said, "I've never had a sex education class.”
A pair of second year boys out for lunch from St. Mel's said, "We did something in science, but just the parts of the body. We supposed to do it in SPHE in first year."
Both said they felt it was an important part of their overall education. In the absence of class based sex education, the young boys said they got most of their information from TV.
A pubescent spokesman for a boisterous trio of first years from Templemichael School said, "We had one class of sex education in SPHE. We were shown diagrams, but we just messed."
A couple of 17-year-old girls were chatting on Main Street. "I've never had sex education. One of the girls in our class did it in National school, in sixth class, but we've only labeled the parts of the body in biology," said one of the Scoil Mhuire fifth years.
The Dail na nÓg Council believes that RSE should be implemented at senior cycle through a dedicated SPHE program. "Teenagers need life skills education that prepares us for the challenges and decisions we face every day. We ask parents and educators to accept that achieving high points in the Leaving Cert should not be the only focus of the education system," said spokesperson Darragh Nolan.
Paul Costelloe, principal of Scoil Mhuire, became aware of the survey at the INTO conference last month. He said he would be endeavoring to broaden the RSE program within the school in the future.
“There's certainly room for improvement and we're working on that at the moment,” he said.
Welcome home, shamrock
A BID to market Navan as the home of the shamrock in an effort to attract a major tourism bonanza to the town was launched by the Navan Shamrock Festival last week.
Proposals to give the town global recognition as the home of the shamrock, and to have the emblem appear on everything to do with Navan, were unveiled to Navan Town Council.
Chief organizer Paddy Pryle pointed out that the shamrock was instantly recognizable to at least 150 million people, the Irish diaspora worldwide.
"By making Navan the home of the shamrock, we are opening it up to a tourism bonanza. More than 150,000 people visit Tara every year and many of those visit it because of its link with St. Patrick," he said.
"It will form a valuable tool in the re-branding and marketing of Navan as a top-class tourist attraction in the Boyne Valley.”
Mark Sheehan spoke of famous festivals which started out as small local festivals, including the Rose of Tralee and the Galway Oyster Festival. The Navan Shamrock Festival could be grown into a major event like these, he added.
The committee is also proposing that the new town park would incorporate an area dedicated to the growth of shamrock, that the satellite parks and roundabouts incorporate the symbol of the shamrock on approaches to Navan, and that any new welcome signage would state the words “Home of the Shamrock.”
The Navan Shamrock Festival Committee would also be expanded in the first year, and school and community groups would start growing shamrock and floral displays in the town.
President Mary McAleese would be invited to open the Shamrock Festival and accept a bowl of shamrock from Tara Hill at Navan Town Hall.
The committee would also explore projects such as having the shamrock explained in the Aer Lingus inflight magazine and expanding on folklore through NUI Maynooth.