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  • Calls for greater care of elderly follows death of man in NY

    Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

    The death of a 72-year-old Irish man in New York has resulted in a new focus on the needs of elderly Irish emigrants in the US.

    Tony Gallagher, originally from Ballycorrick, Co Mayo had died perhaps as long as a week before his body was found in his Queens apartment. Though some press reports have depicted Mr Gallagher as being socially isolated, other reports have noted he was an active member of his local community and, though he lived alone, had close contacts with family members. Mr Gallagher’s Leitrim-born wife, Josephine, is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s Disease. His brother lives in Massachusetts, where Mr Gallagher had visited him to celebrate Thanksgiving weeks before he died. In mid-December he apparently suffered a heart attack and died; his body was not discovered until firemen broke into his apartment as much as a week later, after a caretaker noted Mr Gallagher’s absence.

    Ciaran Staunton of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform in New York has described the need for a census of the Irish community there. Calling Mr Gallagher’s death as a wake-up call, he said, “No one knew he existed. That’s the problem. That’s what we intend to change.? Work on the census has already begun, with volunteers knocking on doors and community leaders registering the elderly.

    Mr Staunton also called for the opening of drop-in centres in the Queens area to discourage isolation and build a sense of camaraderie. He said that the community would be looking to successful models in England as examples for work in Queens, naming the Leeds community as one such example.  The Aisling Irish Centre in Yonkers also has a well-established programme for the elderly, and there are other programmes throughout the New York area.

    Mr Staunton is asking both the Irish and the Northern Irish governments for support in funding the programme. Mr Staunton praised the work of the Irish government, telling the Irish Times,

    “Not too often does a Taoiseach get praised, but when Brian Cowen was minister for foreign affairs he was instrumental in funding services here. Now that Micheál Martin has stepped into Mr Cowen’s shoes we have been met with nothing but a positive response.”

    The Evening Herald reported that Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin would look at funding an outreach worker to visit emigrants in their own homes.

    See related articles:

    108-year-old Irish woman dies in SA – 18 years after emigrating

    Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

    A 108-year-old Irish women who emigrated to South Africa at the age of 90 died there this weekend, according to the Irish Times. Kitty Ball was born in Skerries in 1901 and moved to South Africa to be with her daughter and grandchildren. Mrs Ball had a rich and active life full of travel and sport, refusing to enter a nursing home as she believed they were for old people. She attributed her longevity to her habit of a glass of sherry every morning at eleven.

    Read the full story at the Irish Times website.

    Ean press release on RTE medium wave shutdown

    Monday, February 11th, 2008

    Ean has issued a press release on the shutdown of RTE medium wave services, which will affect those who listen to Radio 1 on MW radio. The move will hit listeners in Britain, Northern France and the Benelux countries.

    Here is the text of the release:

    On March 24, RTE will cease broadcasting on medium wave, cutting off Radio One to those who listen to it on MW radio. This is a move that will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable among the listening audience.

    While RTE points to the fact that there are numerous other options for listeners available, including FM, longwave and non-radio technologies such as the internet, there are wider implications that will affect many sectors:

    · Senior citizens – who value medium wave’s reliability and ease of use over FM’s sound quality. It is easier to tune in – the FM dial is cluttered with stations, and tuning in can be a distraction. Medium wave reception is stable and predictable. Those who need to purchase long-wave receivers will incur an additional cost.

    · Emigrants – Medium wave reaches Britain, Northern France and the Benelux countries. Those listening to Radio One on MW radio will have to buy new long-wave receivers, which will be a burden on the vulnerable elderly among the emigrants. Additionally, there are some areas where medium wave is a stronger signal than the longwave station, due to interference with the long wave signal.

    · Northern Ireland – parts of Northern Ireland rely on medium wave because the FM signal is too weak to reach them. Cutting service contradicts the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

    · People with limited vision – the FM dial is cluttered with stations. Tuning RTE in on MW is simple.

    · People on the move – medium wave stays on the same spot on the dial. FM requires retuning as one travels through the country, which is the type of distraction that has been a proven factor in car accidents.

    · RTE has been producing separate programming for medium wave, such as sports programmes and events and the Sunday Mass. Religious services will move to longwave, requiring the purchase of an additional receiver for those who do not have them. This will be a further restriction for those on the move, as pocket-sized long-wave sets are rare on the market.

    FM, medium wave, and longwave are complementary services: some people choose medium wave over FM because they live in areas where they do not get good FM reception. Additionally, some programming is not carried on FM, so people will be required to switchover to longwave. For many, a switchover to longwave will require the purchase of a new radio – a burden that will fall disproportionately on the elderly and most vulnerable, who are the most likely to rely on medium wave to begin with. Additionally, those listeners who want to convert their car radios to longwave will have to incur the installation costs.

    In addition, new digital technology will soon render our existing longwave receivers obsolete. RTE has installed a longwave DRM transmitter and tested it in August, transmitting digital longwave across the UK and Europe. This is a welcome move, but the switchover to digital radio on longwave will render current longwave radios obsolete. Those who purchase longwave sets now will have to buy another radio when RTE cuts the existing longwave signal and sends out a digital signal in its place.

    Ean Director Noreen Bowden says, “This issue is particularly important for our older emigrants, who value RTE’s services as a powerful link with home. At the very least, they should be given assistance with the switchover before services are cut off – although we would like to see the move postponed until RTE begins broadcasting in digital, which will give near-FM quality across all of Ireland, across most of Britain, and into near Europe, using much less power. This will be a boon not just to older emigrants, but to anyone travelling abroad – business people and holiday-makers as well as long-term residents.?

    Free travel a no-go, says Minister

    Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

    Extending free public transport to elderly emigrant visitors to Ireland is not currently possible, according to Social and Family Affairs Minister Martin Cullen. The Irish Independent has reported that the Minister said that despite a Government pledge to work toward free travel for emigrant pensioners, the minister said:

    “Legal advice indicates that it would not be possible to extend entitlement to free travel to Irish-born people living abroad, as to do so would be contrary to European legislation, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of nationality”.

    Labour Party chief whip Emmet Stagg, however, says the Government is actually opposing a complaint made to the European committee on Social Rights, investigating whether the current denial of free travel breaches the EU’s social charter. “The Government have fought against that tooth and nail to prevent them having to grant free travel. This flies in the face of their statements in the Dail, where they are saying the EU won’t allow them to do this”.

    See the report by Michael Brennan in the Irish Independent.

    Never too late to emigrate?

    Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

    Here’s one for the record books: a 102-year-old man has decided to begin a new chapter in his life – by emigrating from England to New Zealand. Erik King-Turner has been married for twelve years to his New Zealand-born wife, Doris. The couple, who have been living in Hampshire, met when Doris was researching her family history in England.

    Mr King-Turner said his wife was getting homesick, and that he thought it might be “rather fun to move to New Zealand”, according to a report in the BBC.

    His wife added, “He’s very easy to get on with and he settles down very quickly, so I think he’ll quite enjoy it out there.”

    The couple began their sea journey to their new home last week.

    Read the full report in the BBC.