Prevention as Leaving Certificate Students Gather in the City:
“We want to get them home safely to their families rather than perishing on the side of the streets,” explains Arthur Carr of Claddagh Watch Patrol. “We are not taking any chances. The sheer volume of people who arrive into the city for the Leaving Cert results night is huge. They come in buses, in cars, from one county to another. At the end of the day, they may not be able for the large consumption of alcohol typically associated with this annual night out. And it is so dangerous. For example, on the same night last year, we had 21 volunteers out on patrol and we needed every one of them.”
Tragedy Inspires Community Rescue:
The rush of the River Corrib through Galway city is a sound that Arthur Carr knows so well. Having established Claddagh Watch Patrol just three years ago, he and his team of dedicated volunteers have clocked up almost 10,000 hours along the city’s waterways to prevent deaths by accident and suicide.
Straightaway, the Galway community embraced the night-time patrol, who have helped in over 300 incidents since inception. Arthur, who lives in Ballinasloe, was inspired to set up the initiative after a spate of tragedy in the city.
Prevention and Connection:
“Back in 2019, we lost four people to the river inside of a week,” he says.
“We had to do something about it. These are needless deaths. If we could prevent even one, if we could change someone’s mind, then it would be worth it. We called a meeting, and it was very well attended. Our first patrol was July 5th 2019.” The very nature of the work for Claddagh Watch Patrol can take an emotional toll. Above all, Arthur describes the volunteers as family. This sense of connection between them is strengthened by the relationship they have with the emergency services.
“We are very lucky,” Arthur explains. “We work together very well and there is great trust between us all. And it can be emotional. As well as this, it can be tough. Luckily, if anyone is finding it difficult, we have a counselling service with the HSE. At the end of the day, it is so important we have that link. This is because it is a big commitment.
“For example, we have a presence for two nights every weekend. What’s more, that increases when crowds gather such as Race Week, Rag Week and the Junior and Leaving Cert exams and results. Quite simply we have a fantastic team.”
The impact Claddagh Watch Patrol are having on the waterways of Galway city is life changing. As well as their physical presence along the city’s river and canals, the charity raises awareness about supports available to people if they are feeling unwell or suicidal. Also, they liaise with similar organisations and public bodies in the field of suicide prevention and mental health support.
“When that river is angry,” Arthur explains, “it has a speed of 22km an hour. If someone enters the water at O’Briens’ bridge, they will be at the Spanish Arch in less than a minute.
“Essentially, we can relay such vital information to the emergency services. This can include where and what part of the river the person entered.
“As well as this, we can tell them whether they are responsive. In fact, the quicker the emergency services have this information, the more chance there is for a rescue, rather than recovery. This job is so important.”
Image Caption: Arthur Carr and his wife Deborah.
In 2019, Claddagh Watch Patrol operated out of the back of Arthur’s red van, known as ‘big red’. Next, they moved to a steel container located at Monroe‘s Tavern in the Westend of Galway city. Now, after years of campaigning and service to the city, they have a proper home. Claddagh Watch Patrol has a roof over their head at the old Customs House on Flood Street and hope to move in by the end of the year.
To continue their work, Arthur and his team regularly fundraise and recently organised a golf day at the Galway Bay Golf Resort. For more see https://claddaghwatch.ie/