Tuam community unites in grief to mourn loss of two sisters
Fatalities and near tragedies in the past warrant a 24 hour Tuam ambulance base
Pink ribbons decorate business premises and homes in Tuam in memory of Kate and Grace Gilmore who died on Sunday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy
By Martina Nee
A tight-knit community was plunged into mourning this week following a fatal road traffic accident at the weekend which claimed the lives of two-year-old girl and her three-month-old sister.
Family, friends, and hundreds of mourners attended the Mass of the Angels at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Belclare yesterday morning to pay their respects and to comfort devastated parents, John and Michelle Gilmore. It is understood Kate Gilmore and her little sister Grace were later buried in a single coffin at Killower cemetery.
Residents of the Meadows estate in Tuam where the Gilmore family lived showed their support since Sunday’s tragic events by tying pink ribbons outside their houses. Hundreds of supporters have also been visiting the Galway County Council building in Prospect Hill in the city to sign a book of condolences which was opened jointly by the mayors of Galway city and county earlier and will remain in place until tomorrow, October 26.
Kate and Grace were out for an afternoon walk with their father when the accident happened on the hard shoulder of the N17.
The incident has shocked not just the community, but the entire nation, according to Tuam native and Labour Deputy Colm Keaveney who said it is an “horrific” incident which the “whole country is talking about”.
“There are references being made here in the Dail by organisations visiting, by staff, by the whole country. A loving father, working away from home, brought out his two girls to grab some of the sunny air, spending quality time with them before going out on the road again to work. The community has been united by the trauma and grief and there are two families affected. It is a tragic emotional legacy the driver has to carry. Thoughts go out to all the families involved.”
Gardai arrested the driver of the vehicle on Monday afternoon following his treatment in hospital. He was detained for questioning at Tuam Garda Station but later released without charge pending a file being sent to the DPP.
Speaking to the Advertiser, Deputy Keaveney confirmed that the off-duty first responders to Sunday’s accident had “provided a wonderful duty”. He added that there have been many fatalities and near tragedies in the past to warrant a 24 hour Tuam ambulance base and he hopes to raise the issue of staffing arrangements for this vital service in the Dail tomorrow.
“Every incident is unforeseen... we need to invest in front line services. I believe the capacity exists for a fair distribution of these resources. I can prove we can open a 24 hour service without having to recruit extra staff.”
Deputy Keaveney further explained that staffing arrangements in the new ambulance base in Tuam “is of concern to many people in the north Galway area who have for many decades been aware that they live outside the optimum response time zone of other ambulance bases in the country.
"Through discussions with paramedics working in Galway, I understand that only two paramedics will be assigned to the base. This would only provide for seven 12 hour shifts, out of every 14 days, in three and four day blocks, with gaps of three, four, and seven days between each block. The plan appears to be to fill some of these significant blocks on an ad hoc basis. This is entirely unsatisfactory as anything less than a 24/7 staffing of the base would be the equivalent of gambling with the lives of the people of north Galway.
"Some minor amendments to the rota could allow for 24/7 cover in the Tuam base. I understand that as with Galway, there are also surplus to capacity shifts in the Mayo and Midlands areas and that there are paramedics in both areas that would welcome a redeployment to Tuam.”