Manuela’s invaluable legacy to Galway

Time has a habit of dulling the images of the past. Remembering the people we love, trying to recall their faces takes a second or so longer as each year goes by, the pictures blur, the sharpness becomes fuzzy; try as we might, the tide of memory ebbs and flows and slowly goes out to the horizons of the mind.

This leads to feelings of guilt, that somehow the people whose pictures do not come to mind as easily are no longer as important as they once were. But this is not the case. It is just the passing of time.

For the people of Galway, the picture of Manuela Riedo is one that can come to all our minds now. The last blurry shot of her taken at Spanish Arch, her eyes squinting as the sun headed westward on that balmy October afternoon is engrained in our minds, but it too will become a part of history if we let it. That was just three short years ago. Three years in which we were horrified, repulsed, gratified and ashamed as the entire episode was revealed, pushed along the road to justice and then filed in the history of the city. For us, a shameful episode, but for Hans and Arlette Riedo, the ending of their life, the destruction of their family, the dashing of their dreams.

Hans and Arlette will never know what she might have been if she had lived.

To think that the daughter they adored, who they lay awake at night caring for as an infant, hearing her breathe, watching her grow, seeing her vulnerability and helping her along the road to maturity, without daring to think that this child would encounter such evil on what was her first real trip into the world alone. It is enough to send shudders down the spine of any parent.The thought of it would make you want to hold your own child tightly and never let her go.

They arrive in Galway this week to help us remember her. The trip will elicit a strange emotion in them; here they will see friends they wish they never got the chance to meet. Here, while comforted by the esteem in which their daughter will be honoured, they will see how her legacy will benefit many. Manuela wanted to become an advocate for the vulnerable and the downtrodden through the work she would have carried out in her life.Sadly, it is because of her death that so much more will be accomplished .

The Night for Manuela concert tomorrow (Friday ) will benefit thousands of people who access the services of the Galway Rape Crisis Centre each year. The proceeds from the event (featuring a strong lineup of artists including Mary Coughlan, Mairtin O’Connor, Lucia Evans, Frank Naughton, Trad on the Prom, Sean Costello, and many more ) at the Salthill Hotel will go towards that worthy service

Tomorrow night at 7pm, the third aniversary of Manuela’s death will be commemorated by a balloon release on Ladies Beach (opposite the Galway Bay Hotel ). Hundreds of children are coming along to let their balloons blow away out to sea.

We can never let the picture of Manuela fade from our memories. We owe that to the Riedos and to all our children who one day have to go and face the world alone. Manuela may have just been in Galway for three full days, but her legacy will mean that she will never be forgotton. Get along tomorrow evening, release a balloon and enjoy the music. God rest her and may her parents begin to get some respte from the horror of it all.

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