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College students told they risk expulsion over breaches of public health guidelines


Street scenes: Students gather in Galway as they celebrate Freshers Week

Street scenes: Students gather in Galway as they celebrate Freshers Week

Street scenes: Students gather in Galway as they celebrate Freshers Week

NUI Galway students who breach public health guidelines face expulsion from the university.

On Monday night up to 1,000 students in Galway gathered along the Claddagh Basin across from the Spanish Arch to celebrate Freshers Week.

Videos of the gathering circulated on social media sparked outrage and condemnation from public representatives in the city.

Fianna Fáil Senator for Galway West Ollie Crowe asked if the army could step in to help gardaí police the city.

Speaking to Claire Byrne on RTÉ, Mr Crowe called on students who attended the gathering in Galway to "quarantine for 10-14 days".

"It's Freshers Week here in Galway, the gardaí are under enormous pressure.

"I think it's appropriate for the Government to examine how we can allocate additional resources to the gardaí as an army town."

Gardaí were also called to more than 10 house parties taking place in student accommodation across the city.

Lynn Porter (27), a fourth-year commerce student who was hospitalised with the coronavirus in March, said she was shocked by the scenes.

"I felt angry when I saw the pictures. I totally understand people need to socialise and have a life but that was shocking.

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"I can promise anyone they do not want to get Covid.

"It was an absolutely horrible illness and I was one of the lucky ones who recovered within a few weeks. It leaves you feeling terrible. I couldn't get out of bed. My eyes were sore, my neck, my shoulders, it was awful.

"My GP thought that I may have had meningitis.

"I recovered well but for some other young person it could be a different story.

"When you are young you think you are invincible but this is something you have to take seriously."

Galway Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton hit out at those involved, saying the "upset and anger" among people in Galway was "palpable".

"I could not believe my eyes last night when I saw such a large number of young people socialising with no visible social distancing or mask wearing," she said.

"I would have serious concerns as to the cost of [the]congregation for Galway, not only from a health perspective and the potentially deadly impact it may have on the most vulnerable in our society, but also for our local economy with many businesses already grappling to deal with the ever-challenging environment of Covid-19," Ms Naughton added.

In a strongly worded statement, NUI Galway labelled the scenes in the city as "deplorable".

"NUI Galway has repeatedly appealed to the better judgment of our students and reminded them of their responsibilities under the student code of conduct.

"The university has also worked to ensure this year's experience of university life is safe, supportive and enjoyable, despite the limitations that the pandemic places on us.

"NUI Galway leadership is this morning meeting with the gardaí and Galway City Council about these incidents.

"While the vast majority of our students are doing their utmost to stay safe and helping to prevent the spread of Covid-19, we won't hesitate in dealing with any breaches of public health guidelines in line with our student code of conduct - which has penalties up to and including expulsion," added the statement.

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