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Abbey in fundraising drive for urgent restoration work



A major fundraising drive is being organised to restore the Abbey of St Francis Street to its original glory.

The Church was built in 1836 and consecrated by Bishop of Galway Dr Laurence O’Donnell in 1849 under the title of ‘The Immaculate Conception,’ the first Church in Ireland to bear this title.

The project was led by the Guardian of the Community, Fr John Jennings, and the architect was John Cusack, who designed a building in the classic Doric style.

The upgrade will involve no structural change to the Abbey. Due to a previously leaking roof, some of the plaster work needs attention including the areas where the wiring has been replaced. x2 Pic 3 Abbey

As the backing walls of the Confessionals are four feet below ground, there is serious damp soaking into the building that needs urgent attention to remove the dry rot. The Belfry is also damp.

Work has already begun on the rewiring as the current wiring is very old and dangerous. The lighting will be replaced with LED lights to make the ongoing running costs more economically and environmentally friendly.

A tasteful repainting is also planned to enhance the appearance of the Church while emphasising the unique architectural quality of the building.

“We’re the oldest swingers in town – we’re here 719 years at this stage through thick and thin so we’re hoping the people of Galway will support us,” remarked Fr Eugene Barrett, one of the six Franciscans still living in the Abbey.

A 12-strong committee has been set up by friends of the Franciscan community and members of the congregation to raise at least €150,000. The scaffolding alone will be very costly and has to be erected in a way to maintain normal services and not damage the tiled floor.

“It is pretty urgent. The electrics are in an awful state, the damp and wet rot is a very obvious thing. With a view to the Capital of Culture bid, there will be a lot of visitors to the city and we didn’t want them to see a shabby inside,” said Fr Eugene.

Special events in the pipeline include the ‘Cabaret by the Bay’ on Wednesday, December 2 in the Salthill Hotel with a big lineup of popular singers and performers, including Brendan Shine, TR Dallas and Johnny Carroll.

The first Franciscan foundation in Galway was in 1296 on St Stephen’s Island – the site of the present courthouse. It was here that the Friars ministered to the lepers, taking after St Francis.

x4 caption to go under pics Some of the dampness, damage and old wiring in the church in urgent need of repair. 

Some of the dampness, damage and old wiring in the church in urgent need of repair.


Like other Franciscan foundations, it was Norman in origin, being founded by Uilliam Liath De Burgo.

In pre-reformation times the Abbey was highly esteemed as a place of learning and the Church judged very beautiful.

In 1513 the Archbishop of Tuam Maurice O’Fihely was buried under the High Altar of the Church. In the 16th century after Henry the VIII broke all ties with Rome, the Abbey was outlawed as a place of worship but the Friars continued to live locally. In 1657 the Friary was destroyed and the church was turned into a courthouse.

The Friars founded a new Friary and Church on the present site on Francis Street. The area around the ‘Abbey’ became the first Franciscan parish in modern Ireland in 1971.

There are no substantial remains of the buildings from the medieval Friary, but a collection of medieval tombstones can still be seen in the present Friary garden dating back from that era.

The Church was renovated in 1970s. Eight years ago a community committee raised €100,000 to repair the roof which was leaking badly. They also raised €1.1m to restore the Poor Clare’s Convent on Nun’s Island, a member of the Franciscan community.

The Abbey is one of the busiest churches in the city centre with a congregation drawn from across the city as well as people from Connemara who use the stop outside the Abbey to catch the bus. Confessions are heard daily. x2 Pic 2

The Franciscans also conduct visitations to the many students living in the area and then every three months hold ‘night fever’ events, which involves inviting young people out on the town to come inside to light a candle or say a prayer.

The Abbey Church is setting up a specific bank account for fundraising called the ‘Franciscan Friars Building Account’ at the Bank of Ireland, Eyre Square, Galway.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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