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Arts Festival set to attract 180,000 people



Organisers of the Galway International Arts Festival are predicting increased audiences of around 12.5% for this year’s extravaganza of theatre, dance, music, comedy and art.

The performances at the 2015 festival, which officially opens on Monday, are expected to attract audiences of 180,000, according to Artistic Director, Paul Fahy.

Last year audiences of 160,000 attended free and paid-for shows, and Mr Fahy is expecting an increase of about 20,000 due to a bigger street performance programme, extra shows in the Big Top and quality theatre.

The worldwide success of shows such as Ballyturk and Riverrun, which attracted audiences of 72,000 in the past year in venues outside of Galway including London, Dublin Cork, Edinburgh, New York and Australia, are also helping to boost international audiences. Some 34% of audiences in 2014 were international.

Around €20 million was pumped directly into the local economy as a direct result of last year’s festival, according to independent research carried out by Fáilte Ireland and a similar boost is expected this year. Mr Fahy said, aside from the direct economic impact, the festival generates an immeasurable indirect impact on Galway as well as adding a quantitative value and artistic value.

Mr Fahy said he is extremely excited ahead of the official opening of the event, on Monday, which is traditionally the busiest day for the festival box office.

On the theatre-front, Mr Fahy advises festival-goers to check out The Match Box, a Galway Arts Festival production starring Cathy Belton and directed by Joan Sheehy – tickets sales are brisk so book early.

Luck Just Kissed You Hello, a play that explores issues of identity and father and child relationships, is a “very funny and very moving”, he said. “There is an acerbic wit; it’s very biting.”

Exhibit B is another “unmissable” show. Part performance, part installation this is a critique of historic racism and colonialism, that has a resonance with today and what is going on in terms of asylum seekers in Direct Provision in Ireland and refugees fleeing on boats in the Mediterranean.

Mr Fahy said it was “the most powerful piece” he has witnessed in the festival over the past 10 years in terms of “personal, political and social impact it has”.

Other highlights include, A Girl’s Bedroom by Enda Walsh, Maum at An Taibhdhearc and Pat McCabe’s The Dead School by the Galway Youth Theatre and Galway Community Theatre at Nuns’ Island Theatre.

The hottest band in the country right now, Kodaline, has sold out the Big Top twice, and Damien Rice is also sold out. Tickets for Sinéad O’Connor at the Big Top (Thursday, July 23) are selling well. Mr Fahy said St. Vincent at the Big Top (Tuesday, July 14) will be “one of the gigs of the year”. “I adore her, it will be great,” he said.

There is a varied musical programme this year and Mr Fahy said that they are almost a “mini classical music festival” within the festival. He said the star attraction is John Wilson, renowned conductor, and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra’s Orchestral Masterworks at the Bailey Allen Hall in NUI Galway.

There will be 96 musicians on stage in what promises to be an “epic” performance. “There is sometimes a barrier to classical music but John Wilson makes classical music accessible and he brings the best out of musicians when he is conducting. It is going to be epic.”

The ‘big family show’ this year is Live Live Cinema Little Shop of Horrors, which goes at “break neck speed” and is “fantastic fun” for all the family.

Street spectacles are always a free highlight of the festival and this year is no exception. Transe Express from France brings The Giant Divas & Les Tambours to the streets of the city on Friday, July 17 at 10pm and Saturday July 18 at 6pm.

Three giant divas will move through the city streets singing opera and they’ll be joined by a band of tin soldier drummers.

Man on the Moon is a “great show” featuring circus skills and acrobatics by George Orange on Friday, July 17 and Saturday July 18 at Fr Burke Park and not Spanish Parade as per the programme.

The Skywhale, which is causing quite a stir from its spectacular looking picture in the programme, is having its first outing on Monday. The 100 feet long and 70 feet tall Skywhale will be tethered at various locations in the city throughout the week and people are asked to keep an eye on social media for updates of when and where it will fly.

One of the highlights of the visual arts programme is Relativity by Patricia Piccinini at the Festival Gallery at the Connacht Tribune on Market Street. Other highlights include Martin Healy’s Terrain at Galway Arts Centre, Borders by Varvara Shavrova at the Docks and Meta-Perceptual Helmets by Cleary Connolly and Neil McKenzie at University Hospital Galway.

For your chance to win a flight in the Skywhale, click HERE


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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