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Authorities insist soil samples from city pitches are safe



Soil samples showing high levels of minerals at two city pitches are not a threat to health and safety of players, authorities have insisted.

Galway City Council last week asked the Health Service Executive (HSE) to examine soil test results, which revealed massively high levels of zinc, copper and iron at the new pitches at Westside.

The readings from soil samples taken at Corrib Rangers soccer pitches and St Michael’s GAA pitch were way above recommended levels, in some cases 11 times the recommended levels.

But the Public Health Department of the HSE told the City Council this week that “based on the concentrations of trace elements found in the top soil from the sports field, there does not seem to be any concern for adverse human health effects.”

In a statement, the local authority added: “On that basis, Galway City Council is satisfied that there is no threat to human health for users of the sports-grounds at Westside.”

Sources in both the soccer and GAA clubs last week complained that the high level of mineral content in the soil was stunting grass growth.

Stephen Walsh, Director of Services, said he will visit the site “at the earliest available opportunity” to examine the playing surface.

“What must be borne in mind is that the pitch is a sand-based surface, which has no nutrient basis but improves drainage; we have had the largest number of storms in a winter that I can remember; the surface that was highly stressed by weather, darkness, short days with no grass growth, water ingress; and fully grown men in teams running up and down it all winter creates wear and tear,” explained Mr Walsh.

He said the test results were undertaken on the soil that existed on the site, not on imported material. “The original soil would have been part of the filling of these lands many years ago,” he said.

Mr Walsh added: “I’d like to clarify something here though – the purpose of the tests was to specify the most effective fertiliser application. The translocation and uptake of fertilisers, which contain most of the elements referred to in the tests carried out on the soil, is heavily affected by the electro-conductivity of the soil.  Put simply certain elements assist with uptake whilst others can inhibit it. The mix specified works to create a balance to improve translocation, reduce losses into ground water and replenish any deficits.”

In relation to the upkeep of the pitches Mr Walsh said: “Ideally the availability of a full-time grounds team like in any of the sporting stadia would help to manage wear and tear on a continual basis; for us that’s not a reality. We do the best we can with what is available. The matter of pitch management will be addressed internally with my colleagues and supervisors.”

An official St Michael’s GAA Club spokesperson said: “We weren’t aware of any soil issues. We have been in touch with the Council who don’t know anything either regarding above. They are beginning to aerate, sand and fertilize the pitch this week and we are looking forward to good growth with the seasonal increase in temperature due.

“Many visiting teams have commented about the excellent playing surface with exceptional drainage over the winter months. When many other facilities were closed around the city we found ourselves in a position to host schools’ games when many others couldn’t. We look forward to the continuation of training as normal and a fun filled Easter camp starting tomorrow (Tuesday March 29).”

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.

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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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