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BIM tightlipped on Galway Bay fish farm investors



Bórd Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), who has applied for a licence for a massive fish farm in Galway Bay, has refused to name the companies who had expressed an interest in operating it.

BIM has said that it received some 21 expressions of interest from investors and companies who were interested in operating or financing the controversial Galway Bay salmon farm.

But the company has refused to divulge the names of those companies and investors.  BIM’s refusal to release the names has prompted Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages to ask what the state body is trying to hide.

“They need to come clean and tell us who the 21 companies are. We suspect that there are far fewer than 21 but whatever the number they should name them. This project would cost €70 million just to get started and there are very few salmon farm companies that would be in a position to finance that sort of capital investment,” said Billy Smyth, chairman of Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages.

Mr Smyth applied for the names using a little known EU Access to Information on the Environment Regulations under the Aarhus Convention, which is similar to a Freedom of Information request but relates to the environment.

BIM refused the request citing that the information being sought does not come in under the scope of environmental information.

It said that even if it did come under the EU directive, the information sought is “commercially sensitive” and so “we are not in a position to divulge it”.

Mr Smyth, in his appeal to this decision, said the salmon farm proposal has the potential to be an “environmental disaster” and as such does come under the act.

He said the information was being sought in order to ascertain if the companies who expressed an interest had previously operated fish farms, if they have competence to operate one, and what their track record is in terms of environmental best practice.

He argued that because no licence has yet been granted for the fish farm, no tender process has taken place and so “the issue of commercial sensitivity does not arise.”

The appeal was also reject by BIM who has refused to release the names.

“It is disappointing that, in the interest of transparency and openness, BIM is refusing to release this basic information,” added Mr Smyth.

BIM applied for a licence in August 2012 for 15,000 tonne of salmon, which equates to 7.2 million fish. It is for a ‘twin site’ farm – one for smolts at Inis Óirr and another for more developed salmon off Indreabhán.

The total area of the site covers 1,126 acres, and it has the capacity for 30,000 tonnes, which would produce some 14.2 million salmon.

Minister for Marine, Simon Coveney, has confirmed in the Dáil that the application for a 15,000 tonne licence for the Galway Bay salmon farm would be made “as soon as possible”.

It is estimated that about 2,000 submissions were made by the public but just 410 of these were deemed valid. BIM has yet to issue its response to the 410 observations. It hasn’t posted its responses online either, despite saying that it would.

Mr Smyth says he is awaiting the responses.

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.

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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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