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Bish school move set to go ahead



A move by St Joseph’s College (The Bish) from its city centre location to a greenfield site on NUIG lands in Dangan, took a step closer when councillors voted to accept the Council Chief Executive’s recommendations in the draft City Development Plan.

It was a very different atmosphere in the chambers of Galway City Council to the one that witnessed the same debate back in 2005, when a casting vote by the then mayor, Cllr Catherine Connolly, scuppered plans.

At the time, she was supported by other Labour Party colleagues, along with Green Party and Sinn Fein members, and Cllr Padraig Conneely (FG) in opposing the vote; John Connolly (FF) had abstained.

This time around, however, Cllr Padraig Conneely was the only one to vote against the Council Chief Executive’s recommendations, while Cllr Frank Fahy and Cllr Colette Connolly both abstained; 15 members were in favour.

In fact, Cllr Billy Cameron, who had voted ‘no’ 11 years ago, said that it was a decision that he had regretted.

There were eight submissions in support of the City Development Plan’s objective in this regard, but 69 against – these mainly related to the suitability of the location, the loss of amenity lands, and traffic congestion.

The response by the Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, to most of these objections was: “A planning application will assess the suitability of the site, relative to the scale of school and ancillary requirement such as parking and sports facilities.”

Cllr Mike Crowe proposed the adoption of the CEO’s recommendations, this was seconded by Declan McDonnell, but the move received the support of almost the entire Council.

“I honestly believe what happened before the last Council was unfortunate,” Cllr Crowe, a past pupil, said.

“St Joseph’s College has been on the backfoot since that . . . now it is land-locked; there are no facilities . . . it is haemorrhaging with students and staff in regards to the conditions.”

Cllr Ollie Crowe echoed his brother’s sentiments, but he also acknowledged the concerns of Newcastle/Dangan residents, whom he said felt like they were being “beaten by two brushes” – this and the threat of the outer City bypass, and that the Bish move to NUIG lands was a “step too far.”

“60% of the students – which is north of 500 – come from the Bushypark/Newcastle/Dangan area, so the traffic won’t be what their concerns are,” he said.

Cllr Declan McDonnell, another past pupil, said that the site had long been unsuitable for the needs of students, and that sports and training were – and still are – played off-site.

“Now they are crossing town to play soccer in Mervue – people don’t think that this is creating a problem for traffic in the city . . . the fears raised (traffic) will be addressed in the planning process,” he said.

“All of the other secondary schools are on the outskirts of the city centre, and this should never have been delayed. NUIG has agreed that it will share facilities, which would be a huge benefit to the wellbeing of all students.”

Cllr Cathal Ó Conchuir lamented the wasted years that the students of the Bish could have enjoyed in a new school since the 2005 vote.

Cllr Donal Lyons described the 2005 vote as “a travesty.”

“It was regrettable that it became so divisive the last time,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to give excellent facilities to the students.”

As a former ‘Jes boy’, Cllr Peter Keane said that the lack of playing pitches had not thwarted the school’s success on the playing fields.

“They caused me hardship in the Jes over the years,” he remarked.

However, he acknowledged that the need went beyond sporting facilities,

“Ciaran Doyle [Principal of the Bish] told us that the school cannot put on the subject choices that it wants to – they can’t put on labs and additional things. I have no hesitation in supporting what they are trying to do.”

Cllr Cameron said that in his time as a student of the Bish, Gaelic football and soccer had to be played in The Swamp, and after school games were in the empty Cathedral carpark – where great players like Chick Deacy learned their skills.

“There is not an inch to get (to play on) now,” he added.

He was sorry to have voted against the move on the last occasion. “In hindsight, I regretted it,” he said.

“Regarding the community I represent, a lot of them are clients and have made submissions, I will have to face them. But we have to recognise that we have a traffic problem.”

Cllr Mike Cubbard was another member who was preparing for a backlash.

“Some of the calls we have got were not nice, there was a lot of pressure on us,” he said.

“We are not here to canvass, we are here to make a decision about Galway City. This will be one of the biggest factors to help with traffic problems.”

Cllr Colette Connolly said it was lamentable that other members were showing a lack of respect for the democratic process that took place in 2005.

“Decisions were made, historically, to increase the numbers in the school without providing the necessary facilities first,” she pointed out.

She stressed that the site size did not meet Department of Education guidelines, that the agreement to use NUIG’s sporting facilities was only in principle, and that there was no guarantee that the university would apply for planning permission to build a school on its grounds.

However, she was a lone voice, as the majority were in favour of the move.

Mayor Noel Larkin said that moving ‘The Bish’ from the City Centre would be great for Galway as a whole and for the local area.

The proposal to accept the CEO’s recommendations in regards to all submissions received on this matter had 15 votes in favour, one against (Padraig Conneely), and two abstentions (Colette Connolly and Frank Fahy).

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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