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Bitter blow for Clifden as school plan derailed



Clifden’s long-awaited new second level school has been derailed yet again after the Department of Education was forced to retender for the entire project.

And now local public representatives are at odds over when work will begin.

Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív predited that the chances of work beginning on Clifden Community School this year are almost nil, infuriating parents who had been expecting their children to move into a new building in September 2016 following more than a decade of disappointments.

But local fine Gael Cllr Eileen Mannion claimed that work on the new €10 million building will still begin this year, given the March 25 closing date for new tenders.

Contracts were due to have been signed with a builder by early this year after a preferred bidder was identified and construction work scheduled to be underway when the weather improved.

However the Department of Education has admitted the whole project has been delayed after they decided to re-tender for the build, a process which takes in the region of six months.

The scheme involves a new 3,900 square metre school building, along with temporary classrooms for the duration of the works.

A new school entrance will also be built, along with internal access roads, parking spaces and landscaping.

The demolition of the existing school and pre-fab classrooms will begin once the new building is fully operational.

In a statement a spokesperson for the Department said “a number of difficulties” had been encountered in the project since it was authorised to proceed to tender in 2014.

“As a result of these difficulties, the Department has advised the school that the most expedient and effective means of progressing the project to construction is for the project to be re-tendered,” she said.

“The project remains on the Department’s construction programme and will be progressed through a new tender process in the coming months. The new tender process will provide both the school and the Department with greater certainty with regard to the appointment of a contractor to commence the construction of the new school in 2015.”

When pressed about the difficulties, a spokeswoman declined to reveal their nature.

“Due to commercial sensitivity and the fact that the re-tender of this project has now commenced and the prequalification advertisement is now public, the Department is not in a position to elaborate,” she stated.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív said parents were bitterly disappointed.

“This is another setback in a long, long saga. This will set things back to the end of the year, maybe even next year as who’s going to start building in the middle of winter. The facilities in this school are totally substandard. With this project, it’s always two steps forward, one step back.”

He said the community had been campaigning for over eleven years for a modern school building which has over 400 pupils from as far as Ballyconneely, Roundstone, Recess, Renvyle, Letterfrack, Moyard, Cleggan, Claddaghduff as well as Clifden.

But local Councillor Eileen Mannion remained confident work would start during 2015.

“The Department of Education advised the school in January that the most effective means of progressing the project to construction was to re-tender and I am delighted that the project has already been re-tendered with a response deadline of March 25.

“The provision of a new school building will be a great boost for the local community both in terms of the delivery of a fit for purpose school but also in terms of job creation,” said Cllr Mannion.

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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