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Both Galway councils rapped for ignoring Irish



Galway’s two local authorities did not fully comply with their Irish language obligations last year, the Irish language commissioner has highlighted.

An Coimisinéir Teanga’s annual report identified that Galway County Council, which has responsibility for the country’s largest Gaeltacht, and Galway City Council, which is on its doorstep, were not compliant with sections of the Official Language Act in relation to oral announcements and recorded messages.

Rónán Ó Domhnaill said that just two local authorities, Donegal and Laois, were found to have recorded messages in compliance with the regulations at public phone numbers.

Speaking at the launch of his annual report, 2014, Mr Ó Domhnaill said: “This demonstrates the widespread lack of care for the language by the State generally; if local authorities aren’t complying with their language obligations, what hope does a citizen have in getting the proper service from the State generally?”

As part of the audit programme undertaken by his office in 2014 it was decided to investigate the usage of recorded announcements by local authorities. According to the report, the aim of the audit was to reach a general opinion regarding the level of compliance with the regulations by local authorities.

“Phone calls were made at different times to the main offices of local authorities, during work hours and after work hours, as well as calls to housing departments and libraries after normal work hours. Donegal and Laois County Councils were the only authorities that were using recorded oral announcements which were in compliance with the regulations.

“We are in contact with the local authorities whose recorded oral announcements weren’t compliant to ensure that they are compliant within a reasonable period of time. Their progress will be reviewed during 2015,” the report said.

The report noted that the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga handled 709 new complaints during 2014, a slight increase of one per cent on 2013 when 702 complaints were dealt with. Some 88 complaint files were open at the end of 2014 in comparison with 72 at the end of 2013.

The report noted that a “substantial number” of complaints to the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga last year came from County Galway.

Some 14% of cases were from Galway, which was second to Dublin where 37% of complaints originated.

The Office operates an informal resolution process as the first step of its investigative process which means that the majority of cases are resolved by discussing the matter with public bodies or by giving advice to citizens.

A total of seven statutory investigations were instigated by the Coimisinéir during 2014 and a final report was issued in relation to the Health Service Executive, the Railway Procurement Agency and Dublin Bus.

“Generally, the investigations are as a result of a lack of awareness amongst public bodies of the most basic aspects of language legislation in Ireland, said Mr Ó Domhnaill who succeeded Seán Ó Cuirreáin in March 2014.

Also contained in the annual report was an investigation which revealed that an attempt was made to compel a Gaeltacht school into accepting the relocation of a teacher from a redeployment panel even though the school authorities and the teachers in question felt that the teachers had insufficient Irish to carry out their work in that language.

Referring to the case Mr Ó Domhnaill said: “This is the first time that I have sent a case to the Houses of the Oireachtas, and the issue involved could not be more important. The Department of Education and Skills has not put a system in place which ensures that teachers teaching in Gaeltacht Schools and Gaelscoileanna are fluent in the Irish Language. I simply cannot accept that.”

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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