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Campaigners to meet over Inis Meáin school



Campaigners for the primary school on Inis Meáin will hold a meeting with TDs in Dublin next week, pleading for a second teacher.

In September, the school faces the prospect of one teacher for nine pupils – ranging from infants to sixth class.

The campaigners have warned that unless a satisfactory primary school education for islanders, its people and heritage will ‘disappear like the Blasket Islands’.

Scoil Náisiúnta Inis Meáin’s only teacher is Principal Orlaith Breathnach since it lost its second teacher in 2012 when enrolment numbers fell to six.

A spokesperson said: “We lost our second teacher in 2012 when our numbers fell to six pupils. We had eight enrolled the following September – the amount needed to keep the second teacher. We made an appeal but we were not successful.

“There will be an enrolment of nine pupils this September – with children in every class from infants to sixth class.

“Half of these children have no Irish, and one child, from Belarus, has no English either. One child has a heart problem and is not allowed to play any sports.

“The school is not entitled to any extra help outside of the five [General Allocation or English as an additional language] hours a week. There’s no teacher available on the island to fill these hours and no teacher will travel from the mainland for one day a week,” the spokesperson said.

Campaigners will hold a meeting in Buswells Hotel in Dublin next Wednesday from 1pm to 3pm, which is open to all TDs.

“The primary school plays a crucial role in keeping the community alive in Inis Meáin. There are six young families with children to come to school on the island now and it is essential that they stay if the island is to have any future.

“Therefore, it is crucial that we provide a satisfactory primary school education for them as is available for them on the mainland.

“Unless we take the necessary steps now to protect Inis Meáin’s future, its people, its heritage, its language, island life will disappear as completely as it did on the Blasket Islands,” the spokesperson said.

Concerns were also expressed about lunchtime supervision – the principal is on duty all day without a lunch or toilet break – and the size of the curriculum involved for teaching junior and senior classes.

“In the case of an accident in the yard or school (principal or child), there is no second adult on the premises to take over.

“The Department of Education accepts no responsibility for health and safety in a one teacher school. They are placing that responsibility on the Board of Management. Our BOM has written to the Department stating that we cannot devise a health and safety policy with only one teacher in the school.

“The Health and Safety Authority states that it is the responsibility of the Department of Education to put in place a health and safety policy for one-teacher schools.

“How is it possible to teach senior classes and infants in the same room? A teacher will use different teaching methods for these two groups.

“There is a lot of noise and action with the junior classes, including play, rhymes, song, and games, and they need the teacher’s constant attention.

“The senior classes need a quieter environment to concentrate on their work. There is a vast curriculum for each class to cover and senior classes will need direction and extra help from the principal to deal with learning and language difficulties.

“At the moment the Department is asking schools to submit their thoughts on preserving and promoting the Irish language in Gaeltacht areas and we have submitted our ideas to them.

“Since the foundation of Conradh na Gaeilge, Inis Meáin is famed for its rich heritage and spoken Irish. Scholars and writers have come to Inis Meáin to experience and learn from our living heritage, amongst them Eoghan Mac Neill, John Millington Synge, Douglas Hyde and Patrick Pearse.

“The Irish is still very much alive in Inis Meáin, but the Irish will die out if we are left as a one teacher school,” the spokesperson said.

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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