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City municipal sports stadium plan wins support of councillors



City councillors have unanimously voted to include the provision for a municipal sports stadium in the Draft City Development Plan 2017-2023.

Connacht Rugby called for the inclusion of an objective to develop a modern rugby stadium in the Draft Plan, along with changing facilities at existing sports pitches and for the provision of all-weather rugby pitches.

However, the advice from the Council’s Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, was that there be no amendment to the Draft Plan as there are already provisions made in it for sports facilities in the city.

Cllr Ollie Crowe said that this was not a sufficient answer, recognising a huge shortage.

“The city is crying out for facilities – I believe that funding needs to be provided, and the easy way out is to say it can’t be done due to ‘operational issues,’” he said.

“Every councillor recognises the contribution that Connacht Rugby has made to the city. We need to compete at the highest level for 24 months, and facilitate 12,000 in a stadium on a green field site in the docklands. The numbers in the Sportsground continue to be at 9,000 (fans).”

Cllr Peter Keane agreed that the city needed premier facilities in the form of a municipal stadium, that would be for more than just sport.

“It would show how this Council can stand behind Connacht Rugby and the community,” he said.

He proposed an amended version of the submission: “to include a reference to the development of a modern municipal sports arena in the appropriate chapters of the plan”.

This was seconded by Cllr Donal Lyons, and unanimously passed by members.

Meanwhile, it was decided that the issue of sports facilities in other areas of the city was important enough to be dealt with separately.

Cllr Mike Cubbard had proposed improvements in specific areas, but Mr McGrath cautioned against a selection being made on an ad-hoc basis.

Cllr Anna Marley agreed, saying that it was not the proper practice to choose areas without a strategy. Cllr Declan McDonnell said that the areas mentioned in the Connacht Rugby submission were areas specific to the club’s needs, rather than the city as a whole.

“There needs to be a study of the infrastructure across the city – if you’re going to pick two or three sites in one area, that will cause a row with the other councillors.

“We should examine the city as a whole. Mervue, Renmore, and Knocknacarra are well looked after – that will show up by examining the city as a whole, and see where the deficiencies are.”

Cllr Cubbard referred to such a report – the recreational and amenity review, dated January 2008.

“That report was a waste of time, it was left on the shelf and never looked at again,” he said.

However, with the rest of the Council in agreement with the Chief Executive, Cllr Cubbard withdrew his motion.

The Chief Executive of Connacht Rugby put forward a strong case to Galway City Council for the construction of a modern stadium in the city – which could also be used for concerts and conferences.

In a submission on the Draft City Development Plan for 2017-23, Willie Ruane said the direct economic contribution from Connacht Rugby to the city in 2015 was €13 million.

“Connacht Rugby plays all its home games at the Sportsground. The Sportsground, if this is where Connacht will remain, is in need of redevelopment in order to provide spectators with adequate facilities and, equally, to complement/match Galway’s aim to be a world class, creative and innovative city.

“A new modern stadium has the potential to open new opportunities for conferencing and concerts and an improved large-scale city centre location for the existing festival calendar,” his submission reads.

He called on councillors to include an objective in the new City Development Plan for “the development of an appropriate modern stadium that will enhance Galway City’s tourism offering and support professional and community rugby, the arts and other significant events”.

He added: “The provision of floodlit synthetic rugby pitches … unlike other cities, Galway does not have any. Given the average rainfall in Galway and the subsequent unavailability of grass pitches for long periods during the rugby season, the absence of such a facility greatly impacts on the sporting opportunities for Galway’s rugby playing youths and adults.”

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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