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Connemara – in North Carolina

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Those who argue that there’s no place quite like Connemara may have to revise their position – because the west of the county is not the only area on the planet to lay claim to the name.

Travel ten miles out from the city of Atlanta in Georgia and there it is on a street sign – “Connemara Road”.  Then close to Indianapolis in Indiana there are two areas known as Roundstone and Clifden.

Nobody knows the origins of the former – the name of a mansion and massive ranch – but the explanation for those Connemara place names in middle of America is straightforward.

The developer visited Connemara and brought back very happy memories with him – happy enough to baptize the location of his expenditure and his houses in honour of Clifden and Roundstone.  Prices for the houses range up to €1m.

However, an old mansion and ranch in North Carolina, which bears the name “Connemara” is steeped deeply in the social history of the United States in the 20th Century.

“Connemara” is located in Flat Rock, close to the Blue Ridge Mountains as you move into the American South.  It is a National Historic Site which is administered by the National Parks Agency of the United States Government.

The reason for this status accorded to “Connemara” is that it was the home of poet and writer, Carl Sandberg, for 22 years up until the time of his death in 1967.

Sandberg was an iconic figure in American literature; he was known as the people’s poet because of the strength and simplicity of his writing and his biography of Abraham Lincoln remains the seminal account of the life of the legendary United States President.

The 250 acre ranch and house in Flat Rock was known as “Connemara” long before Sandberg set up home there for himself and his family in 1945.

Miriam Farris, at “Connemara”, explains that the estate was so named by Ellison Smyth, a wealthy businessman who owned the place from about 1900 to 1945.

Miriam says that Smyth named it “Connemara” in honour of his Irish ancestry and “the beauty of the land of his forbears”.

Interestingly, Smyth’s lineage goes back to the Belfast region to about 1800 and his involvement in textile factories in in Carolina appears to mirror the linen industry in Northern Ireland.

It seems the place name “Connemara” was mentioned when Carl Sandberg decided to buy the house and ranch but he was very happy with the name and with the story behind it.

Do some of the 80,000 visitors who come to “Connemara” every year ask about the background to the place name?

“Yes, they do, and we give them the basic story about how it came about,” says Miriam.

However, neither she, nor any of the nine staff in “Connemara”, has ever been to the real Connemara but she plans on coming sometime.

She cannot say if Ellison Smyth who named the property “Connemara” over 100 years ago was ever in the real Connemara either.

When Carl Sandberg died in 1967 the then President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson spoke of him in remarkable terms:  “Not alone was Carl Sandberg the voice of America; Carl Sandberg was America”.

Maybe it’s time the real Connemara established links with the “Connemara” which houses a deep semblance of the cultural and social heritage of America.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest

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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 www.connachttribune.ie. 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

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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 www.connachttribune.ie. 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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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises

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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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