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Councillors pave way for new Athenry supermarket



County councillors have paved the way for a new discount supermarket in the centre of Athenry, after a majority vote in favour of an ‘exception’ to zoning regulations.

Last February, a planning application was lodged by local butcher John Joe Brady for a single-storey foodstore (to include off-licence use) off Church Street, which would have a net floor area of just under 19,000 square feet.

It is not known whether Mr Brady plans to operate the business himself – the square footage falls exactly within the requirements of German retailers Aldi and Lidl.

At a local authority meeting this week, councillors voted in favour of a Material Contravention to the Athenry Local Area Plan 2012 – 2018 which would allow the discount foodstore application go ahead on the site which is zoned for Business and Enterprise use.

The application on the two-and-a-half acre site must now be assessed by planning officials.

Bringing the Material Contravention before the councillors at a local authority meeting this week, Director of Services for planning, Catherine McConnell, said adjoining lands are zoned for Town Centre mixed-use; Irish Water said it could be accommodated and the Conservation Officer and Heritage Officer have no problem with it.

She said there were submissions in favour of the development; that it would increase the vitality of the town and provide further access to the town walls, while objectors voiced concerns about an adverse retail impact and sewerage issues.

She said the Council’s recommendation was that the Material Contravention should be passed.

Local area councillor Peter Feeney (FG) said: “It’s almost the last chance today to give Athenry the kick-start it needs to revitalise the centre. We all know the effect the recession have had on our towns. This proposal has massive support in Athenry and the hard-pressed businesspeople of the town centre.

“The centre of Athenry has been devastated by a change in retail trend – people are now shopping out of town in big supermarkets. Ten or fifteen years ago, you could walk down any street and buy a pint of milk. Now there are about two places.

“This won’t rebalance that, but will allow people to come in and do major shopping in the town centre and call to other businesses.

“I only remember three or four Material Contraventions in my ten years on the Council. It is one of the very last chances to develop a meaningful retail store in the town, and just a two-minute walk from the Square.

Gabe Cronnelly (SF) said the Brady family have been in business in the town since 1926.

“We’ve had 24 businesses in Athlone close down in the last four or five years, and three have opened. We’re getting Apple, we need this as well. Over 2,000 people in Athenry have signed a petition. That’s telling you what Athenry needs,” said Cllr Cronnelly.

However, it emerged later in the debate that the ‘petition’ was actually a Facebook page.

“Facebook comments have no place in planning,” quipped FG party whip Jimmy McClearn.

Cllr Shaun Cunniffe (Ind) pointed out that Arrabawn have lodged similar plans for a discount foodstore on their site in the town.

Tom Healy (SF) said he knew that in Clifden’s case, footfall had increased when the new supermarkets opened, and people no longer had to go to Galway for a week’s shopping.

“It’s improved the economy and our relationship with people from Carna, Cashel, Rosmuc and South Connemara,” he said.

Tim Broderick (Ind) said he had not seen any projections as to stores the development would bring to the town, and he was not satisfied there is sufficient business there to justify it, therefore he opposed it.

Cllr Michael Connolly (FF) said he said there was a need for this type of development – opposite the church, closed to the Galway-Roscommon Education & Training Board offices, residential developments and the railway track.

Responding to queries about the Arrabawn proposal, Cllr Feeney said the company runs a very successful business and had no intention of leaving Athenry.

They proposed to move their existing machinery depot to an out-of-town site, and build a discount foodstore on their existing site.

“With all due respects, there are a lot of steps along that route and a timescale of three or four years between planning, appeals, acquiring a new site, building and occupying,” said Cllr Feeney.

Ms McConnell said: “On merit and on balance, it is a positive contribution for Athenry. The town is significantly underprovided for in terms of convenience retailing; there is a significant leakage of spending into Oranmore and Galway. There is room for at least another supermarket.”

She added that previous applications for the Brady site were of much larger and poorer quality design, but the current proposal would add to the amenities of the town, open up views and walkways and attract boutiques, shoe shops hardware stores etc to the town centre.

Ms McConnell said she did now know if the Arrabawn proposal would proceed, but the Council believes that in terms of retail spend, Athenry is significantly below where it could be.

Cllr Broderick replied: “It would be a nail in the coffin of small businesses, are we now supporting that?”

Council Chief Executive Kevin Kelly said what might happen in the future (with the Arrabawn site) was not a matter for the councillors.

He said the Brady proposal has received a lot of consideration and has been 18 months in gestation.

The Contravention was carried by 31 votes to 3 (Shaun Cunniffe, Michael Finnerty and Tim Broderick opposing).

A decision on the actual planning application is now expected in May.

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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