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County towns to benefit from grant scheme



Seven County Galway towns and one village will share €380,000 in funding under the Government’s scheme to ‘renew’ rural Ireland.

But the tiny budget allocation was blasted as ‘throwing a bone’ to country communities in Galway, in the same fortnight billions of Euros of investment was pledged for Dublin.

Small scale projects in Athenry, Rosmuc, Oughterard, Ballinasloe, Gort, Tuam, Portumna and Loughrea will each receive grants of between €20,000 and €85,000.

Three of the projects are for upgrading footpaths, which absorb almost 50% of the Galway allocation.

The announcement by Minister Heather Humphreys was welcomed by Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs, Seán Kyne but it came under fire from his Galway West rival, Éamon Ó Cuív, who said the investment was far too small to make a real impact.

The full list of the projects for Galway towns and villages to benefit in the renewal scheme include: €70,000 for Athenry footpaths; €42,000 for Rosmuc footpaths; €20,000 for the development of a walking and bike trail in Oughterard; €63,000 for footpaths in Ballinasloe; €50,000 for footpaths, landscaping and a playground in Gort; €85,000 for the renovations to Tuam’s historic mill wheel; €25,000 for upgrading amenities in Portumna Forest Park; and €25,000 “to develop a report to guide plans for the future of Loughrea”.

Deputy Ó Cuív said all of the recipients of money will be pleased to be included but he said the ‘bigger picture’ was that rural Ireland is being ignored, while massive sums of State money is being pumped into Dublin.

“Everything is micro when it comes to rural Ireland and everything is macro when it comes to Dublin. Rural Ireland is given the crumbs from the rich man’s table,” said the Fianna Fáil opposition spokesperson on regional development, rural affairs and the Gaeltacht.

He said the allocation made to rural towns and villages amounted to less than €10 million, which would only “scratch the surface” of what is required.

“They don’t seem to get it into their heads that rural Ireland needs investment equivalent to what Dublin is getting,” he added.

Deputy Ó Cuív said Government just announced €200 million for housing for mostly Dublin and cities. It announced further investment in Metro North and the underground DART, which amounts to billions of euro. A further €900 million was pledged this week to pipe water from the midlands to Dublin and funding has been committed for three new hospitals in Dublin.

“Dublin needs all of those things, but what the Government doesn’t seem to realise is that rural Ireland needs similar levels of investment, spread out over the country. A grant of €380,000 for each county, which is still only €9 million, is way off the billions that is being invested in projects in Dublin. There seems to be no scale when it comes to investment in rural Ireland and yet the money in Dublin runs to billions. The disparity is ridiculous,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

He pointed said it was farcical that the grants were announced in November, six weeks before the year-end. “Heather Humphrey’s department is awash with money. She has only spent 40% of capital allocations by the end of October. Why isn’t it being spent,” he asked.

Minister Kyne said this year’s allocation was welcome, and there was a pledge for further investment to continue the pilot scheme next year.

The Fine Gael TD said: “The €380,000 funding for Galway, which is being administered by Galway County Council, is part of the national €10 million ‘Town and Village Renewal Scheme’. The Scheme aims to fund projects which increase the attractiveness of towns and villages as local commercial and social centres while enhancing infrastructure and amenities for residents, businesses and visitors.

“With Budget 2017, Minister Humphreys secured a trebling of the allocation bringing to €30 million the funding that will be available for similar projects next year which will build on the important projects being funded this year.”

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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