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Eco tourism to secure the future of Inishbofin



A Galway Hooker in Bofin Harbour, with Cromwell's Barracks in the background. Photos: Marie Coyne.

Lifestyle –  Judy Murphy hears about island’s green and sustainable plan to ensure it doesn’t end up like deserted neighbour

Standing amid the ruined dwellings on the island of Inishark, gazing across to the houses on neighbouring Inishbofin, the difference between the two islands is stark.

Inishark is desolate, inhabited only by sheep, while Bofin with about 180 fulltime residents is a bustling spot for much of the year.

The North Connemara island is loved by tourists, who are catered for by three hotels, a pub, several B&Bs and a range of self-catering cottages. On a sunny weekend in March, there’s no nicer spot in the world.

But it’s not all roses. Our guide, local historian Tommy Burke, and his fellow Bofin man Simon Murray say there’s no room for complacency.

Inishark was depopulated in1960 when residents were moved to the mainland. For Bofin people, meanwhile, the price of ensuring their future requires constant vigilance. They are determined they won’t be forgotten by government as happened to their neighbours.

Inishbofin has been attracting tourists since the early 1960s, and while the island has changed vastly in the past 50 years, its tourism has been sensitively developed. The focus has been on nature, history, archaeology and culture – all of which exist in abundance on Bofin.

And for the past two years, islanders have been working with EcoTourism Ireland to expand this remit. In the process, Bofin has achieved Eco-Certification for its green and sustainable tourism projects and experiences, the first offshore island in Ireland to do so.

These activities include bird-watching, sheep-shearing, fishing, cycling, horse-riding, photography, sailing, guided walks and unguided walks. If it’s outdoor activities you want, then this island, five miles long by two wide, with crystal clear waters and unspoilt beaches is heaven. And the eco-certification which was celebrated with a ceremony in Bofin’s Dolphin Hotel last weekend, ensures that tourism, so vital to the local economy, will not kill the goose that lays the golden egg,

EcoTourism Ireland is the only organisation in Ireland recognised internationally for promoting eco-tourism. This involves respecting the environment, supporting the local economy and being socially and culturally aware.

EcoTourism Ireland is run by Mary Mulvey, a powerhouse of energy, who worked tirelessly with the Inishbofin community, children and adults, to help them achieve the eco-certification status.

And while Bofin initially approached her about developing a tourism strategy, the remit expanded during a year of training to include a community-led biodiversity plan and recycling project. That featured recently on RTÉ’s Eco Eye, showing local people learning how to make furniture from old wooden pallets.

The island also signed up to the Leave No Trace Ireland group, which encourages people to behave in a way that minimises their impact on the landscape. To that end, there will be a video on the Inishbofin ferry asking people not to dump their rubbish on the island, where it becomes a big problem

Bofin has also become the first offshore island to gain Fairtrade status – goods such as tea, coffee and chocolate are bought from Fairtrade operators. And it has launched its own Fairtrade coffee blend, created in Galway, which is sold in participating hotels, guesthouses and in the Beach Bar.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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