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Former Galway Airport MD on his new life in Australia



I’d been away from Ireland for 17 years first time round, but once I’d returned then, I thought I was home for good – before the global financial crisis changed that!


So it was with a heavy heart when I left home for the second time in November 2011.

But now I’m in my fourth year in a fantastic country, Australia – and I have certainly found a new place to call home, which, when I left, I didn’t think that was possible!

Saying goodbye to my Dad on the farm this time was one of the most difficult parts; in classic Irish father son fashion we don’t deal with the emotions that well and certainly don’t tell our parents enough how much we love them!

I owe so much to my parents in that they both gave me the solid foundations to grow and develop, to work hard and be respectful of others.

My mother was taken from us well before her time and was an inspiration for me and a day doesn’t go by where I not reflecting or thinking of her in some way or asking her for support!

Joe Walsh (centre) with his Beca Project Team.

Joe Walsh (centre) with his Beca Project Team.

Growing up in Portumna, Melbourne was a far off place where my Dad’s older brother Michael John had immigrated to in the fifties to then join the Victoria Police Force, never to return home and again in typical Irish fashion to lose contact once their mother had passed away.

Unfortunately he passed away in the nineties and had no family of his own so a reconnection wasn’t possible.

So Melbourne had a family connection and it was going be the start of a new chapter.

As soon as I landed I was brought in to the Beca family, as an employee-owned company with some 3,000 staff its core values of tenacity, care, enjoyment and partnering resonated with me.

They gave me a blank canvas and several opportunities were presented to me in terms of my role, with the rider of getting the best fit for me and consequently Beca!

As a senior member of the airport’s team my first task was to lead the runway overlay project at Hobart Airport, Tasmania.

I was in the Australia less than a month and this was a great introduction to the business and allowed me to bring my approach to project delivery.

The project was a success and gave me a great insight in to working in the Australian airport sector. Tasmania is a beautiful state and Hobart certainly gave me a real Galway feel.

I’ve had incredible exposure within the business and with key clients like Melbourne Airport.

Beca have given me the platform to develop the airport’s business and in doing so delivering some significant infrastructure projects along the way. I love working with a talented group of people from all corners of the world and bringing my personal stamp to their continued development and progression in the business.

My partner Pooi Ling, an Australian citizen, campaigned for years on all things Australian and had finally settled in to our life in Craughwell and our lovely home and dogs.

I made my decision to emigrate in May 2011; in my then-role as Managing Director of Galway Airport I had a meeting with the Minister of Transport who informed us of the Government’s decision and effectively a complete change of policy to no longer support Galway Airport.

Our world changed that day and the future of Galway Airport without that essential support was determined. It had a huge impact on our valued team at the airport.

My five years in Galway Airport were a significant chapter in my career and life which I will never forget.

We rehomed one of our dogs and shipped Tory our treasured Irish Water Spaniel to Melbourne, via Belfast, London, Singapore and Sydney, having got him from a breeder in Clarecastle we brought some of Clare with us too.

It was said to me before I left that a pet offered a great way of adjusting to a new life, I didn’t know how having a pet would affect us getting established in Melbourne so was somewhat apprehensive!

It was the best decision we made and I certainly couldn’t agree more with the view on helping to settle.

I changed my early morning walks on the old N6 in to Craughwell to early morning walks in central Melbourne, established a routine very quickly which helped me deal with my change in life.

Tory suffered anxiety on being left and consequently he follows me everywhere now and is constantly watching for me, which I love!

We very recently bought a house in Geelong, the second largest city in Victoria, with a population of circa 200k and everything a city of its size has to offer. It’s a great place to live and within short drives to the coastal towns of Portarlington, Barwon Heads, Queenscliff and Geelong. I commute daily to either Melbourne or Melbourne Airport if not travelling interstate, this is my time to read or listen to music and get ready for the day ahead or wind down from the day gone.

Overall and despite the distance factor when I miss being close to family, I consider Australia my second home and have a tremendous sense of belonging here – and the desire to make my contribution to its continued growth and success following in the footsteps of all those great Irish people who have gone before us.

My next milestone will be to go for my citizenship in December this year – and then I will proudly carry an Australian passport.

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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