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FORUM fights back from brink



FORUM Connemara is fighting back to save itself from extinction.

A threat hangs over the local development company due to changes to the way social inclusion programmes are to be delivered in Galway.

FORUM says the restructuring of how SICAP (Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme) is administered is putting jobs at risk in the company and organisations it currently serves right across Connemara.

Some 700 people turned up at a protest meeting in Maam Cross a fortnight ago, demanding FORUM would be saved.

And the resistance continued this week as members and supporters of FORUM Connemara turned out in force at the Connemara Coast Hotel in Furbo to picket the Galway County Council meeting.

A crowd of about 70 picketed the meeting on Monday, having travelled by bus from Clifden to Furbo.

“We made our point. We are very happy with how it went,” said Karen Mannion, Rural Development Officer with FORUM.

There was more good news on Monday when FORUM was granted leave for a judicial review in the high “to question the decision of County Galway LCDC to allocate one lot for County Galway for the delivery of SICAP”. That hearing is expected in the coming weeks.

Further protests by FORUM Connemara of County Council meetings, as well as Local Development Company (LDCs) meetings, are also planned in the coming weeks and months.

FORUM Chairman, Terry Keenan, said the protest would continue until the ‘powers that be’ take heed of the anger in Connemara and reverse the decision.

As of next Tuesday, March 31, FORUM’s 25-years association with delivering social inclusion programmes in Connemara will cease, and the SICAP (Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme) will be administered in Connemara by Galway Rural Development (GRD).

GRD, based in Athenry, used to deliver for east of County Galway but will from the end of this month take over the delivery of SICAP in Connemara as well.

FORUM Connemara is resisting the change.  In a letter of protest presented to the County Council meeting on Monday, FORUM Connemara reiterated that SICAP in Galway should be delivered in two ‘Lots’ – one by FORUM and one by GRD.

“As you are no doubt aware the LCDC (Local Community Development Committees) that was ‘constructed’ in County Galway took an injudicious decision to confine the entire county to one Lot for the future delivery of SICAP. This decision will now have the most negative implications for our company, its staff and, most important of all, the people of Connemara,” said Mr Keenan in the letter addressed to Cathaoirleach Mary Hoade.

Mr Keenan added: “It might well be that those of you who do not live in Connemara possibly do not appreciate the level of anger that is currently being expressed at that flawed decision of the LCDC.

“This anger is universal throughout the region and will not go away. It is quite clear that the circumstances surrounding that flawed decision should now be investigated, and the utter nonsense be put under scrutiny.

“The actions of other Councils, which have seen the wisdom and necessity of providing more than one Lot to best serve the needs of their constituents, are in marked contrast to the model now to be adopted throughout Galway and, again, it is extremely difficult to understand how the second largest county in Ireland can stand over this decision.

“Cork County, the largest, has opted for seven Lots distributed throughout the County and including one for Cork city. On behalf of Connemara I now call upon you to do everything in your power to have the decision of the LCDC immediately rescinded. This call will be repeated until justice is served.”

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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