Joan Finnegan glanced out the window of the Corrib Tearooms in the city when she noticed a lifebuoy overlooking the River Corrib as families ambled by.
A mad thought suddenly struck her – how lucky was this lifebuoy to be situated in such a picturesque corner of the city.
She immediately went outside and photographed every lifebuoy she could see, capturing 70 of them over the course of that day, from the Long Walk, the Claddagh and all over the Prom.
“I know it sounds cracked but I could see personalities in them all. The image of yellow and red is so pretty. They’re just lovely – these little guardians of the waterways,” she mused.
A personal assistant to a solicitor for the last 34 years, Joan enrolled in a degree in art and design at the GMIT five years ago.
For a college assignment, she decided to use the image of the lifebuoy to create pieces of art – some of them were collages, more were paintings, others were manipulated photos, another is made of lego.
“I started seeing them everywhere – anytime I saw yellow and red. I was obsessed,” she laughed.
In all she created 20 pieces inspired by the lifebuoys. She then used the images to design her own greeting cards.
It was one of these cards that was spotted by Roger Sweeney, deputy CEO of the Galway-based Irish Water Safety.
He commissioned ten of the images to be included in a postcard to raise awareness about the dangers of stolen lifebuoys which will be distributed nationally.
“Some people simply don’t consider the potentially tragic consequences of vandalising ringbuoys which have been so crucial in saving dozens of lives nationwide,” explained Roger.
“We designed the ringbuoys to be used to effect a rescue but they also act as a constant visible reminder of the dangers that the aquatic environment presents yet, even so, some irresponsible members of the public vandalise these lifesaving appliances, particularly late-night revellers under the influence of alcohol.”
There were nine drownings in Galway last year – seven of them in the county. The total number of people who died in the water across the State was 122, eight more than in 2014. The average number of annual drownings over the last ten years is 133.
“Each figure in the analysis, be it accidental, suicide or of undetermined cause, reflects a preventable tragedy that affects so many lives,” he mused.
Irish Water Safety has introduced a water safety curriculum for primary schools in which children also learn how to throw a lifebuoy.
“In time and as these children grow older, we hope that the training they receive will instill a sense of responsibility for these devices so that they only come out of the box when needed to save a life,” remarked Roger.
Joan, who celebrates 30 years of marriage this week to Galway Bay FM CEO and broadcaster Keith Finnegan, begins her final year of study in September. Her experience as a mature student has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I’m so passionate about art now. I always said I wasn’t doing this degree to get a hat on my head, rather it was for the experience of it and it will definitely be in my life in some form or another,” the mother of two enthused.
“When I’m in college I put my all into it – this year was hectic as we had a thesis. The mature students are the ones who sit at the front with the spare pens and say ‘sorry what did he say?’ We’re so focused.”
She moved on from lifebuoys to a series about the Blackrock Diving Board, completing 50 pieces in all about the iconic Salthill structure. She will spend the summer on the lookout for a suitably interesting subject to hone in on for her final project.
“Somebody said to me recently ‘six years – how could you study for that long?’ But sure I would have lived those years anyway. And look at what it’s given me.”
The cards are on sale in Irish Water Safety’s head office on The Long Walk for a suggested donation of 50c. The proceeds will be put into Irish Water Safety’s primary school curriculum.
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.
Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races
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.
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.”