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Galway President acknowledges low morale among teachers



The Galway woman elected to head the country’s school principals and deputy principals has acknowledged the low morale among teachers that she said was behind their recent decision to strike.

Mary Nihill – the new President of National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals – is Principal of Calasanctius College Oranmore.

And she said the strike action by teachers was a reflection of decreasing morale amongst the teaching profession.

“The drastic reduction in salary, combined with the increasing workload, as well as the failure to properly resource schools to deal with issues such as mental health, has led to a degree of frustration,” she said.

“We have excellent teachers in Ireland and some of our brightest graduates are choosing to teach. However, it is important that we do not take this for granted. One of the major factors that Finland attributes its successful education system to is the highly qualified, well- resourced and highly respected teaching force,” she added.

The Moycullen resident is the first female President from the voluntary school sector, leading an organisation which represents nearly 1,000 Principals and Deputy Principals from all second level schools in Ireland.

It’s the latest chapter in an illustrious career for Mary who started her career in education as a Science & Maths teacher.

Originally Mary Conlon from Mountbellew, she was appointed Principal in St. Paul’s Secondary School Oughterard in 1994.

In 2006 she was seconded as Assistant National Coordination to the Leadership Development for Schools and coordinated leadership support programmes for School Principals and Deputy Principals.

Mary took over as Principal of the 830 student Calasanctius College in 2010.  It enjoys a high transfer to third level colleges, with recent league tables showing a  rate of 95% to  100%.

“These ratings, although gratifying, only reflect a very narrow aspect of the added value that a school makes to the life of a young person. I have been very privileged to lead two schools which have staffs committed to the holistic care of students. This level of dedication is never recognised in raw league tables but is always commented on by past pupils,” Mary said.

The new NAPD President believed that the recent strike ran counter to teachers’ whole hearted commitment to the welfare of their students and she hopes that there will be a re-engagement between Minister O Sullivan and the unions.

“This dispute will only be solved by both sides engaging. I had first-hand experience of the enthusiasm of teachers to explore new ways of teaching at a joint in-service between Calasanctius College and two other local schools recently. This in-service focused on exploring how to ensure that students engage more fully in the learning process.

“What we then need to do is resource and enthuse our teachers and school leaders and give them the space to reflect on their key role of leading learning,” Mary said.

She also acknowledged the high levels of stress that school leaders are experiencing.

“The reduction in middle leadership positions due to the public service embargo has resulted in many school Principals and Deputies combining their onerous duties with that of filling the role of guidance counsellor and year head.”

Mary has a non-teaching Deputy Principal, Córa Ní Loinsigh, and five year heads but says she is aware of fellow Principals with considerably less support than that.

“Even with a full time Deputy Principal, the increasing bureaucracy and the lack of support for school leaders is inadequate. A recent survey carried out by NAPD on the work- life balance of Principals and Deputy Principals found that over 61% of Principals work on average more than 51 hours per week. This is a big factor in the lack of applications for the position of Principalship.”

After 20 years in the role of Principal, Mary regards it as a satisfying and fulfilling career.

“The possibilities to lead learning and to have the experience of working with teachers who are dedicated and creative  makes the job very rewarding. However, since I first became a Principal in 1994, I have seen a very big changeover of Principalship in many schools.”

“The exodus from school leadership was never more acute that in was last June with a total of 200 new school leaders were appointed in schools. NAPD has set up mentoring groups throughout the country with recently retired and serving school leaders mentoring the newly appointed leaders.”

Mary is confident that as a result of engagement by NAPD, the Department of Education is aware of the absolute need for a dedicated service to support school leaders both newly appointed and serving.

“I am looking forward to my tenure as President of NAPD and I know I have the enthusiasm and commitment to support my fellow school leaders to lead their schools.”

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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