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Galway volunteers shortlisted for national community awards



A Connacht rugby star is one of four Galwegians shortlisted for prestigious awards – thanks to their commitment to charity and their local communities.

The four have made the final 30 from over 300 nominations to be in with a shot of winning one of this year’s Volunteer Ireland Awards.

And what they all share is a dedication and a willingness to forgo their own personal time to help others.

Galway’s four finalists include Connacht Rugby’s Ronan Loughney, nominated in the Arts, Culture & Media category for his work with the Blue Teapot Theatre Company; Frank Downes for his service to the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind; Marie Cahill, a volunteer with the Galway Parkinsons Association, and NUIG student Barry Foley who volunteers with Ability West.

Connacht rugby player Ronan Loughney

Connacht rugby player Ronan Loughney

Frank, Marie and Barry are all nominated in the Health & Disability category – the only three nominees, guaranteeing a Galway win in that section.

Connacht rugby player Ronan Loughney has had a huge impact on the Blue Teapot Theatre Company.

Ronan is the head volunteer with the Bright Soul programme at the theatre which is a creative outlet for adults with moderate intellectual disabilities.  He is passionate about encouraging participants to express themselves, while he also deals with any challenging behaviour, providing the care required to overcome any difficulties.

Frank Downes has been volunteering with Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind in Galway for over 36 years. In the past fifteen years alone, he has raised over €1.5 million for the charity.

One of his most successful events for 25 years has been the Amphicat which takes people in plastic canoes out onto various stretches of the River Corrib. It is hugely popular and has raised hundreds of thousands for the charity. Marie Cahill has been volunteering with the Galway Parkinson’s Association for over eight years and her impact has been significant.

A number of family members of clients have commented that she has completely changed the lives of her clients such is her dedication and commitment. She has a unique manner which is appreciated by both clients and family members alike.

Barry Foley is a mature student in NUI Galway who has been volunteering with Ability West since 2011.

He is a qualified fitness instructor and brings a number of groups with intellectual disabilities to the gym, develops work out plans for individuals and encourages them to see it through.  In the centres, he encourages and promotes healthy living lifestyles.

During the month of August when services are closed, he organises gym sessions for service users to attend so that they can continue their work out sessions and stay active while on their holidays.

Galway Volunteer Centre Manager Donncha Foley said they were thrilled to celebrate these volunteers and their dedication to their causes.

“Thousands of people volunteer across the country each day and they really are the unsung heroes that drive our communities. This is a chance for us to recognise some exceptional volunteers and really celebrate volunteering in Ireland,” he said.

Galway’s unsung heroes will be celebrated at a special ceremony in City Hall, Dublin on December 2.

If you would like to find out more about volunteering in Galway, visit

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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