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Galwayman comes home to head Britain’s Got Talent auditions



Galway has more than enough talent to make its mark on an international scale, according to Britain’s Got Talent producer, Stephen Ridgard.

Born and raised in the east side of the city, Stephen is back home for the sixth time this year, this time scouting the very best of what our county has to offer during an overwhelming audition process for the world renowned talent show.

Stephen Ridgard: Galway's scout for Britain's Got Talent

Stephen Ridgard: Galway’s scout for Britain’s Got Talent, with singer Katy Perry

“It’s nice to get back and try and find the talent and do you know what, we’ve had some fantastic talent,” said Stephen.

“Over the past few days, we had a really good impressionist, an amazing soprano, we had a great dance troupe, and, needless to say, the singers in Galway are out of this world. There are so many amazing singers and a fantastic magician, so it’s going really well.”

The standard of talent in Galway has certainly been represented in the influx of acts that turned up to each of the secret locations hosted by Britian’s Got Talent.

“We’re really happy with the talent in Galway, and the turnout has been great. It’s nearly been packed and I’m almost overwhelmed with the numbers we’re getting.”

The show has taken a step away from the usual arena tour and has instead decided to travel around Ireland to the people instead of the people coming to them.

Not only does this mean no more long hours of queuing in Dublin, but the acts that audition for Stephen have the potential to go straight onto the stage on live television, without having to audition again.

“We get into the community in local bars, community centres, universities, colleges and things like that and it’s quite nice because a lot of people don’t want to queue up for eight hours and it does take away from the experience if you’re tired and hungry, whereas if you’re in your local pub, it’s different.

“You find some great characters and some really good talent this way, too.”

Apart from working with Britain’s Got Talent, the young producer and researcher has proved to be on a very successful career path with other shows such as Body Shockers, The X Factor and Desi Rascals – an Asian form of The Only Way is Essex – to decorate his CV.

Media and broadcasting seems to run in the Ridgard family, as his brother is also highly successful in the industry over in the US working with American Idol, however Stephen’s introduction to the business wasn’t too straightforward.

“I’m a carpenter by trade, that’s what I did years ago, but I got sick of it. I went to college and did my apprenticeship. I thought, I want to do shows, and unfortunately my brother didn’t actually hook me up with any jobs but he pointed me in the right direction.

“You don’t actually have to go to college to get into TV. You can do a four year media course and all that, but it depends what direction you want to go in. Essentially, you can start yourself at the bottom and work your way up and you’re getting hands-on experience. Don’t get me wrong, the colleges are still fantastic; I just knew for me that it wouldn’t have suited me to go back to university. I just wanted to get hands-on straight away.

“My brother did the same thing, he never went to college. He went straight into it, started from the bottom and worked his way up as well. You learn so much quicker in a practical way like that, but if I were to go back and think about it again and had seen how much fun people had doing television and media in college I probably would have done that.”

Stephen’s profession means he’s around quite a few celebrities but he’s aware that he has to maintain a professional attitude, even if deep down he’s a little gobsmacked.

“I was a little bit awestruck with Queen when they were on X Factor, I wasn’t expecting to see Brian May or any of the lads, obviously I knew they were doing rehearsals, but I was just walking by and standing beside them thinking this is a little surreal.

“We don’t normally ask for photos. I wanted one and you can do it, but you know, you have to stay on the professional side, too,” he laughed.

This is the second TV show that Stephen has worked on that’s affiliated with perhaps one of the most recognisable British TV personalities – Simon Cowell.

“I worked with him on X Factor and, I really mean this, he’s actually one of the nicest people you could ever work with. He’s great and, obviously, he has a great head on his shoulders, but he’s super nice, knows what he wants and is a really decent guy, actually.”

Stephen and his regional team are travelling the rest of the country for the next week, including Limerick, Cork, Kilkenny, Waterford, and finally to Dublin again before heading back to London, where he’s based.

“Hopefully we’ll get someone from Galway on stage, fingers crossed,” he said.

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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