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GMIT poised to unveil ambitious masterplan



The success of the woodwork centre at Letterfrack can be replicated in all sectors of Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), according to the college’s new president.

Dr Fergal Barry, who became GMIT president in October, plans to create ‘centres of excellence’ like Letterfrack right across the organisation.

Dr Barry, who has 20 years of experience at Limerick IT, also plans to deepen GMIT’s relationship with NUIG; increase its research capability; and improve the college’s retention rates.

He proposes to unveil an ambitious ‘masterplan’ for capital investment centred at its Dublin Road campus, a plan which includes re-zoning land-banks at Galwegians rugby grounds at Glenina and at the former Corrib Great Southern Hotel.

Pursuing technological university status with ITs along the western seaboard, establishing a fundraising ‘friends of GMIT foundation’ based on the Alumni association at NUIG, and returning to offering apprenticeships are among Dr Barry’s other objectives.

“Letterfrack is really our star performer,” said Dr Barry.

“It is the national centre of excellence for furniture design and wood technology. It is known nationally and internationally. For our careers fair this year we had very senior executives from abroad flying in by helicopter recruiting from there. They are something to behold. That model of centre of excellence, I suppose one of my hopes and ambitions would be to cascade centres of excellence across the organisation,” he said.

Dr Barry was vice-president of research and development at LIT for years and he’ll use that experience in Galway. “Certainly the institution needs to enhance and improve and build upon its performance in the area of research. I was aware of that before I came here. And there is significant opportunity to do that.”

He agrees GMIT competes with NUIG for students but added: “I’d like to see significant more collaboration with NUIG, indeed I’ve started deepening that relationship with NUIG.”

He called it ‘co-opetition’, or the “the whole idea of collaborating yet at the same time competing,” and gives the example of the two third level institutes “coming together to market internationally”.

Dr Barry said expanding its city campus, and acquiring more lands near the Dublin Road is a priority.

“Chief amongst our priorities for capital development is a new STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) building. And then obviously student support services. The Institute has planning permission for a students services building across the road from us on the Dublin Road,” he said. This could be built in a public-private partnership, he said.

Dr Barry also revealed that GMIT is eyeing up Galwegians rugby grounds, and the former Corrib Great Southern Hotel.

“Any land in close proximity to a higher education institution is of more value to the higher education institution than anybody else. So, ideally, all lands in proximity to GMIT should be zoned educational. We have made a submission on the local development plan to Galway City Council, to that effect as well.”

He said that a masterplan will be unveiled to the Governing Body in March, and then publicly some time later. Lands around Murrough House are central to the plan, he said.

GMIT currently has 5,260 students, and that will grow to around 7,000 by 2028 but he’s not planning to go mad building.

“I think we need to proceed very prudently and very cautiously. Rather than having a very large campus footprint, we should maybe look to see how we can use our space more flexibly, including online learning.”

In the short-term, though, the objective is to stem drop-out rates. He says retention rates at GMIT are higher than the national average, but this is partly explained by the exceptionally high third level education participation rates in Galway and Mayo.

Financially, GMIT had a deficit of about €2 million last year, which consumed cash reserves. It is obliged to bring a balanced budget in 2016 and he plans to unveil a whole host of new programmes to help plug that gap.

“We’ve 35 new programmes currently being planned,” he said. These are in areas GMIT hasn’t been involved in before, and will attract international students; as well as returning to their roots of providing apprenticeships such as electricians, tiling, plastering and block-laying.

GMIT is also branching out into medical devices apprenticeships and collaborating with local industry in the city, which is a medical device hub.

He said he’s not worried about GMIT running a “minor deficit” in the context of a €56 million annual budget. Dr Barry is confident the books can be balanced in 2016 through introducing new courses, and bringing back apprenticeships.

“A million or two can be found relatively easy in terms of efficiencies but it’s not just about efficiencies, it’s about growing the organisation. We’ve a spate of 35 new programmes currently being planned in areas the institute hasn’t been involved in before to attract new students.

“It is business sensitive, so I can’t share those with you but we are looking at programme diversification. The significant reason for that would be to create programmes that might attract international students as an area of growth,” he added.

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.

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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.

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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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