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Good Samaritan hosts Christmas dinner for ‘new poor’



A group of people who can’t afford Christmas Day dinner, or who for various reasons don’t have the enthusiasm for it, are being brought together this year by the city’s newest organisation.

However, Lean on Us is a very low-key group because the very people they want to help want to keep that assistance private.

You could say there’s a ‘new poor’ in Galway City — a group of people who wouldn’t dream of seeking help from the St Vincent de Paul Society to name but one organisation.

They might have run small businesses that went belly up in the recent recession and now find they are just barely keeping afloat as they repay bank loans on companies that no longer exist.

Lean On Us was the brainchild of one Salthill-based woman who wants to keep her anonymity to protect the very people being helped.

Teresa, a former teacher now working in accounts, said she came across so many people who were in dire straits who were under the radar of charities like SVP.

“I realised that there were a lot of people troubled by finances, people you wouldn’t think were poor but who I knew couldn’t put food on the table.

“In September I came up with the idea and now there are 12 volunteers helping families of all ages across the city in a very low-key way.

“No money is involved. No fundraising has been undertaken. This is all about donations of food distributed to families in a very low-key, discreet manner. I take the bus rather than use my own car when delivering food to protect their identities as they don’t want people to know how badly off they really are,” she explained.

But the low-key approach had to be broken this week when Teresa realised that they would need a suitable venue if they were to provide a Christmas Day meal for up to 30 people.

“I have had people in my own house and I wanted to share our own day with some families, but there were too many to fit in my own house, so I decided to spread the word.”

Only hours after being on the Keith Finnegan Show on Galway Bay FM last week, Teresa got offers from NUI Galway, the Dominican Hall and a restaurant, owned by Michael Keaney in Ballybane to use their premises on the day.

Teresa was already visiting one of these venues when she spoke to the Galway City Tribune about her plans for the day.

“All the food will be donated and probably cooked by the volunteers on or off the premises. Obviously we won’t be publicising where we choose because we want to continue helping these people discreetly.

“I know if I was in their shoes, I would be the last person to seek help with SVP or anyone. They all do great work but some people don’t accept their new circumstances or are too private and proud to seek help.”

Because Lean On Us doesn’t publicly seek the ‘new poor’ Teresa and her volunteers use other means to find them.

“I sometimes sit in the foyer of University Hospital Galway or listen to people on buses and I approach them gently if I feel they qualify for the service we are providing. I just give people my number and, usually, they do contact me because they know they will be helped discreetly.”

Teresa dismisses any suggestion that she is a ‘do gooder’ saying she is only doing what she believes has to be done to ensure these families are not ignored.

She has studied counselling but also uses her own common sense and decency when talking to people.

“The Red Cross has also come on board for the day and as well as being able to provide a Christmas lunch for a few families, they might also get comfort from knowing they are not alone,” she adds.

As well as food donations, Teresa said Christmas decorations would be welcomed to make the chosen venue festive for the occasion.

Anyone interested in donating or becoming involved as a volunteer or indeed going to the Christmas meal can ring Teresa on 0851763927.

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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