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Group aims to pick Athenry up from its knees



Athenry is a town on its economic knees, with hundreds leaving every week to do their shopping elsewhere, due to parking charges and a lack of choice – a recent objection to a new supermarket has further hindered progress, a new community group has claimed.

Although Athenry Revival Group is only a few months old, it already has over 2,500 followers on Facebook.

“Athenry has a population of c. 3,850, and has only one large supermarket – Oranmore has a population of c. 4,600 and has five major supermarkets,” says Sara Walls.

“Athenry used to be an incredibly vibrant town, the recession has had a huge effect on it, and we aren’t going to come out of it unless we get a massive boost. We need to sit up and shout, and make a fuss. People are apathetic – so was I.

“I look out the window and wonder where are all the people – it used to be buzzing. It is sad to see that people don’t come in unless they really have to, because of the parking.”

Initially, it was the objection by RGDATA (Retail Grocery Dairy & Allied Trades Association) to proposed developments by Lidl/Aldi that bonded locals – an application that is now in the hands of An Bord Pleanala – but their focus has since extended much wider, to include safety at schools and parking problems.

“Hundreds are leaving this town every week – almost all of our members leave town to do the shopping … It’s a disgrace that RGDATA should be allowed to ‘blanket-block’ the competition,” Ms Walls, a sole trader, added.

“I said that if there were any objections, I would object to the objections.

“RGDATA objected – I did a background search, and in the last four-five years they have objected to 70-plus planning applications by Aldi/Lidl in Ireland. Of those, around half didn’t succeed because of RGDATA.

“I’ve made representations to Senator Lorraine Higgins, that they are using the planning process to block competition. I felt it was wrong; she is going to ask the question in the Seanad.

“We don’t want to be dictated to by this group, who know nothing about our town. This big organisation is telling the people of Athenry what we should want and need.”

Athenry Revival Group also believes that the paid parking system has destroyed the town, and they have approached Galway County Council asking for the restrictions to be eased.

“A city like Galway needs parking controls, Athenry needs restrictions but we need free two-hour slots, so you can nip in and out.

“It’s destroying our town, it is driving people out – they go out of town to the supermarket. It is destroying us socially too. I want this Lidl/Aldi business – I’ll close down if they don’t come – people don’t stop because of the meter. The town is empty and dead…”

The group says that with the footfall down in the town, the income from Council-run car parks must also be suffering.

Ms Walls says that in 2012-13 Galway County Council lost €152,000 running the car parks in the county.

“It makes no sense,” she says.

“The Council will probably turn around and tell us that they can’t give us free parking because they can’t lose revenue – but we aren’t going to take no for an answer.

“We have given a list to local councillors – this is what we need to do with parking – but the council are inclined to ignore us.

“We have written to the mayor [Cathaoirleach] to say they are being paid to do a job, that they should read their emails, and respond, but some don’t even bother.”

The community group is also concerned with parking of a different type at the town’s schools.

“All four school sites are incredibly dangerous,” Ms Walls says.

“The Gaelscoil is beyond dangerous, I set up a group to monitor parking in the mornings.

“At the Vocational School, Presentation, and Croí Naofa, over a 45 minute period, 43 buses arrive in that tiny area every morning.”

She says that the Council’s response is that it will take a while to read their list of concerns, but even when they do, they will not have the money to address concerns.

Athenry Revival Group also wants to revitalise the tourist industry in the town, by making the heritage town and its castle a ‘must see’ for any visitor coming to Galway.

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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