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Leisureland warned it could lose water sports clubs



A Board member of Leisureland has warned that competitive rates must be offered to the clubs which use the swimming pool once it reopens or otherwise risk losing what, financially, has been the lifeblood of the facility.

Indeed, Swim Ireland’s regional Club Support Officer for Connacht, Vincent Finn, who was elected to the Board of Leisureland as the swimming and water polo clubs representative last month, believes that with the date for Leisureland reopening gone back to December, it could possibly result in some of those clubs setting up permanent homes at privately-owned pools.

Originally, Leisureland, forced to close due to the damage caused by severe flooding last Winter, was scheduled to reopen in September – and later October – but various problems, including a disagreement with the insurance company over the re-tiling of the facility, was the reason behind the delay.

Mr. Finn noted this has caused further problems for the clubs which have already taken a massive financial hit after losing their revenue stream from teaching classes. “The [swimming] season starts on September 1 so you are still talking about a third of the season gone from a teaching point of view, from an income point of view and from a pool point of view once it reopens.

“So, it will be interesting to see whether clubs come back en masse to Leisureland or if they establish relationships where they are. We will see what happens. Despite what some people might think, the clubs are the lifeblood of Leisureland and they are the reason why Leisureland is still open.”

He explained Leisureland received a huge amount of its income from the local swimming and water polo clubs but he expressed his deep satisfaction at the exorbitant rates these clubs had been charged by Galway City Council over the past decade. He said it was time to address these charges.

“This will be something I will be standing up against because the fees charged in Leisureland are extremely high compared to any other pool in Ireland. I know this will cause trouble but I am putting it on record anyway.

“The standard pool rate throughout Ireland is between €15 and €18 per lane per hour, with some pools being even cheaper than that. The rate in Leisureland is €30 per lane per hour and it has been for the last 10 years.

“So, my job on the board is to find out, with rates at these levels, why Leisureland is losing money and yet other facilities of a similar nature don’t seem to have that problem while charging cheaper rates,” said Finn, alluding to the mounting losses incurred by Leisureland in recent years.

In late 2012, a Government audit found that the cost of the pool, gym and conference complex to the local authority the previous year was €683,000 – six times greater than the budget approved by the council at the start of the year. That was a 30% increase on the previous year’s deficit of €524,168.

Consequently, Mr. Finn said it was critical that Leisureland put a strategic plan in place to turn around the financial shortfalls but warned it would be detrimental to the existence of the swimming clubs – and by extension the facility itself – to ask them to pick up the tab. A balance must be struck.

“While clubs are in the water, Leisureland doesn’t lose money – Leisureland makes money – and that is very important. They have to understand that. Leisureland is also a very important infrastructure for the public, not just from a tourism point of view but from a leisure and a learning to swim point of view.”

From his work on the ground with clubs, the Support Officer highlighted that since the closing of Leisureland, the local clubs – Sharks, Laser and Galway – had found it extremely difficult to survive. “The loss of Leisureland has had a huge impact on the three clubs, Laser, Sharks and Galway,” he pointed out.

“The first thing was they lost their pool time; so, they had to scramble for pool time everywhere. In fairness to the Kingfisher – both NUIG and Renmore – they have been extremely good to all three clubs, particularly NUIG. I can’t say enough good words about what they have done.

“So, the clubs have managed to get pool time but it meant a lot of early mornings and more stress on the parents. However, it’s a double-edged sword because, while the clubs have managed to survive, they have had to do so without the income they generated from the teaching classes.”

He outlined all three clubs, which in total cater for 1,500 children, would have run teaching classes in Leisureland, from which they generated an income that they put back into paying for their pool time and coaches. “Now, many of the clubs are running raffles, quizzes and dog nights in order to raise the funds necessary to stay alive.”

Mr. Finn detailed that the closing of Leisureland also had another serious implication for the city’s three clubs. “About 90% of the swimmers the clubs have would come through their teaching programme and they would be taught in a certain way so when they got into competitive swimming, they would be ready for it.

“So, there would be a structured pathway which would teach them to swim properly and they wouldn’t progress from one stage to the next until they could achieve the standard that was required. That is not there now so there is going to be a void of a year where you don’t have swimmers at that level.”

At any rate, he hoped the affinity those clubs had with Leisureland would see their return – “Leisureland was their base and they almost feel homeless without it” – but he warned that the clubs should not be taken for granted.

In this respect, he was critical of the lack of consultation between Galway City Council and the clubs regarding Leisureland’s refurbishment and he has now called for transparency, particularly in relation to rates, going forward.

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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