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Librarians to resist future without staff



Plans to introduce ‘staffless’ libraries in Galway will be resisted – by staff.

And one library assistant has made an impassioned plea to the people of Galway, to oppose unstaffed libraries.

Mary McGinty, library assistant in Westside Library, said “many of the library staff in Galway and around the country are deeply concerned” over plans to roll-out the open-library scheme.

Meanwhile, trade union IMPACT began an industrial action ballot of the country’s library staff over fears that the introduction of ‘staffless’ library services will lead to poorer services and job losses.

The union said management plans for a large-scale pilot of staffless services during evenings and weekends will ultimately lead to completely staffless libraries with sharply limited services to the public.

The union said the extension of staffless arrangements will leave library users unable to get assistance from trained and qualified staff or benefit from cultural and educational events.

IMPACT says this would hit less advantaged communities and individuals hardest, because wealthier and better educated groups generally need less help and can afford to pay for more cultural and educational experiences.

The ‘open library’ scheme involves opening libraries in the early morning, late at night and on Sundays but without staff.

After vetting, members aged over 18 can let themselves in using an identification number. They can browse, borrow, return, use the Wi-Fi and photocopier.

Unmanned cameras can monitor those inside and radio frequency identification tags will ensure that books and other material have to be scanned prior to removal. Oranmore and Ballinasloe libraries have been earmarked for the scheme, which is already in operation in Offaly and Sligo.

Ms McGinty has appealed to the people of Galway to unite to halt the roll-out of unstaffed libraries.

“Our library service has endured years of cutbacks, with massive reductions in staff members and ever-dwindling book funds. This latest government policy has left many library staff feeling angry, helpless and demoralised.

“Here in Galway, we are lucky to have many fine, beautiful library buildings. Westside library opened in March 2004, and I have experienced first-hand how much a local library can mean to the community it serves.

“Now, the very ethos of the public library system in Ireland is under threat, as are our beautiful buildings, their precious book stock and, most importantly of all, the security of those who may wish to use these unstaffed premises,” she said.

Independent County Councillor, Michael ‘Stroke’ Fahy, said he has been contacted by several constituents who are concerned about the plans.

He said that the authorities speak about social inclusion, and positive mental health, and yet pursue policies that reduce social interaction in the community.

“There is concern in the community about this. People don’t want a situation where libraries are not staffed. They want staff to help them choose books in the library and keep a record of what they loan. There is also the issue of a lack of security. People are worried about safety and whether it is wise to have libraries open without staff to monitor what is going on,” said Cllr Fahy.

There was a public meeting about the issue at the Westwood Hotel in October when there was an appetite to resist the plans.

Galway county librarian Peter Rabbitt, who oversees 30 libraries across the city, county and islands with 40,000 members, has said on the record that the scheme is no cause for alarm for the future of our libraries.

Oranmore has been approved for funding of €62,000 to introduce the technology while Ballinasloe, the county’s newest facility, will get over €18,000 to convert. “There’s a bit of a misconception about this with people thinking it will lead to unstaffed libraries. It’s to add extra hours. It doesn’t mean we’re going to reduce staff,” he said.

Ms McGinty said there it was time that the people of Galway shouted ‘stop’.

“You, our library members and friends, can make a huge difference. Please help save our libraries by writing and talking to your local councillors and by signing the petition which has been organised by the Our Staff Libraries campaign group. These spirited and inspirational people have already succeeded in halting the roll-out of this policy in libraries in Laois. It is my fervent wish that the people of Galway now do the same,” said Ms McGinty.

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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