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Library service under pressure over staffless plans



The reading public in Galway is resisting plans to introduce ‘staffless’ libraries.

More than 2,700 people have signed a petition in Galway, calling on Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Simon Coveney to halt the roll-out of staffless libraries across the country.

The petition calls on the Minister to engage with stakeholders who have a vested interest in the future of public libraries before continuing with the introduction of an ‘open library’ policy.

Open libraries allow pre-registered library members to access library buildings and facilities outside of the normal staffed opening times.

Members must be vetted first before they are issued with a special access card. Security is provided by un-monitored CCTV cameras.

The scheme is being piloted currently in Sligo and Offaly; and there are plans to roll-out staffless libraries in 23 more libraries around the country, including in Ballinasloe and Oranmore.

Representatives of the Staff Our Libraries Galway campaign took to Shop Street in the city centre recently and garnered over 2,700 signatures, heaping pressure on the minister and Galway County Council to reverse plans to introduce staffless libraries here.

Members of trade union IMPACT, have already balloted on the issue of staffless libraries – more than 90% voted in favour of industrial action if the Local Government Management Agency does not engage with staff representatives.

“Surely library staff should not have to threaten industrial action just to have their voices heard,” said Michelle Walsh, of Staff Our Libraries, Galway.

Ms Walsh outlined the feedback the campaign has received on the streets of Galway.

“Many people shook their heads sadly and wondered what the government is likely to think up next. They described open libraries as ‘daft’ and ridiculous and expressed the fear that the scheme will lead to library closures down the line. Some went so far as to suggest that this might even be the whole aim of the policy, in order to save money on another public service” she said.

Ms Walsh added: “Everyone spoke of their anger and frustration at having to do more and more of their daily business through automated telephone answering systems and machines.

“When it comes to libraries, they felt it is vital to keep the personal touch and the human contact, and for people to have an opportunity to ask a question, or get a piece of advice. On the issue of safety and security, even grown men said that they would not feel safe going into unstaffed premises at night.

“The general view from all those who took the time to offer their opinions on open libraries was that, under this scheme, the ‘soul’, ‘character’, and ‘whole atmosphere’ of the public library service will be lost.

“Minority groups within the community are upset that, under the vetting scheme for open libraries, they may be denied access to library buildings, while library workers do not want to be in a position where they have to judge the worthiness, or unworthiness, of each applicant.

“The core principle of the public library service has always been that it is open and accessible to all. Libraries are places where everyone is treated equally.”

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.

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.

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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