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Threat to future of YouTube sensation Irish college



The closure of only one Irish summer college in the Conamara Gaeltacht could equate to a loss of almost €5 million to the local community.

There is a threat over the viability of Coláiste Lurgan in Inverin which has put thousands of young students through its hands in the past forty years and in recent years almost 2,000 each summer.

The stark warning was addressed at a recent public meeting where Coláiste Lurgan’s operator, Micheál Ó Foighil, outlined the implications to the college and the community if the facility had to close.

If the college were to close — it covers an eight to ten mile radius catchment area from An Spideál to Tully in Inverin — it would put the local mná tí (the women who accommodate the students) out of business and affect the local economy, everything from groceries to transport services, not to mention the end of seasonal college work for student teachers.

Though Coláiste Lurgan was established by Mr Ó Foighil’s father, the late Senator Pól Bainín Ó Foighil in 1966 with the intention of holding Irish language courses for second level students from all over Ireland but Údarás na Gaeltachta (the Gaeltacht Authority) now owns the premises in An Cnóc, Inverin for which they get paid €30,000 a year by the college. The premises was bought by the local co-op, Comharchumann Chois Fharraige but they sold it to Údarás, then known as Gaeltarra Éireann, in 1983 when the co-op stopped trading.

However, there’s a health and safety issue over the building and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht have contacted Údarás asking if the college was lawfully compliant with planning laws as a result.

The Department issue grants via subsidies to the mná tí but this assistance could be threatened if the building is not compliant.

The local youth club also use the premises on a weekly basis during the school year and they too may no longer have a ‘home’.

Údarás wrote to the college management telling them that the building badly needed to be modernised as it had not been brought up to contemporary regulatory building standards. This, they said, would involve serious investment.

Mr Ó Foighil said there were serious implications involved but that it was a complex issue and one that would not be resolved simply.

He said he believed it wouldn’t be worth refurbishing the building and that a new one should be built.

He has written to the Minister for the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphries about the situation and he has asked for a meeting between the local co-op, Cumann Forbartha Chois Fharraige, who also use the premises, the Department, Údarás and himself as head of Coláiste Lurgan, the main users of the premises.

“We need to fix a temporary solution to the situation in time for next year’s summer term as well as exploring a long-term solution to secure the industry of Irish colleges in the area,” he said.

It is estimated that the closure of this one college could mean a loss of up to €5million to the local economy.

Coláiste Lurgan has achieved national recognition not only as a successful Irish college but in recent years has hit the pop charts with Irish language versions of popular songs. Not only were the songs recorded by the students but filmed, which have become YouTube sensations.

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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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