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Magic and madness in Fíbín’s Tóraíocht



Mikel and cast in rehearsals for Tóraíocht.

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

It’s a massive story with bonkers elements in it,” says actor and director Mikel Murfi of Tóraíocht”, which he’s directing for Connemara company, Fíbín.

Philip Doherty’s adaptation of the Irish legend, The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne, will run in the Black Box Theatre from November 10-13 and at present, six actors – four women and two men – are rehearsing in Inverin, creating some 30 characters in a process that involves “putting heads on fellas and putting people in and out of suits”, says Mikel with a laugh.

If anyone can create a finished product from such mayhem, it’s this multi-talented actor and director. Mikel’s previous directing credits locally include Diamonds in the Soil and The Lost Days of Ollie Deasy for Macnas as well as Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce and Penelope for Druid Theatre. He also appeared in another Enda Walsh hit, Ballyturk, alongside Cillian Murphy and Stephen Rea for Galway International Arts Festival.

Mikel studied the book, Tóraíocht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne for his Leaving Cert in Sligo where, he recalls, his class had a great teacher called Mannix O’Brien.

“He was always adding stuff and making the story come alive. And I always wanted to go back to it.”

That opportunity arose a couple of years ago when Fíbín invited Mikel to work with them. He suggested a new version of the Irish legend in which Fionn MacCumhaill’s intended bride, Gráinne, put the Fianna’s finest warrior, Diarmuid, under a ‘geas’ or pledge to run away with her instead. A cross-country chase ensued, with the Fianna pursuing the pair until their final capture in Sligo’s Ben Bulben.

The original story is episodic by nature, says Mikel, “so we had to work through that and create real-life drama for them”.

He initiated the adaptation by “writing a “bit of a speech for a lunatic character that I’d created, a vitriolic person who curses people all the time”.

The result was a three-page spiel, “a litany of bad things” which he gave to playwright Philip Doherty.

“I said that was the kind of madness I wanted and asked Philip if he could fit it all together,” says Mikel who wanted to keep the episodic nature of the legend and to build drama around that. It was important to have dynamic characters and lots of action for people who don’t have Irish, he adds.

Philip is director of the Cavan-based Gonzo Theatre company and the two men had met 10 years ago when Philip was studying for an MA in Drama and Theatre Studies at NUIG.

Mikel, who lectures on that course, admired his writing style and subsequently saw Philip’s work with Gonzo. So, it seemed logical to ask Philip to script Tóraíocht.

“It’s like some fella had put me inside his head,” says Mikel with a laugh. “And he’s done a remarkable job.”

The play moves between the poetic, the mad and comedic as it captures the madcap journey of Diarmuid and Gráinne around Ireland in their attempt to stay ahead of Fionn MacCumhaill and the Fianna, says its director.

Philip wrote it in English and the script was translated by Séamus Ó Coileáin.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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