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Making little memories in the midst of despair



A mum from Lettermore is using her family’s heartbreaking tragedy to help others who may follow in her footsteps by raising money to buy a cuddle cot for Galway babies.

Geroldine Gannon was 22 weeks pregnant with twins when she felt a cramp in her stomach on November 7. She decided to leave work as a special needs assistant in a local school to get things checked out at University Hospital Galway.

She underwent a scan and was told she would be confined to bed for the rest of the pregnancy. Minutes later she went into labour and the unimaginable happened.

Aingeal and MacDara were born but survived for just 40 minutes.

“It was just shocking, completely unexpected. Everything was going so smoothly then this happened so quickly. Luckily we had plenty of family and friends and neighbours around us.”

She and husband John were given two memory boxes provided by Féileacháin, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Association of Ireland.

Inside were teddies, handmade blankets, a decorative box to contain keepsakes such as a lock of hair and their identity bracelets as well as ink sets to take copies of their footprints and handprints. Practical items like Vaseline to prevent drying lips were also invaluable.

Geroldine’s sister rang the number contained in the box and spoke to Jacinta Murphy, chairperson of Féileacáin, who is based in Craughwell.

She told the family about the availability of cuddle cots, which could be used to allow them to bring the twin babies home to say goodbye.

The devices work by creating a cooling environment and after sourcing one from Limerick the Gannons were afforded the chance to keep their precious babies with them for a number of days before their burial.

“I mostly treasure the footprints and the handprints. We’ll have that forever,” reflected Geroldine.

The teddies are given to the babies and then swapped when it comes time to bury them so that their parents have something with their smell.

“They also gave [two-year-old son] Jeaic two teddy bears to remember them which I thought was lovely.”

Geroldine decided she wanted to give something back to the charity which helped her family to cope with the horrific loss. She wants to raise €2,500 to buy a cuddle cot which will be used specifically for Galway babies. She is also offering to keep it in her home at Tiernea, Lettermore and bring it to those who put out the call.

“We want this to their legacy for anyone else who goes through it. The amount of people who have said they have lost babies since this happened is amazing,” she explained.

Since word of the sponsored walk was put out over the airwaves of Raidio na Gaeltachta, already people have been pledging their support, with €2,400 so far promised online. Any extra money raised will go towards the cost of the memory boxes, which cost €35 to produce but are given free to families around the country.

Féileacháin was launched in Cork in 2010 by similarly bereaved parents with the Galway branch launched the following year. As well as distributing the memory boxes, they hold support meetings, provide low cost counselling and organise the cuddle cots. They can also arrange professional photographers to visit who specialise in neonatal deaths and stillbirths.

Geroldine has organised a walk from the church in Lettermore to Tigh Kitt in Casla on March 6, the day the twins were due to be born. It also happens to be Mother’s Day.

For further details or to take part in the walk contact 087 0695376.

*The Galway meetings take place at the Harbour Hotel on the first Tuesday of every second month, 7.30 to 9.30pm. The next meeting takes place on May 3.

Contact Féileacáin on 085 2496464 or log onto

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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