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Mediator attempts to resolve Leisureland standoff

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Swimming clubs will hear back this week whether one of their two proposals to return to Leisureland will be accepted by the city’s top official following a meeting with a mediator appointed to resolve the row over price hikes.

The mediator, Gar Holohan, is founder of Aura Holohan Leisure, which privately manages nine swimming pools and gyms around the country.

Several meetings have been held with the five clubs to broker an impasse to the standoff, which has left young swimmers scrambling for lanes in other pools at ungodly hours while Leisureland has been limping along without the €300,000 revenue generated from the clubs through hiring lanes to train members and hold swimming classes.

The row has also left Leisureland without a governing board following the mass resignation of all but two directors in the wake of the price hikes which were proposed for the facility when it reopened last December following a total revamp required by the storm damage.

City Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath appointed the mediator when he was unable to reach an agreement with the clubs, which had descended into an angry war of words in a series of emails.

A spokesman for the clubs said yesterday that the meeting on Wednesday was positive and they now awaited Mr Holohan’s recommendations and the decision of Mr McGrath by next week.

“We have shown our accounts which prove we are not-for-profit clubs,” said a spokesman.

“The clubs wait anxiously for this to be sorted. We still believe that the problems with the running of Leisureland need to be addressed in order for things to be turned around.

“We can’t continue to have children getting up at 4am because they have no access to a pool in normal hours. One club has lost half its members so it will not survive.”

He declined to state publicly their proposals for fear it would jeopardise talks.

An item on the agenda of Galway City Council last week to replace the directors – including three councillors – who resigned was again adjourned pending the outcome of the negotiations with the swimming clubs.

Director of Services Joe O’Neill, speaking on behalf of the absent Mr McGrath, said the chief executive was hopeful it could be resolved before the next council meeting.

“There are some encouraging signs, at least there’s been some engagement with Gar Holohan. It’s not a satisfactory situation. The Board hasn’t met at all this year.”

Cllr Pearce Flannery (FG) said he had been asking to see the management accounts since last July in line with legal requirements.

However Mr O’Neill said this could not be done at present as only two directors remained on the Board, which was not a quorum or legally binding number for a board.

“The focus has been on solving the problem between ourselves and the clubs. That’s the fundamental problem at the moment, that the clubs aren’t in there.”

Cllr Mike Crowe (FF) said all other occupiers have had their rates increased but have got on with it.

“Most of the hours that the clubs had haven’t been allocated . . . we have hired an outside consultant. Six months on and we still haven’t got a resolution. We’ve missed an opportunity to get more revenue in.”

Cllr Peter Keane (FF) described the manner and pace of reaching an agreement as “shambolic in the extreme”.

Councillors agreed to his motion that the directors’ positions be filled at the June meeting, whatever the outcome of the talks with clubs.

 

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest

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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 www.connachttribune.ie. 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

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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 www.connachttribune.ie. 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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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises

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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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