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Miniature yacht laden with gifts lands on the Connemara coast



A miniature yacht which set sail off the coast of Cape Cod in an American high school science experiment was discovered by a Connemara schoolgirl in the modern equivalent of a message in a bottle.

The three-foot-long sailboat named Lancer was built from a kit by 17-year-old Kaitlyn Dow, a student of Waterford High School in Connecticut. She stuffed it full of little gifts donated by pupils of her old primary school, Quaker Hill Elementary, with a memory stick containing essays from many of them.

Its deployment along with a number of other unmanned vessels on May 7 near Martha’s Vineyard was overseen by three marine science universities. Their progress across the Atlantic was tracked three times a day with GPS equipment.

As it approached the west coast, Kaitlyn and her teacher Mike O’Connor emailed as many people up and down the coast, asking them to keep an eye out for the Lancer. They feared it was going to get smashed along the cliffs.

However, against all odds it survived intact.

Among the dozens of Facebook messages sent by the pair, one was picked up by a pub in Droim, Lettermore. The owner alerted her family living in the vicinity.

Her sister, Neasa Ní Chualáin, logged onto the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration GPS map tracking the vessel and discovered it was still southwest of the Aran Islands.

Shortly afterwards the boat had moved and then remained put.

“We couldn’t believe it when the GPS tracker showed the sailboat literally in front of a little island that we gaze at every day from our living room window. Alas, we couldn’t see the boat but we discussed possible locations along the local shore that it may have sailed to.

“Méabh and her Dad Stiofán walked down to a rocky shoreline east of that little island – Oileán Anamna – and there she was, a little weather beaten, having sailed through 3,000 miles of storms and high seas.

“Méabh was beside herself opening the boat to see what surprises from across the wild Atlantic were hidden below. Wow, a teddy, an octopus, pencils, a t-shirt, UCONN [University of Connecticut] memorabilia and the best thing a memory stick laden with treasure from the elementary students.”

There was great excitement when Méabh, 8, brought her discovery to Scoil Naisiunta Thir an Fhia. Her teacher Rita Ni Fhlatharta plans to continue the project from the school by communicating with those involved in the project in America.

The marine science class experiment also involved the launching of a surface drifter at the same time and the goal was to see how the two objects would progress, with the boat using the wind and the drifter riding the currents.

Neasa and Méabh are this week taking the Lancer to the annual European Marine Educators Conference in Belfast. Méabh will also be making a presentation for her local Sea Scouts.

Neasa has also been in touch with Ciaran Oliver of TruLight Marine about making the vessel seaworthy again so that it can continue its voyage.

“Kaitlyn wants to come back here in the spring and launch the boat with Méabh but we’d need to get sponsors involved,” she explained.

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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