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Probe into high mineral content in soil at city pitches



Soil samples showing extremely high levels of minerals at city pitches are being sent to laboratories for testing to determine if there is a risk to health and safety of players.

Galway City Council has asked the Health Service Executive (HSE) to investigate soil test results, which reveal massively high levels of zinc, copper and iron at the new pitches at Westside.

Readings from soil samples taken at Corrib Rangers soccer pitches and St Michael’s GAA pitch are way above recommended levels.

The readings are so high the City Council has referred them to the HSE to determine if there is a risk to players and other users of the pitches.

The level of iron found in the soil at the pitches is 11 times the recommended levels. The level of zinc in the soil is roughly 10 times the recommended level.

According to the soil report, the level of copper to be found in the soil is also far in excess of the recommended levels.

The presence of massively high mineral levels in the soil is being blamed for poor grass growth on the pitches, which were only opened last year.

According to informed sources, the soil is not responding to fertilizer, and is too laden with minerals to grow.

“The quality of soil is very poor,” said one source in Corrib Rangers.

“The grass is not growing the way it should do, especially for new pitches. It’s poor quality soil. There isn’t much you can do with it. The levels of iron, zinc and copper are way above what they should be. They are crazy levels. I’m not sure what the impact is on health and safety but it’s no good for growth.”

The knock-on effect is that the pitches are ‘cutting-up’, and have uneven, mucky surfaces.

A St Michael’s GAA source said: “There is talk they might have to dig it up and re-surface it, with proper topsoil. Questions have to be asked about how this could happen. If you pay so much money for new pitches, then you wouldn’t expect that the soil quality would be an issue.”

The City Council, owners of the sports centre, yesterday received copies of the pitches’ soil reports from the contractors who carried out the work.

The local authority said suggestions that high levels of minerals in the soil might pose a risk to the public are taken “very seriously”.

“The soil test reports contain no reference to toxicity,” said a Council spokesperson.

“We are referring the report to the HSE for comment in relation to any health risks. The City Council takes its responsibility regarding health and safety very, very seriously – it is one of our top five priorities. This is why when health and safety is raised, we take it very seriously,” he added.

The source of the problem hasn’t yet be confirmed. One theory is that the topsoil was taken from an area rich in minerals. Another theory is that area was previously an old dumping ground.

The new pitches’ project has been jinxed. The re-development of the pitches was delayed by set-backs on the construction of the Seamus Quirke Road, which was over-budget.

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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