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Outdoor cinema in push for new arts centre



The drivers of a campaign to turn Loughrea’s old Town Hall into an arts centre proved their point recently – by drawing hundreds to watch movies in the open air.

LARC (Loughrea Arts Recreation and Culture) wants to restore the old Town Hall and Cinema building to public use as a multifunctional arts and cultural centre. But in the continued absence of such a centre, they still proved the demand was there – by using the recent Culture Night to host a pop-up outdoor cinema on the town’s picturesque Fairgreen overlooking Lough Riach.

And fittingly – given their plan – the 1985 cult classic ‘Back to the Future’ was their choice on the night.

Conditions were perfect for their outdoor cinema event, with the Dublin-based Underground Cinema providing and assembling the pop-up cinema – and local businesses and volunteers all coming together to play their part.

The old Town Hall

The old Town Hall

McCormack’s filling station, for example, granted LARC access to their electrical outlets. Free power provided by the local businesses enabled an otherwise eerie post-twilight Fairgreen to be converted into a rustic outdoor cinema club with cascading fairylights overlooking the waterfront.

Another local business, McD’s of Loughrea, allowed free use of their car-park, and local volunteers assisted in guiding cars and pedestrians to and from the car-park and event site.

Event organizers were surprised by the high turnout of families that attended, as the film was screened at 9.30pm.

Daniel Cronin reported a turnout of around 300, with “at least 100 to 150 in front of the screen and the same again sitting on walls surrounding the Fairgreen”.

People flocked to the park in festival attire with fishing chairs, blankets and take-aways in hand.  Families, couples, groups of friends all huddled together, wrapped in jackets coats and blankets for an al fresco pizza-fuelled cinematic experience.

And they left the place as they found it.

“Everyone took everything away. There was no rubbish left behind. I went back the next morning to double check and there was nothing except for a pair of gloves that had obviously fallen out of somebody’s pocket,” says Daniel.

It was just another idea with the community group hopes to convince Galway County Council – which owns the protected structure on the corner of Barrack Street and Church Street – to set aside their Part 8 planning application to redevelop the structure as start-up offices and a Heritage Museum.

The community has already shown a united front in opposition to the council’s plans.

LARC members at the Loughrea Town Hall (from left), Ciara Coy, Daniel Cronin, Tony Callanan, Fergal Anderson and Mary Paula Healy.

LARC members at the Loughrea Town Hall (from left),
Ciara Coy, Daniel Cronin, Tony Callanan, Fergal Anderson and Mary Paula Healy.

And they have been beavering away compiling a feasibility study – using findings from community surveys, discussion groups, drawing information from various arts centres and similar projects.

“Loughrea doesn’t have any public infrastructure for creative arts or culture and we think that’s something that’s necessary – the town wants it.

“There’s need for a creative outlet for the people that live here, and for access to cultural events – that’s part of a growing as a community, that’s part of a living society, that’s part of what makes somewhere a good place to live.

“We want Loughrea to be a good place to live,” said LARC’ Fergal Anderson.

Following Culture Night, LARC held a meeting to discuss events and assess when they are in terms of plans, finance and scheduling.

Going forward LARC focus their attention on their upcoming fundraiser event, the Big Gig, which is to be held on Saturday, November 7, in the Lough Rea Hotel.

The fundraiser will host ten or twelve local groups, including drama groups and performers, poets, traditional dancers, singers and songwriters.  The Big Gig is designed “to showcase all that can be done under one roof” serving as preview to the potential possible uses for their proposed Loughrea Town Hall conversion, says Fergal.

The local community group are calling on local artists to submit pieces for exhibition at the Big Gig, where the gallery will serve as a platform to show that the creative arts are very much alive in Loughrea.

Local architect Maria Donoghue has been of invaluable service to the Loughrea community group.

The Loughrea native now lives in Limerick but remains very much connected to her hometown and felt compelled to help LARC in their plight to save a precious local heritage site. Daniel describes her as ‘very enthusiastic about the project’ and relays her anecdotal tales of Town Hall dances she attended as a young girl. Locals have been denied access to the building since the late 1980s.

Maria is working free of charge and has just completed first draft drawings based on results from a survey, carried out amongst the community.

The first draft provides a general outlook, a suggested framework as to what Loughrea Town Hall could potentially become. They say it is now “ready for scribbling and re-drafting”.

Blueprints will be showcased for the local community to see at the Big Gig. An information desk will be made available to provide answers to questions and queries.  A large function room on the ground floor level of Lough Rea Hotel will play venue to the event – large enough, they hope for the entire local community to rally together.

Tickets for the Big Gig will be available for purchase from ‘Bia Linn’ café on Main Street, Loughrea, priced at €10 or they may be purchased at the door on the night of the event for €12.50.

For further information visit LARC website or contact them via their Facebook.

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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