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Sarah is Ireland’s oldest citizen at age of 108



Ireland’s oldest citizen likes nothing more than a cup of tea, a chat in her native Irish and her cat Snowy beside her. Seán Ó Mainín met her at her family home in Sruthán, Carraroe and talked to her family.

“What age are you Sarah?”

The rebuff to an impertinent question is rapier-quick and razor-sharp – “200.”

For years that was Sarah Clancy’s stock answer. It could change. A bank clerk was fixed a stare by the then 90-year-old woman who replied to her question saying solemnly she was 21.

Sarah never celebrated her birthdays. But that couldn’t stop the build-up of curiosity and speculation in the neighbourhood. People couldn’t remember the world without Sarah. But who knew her age?

The State did. A letter from Áras an Uachtaráin dropped through her letterbox. Congratulations from the President and a cheque for €2,500 and a commemorative medal. Sarah was 100.

Nine times now a letter from the Aras has dropped through Sarah’s letterbox. Sarah is the oldest citizen in Ireland.

Sarah Treasa Clancy was born May 2, 1908 in Sruthán, An Cheathrú Rua, in a small house along rocky shores looking across the bay to Ros a’ Mhíl harbour.

At the same time, ten miles back the road in Ros Muc, Pádraig Pearse was scouting for a site for his cottage. It was built in 1909. The Titanic was only a gleam in owner Bruce Ismay’s eye. After it went down in 1912 the pilloried Ismay sought refuge in faraway Casla Lodge and thus became five-year-old Sarah’s neighbour.

She shares her birthday with another Connemara legend, Colm de Bhailís, who lived to 110 years. He died in 1906. But for the two year gap between their lives Sarah and Colm would have provided a living human age chain back to 1796.

A customary wish in Connemara birthdays is to say “Go maire tú aois Choilm” (may you live to Colm’s age). It might need to be amended for Sarah.

Style and glamour: Sarah in her younger days.

Style and glamour: Sarah in her younger days.

Today Sarah sits and has lie-ins at her home, with her nephew Petie Mac Donagh and wife Patricia caring for her. She only gave up walking in February of this year. She has a thick mop of hazel-coloured hair. She has a broad smile, a glint of mischief in her eye and welcomes any visitor in her native Irish language.

A century ago a young Sarah helped her mother, Mary, around the home. She had eight brothers and sisters and two grandparents, Peter and Maggie. Peter was born in 1822. She remembers helping her father Tom, draw seaweed to fertilise their land, and carrying buckets of sand to help build their new home across the road.  She also accompanied him to the bog.

They were close although she remembers him as being “ardnósach” (snobby) as he could speak English and Irish in a community that only spoke Gaelic. Apart from farming Tom had a horse and cart and made deliveries. He also bought periwinkles from locals which he sold on in Galway.

Sarah attended school in An Cheathrú Rua where English only was the language of the class. She had sprouted up and was self-conscious and uncomfortable about being taller than other pupils. She was five when Roger Casement visited her school.

Her schooling over, she worked as a “cailín aimsire” or housemaid in the local Cladhnach Lodge. Her brother Patrick was an active Republican and she remembers people coming to the house searching for him.

When Patrick was unavailable the local priest gave a message to young Sarah who put it inside her shoe and delivered it to the priest in the nearby parish of Na Mine. The latter priest was scathing of his colleague for using a young girl as a courier.

She remembers their shed being used as a detention centre for prisoners – Free Staters and suspected informers – during Aimsear na bPúicíní (the Blindfold Period). Prisoners were blindfolded so as not to identify their whereabouts. Patrick emigrated to the United States but died young at 35 from tuberculosis.

Growing up Sarah didn’t think much of marriage as an institution. It was the time when ‘cleamhnas’ or matches were made by the man simply by visiting the home of the potential bride with a bottle of whiskey.

“Níl said ag iarraidh bean ach asal” (“it’s not a woman they want but a donkey”).

She never did marry. At 30 she and her sister Anne did what almost all her family had done, emigrate to America. They lived with her sister Mary in Dorchester, Boston, but would move out with each job.

Sarah worked as a maid and cook, often in the upper class reaches of Brookline. She was shocked to find herself gaining weight in the US and cracked down on her diet and bad eating habits. She was equally meticulous about clothes and neatness which served her well in her work.

She liked shopping and she and her sister Anne took holidays to Maine each year together. Irish was always their first language which is why she retains the “Sruthán blas” to this day.

She kept in regular contact with Sruthán and secreted dollar bills in her letters. She returned to visit after five years and regularly from then on. Petie, her nephew, remembers seeing a radio for the first time ever in her hands.

She returned to Ireland in 1988 after Anne died.  She kept house and babysat a new generation of grandchildren.  She loved the children and would answer their letters to Santa.  She only gave up babysitting at 95.

She still stays at home but often goes into respite care at the local Aras Mhic Dara nursing home. The then 107-year-old’s private comment about her fellow residents was uncompromising. “They’re very old-looking.” Until this year she had refused all wheelchairs.

Today her pleasures are simple: a cup of tea (sometimes the call for such can come at five in the morning) conversation and her big white family cat, “Snowy” stretching himself out on her bed.

“Go nGnothaí Dia dhuit” (God Bless) is the farewell with a smile.

Go maire tú an dá chéad, a Sarah. May you live indeed to 200.

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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