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Steam train initiative a boost for tourism



There was a welcome increase in tourism last weekend as the passengers of the Emerald Isle Explorer steam train arrived at Ceannt Station, bringing with it plenty of business for Galway’s tourism sector.

The Emerald Isle Explorer is run by Surrey-based rail-tour operator Steam Dreams, who arranged a seven-day tour around Ireland – the first trip of its kind in the modern age.

The train arrived with a group of 277 passengers who were each personally greeted by the Mayor of Galway, Cllr Frank Fahy, who was delighted to welcome the first steam train to arrive at Galway’s station in half a century.

“I met them at the station and I just greeted them all and welcomed them to Galway. They’re going around Ireland on the steam train and staying in different locations and different hotels – the Meyrick, the g, Ashford Castle – all the hotels around the city. And they stayed here for two days and then moved on to Killarney,” said Cllr Fahy.

Run in association with the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland, the Emerald Isle Explorer is the biggest steam train to tour Ireland since June 1964. Locomotives and coaches owned by the RPSI were used throughout the tour.

“It was beautiful. It was lovely when it came up the track. I’ve seen steam trains in the Isle of Man 20 years ago, but I’ve never seen one in this country and I thought it was fantastic for tourism,” said Cllr Fahy who went on to say many of the passengers had travelled from America, Canada, the UK, Germany, Sweden and many other places to take part in the tour.

Several optional activities were available for passengers when they arrived in Galway, where they stayed for two days. Many took tours of Connemara, the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands, and enjoyed a real taste of Galway’s culture in the City Centre.

“It was a smaller scale of a cruise liner coming in,” said Cllr Fahy.

The crew of the Emerald Isle Explorer steam train on arrival at Galway Railway Station. (PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY)

The crew of the Emerald Isle Explorer steam train on arrival at Galway Railway Station. (PHOTO: JOE O’SHAUGHNESSY)

The tour kicked off on Thursday, June 18 with an optional day trip to Belfast to visit The Titanic Exhibition. Those who did not go to Belfast had the option to visit the Guinness Storehouse.

On Friday, June 19, it started its journey to Galway, with the RPSI’s Southern Coaching stock formed of preserved Craven Coaches, stopping for a break in Athlone. Passengers enjoyed much of what Galway has to offer before hopping back on the Explorer on Sunday to start their journey towards Kilarney via Limerick.

The remainder of the tour included a day of leisure in Killarney on Monday, a trip to Waterford on Tuesday and, finally, the last leg of the journey from Waterford to Dublin via Kilkenny on Wednesday.

Prices for the Steam Dreams tour ranged from £1,695 per person for a non-dining option and three-star hotels, up to £2,250 for Premier Dining Class and four-star hotels. For £2,950 passengers could experience the lap of luxury with the Pullman Cost, which provided accommodation in five-star hotels.

The Emerald Isle Explorer was a dry run for Ireland’s own version of the Orient Express which will traverse the country in the summer of 2016.

The ‘Belmont Grand Hibernian’ was launched after Belmond Ltd acquired ten carriages from Irish Rail with plans to transform them into a luxury sleeper train.

The ‘Orient Express’-style train will be the first luxury overnight rail experience of its kind in Ireland, with all-inclusive prices starting from €3,200 per person.

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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