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Support is vital when life-altering illness hits



Marie Cahill and Caroline Rushe of the Galway Parkinsons Association. “It was a whole new experience, and we didn’t know what was going to happen – we didn’t know anything,” Marie says of the time when Parkinsons struck in her family. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy

Lifestyle –  Dearbhla Geraghty talks to the people behind Galway Parkinson’s Association which provides assistance to 200 families

The diagnosis of any life-altering disease can be devastating for the most resilient of us, but through the voluntary work of the Galway Parkinson’s Association, the path for patient and family has utterly changed for the better.

It is certainly all-heart that drives the charity’s current chairperson and secretary, Marie Cahill and Caroline Rushe. Both saw a parent suffer with this disease in a time when the public services were insufficient, and knowledge and support were in short supply.

Now, it is not over the top to say that these two women dedicate their lives to improving the lot for others – years after the death of their own loved ones.

“When he was diagnosed, and said ‘I have Parkinson’s’, none of us knew what it was… we hadn’t a clue,” Caroline recalls the early days of her father’s journey with the disease, which began in the early 1990s.

Subsequently, Vincent Rushe, was one of about six men brought together by social worker, Maggie King, to form a support group in the city.

It eventually expanded to become what is now the Galway Parkinson’s Association, but it may have been the arrival of Paddy Browne, a nurse specialist from Monivea, that started the charity on its current path.

“Ann O’Connell was our chairperson in the early 2000s, and was really trying to develop things, she could see the bigger picture, and was very progressive,” Caroline says.

“Paddy came to one of our meetings, and he said that he was going to the UK to get trained as a Parkinson’s Disease nurse. I was in awe of him, and we gave him a couple of hundred Euro towards his training.

“He really gelled the whole Parkinson’s thing – all of a sudden we were something, and people were beginning to recognise us more.”

It was in the charity’s early days that Marie Cahill came looking for help when her mother, Kitty, was diagnosed at just 52 years of age.

“It was a whole new experience, and we didn’t know what was going to happen – we didn’t know anything,” she recalls.

“I wasn’t even in my 30s, and my Mum had very progressive Parkinson’s, she needed 24-hour care, and couldn’t communicate or walk.

“At the first meeting I went to, I was thinking ‘what am I doing?’ but I found support in that I could relay some of what was happening at home and ask questions – they became my other family.”

The charity, which receives no government funding and relies entirely on donations and fundraising to meet its annual costs of around €50,000, could only go so far, however – dealing with the public service would be its biggest challenge yet.

For a start, Paddy Browne was only employed as a specialist nurse on a temporary basis by the HSE.

“We had to make sure he was in full time employment – he was the link between the consultant and patient – so we spoke to Noel Grealish TD, who organised a meeting with Mary Harney (Minister for Health),” says Marie.

“I assumed that I was only going as support, and that Dr Tim Counihan (consultant) would be meeting with the Minister, but I was allowed in and to give my input.


For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.


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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