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US universities use Connemara for tourism programmes

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Four American universities are now using a Connemara setting for an educational based tourism exchange programme and one of them completes its 41st year next Tuesday.

For the past four months 20 American students and two college professors have studied, worked and enjoyed life in Tullycross and its environs.

The students, aged from 19 to 22, are from the Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan and this summer sees students from two more colleges, Maine Maritime College and Kirkwood in Iowa coming for a similar programme. And in September of next year, a fourth college, Lourdes, also in Michigan, will come to take part in a four month stint.

Organised by Connemara West Plc, which is the longest and most successful local development company in Ireland with over 30 years experience, it is dedicated to improving the economic, social and cultural quality of life of the local community of Letterfrack, Tullycross and the Renvyle peninsula.

Dr Kevin Heanue of Teagasc and chairman of Connemara West Plc explains that tourism has always been an important part of the Connemara economy.

The student exchange started before the formal establishment of Connemara West when in 1973, thanks to the connection between Letterfrack Furniture College and Grand Rapids, which was then the biggest furniture producer in the world. As efforts were made to get the local college recognised by the GMIT, a student exchange between it and Aquinas College came about.

The students initially stayed with host families but then stayed in the newly built Tullycross Cottages and each student was ‘adopted’ by a host family who had them to dinner once a week.

The demand for the programme increased and its success sees requests from other US colleges to take part in similar programmes.

Dr Heanue explained that the students study Irish literature, history and culture but also intern in a number of local employers like Connemara West PLC, the Connemara Local Radio, GMIT and Letterfrack Furniture College, Connemara National Park, Connemara Forum Development organisation and the local VEC.

“There are formal classes and they intern about one day a week and this is their forum to develop good relations with the local community and they also get credits in their colleges for taking part in this overseas study programme as well las their intern work,” he said.

Of course some of them have interacted better than others over the years and there have been about six or seven marriages out of this exchange programme!

“Majority of the US students who come on this programme are women and some of them did fall in love and indeed have settled down in the locality but a few have also returned to their US homes with a Connemara spouse!” he explained.

The Tullycross Holiday Homes are now occupied a good part of the year with these American students but in the height of the summer season they are available to holidaymakers.

Such is the success of this particular study programme that they held their own Gathering event at County Hall in Galway City last October, when some of the students returned for a visit.

Dr Heanue said that Connemara West would continue to pursue education based tourism strategies to complement its traditional tourism.

“In this way, the economic base of the region is being strengthened, the social and cultural life of residents improved, and the objectives of Connemara West Plc are being achieved,” he added.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest

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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 www.connachttribune.ie. 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

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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 www.connachttribune.ie. 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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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises

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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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