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Connacht Tribune

Abandoned village in the frame

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Artist Padraic Reaney with Tom Kenny of the Kenny Art Gallery.

Lifestyle – Ruined houses on a north Connemara island that was depopulated 58 years ago this  month, have been captured in a new exhibition, Inis Airc – the Inishark Project.  The work was captured over a 17-year period, artist Pádraic Reaney tells Judy Murphy.

A cluster of ruined houses on the south-eastern corner of the deserted Connemara island of Inishark have inspired the latest show from artist Pádraic Reaney.

Inis Airc, the Inishark Project, is an exhibition of paintings and graphics by the Carraroe artist, which opens at the Kenny Gallery in Galway City this Friday, October 12. It’s the culmination of an initiative which began in 2002, when Pádraic visited the abandoned island for the first time. He was with a Parks and Wildlife team from the Office of Public Works who were doing a bird survey of islands in the area.

That was in April 2002, when “I did some quick sketches on a notebook”, he recalls.

Inishark, which was once home to 300 people, was depopulated in October 1960 under a State initiative, when the last remaining six families – consisting of 23 people aged from 11 months to 73 years – were relocated to Claddaghduff on the nearby mainland.

In the years preceding their final exodus, the dwindling population of Inishark had endured much hardship, mostly because the island was inaccessible in any kind of inclement weather.  In 1958, a local man died of appendicitis because there was no phone or no way of informing the outside world about his plight. Drownings, too, had taken their toll and eventually, the few remaining islanders opted to leave. For the Government, it was easier and cheaper to relocate them in Claddaghduff, between Clifden and Cleggan, than to build a new pier that would have allowed them to remain on Inishark.

More than 40 years later, Pádraic made his first visit to the 615-acre island and was hooked. Over the course of 15 years, he returned when opportunity – and the tides – allowed. Landing on Inishark was always difficult and has become even harder as its old slipway has fallen into disrepair. But, when circumstances are right, the island is still accessible and the land – good land, he points out – is used to graze sheep, owned by farmers from the neighbouring island of Inishbofin.

These animals wander freely around the island, including among the islanders’ former homes, where Pádraic set about creating an artistic “record of what has been left”.

He has form in this regard, and, was awarded the Pádraic Mac Con Midhe Prize at the 1979 Oireachtas for a series of etchings which recorded the rapidly disappearing thatched houses in Ros an Mhíl.

Early on in the Inishark Project, Pádraic decided to focus on the exteriors of the houses, because “nothing that was on the inside interested me as much as the houses in the landscape did”, he says. “The only interesting features on the inside were the fireplaces and they were similar in all the houses.”

Islands, as well as ruins, have long intrigued him.

“I’ve been pulled to islands since I did work in Malta in the late 1980s,” he says, referring to a group of local artists including Jay Murphy, Brian Bourke, John Behan and Vicky Crowley, who visited Malta as part of the group Island Connection.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Eyrecourt tune makes it to Hollywood in Jig time

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A tune composed to celebrate the twinning of Eyrecourt in south-east Galway with Gouesnach in France is to feature in a new film.

Written by Niall Crehan, ‘The Eyrecourt Jig’ made quite a splash when it was released in 2013 and is still popular in music sessions up and down the country.

Niall had been commissioned to write the tune for the 20th anniversary of the twinning of the two villages, Eyrecourt and Gouesnach.

So, when he had a small part as a fiddler in a TV film called Royal Rendevouz, he started playing the jig.

The producers were so impressed, they added it to the movie soundtrack and it will appear in the credits.

Niall is a member of a celebrated traditional Irish musical dynasty hailing originally from County Clare.

He is the youngest son of whistle and concertina player Vincent Crehan and nephew of renowned fiddler Junior Crehan.

Niall and his brother Kieran ran the Dublin shop Crehan Musical instruments until his early retirement.

Now living in Kildare, Niall is a cousin of publican Mick Crehan, who runs the renowned folk pub in the west end of Galway, The Crane.

Niall and the large army of musicians in the extended family are regular guests.

His brother Dermot got music playing parts on films such as the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and he managed to get Niall onto the likes of Downton Abbey.

This latest TV project is the latest foray into the world of film, explains his son Brian.

The story centres on an American chef who is invited to an Irish manor to cook a feast in order to convince the matriarch not to sell the home.

It premieres on Sunday, February 26 at 9pm on the E! Network starring Isabella Gomez, Ruairi O’Connor and Ronan Raftery.

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Connacht Tribune

‘No show’ TDs criticised at County Galway policing committee meeting

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A county councillor has launched a stinging criticism of Oireachtas members for their repeated failure to attend County Galway Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meetings.

At a meeting of the JPC on Monday, Cllr Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher (photographed) said he believed it was time the three TDs on the committee decided if they wanted to remain, or give their place up to someone who would make use of it.

“I am asking the Council to write out to our Oireachtas members and ask them do they want to be on this JPC or not, and if not, let someone else be on it,” blasted the Fine Gael councillor.

This followed repeated non-appearances from TDs representing the Oireachtas on the committee – the three representatives are Deputy Noel Grealish (Ind), Deputy Anne Rabbitte (FF) and Deputy Catherine Connolly (Ind).

Cllr Maher said the JPC, which sits around five times per year, was deliberately held on a Mondays to facilitate Oireachtas members who were in the Dáil later in the week. He said there were issues being raised regularly that required raising at a national level and it was incumbent on national representatives to bring those matters back to Dublin.

One such issue was the use of CCTV in the pursuit of illegal dumpers and travelling crime gangs, said Cllr Maher who is Cathaoirleach of the County Council.

“I would like our members of the Oireachtas to be taking the message back on CCTV,” he added, as representatives locally were getting no further as a result of data protection laws.

None of the three Oireachtas members were present for this week’s meeting. Chair of the JPC, Cllr Jim Cuddy, confirmed he had received an apology from Deputy Catherine Connolly.

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Connacht Tribune

New Chief Executive for Galway County Council

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The new Chief Executive of Galway County Council is set to be unveiled in the coming weeks.

Liam Conneally, who is Director of Services for Economic Development at Clare County Council, is understood to be the preferred candidate following an interview process and has been offered the post.

His appointment will have to be ratified by councillors at an upcoming meeting of Galway County Council.

He will replace Jim Cullen, who was Acting CE for a number of years.

The last permanent CE of the local authority was also a Clare native, Martina Moloney who retired in 2014.

Since then, Kevin Kelly initially and then Jim Cullen have been acting in the roles.

According to his LinkedIn page, Liam Conneally was a senior planner at Limerick City and County Councils for almost three years before taking up the Director of Services role in Clare in 2016.

He was educated at University of Limerick and Queen’s University Belfast.

A native of Ennistymon, he is steeped in the GAA.

“He’s done a very good job in Clare; he’s very dynamic and forward-looking, he will be a good choice for Galway County Council,” said a source familiar with Mr Conneally, and the interview process.

Government completed a review in 2021 about whether it was going to appoint someone permanently into the CE role, which was filled on a temporary/acting basis for almost nine years.

It’s understood that officials in Dublin had delayed filling the role as they wanted to push for an amalgamation of both Councils.

The amalgamation, however, was rejected by local politicians, and has since been put on the back burner.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, is due to retire this year. It’s understood his deputy CE, Patricia Philbin will take the role in an acting capacity until an interview process is completed.

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