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Connacht Tribune

An Gaírdín celebrates 25 years a-growing

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Noreen Lyons at the Gaírdín, Portumna.

Lifestyle – An organic and ecology centre set up in Portumna in 1994 by a small group of Mercy nuns, is now a focal point in the community. Rooted in its own area, this garden is also part of a bigger environmental movement. JUDY MURPHY hears how it’s evolving.

When the Mercy order of nuns allowed Noreen Lyons and three other Sisters from the Clonfert Diocese, “to follow our dream” back in 1994, they gave the green light to a project that was way ahead of its time.

The vision involved a small group of nuns – former teachers – opting to live in harmony with the land and the seasons, cherishing the Earth and all its inhabitants. They developed a centre in Portumna on two-and-a half-acres of land belonging to the Mercy order, where people could live and work with nature.

“It was to rediscover our relationship to the land and the earth,” explains Noreen, a woman with a warm nature, a quiet spirituality and the air of someone who gets things done.

Their site had formerly been the garden of Portumna’s Domestic Economy School, an institute the Mercy nuns had set up in the late 1800s, to teach women crafts and agricultural skills that would help them earn their living as farmers’ wives.

The school closed down in the late 1980s after almost a century of providing this service. Its building now houses apartments, while its gardens are home to An Gáirdín Organic and Ecology Centre. It plays a vital role in Portumna, where it’s used by groups from schoolchildren to creative writers, while produce from the organic garden is sold locally.

When Noreen and other members of the fledgling Centre ran their first organic gardening course in 1993, they struggled to find tutors who had any knowledge of organic gardening. She recallst his as she, her fellow Sister Anne Mills, gardener Des and several volunteers give the Connacht Tribune a guided tour of An Gáirdín.

That’s not a problem today, thanks in large part to their work. An Gáirdín has become a hub for educational courses including organic production, bee-keeping, cooking, composting, cosmology and more besides.

For 25 years, it has played a vital role in educating people about making choices that benefit the Earth and all its inhabitants – including human beings. This is done in a hands-on, positive way that encourages and engages people. Children, especially those from the local primary school, love coming here, foraging and enjoying a variety of teas made with herbs from the garden, says Róisín, one of the volunteers who helps out with the comprehensive Schools Education Programme.

Recent warnings from the United Nations about global warming have focused on the urgent need to care for the natural world.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

July spending steady but teenagers still splash out

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Jilly Clarkin...less shopping and more socialising.

Increased spending among teenagers was the only upward curve in July as overall debit and credit card spending fell marginally last month, according to Bank of Ireland.

Their analysis of debit and credit card spending in July recorded a one per cent total monthly fall, as a mixed picture emerged across business sectors.

While other age groups mainly decreased their July spending, teenagers are clearly enjoying their summer holidays with a major spending increase of 17 per cent for the month – a trend which was also reflected in June.

There was a two per cent uptick in social spending throughout July, whilst spending in pubs (+4%), restaurants (+3%) and in fast-food outlets (+1%) all recorded positive figures – having all posted negative spending stats in June.

The improved July weather also saw a spending hike in cinemas of just five per cent, a stark drop from June’s cinema spending rise of 25 per cent.

Overall spending in the retail sector was down three per cent in total, with outlay on clothing (-10%) and groceries (-1%) both dropping, but spending on petrol rose by five per cent as forecourt fuel prices levelled off somewhat nationwide.

Consumers were also evidently not keen to forego their sweet treats in July, with spending in bakeries also rising by five per cent.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

City’s cycling plans must get out of the slow lane

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Days like this...the Galway Community Cycle making its way along Grattan Road.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

From about the age of ten I began cycling to school every day, from Glenard into Sea Road – not alone in and out in the morning and afternoon, but also home and back at lunch-time – because everybody had dinner in the middle of the day in the 1980s.

The concept of separate facilities for cycling back then were as alien as having parking for spaceships. Traffic was much lighter though; only a third, maybe a quarter, of the cars on the road today.

I can remember accidents involving bikes – fatal and serious ones – during my youth. I’d say up to half the pupils in my school cycled every day.

That picture has changed over the years. The Galway Transport Strategy quotes a figure from the 2011 Census which says that five per cent of people cycle to work, school or college.

The city is compact and relatively small. The strategy recommends “high quality facilities for walking and cycling” to encourage more people to walk and cycle to school, to work, to the shops, or for leisure.

So what’s happened in the 30 years since I left Galway?

Traffic volumes have increased and the number of people using bikes for the daily commute has decreased. There are some bicycle lanes in the city but the percentage is very small compared to other Irish cities.

I spent a few hours cycling around Galway last week and wrote a piece on it for The Irish Times. I might have cycled in and out to school when I was a kid but I would not put my eleven-year-old daughter on a bike in Galway. It’s just not safe enough.

I put in a number of queries to Galway City Council last week and they told me there was a total of 20.45 kilometres in the city – that excludes off-road and park cycle tracks such as NUIG.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Tragic killing of Irish hero

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The wedding of Paddy O’Donohue and Violet Gore, in June 1919. Michael Collins was best man and Mary Healy was bridesmaid. Jack Buckley, a relation of the Whelan family in Shanaglish, is on the ground second from left. A relative of his gave a copy of this photo to Fr Patrick Whelan of St Patrick’s Parish in the city. Mary Healy was also related to the Whelans. The photograph is unusual as Collins is looking directly at the camera; something he avoided during the War of Independence.

Lifestyle – An unusual photo of Michael Collins, taken at a wedding during the War of Independence has strong Galway links. He’s looking straight at the camera, something he rarely did at a time when the British had a price on his head. However, it was his own people who killed Collins, 100 years    ago this month, as historian WILLIAM HENRY recalls.

A photo of Michael Collins, found 90 years after he was killed in an ambush at Béal na Bláth during the Irish Civil War, has family links with Galway.

It’s the wedding photograph of Paddy O’Donohue and Violet Gore who were married in June 1919, with the reception held in the Shelbourne Hotel. Collins was the best man and Mary Healy was bridesmaid.

The young man sitting on the ground second from the right is Jack Buckley. He and Mary Healy were cousins of the  Whelan family from Shanaglish, who have had  pub in south Galway for generations. Well-known city chemist Michael Whelan and PP of St Patrick’s Church in Galway City, Fr Pat Whelan, are members of that family and Fr Whelan was given a copy of the photo by a descendent of Jack Buckley.

The original photo was discovered by writer and broadcaster Dave Kenny in the attic of his Dublin home; it had been gifted to his grandparents by the newly-married couple, who were friends and fellow nationalists.

Violet Gore, a singer, had helped raise funds for the Irish cause through concerts in Ireland and England while Paddy O’Donohue, had been a leading IRA activist in Manchester and was a key figure in Collins’ network. The photograph is unusual because Collins is looking directly at the camera. That’s something  he avoided doing during the War of Independence, as he was a marked man with a bounty on his head.

According to Fr Whelan, the photograph was hung on a wall in the family home after the wedding and although house was raided, the Black and Tans didn’t realise that Ireland’s most wanted man was watching them.

Just a couple of years later, on August 22, 1922, during the Irish Civil War, Michael Collins was killed by his own countrymen in an ambush at Béal na Bláth, County Cork, the county in which he had been born on October 16,1890. He was 31 years old when he died.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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