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Aran to Galway air service still up in the air

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Inis Mór Airport….negotiations ongoing.

Aer Arann is expected to continue to operate flights between the mainland and the Aran Islands for another year at least.

The contract extension with the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, will bring some certainty to the air service situation for islanders.

The existing contract was due to end at midnight on Wednesday of this week but negotiations between the company and the department will provide continuity of service until a new tender process is undertaken.

Negotiations over the extension of the contract began on Monday and continued right up to the deadline yesterday.

The department has refused to say when the new tender process will commence.

Gaeltacht Minister Joe McHugh, in a terse statement issued last Friday, announced he had cancelled the Public Service Obligation tender process for the award of an air service contract to the three islands.

“It is intended to advise the European Commission of the position as soon as possible and to commence a fresh tender process for the air service,” he said.

The department did not responded to Connacht Tribune queries in relation to the statement and has declined to elaborate on the re-tendering process.

In a statement it simply reiterated that the department “has entered discussions with the existing service provider for the provision of an interim service with a view to enabling the re-tender to take place, while ensuring that there is no disruption in service.”

It would not be drawn on when the re-tender process would commence or finish.

Islanders were due to meet with the minister this week to discuss the issue but that, too, appears to have been postponed.

Paddy Crowe, Inis Óirr Co-Op, and member of SOS (Save Our Air Service), welcomed the decision to cancel the tender, after what he described as a “long and vigorous campaign on behalf of the three Aran Islands”.

He said SOS was now “demanding a central role in the new process” to put the service out to tender. Mr Crowe, on behalf of the SOS committee, also lashed the department for its islands’ policies.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Confusion reigns – but publicans continue serving pints outdoors

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Galway City publicans continued this week to serve alcohol in newly created on-street outdoor dining sections – despite warnings from Gardaí that it was against licensing laws.

The local branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) said it is hoping Government will, if necessary, introduce legislation that facilitates pubs serving alcohol in public spaces reclaimed for outdoor hospitality.

On Friday last, our sister newspaper, Galway City Tribune revealed that Gardaí had visited a number of city pubs warning they were not legally permitted to serve alcohol outdoors in temporary on-street seating areas created by Galway City Council.

Publicans were told that if they continued to flout the rules, files would be sent to the DPP.

When the crux subsequently hit the national headlines, Justice Minister Heather Humphreys urged Gardaí to ‘use their discretion’.

“The overwhelming majority of licensed premises are operating safely, and we in Government are determined to continue to support them. If local issues arise, I would urge local authorities, Gardaí and businesses to engage.

“However, I will also examine whether further measures are required from Government. Licensing law is a complex area but I have spoken to the Attorney General this morning and we will take further action if necessary,” Minister Humphreys said.

Read 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

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Connacht Tribune

Apple plans second bite at Athenry data centre

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An artist's impression of the proposed Apple Data Centre.

Apple intends to have another bite at plans to build a data centre in Athenry.  Apple Operations Europe has applied to Galway County Council for more time to construct a controversial data centre on a greenfield site at Derrydonnell.

The company said it will identify “interested parties to develop the project” between now and 2026 to meet global growth in demand for data storage facilities.

It will spark hope in the County Galway town of a revival of the €850 million project that was dogged for years by planning delays and court appeals and was subsequently shelved. It may also attract fresh objections.

The world’s largest technology company was granted planning permission to build a €850 million data centre near Athenry in 2015.

An appeal to An Bórd Pleanála by a handful of local residents was not successful, and the planning appeals board confirmed the local authority’s decision in 2016.

But the company ultimately aborted its plans for County Galway in 2018 after three objectors sought a review of the decision through the courts.

Read 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

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Connacht Tribune

Mum’s dream holiday turns to nightmare after cancer diagnosis

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Julia McAndrew, in hospital in Mexico.

A mother who went to Mexico on a dream holiday to spend Christmas with family is too weak to return home after being diagnosed with advanced cancer.

From the minute Julia McAndrew landed in the South American country, her health took a major downward spiral.

Her son and daughter were shocked when she asked for a wheelchair to make it through the airport.

She and daughter Eliska had flown out to see her son Patrick, who had relocated to Mexico to run an online learning business.

They initially thought she had fallen ill due to the rigours of a 22-hour, multi-stop flight.

But when her stomach problems did not improve and she began to lose a lot of weight and suffered from very low energy, they sought medical help.

This had to be done privately and without the financial help of an insurance company, Patrick reveals.

She was initially diagnosed with anaemia and kidney failure and underwent various treatments, including blood transfusions that appeared to be working.

But three weeks ago, medics discovered that what she had was Stage 4 breast cancer. Julia had cancer a decade ago but was given the all-clear after receiving treatment and a major change in lifestyle.

“It’s returned with a vengeance this time around. It’s spread to her pelvis, ribs and lungs,” reflects Patrick.

The cost of the treatment is $40,000 (€33,000) a month. Her family are hoping to build up her strength enough to endure the long flight home to Oranmore.

They have launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise €280,000 to pay for her treatment and in less than a week a phenomenal €36,000 has been donated.

Read 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

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