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Connacht Tribune

Athenry fears on Apple delay

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An overwhelming majority of Athenry residents are desperately hoping that Apple’s plans to build a second data centre in Denmark will not put the kybosh on the €850 million one in their town if they win a court challenge at the end of the month.

Word that Apple were fed up with constant delays in the planning process here and would pull out of the project altogether were fuelled by their decision to build another €808 million plant in Denmark. The first one that was built and is due to become operational by the end of this year was announced the same day in February 2015 as Athenry.

Yet the Athenry plant has yet to turn a sod 29 months on. The data centre on a 500-acre site in Coillte woods at Derrydonnell promised to create 300 jobs over multiple phases of construction with 150 technical staff to run it on an ongoing basis.

A spokeswoman for Apple told the Connacht Tribune the company were making no comment on the Athenry project.

Local politician Ciarán Cannon, who is also Junior Minister in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with special responsibility for the Diaspora and International Development, said he had spent the last 48 hours consulting with the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) over the issue.

“I don’t think it affects us. My understanding – and it is the IDA’s understanding – that plans are in still in place subject to the decision on the judicial review on July 27.

“And I’m convinced that An Bord Pleanála did their job correctly and that is all the judicial review is assessing – it’s not a rerun of the planning hearing. It’s whether proper procedure was followed.”

He reiterated his belief that this project would have no down sides.

“Denmark currently has 42% of their energy from renewables and they hope to go to 50% by 2020. In Ireland, it’s a fraction of that. Apple have committed over €1m in Ireland to developing renewables, they have a callout at the moment asking for partners.”

He also pointed to Greenpeace’s latest Clicking Green report which praised the company for its continuing leadership in developing data centres powered by 100 percent renewable energy.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Just the spirit

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Gareth and Michelle McAllister pictured at the old mill in Ahascragh where the new whiskey and gin distillery will be estabished. Photos: Gerry Stronge.

A former grain mill in the village of Ahascragh is being converted into a distillery thanks to Gareth and Michelle McAllister who have big plans to meet growing demand for craft Irish whiskey and gin in the Far East as well as closer to home. They are also developing a visitor centre in the distillery and are currently offering people a chance to invest in their company as DECLAN TIERNEY learns.

A product that will be developed in the East Galway village of Ahascragh will find its way Asia and various other parts of the world following a courageous initiative by a couple who aim to become huge names in the distillery industry.

Given their thirst for the distilling of craft whiskey and gin, Dublin couple Gareth and Michelle McAllister are set to put the tiny village on the international map by transforming an old corn mill into a major employer as well as a tourist attraction as part of a €10 million investment.

Works have already started on giving the old mill, previously an ivy-clad eyesore in the village, a brand-new look and the couple hope to go into full production by the end of next year – ready for the 2022 Christmas market.

Employment has already commenced in the marketing and administration end of the distillery and when it’s in full production, Gareth and Michelle will create around 40 new jobs in the village.

They will be producing two whiskey products and one gin when they’re at full capacity but already they are bottling a single malt under their own product name. This is currently on the market . . . and is proving particularly popular, despite limited availability at the moment.

The distillery is a labour of love for Gareth, a chemical engineer by profession, and Michelle who worked as a psychologist but is now operating the café in Ahascragh that they opened earlier this year to coincide with the launch of the distillery.

Both worked in China for seven years in different roles and while there, they discovered that there was a big demand for Irish-made spirits. They are now determined to explore this particular niche in the market as well as developing outlets across Europe and in the market here at home.

“This has been foremost in our plans and aspirations for some considerable time,” explained Gareth. “Since our time in Asia and Singapore we discovered that Irish spirits were a much sought-after product. As part of my training as a chemical engineer, distilling formed part of this.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Fascinating final in store but St Thomas’ hold most of the aces

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Salthill/Knocknacarra's Niall McGauran on the attack against Luke Murray of Dunmore MacHales during Saturday's County U19 football A final at Tuam Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

ST Thomas’ will be attempting to achieve what has proven beyond three great Galway club hurling teams over the past 30 years when targeting a four-in-a-row of senior titles at Pearse Stadium on Sunday. During their respective periods of dominance Sarsfields, Athenry and Portumna were nearly untouchable on their best days, but winning four consecutive county senior hurling championships proved a bridge too far for each of these former powers.

Athenry went the closest of them all. Heading to Duggan Park in October 2001 – the last senior final to be played in Ballinasloe – Pat Nally’s troops stood 60 minutes away from claiming a fourth title on the trot. The red-hot favourites came mightily close too, only losing by a point (0-18 to 2-11) to a Clarinbridge outfit winning their first ever title.

Portumna pulled off the title hat-trick in 2009, but didn’t make it back to the following year’s final, and while Sarsfields – under Michael Conneely – triumphed in 1992, ’93 and ’95, they came unstuck in the 1994 decider when falling to Athenry (2-6 to 0-9). These three clubs were outstanding ambassadors for Galway club hurling, but there was no four-in-a row for any of them.

It underlines how difficult the achievement is and we must go back to the Turloughmore team of the sixties for a club to enjoy such an extended stranglehold on the county championship. They ended up winning six titles on the trot, but have only won the one since – in 1985 when overcoming Killimordaly (1-14 to 1-4) at Pearse Stadium.

Given that St Thomas’ are only one hour away from a fourth consecutive title, it’s curious that they are not yet held in the same awe as Sarsfields, Athenry or Portumna when they were at the peak of their powers. Perhaps, their lone All-Ireland club success up to now may have some influence in this regard.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Students see red over in-person exams

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NUIG.

NUI Galway has moved this week to deny accusations that it is ‘playing Russian Roulette’ with students’ wellbeing by proceeding with in-person exams.

The Students’ Union blasted the university for its decision to forge ahead with examinations in exam halls amid sky-rocketing Covid-19 cases.

President of the SU, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, slammed college authorities for what she described as a ‘reckless attitude to students’ health and wellbeing’.

“The stubborn refusal by university management is playing Russian Roulette with the health of students and their families.

“We are talking about forcing people to attend multiple spreader-events right before they go home to their families for Christmas. This is reckless and irresponsible from university management, particularly when there is a tried and trusted alternative available,” said the student leader.

In-person exams for the vast majority of students were cancelled last year as the university remained closed throughout the most stringent Covid-19 restrictions.

However, students have been back attending lectures since September and NUIG plans to proceed with normal exams for the first time since Summer 2019 – albeit with a number of risk mitigating measures in place.

The Connacht Tribune has learned that following applications by in excess of 500 students for ‘reasonable accommodation’ – where certified conditions that increase the risk of adverse reaction to Covid infection – there will be 1,600 instances where exams will be sat in individual rooms.

It is understood that there are 16 exam venues this year – a much greater number than in previous years – and that additional cleaning measures including ‘air fogging’ will be carried out to sanitise large venues.

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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