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Ballinasloe’s Fairy Doors provide lifeline for hospital in Peru

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A Ballinasloe businessman has opened up a world of fundraising for a remote hospital in Peru – with his handmade Fairy Doors!

Cathal Cregg began making the Fairy Doors for family and friends – but he quickly grew his idea into a major fundraiser for the Mama Ashu hospital in the Peruvian Andes.

The hospital is in the remote town of Chacas, which is situated at 3,359 meters above sea level, three times the height of Carrantuohill.

And the imaginative concept grew to a whole new level earlier this month when former Cork senior hurling star Sean Og O hAilpin came to Ballinasloe to officially open the door to Fairy World at Cuckoo Hill boot camp.

It marked the latest stage in an endeavour that had its roots in another charitable undertaking – when Cathal volunteered with the Irish Pilgrimage trust in Lourdes, an organization that helps young people with special needs travel to Lourdes every Easter.

While there he met Dr Jackie Pando Kelly of UCC, who is of Peruvian descent herself and who had begun volunteering at Mama Ashu hospital as a medical student.

The area is extremely disadvantaged with little medical services available to the locals; the doctors and nurses, who are mostly Italian and Peruvian, are there on a completely voluntary basis.

And without their help, 8,000 people would be denied medical care.

Cathal and Dr Pando Kelly first decided to write a book of poetry together called ‘Hello in There’, which captures the beauty of Chacas, but also the hardship. The book has helped raise thousands for the hospital to date.  And when the duo reached out to hurling legend Sean Og about a possible Fairy Door fundraiser, he was on board instantly.

“He said he was in immediately, we didn’t have to ask him twice,” said event organizer Cathal Cregg.

Sean Og officially opened Fairy World in an event that saw up to 400 people in attendance.

Children and adults alike were able to decorate their own fairy doors and put them around the three-acre plot of land provided by the Cuckoo Hill boot camp.

A total of 160 fairy doors were sold on the day and all proceeds were put towards medication and equipment for the Mama Ashu hospital.

Cathal, who is a skilled craftsman, personally makes all the fairy doors by hand, while his family and friends do the decorating.

“We even had doctors and nurses in the hospital painting fairy doors for the fundraiser,” he said.

For those who would like to donate to the Mama Ashu hospital, visit hellointhere.ie

Connacht Tribune

Unauthorised developments in County Galway go unchecked for months

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The Planning Enforcement Section of Galway County Council is so understaffed that complaints of unauthorised developments are not being investigated for months, the Connacht Tribune has learned.

In one case, a complaint alleging a house was under construction in a picturesque and environmentally sensitive part of Conamara without planning permission was not investigated by the Council for at least six months.

And it can be revealed that there is a ‘large’ backlog of complaints of unauthorised developments in the county, which the Planning Enforcement Section at County Hall has blamed on staff shortages, according to correspondence obtained by the Connacht Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI).

In response to repeated requests by a concerned member of the public to intervene and investigate an allegation of unauthorised development in an environmentally protected area of Conamara, the Council’s Planning Department indicated it was too stretched.

“Unfortunately, the planning enforcement section is experiencing a period of prolonged staff shortages and consequently there are a large number of files awaiting investigation/review,” it said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Access Centre provides pathways to University of Galway for the disadvantaged

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Photo of Imelda Byrne

Great leaps have been made in recent years to make access to tertiary level education a realistic prospect for once marginalised groups in society.

With the deadline for CAO applications approaching next week, the Access Centre at the University of Galway is aiming to reach as many underrepresented groups as possible ahead of next academic term.

Head of the Access Centre, Imelda Byrne (pictured), said research has shown that those who once felt third level ‘wasn’t for them’ are increasing their presence at UG, and bringing a richness to the sector that had for a long time been missing.

In the five years up to 2021, there was a 100% increase in the number of students registering for the Disability Support Service at the university, while those coming from Further Education and Training courses in institutes like GTI had surged by 211% over four years.

“The message that we really need to get out there is that the CAO is not the only route into third level. There are a number of pathways,” says Imelda.

“There are loads of places set aside for students coming from a place of disadvantage,” she continues, whether it’s national schemes such as the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for socio-economic disadvantage; or the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE); or the university’s own programme for mature students.

Those places are there to ensure those from all backgrounds get an opportunity to reach their education potential, tapping into hugely talented groups that once may have missed that opportunity.

“What we have seen is that when they get that opportunity, they do just as well if not better than other students,” continues Imelda.

For HEAR and DARE scheme applicants, and for those hoping to begin higher education as a mature student, next Wednesday’s CAO deadline is critically important.

But beyond the CAO applications, the Access Programme will open up in March to guide prospective students, whatever challenges they are facing, into third level.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway County Council ‘missing out on millions’ in derelict sites levies

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Photo of Cloonabinnia House

Galway County Council is missing out on millions of euro in untapped revenue due to a failure to compile a complete Derelict Sites Register.

That’s according to Galway East Sinn Féin representative, Louis O’Hara, who this week blasted the news that just three properties across the whole county are currently listed on the register.

As a result, Mr O’Hara said the Derelict Sites Levy was not being utilised effectively as countless crumbling properties remained unregistered – the levy amounts to 7% of the market value of the derelict property annually.

The former general election candidate said Galway County Council was ill-equipped to compile a proper list of derelict sites and called on Government to provide the necessary resources to tackle the scourge of dereliction across.

“There are still only three properties listed on Galway County Council’s Derelict Sites Register . . . anyone in Galway knows that this does not reflect the reality on the ground and more must be done to identify properties, and penalise owners who fail to maintain them,” said Mr O’Hara.

The situation was compounded by the fact that the Council failed to collect any of the levies due to them in 2021.

“This is deeply concerning when we know that dereliction is a blight on our communities. Derelict sites attract rats, anti-social behaviour and dumping, and are an eyesore in many of our local towns and villages.”

“The Derelict Sites Levy should be used as a tool by local authorities to raise revenue that can then be utilised to tackle dereliction, but they are not adequately resourced to identify and pursue these property owners,” said Mr O’Hara.

(Photo: The former Cloonabinnia House Hotel is on the Derelict Sites Register).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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