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Connacht Tribune

Booster clinic extends opening to tackle queue



Longer hours...the vaccination centre at Ballybrit.

By Dara Bradley

Opening hours for this weekend’s walk-in Covid-19 booster vaccination clinic at Ballybrit Racecourse have been extended to sate a surge in demand for a third dose.

Over 1,000 people aged 60-69 flocked to the Racecourse walk-in clinic last Sunday, where many reported queues of up to two hours to get their booster jab.

Many more reported left without getting a jab after lengthy waits in the queue. There were also reports of long traffic delays in the area.

Saolta confirmed to the Connacht Tribune that walk-in booster clinic was “much busier than anticipated”, which “resulted in a build-up in the queue and regrettably delays for some people waiting”.

“A number of improvements have been made ahead of the walk-in clinic this weekend including extending the clinic to a full day, which should help reduce the waiting time,” a spokesperson said.

The next walk-in clinic is this Saturday, from 9am-5pm – more than double last week’s hours.

It is for people who have reached an interval of at least 150 days since their second dose vaccine or have reached the interval of three months since receiving the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

As well as the walk-in clinic, the centre will continue to invite people aged 60-69 by text to scheduled appointments, Saolta said.

“The walk-in booster clinics are a further opportunity for people who are unable to make their scheduled appointments, to get their booster dose.

“It is difficult to anticipate how many people will arrive at the same time and we ask people to bear with us if there is a queue. Staff will be working really hard to make sure that people waiting get their booster dose as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said.

She said planning was underway to extend the booster vaccination clinics for people with some underlying conditions and those aged in their fifties.

Meanwhile, the reaction to the decision to change advice on mask wearing among children has been mixed.

The HSE advice had been that masks were not recommended for children under the age of 13. But from this week, children aged nine and over, and pupils in third-sixth class, are required to wear face coverings in school.

Guidance sent to principals said that children without masks could be refused entry.

Students who cannot wear masks will require “medical certs” for exemptions, which has been described as a waste of GPs’ time. Ballygar Dr Martin Daly said this would “shift the onus onto overstretched GPs”.

Primary teacher union INTO reiterated its call for contact tracing to be reinstated in schools to give a clearer picture of transmission.  WHO advice is that the decision to use masks for children aged six to eleven should balance factors such as the level of transmission of the virus, and the potential impact of wearing a mask on learning and psychosocial development.

An average of 200 people every day in the past fortnight have tested positive for the virus – that’s 2,789 confirmed cases in two weeks to Tuesday. It gives a 14-day incidence rate of 1080.8 per 100,000, a slight reduction on last week.

Ballinasloe electoral area had the highest 14-day incidence rate in County Galway with 1,458 cases per 100,000 people. It was 1,032 in Athenry/Oranmore; 791 in Conamara North; 670 in Conamara South; 1,318 in Gort/Kinvara; 1,240 in Loughrea; and 750 in Tuam.

The incidence in Galway City Central was 1,498 per 100,000; it was 1,067 in City East and 1,154 in City West. On Monday, 30 patients with Covid-19 were in local hospitals, including 22 in University Hospital Galway – seven admitted in the previous 24 hours – and eight in Portiuncula. There were five Covid patients in the two hospital’s Intensive Care Units, and both UHG and Ballinasloe had no ICU beds available.

Two more Covid deaths in Galway have been recorded in early November, bringing the total to 147. The Central Statistics Office said there were 415 Covid-19 deaths in the West, which includes Mayo (201) and Roscommon (67). That’s up seven in a fortnight.

A pop-up test centre operated in Tuam Stadium again on Monday and Tuesday for a third week. Some 1,380 people were tested over four days of the first two weeks.  Testing continues at Distillery Road at NUIG and at Galway Airport by appointment only due to high demand.

Despite shortages of tests in other counties, on Tuesday afternoon Galway Airport had over 600 appointment slots available, NUIG had over 30, and Tuam Stadium had 172.

Breda Crehan-Roche, Chief Officer, Community Healthcare West said: “It is still important to combine basic public health measures – wear a mask, wash your hands and if you are indoors ventilate the space well. Let us all work together and continue to break the chain of transmission of the disease.”

Government came under fire for scrapping plans for a subsidy scheme for cheaper antigen tests. Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said the U-turn by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly was “a serious dereliction of duty”. New Government rules require anyone arriving into Irish airports from this Friday to have antigen or PCR tests.

Meanwhile, overcrowding has eased at UHG compared with last month but it remains an issue at Portiuncula.  On Monday there were 15 patients on trolleys in Ballinasloe, according to INMO Trolley Watch – that’s five more than in UHG, which is far bigger in size. On Tuesday, patients on trolleys had dropped to six in Portiuncula and risen to 15 in UHG.


Connacht Tribune

€5,000 of shopping vouchers to be won in our Great Grocery Survey



At The Connacht Tribune we’re always looking at ways to better understand our readers and how you live your lives as this helps us deliver news, sport, features, information and advertising that you will enjoy reading and find useful. Currently, we’re seeking to better understand your buying habits in relation to grocery shopping and we’d be delighted if you could spare 15 minutes to complete our short online survey.

There are €5,000 of shopping vouchers to be won and all completed surveys will be entered into a national prize draw with a chance to win one of fifty €100 ‘One4all’ vouchers.

The survey can be completed online by logging onto:

and following the instructions or keep an eye on our social media and website where you will be able to link through to the survey too. The deadline for completion of all surveys is Monday February 7th

The shopping voucher prize draw will take place in February and winners will be announced online and in print across participating local newspaper titles.

Thank you for agreeing to take part in our Great Grocery Survey.

The Connacht Tribune is a member of Local Ireland, the trade organisation that represents local newspaper publishers across Ireland.

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Connacht Tribune

Gentleman Jim – the consummate journalist



RTE Western Editor Jim Fahy in the Galway studios in the week of his retirement. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Obituary by Dave O’Connell

Jim Fahy was a man of many paradoxes; a big imposing man who never tried to impose himself on anyone; an instantly recognisable face who only ever wanted to tell the story, never to be it; a reporter for the big, international story…but just as happy to record the minutiae of ordinary life.

Where there was no contradiction however was in his commitment to his profession – his quest to bring the news to the masses, driven by a phenomenal work ethic, an insatiable desire to find the answers and a lifelong dedication to his role as RTÉ’s man in the West.

That dedication to his craft brought plenty of plaudits – his career was bejewelled with over 40 awards for his work – but he always saw himself as the storyteller, never the story.

Like so many of the national service’s finest broadcasters, he cut his journalistic teeth in the world of newspapers – in Jim’s case, under the expert tutelage of Tuam Herald editor and owner, JP Burke.

And he learned well from the Master, because over his 38 years as RTÉ’s first Western Correspondent and Western Editor, he set the standard for regional broadcasting, covering his patch with curiosity and enthusiasm that never dimmed from first day to last.

His long-running Looking West series has rightly been singled out in recent days as his greatest legacy; those conversational documentaries that told – in the first-person and from memory – the story of Ireland through so much of the last two centuries.

Ever patient and dogged, he would sit for hours and hours with those who could offer a direct line back to the Famine – recounting the stories they’d heard from those who’d lived through it.

Thus he opened a window, for example, on life in the Big Houses, chatting with those who lived there – as easily to members of the aristocracy as the household staff – to get an insight into their lives and the world around them.

He loved words – possibly a throwback to his early days in print – but he also knew how to let a picture tell a story. And he also knew when to listen.

The past few days has also recalled his famous interview with the late Monsignor James Horan, against a backdrop of JCBs digging into the boggy mountain that was to become Knock Airport, as he asked the question the world wanted to – “Monsignor Horan, what exactly is going on here?”

“We’re building an airport…and we have no money, but we’re hoping to get it next week or the week after.”

You didn’t need an intrusion – just an ability to ask the question and step back to let the answer tell the tale.

He chronicled every big Galway story from early seventies to 2011 – Digital’s rise and fall and the similar trajectory of Bishop Casey; All-Ireland wins and losses; the Saw Doctors, Druid’s growth, the Arts Festival, the Races; the BrazilIans in Gort; sea tragedies; the Christmas tears and goodbyes at Knock airport; the Kiltartan floods and the Derrybrien mudslide; Michael D in the Dáil and the Áras – producing what good journalism is supposed to do…provide the first draft of history.

The Kilreekill native who had long lived in Tuam was the station’s longest serving regional correspondent, when he retired in 2011. Truth be told, that wasn’t his decision; it was just the state broadcaster’s arbitrary policy of retiring people at the age of 65.

Typically, he wanted to fade away on the back of a final broadcast – a piece on Paul Fallon’s 1,000-mile charity run as he passed through Oranmore on New Year’s Eve 2011, where typically he jogged alongside, still asking questions as he tried to take his quiet leave.

But the big man was never going to be allowed to simply fade into the ether, and President Higgins led the tributes to Jim in a personal message on that evening’s Six One News – saying how much he would be missed and how Jim had reported on everything political, cultural and international that had happened in the West under his journalistic tenure.

Fittingly it was the President who again led the tributes on Jim’s death at the weekend, describing him as ‘one of Ireland’s finest broadcasters’.

“It will be as RTÉ’s voice of the west of Ireland that Jim will be most fondly remembered,” said President Higgins.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin also took time out to remember Jim Fahy’s ‘distinct voice and eye for a story uncovered every facet of life in the west of Ireland, as well as major international events like 9/11’.

Because the Galway man was one of the first journalists from Europe to arrive in New York in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Galway and the West was his daily beat, but the world was his oyster.

He’d interviewed Mother Teresa and travelled to Somalia with former President Mary Robinson in the late 1990s – a decade after he’d produced a series of programmes from London on that latest generation of young people to emigrate to Britain.

Typical of the man, once he retired, he made no effort to hold onto the limelight; instead he enjoyed life with Christina, his children and his grandchildren; he pursued his passion for sailing and reading – and if he departed this world way too soon at the age of just 75, he packed a lifetime into every day.

The recurring tribute from so many of his colleagues – in RTÉ and the wider journalistic community – was the advice he generously imparted, the encouragement he ceaselessly offered, and the praise he never failed to bestow when a job was well done.

He thrived on the big stories but never missed the small ones either; he mixed in exalted circles but had a passion for the ordinary and the marginalised – a need to tell their story in his own kind and inimitable way.

Jim Fahy died at home in Gardenfield, outside Tuam, on Friday night, surrounded as always by his beloved family. His Requiem Mass took place in the Cathedral of the Assumption, Tuam on Monday, with burial afterwards in Kilbannon Cemetery.

His wife Christina will miss him most of all, as will his son Shane, daughter Aideen, daughter-in-law Brenda, Aideen’s fiancé Colm, his treasured grandchildren Amy, Dylan, Hugh, Clodagh and Dara, brother Pat and his wife Nora, his relatives, friends – and all who knew him in the media world of wich he was such an integral part.

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Connacht Tribune

Údarás enjoys year of growth despite Covid



Cambus Medical...major expansion.

There were 3,180 full-time jobs in companies supported by Údarás na Gaeltachta in the Galway Gaeltacht at the end of last year – the highest level ever in the history of the organisation.

The Údarás annual report reveals that 337 new jobs were created in client companies in 2021 – the highest level of new employment created in any of the counties overseen by Údarás for the second year running.

Even when the number of jobs lost was taken into account, that was still a net increase of 7.6% or 225 jobs in full-time employment on the previous year.

Most of the new jobs were created in companies operating in the medical devices, science and engineering sectors, including Freudenberg/Cambus Medical, Aran Biomedical, CLS, ÉireComposites, Zoan Nuáil Teo, Micron Clean, and HiTech Health.

During 2021, the Board of Údarás approved new projects which will ultimately create 108 jobs in the Galway Gaeltacht – with an estimated total investment of €3.09 million when these projects are underway.

The annual report also reflected on a number of significant announcements for the Galway Gaeltacht during 2021 – topped by Aran Biomedical’s 150 new high-quality jobs and more than 40 new highly skilled jobs created by Cambus Medical/Freudenberg Medical as part of a €1.9m expansion.

ÉireComposites also revealed plans to create 40 new jobs after signing a multi-million Euro contract with Spirit AeroSystems.

There was also notable positive reaction to the the Conamara Láir ‘Filleadh Abhaile’ campaign with over 120 relocation inquiries.

And the launch of the Ros an Mhíl Harbour report predicted that 900 jobs could be created in the renewable energy sector.

Two significant five-year Actions Plans were also published last year, both aiming to drive job creation, industry and tourism – both in An Cheathrú Rua and the Iorras Aithneach area.

Overall, the Údarás report revealed that 825 new full-time jobs were created in Gaeltacht companies in 2021, the highest number of jobs created in one year since 2008.

When job reductions are taken into account, there is a net increase of 446 in overall employment – the largest annual net increase since 1996.

Údarás na Gaeltachta Chief Executive Mícheál Ó hÉanaigh said that Gaeltacht communities and companies ‘deserve huge recognition for their perseverance during this pandemic’.

“The resilience shown has resulted in an increase in Gaeltacht employment over the past year,” he said.

“The challenges placed on Gaeltacht businesses and communities by this pandemic and Brexit are yet to be overcome but it is a source of considerable encouragement to see greenshoots of recovery by companies including the surge in the medical device sector in the Gaeltacht.

“Some of these indigenous companies are a real source of inspiration to others, those businesses that started out with just one or two employees and are now among the largest employers in the Gaeltacht,” he added.



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