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Connacht Tribune

Campaigners take to old rail track to show support for greenway

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More than 600 walkers and joggers turned out in Tuam in a virtual show of defiance to display their support for a greenway through the North Galway town.

The organisers of the recent walk said that they were overwhelmed with the huge numbers that turned out and it was an indication of the level of support that there was in Tuam for a greenway along the railway track to Athenry.

Indeed, there were many present on the walk who expressed surprise that there were so many politicians in Galway against the proposal for a greenway along the old Western Rail Corridor, which closed down forty years ago but is still in the ownership of Irish Rail.

The campaigners for the greenway in North Galway suffered a setback earlier this year when members of Galway County Council voted against the seeking of funding for a feasibility study for a walking and cycling route from Athenry to Tuam and possibly northwards towards Milltown.

Among the 600-plus walkers last Sunday were representatives from Athenry, Tuam and Milltown who are also supportive of the greenway and are hoping that another motion regarding a feasibility study on the route, which will be discussed at a Council meeting in September, will be successful.

One of the organisers of last weekend’s walk was Cllr Shaun Cunniffe said that he was overwhelmed by the response and particularly as many of those who took part were openly vocal about the need for a walking and cycling greenway.

“In all my years of organising events, this stands out as being one of the best supported. I just shows the demand there is out there for such a facility”, he said. Fellow councillors like Cllr Donagh Killilea, Cllr Karey McHugh and Cllr Pete Roche also took to the roads in support of the initiative.

But the support from the local business community was phenomenal. Local restaurants and shops provided food and refreshments for all of those who took part in the event and they too expressed a need for such a facility to boost trade for the town.

And those who are campaigning for the restoration of the Ballyglunin Railway Station, which is located on the rail track for the proposed greenway, have also came out in support of the plan as they feel that it would open up the station to a “new tourist interest”.

A recent survey on greenways revealed that those who are in favour of them want them on public owned property (thereby eliminating the need for compulsory purchase orders to become an issue), to be relatively flat so that they are conducive for families and that they go through largely populated areas like towns.

“The Tuam to Athenry greenway proposal fits all those criteria,” Cllr Cunniffe added and said that the business community in both towns along with sporting and leisure clubs are now fully behind the project. He said that the turnout last Sunday was testimony to this.

“When I turned up first at the railway station in Tuam there were around 150 people and I was delighted at that. But within the next half hour there were droves coming towards us. It was like a county final in Tuam Stadium.

“We have received knockbacks in our campaign but this gave us the inspiration to keep up the momentum. The support we received was mind blowing and those in attendance could not believe why it was not a runner.

“I had to explain to some that if Irish Rail wanted to reopen the railway track for trains in the future, then this could be done in tandem with the greenway as both could run side by side. Many people did not realise this,” Cllr Cunniffe added.

Connacht Tribune

Paedophile sentenced to a further 17 months in prison

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A convicted paedophile, described by a Garda as ‘a prolific child abuser’, has had a 17-month prison sentence added to a 13-year sentence he is already serving for the rape and sexual abuse of children.

Disgraced primary school teacher and summer school bus driver, 69-year-old Seosamh Ó Ceallaigh, a native of Tuirín, Béal a’ Daingin, Conamara, had at all times denied two charges of indecently assaulting a ten-year-old boy at a Gaeltacht summer school in Béal a’ Daingin in 1979.

The offence carries a maximum two-year sentence.

A jury found him guilty by majority verdict following a four-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last month.

At his sentence hearing last week, Detective Paul Duffy described Ó Ceallaigh as a prolific child abuser who had amassed 125 child abuse convictions, committed while he was a primary school teacher in Dublin and while he operated an Irish language summer school in Beal a’ Daingin.

They included convictions for rape and sexual assault for which he is currently serving sentences totalling 13 years.

Those sentences were due to expire in August 2024, but last week, Judge Rory McCabe imposed two, concurrent 17-month sentences on Ó Ceallaigh, before directing the sentences begin at the termination of the sentences he is currently serving.

The judge noted Ó Ceallaigh’s denial and lack of remorse and the lifelong detrimental effect the abuse had on the victim as aggravating factors.

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Connacht Tribune

Dismay as marine park proposal rejected by planners

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A lifeline project, with the potential to create around 200 long-term jobs in an area of South Connemara ravaged by unemployment and emigration, has been rejected by planners – primarily environmental grounds.
The proposed marine park or Páirc na Mara, east of Cill Chiaráin village, was viewed by many as a real chance to turn the tide for this unemployment blackspot.
Locals – and the vast majority of Galway West politicians – were supportive of the project which was viewed as one that would revitalise the area.
That said, Galway County Council’s decision to refuse permission for the marine park was welcomed by Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages which had expressed fears that the marine farm would extract huge amounts of fresh water to breed more than 1.5 million salmon smolts.
They said that millions of litres of fresh water would have been extracted on a regular basis by the salmon farm company operating the smolt rearing units – from the same lakes as the Carna and Cill Chiaráin water supply system.
“Local residents can now rest assured that their domestic water supply won’t be hijacked to line the pockets of people who have no regard for the local environment or residents,” said Billy Smyth, Chairman of Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages.
It was proposed to provide a marine innovation park Pairc na Mara on a 60-acre brownfield site at Cill Chiarain.
The development involves the provision of a number of marine-based facilities as well as education and research facilities in the townlands of Cill Chiarain, Ardmore and Calvary.
It involves the abstraction of water from Lough Scannan, its transfer to and temporary storage in Iron Lake along with impoundment and pumping to the Marine Park site with a rising main.
According to the application, Galway County Council has previously granted planning permission for aquaculture-based activities on the site of the proposed marine park back in 2002 while the first phase of the innovation park was built in 2005.
There were a considerable number of submissions supporting the application with many saying that this part of Connemara would benefit greatly from such a development.
But there were others who expressed concern over the potential impact it would have on the environment, and it would be located in a highly sensitive area.
Cllr Gerry King said that it was a valuable opportunity lost to the area given the amount of unemployment that exists. He added that there was local outrage at the decision.
The Fianna Fail councillor met with those behind the project and residents in support of the project. He said that they all agreed that this decision should be appealed to the higher planning authority.
It was refused on the basis that it would adversely affect the integrity and conservation objectives of the European sides in the vicinity of environmental value.
Planners stated that they could not be certain that the project would not adversely affect the integrity of Cill Ciaran Bay, the islands and Connemara bog complex
They also said that the Environmental Impact Assessment Report did not present a sufficient level of information on the impact it would have on human health, biodiversity, land, soil, water along with cultural heritage and the landscape.

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Connacht Tribune

Council rules that honey business is in Special Area of Conservation

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A North Connemara beekeeper has expressed his dismay at the County Council’s refusal to issue an exemption to allow him proceed with an apiary on farmlands at Rossadillisk.

Tom Termini, who has lived in the area for the past 25 years, purchased the lands just off the coastline with the intention of beekeeping there, but plans to expand have come to a halt after an enforcement order was issued by the Council last Summer.

Mr Termini said he had been of the understanding that the 20msq agricultural storage building which was portable in nature would not require planning permission because of its agricultural purpose and its location on appropriately zoned lands.

However, after receiving a letter from the Council, he engaged the services of an engineer who recommended seeking a Declaration of Exemption from planning.

“The area is located in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) so we engaged the services of another engineer who carried out an Environmental Impact Assessment and it was found it would have no impact,” said Mr Termini.

The report, compiled by Delichon Ecology, states that there are 17 sites protected by European SAC status within 15km of the proposed development, but concludes that ‘the completed groundworks and proposed agricultural building, either individually or in combination with other projects and plans, is not likely to have a significant impact on any European site’.

Mr Termini said no explanation as to why his application was refused was forthcoming, but that he had since applied for retention on the partially completed structure.

“After I invested in the property, I started down the route of setting up the apiary because I had one when I was in the States, and I’m a member of the local association. I decided to build a bigger shed so we could expand beyond being a service to have a product offering,” said Mr Termini who owns and operates Bluedog Honey.

He said the company would bring economic benefits to what was a small, rural area and the lands he owned were 90% bog, unsuited to many other forms of agriculture.

“We’d hoped to have it up and running by February 2020, but the pandemic set that back and then we got the letter from the Council as works were progressing towards opening this February.

“This facility would not impact on the area – other than using water to wash natural matter, there is no discharge – I’m perplexed by it all really,” said Mr Termini.

An application for retention of the structure was sent to Galway County Council this month, with a decision due by August 15.

Mr Termini said he would be forced to appeal to An Bord Pleanála if this application was turned down, but said he was being assisted by local Councillor Eileen Mannion, whom he said supported enterprise in the area.

“This has been going on for 18 months and really, what I want to do is get to the next stage where we can grow the business and deal with the stresses that come with that – not this,” said Mr Termini.

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