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Charity shop’s fashion upcycling initiative



Fashion is constantly moving forward, with new trends arriving on the scene quicker than we can scrape the money together to invest in them.

But when all the high street stores are selling the same trend at different prices, it can be difficult to stand out – especially if you don’t want to break the bank. That’s where a number of Galway’s local charity shops come in. While trends will come and go in a flash, it’s in the charity shops that you’ll find the kind of fashion that will never die.

“Charity shops have one-off and unusual items, some brand new items, also some vintage if you’re lucky. It’s interesting to see what will come in next,” says Grace Light, Manager of the Cope Galway charity shop located on St Augustine Street.

“You can find quality fabrics such as silk, linen, leather, merino wool and cashmere and designer gear. These things are a fraction of the price you would pay for them new.”

But Cope Galway’s charity shop is sporting more than silk and cashmere at the moment. A recent collaboration with Missy Bonkers clothing designs has seen a number of unique and interesting dresses appear in the shop window.

Missy Bonkers, run by Tina O’Rourke and Alan Fitzpatrick, focuses exclusively on upcycling and redesigning secondhand clothing, creating an awareness of slow fashion that is both individual and unique.

‘The Shirt Project’ is Tina’s most recent design project, which embraces sustainable fashion and innovative pattern design to create unique, one-of-a-kind dresses exclusive to Cope Galway.

“Shirts are one of the main items that are unable to be resold in charity shops after donation, due to general wear and tear. Taking this into consideration, I thought what better way to reuse them than to take them back to their source material and design an entirely new garment?” says Tina.

“Partnering with the Cope shop in Galway allowed the idea to develop into the Shirt Project. Grace, the shop manager, supplied all of the unwanted shirts for the project and will host an exhibition of dresses in the Cope shop window alongside a sewing/up-cycling demo day this Saturday.”

The shop will also host a subtraction pattern shirt dress workshop on Thursday, May 21 from 7.30pm to 9pm. More information can be found at the shop or by calling 091 569715. The unique dresses are currently on display and for sale in the shop.

Not every charity shop has something as unique as the Shirt Project to help them stand out, but many of them have their own way of ensuring their message is heard.

“Over the past few weeks, we had a large number of clothing and accessory donations which were of exceptional quality and great designer labels – all in great, new condition or brand new with tags,” explains Carolyn Herbert, Supervisor with the Galway Simon Community charity shop on Sea Road.

Thanks to these generous donations, the Galway Simon Community was able to completely restock its Sea Road store, giving it a fresh new look for the launch of its ‘Style on a Shoestring’ extravaganza which saw labels such as Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY and Karen Millen on offer for a small price, as well as a number of beautiful vintage items.

“Anyone making a purchase in one of our shops is helping a good cause, as all our profits are ploughed back into the provision of local services,” says Carolyn. The Galway Simon Community currently provides accommodation for over 100 single men and women that, for one reason or another, became homeless.

“At some point over the next few months, we are looking to do some work with upcycling and would be interested to hear from customers who have upcycled any items of clothing or furniture that they have purchased from other outlets,” she adds, proving that the upcycling of clothing is becoming a trend in its own right.

The Galway Simon shops are always in need of good quality items, which can be sold in either the Sea Road or Briarhill shops: “Only with this support can we hope to realise our vision of bringing about a society where everyone has a home appropriate to their needs.”

For more information about the Galway Simon Community, visit

A charity shop generally isn’t the first place you’ll think of when you need to get kitted out for a wedding or special occasion. But Galway’s newest charity shop proves that it’s very easy to find something to suit every occasion if you look in the right places.

“We have just launched a Special Occasion Wear Department which stocks new and pre-loved debs dresses, smart and stylish evening wear, bridesmaid dresses, formal wear for wedding guests, flower girl dresses and beautiful, romantic wedding dresses,” says Gaye Moore, Fundraising Co-ordinator of Gorta – Self Help Africa, a charity which opened a shop on William Street West in November.

Despite being the new kid on the scene, the Gorta shop is really standing out, catering for different sizes and styles.

“A bride can outfit her entire wedding party, including bridesmaids, flower girl dresses and mother of the bride for a very reasonable price,” Gaye explains.

Gorta also provides “a unique service with a large designer dressing room, friendly staff and a colour co-ordinated range of clothes”. And as there is usually only one of each item, each co-ordinated look is unique to the customer.

“The shops provide excellent quality, nearly new, and some new clothes, shoes and accessories, and a wide variety of books at hugely discounted prices. An entire co-ordinated casual outfit including shoes can be purchased for less than €20,” says Gaye.

“The shop provides very good value for those on a limited budget who still wish to look well and dress their family. The shop also provides designer labels at knock-down prices for the fashion-loving bargain hunter.”

For more information on Gorta – Self Help Africa, visit or

Many people see charity shops as a place to put unwanted clothing when you’re making space in your wardrobe for the latest trends and fashion fads.

But thanks to the hard work of staff members, only the best will make it to the shelves, ensuring that you’ll find high-quality clothing to suit even the smallest of budgets, while also helping a deserving charity.

And with so many interesting charity shops to choose from in Galway, there’s bound to be something to suit all tastes.


Councillors zone land for residential use despite concerns over flooding



From the Galway City Tribune – Galway City Council has voted to allow for the future development of housing on a large parcel of land on the Headford Road (photographed and shaded red) which had previously been designated for recreation and “water-based activity”.

The land, which is situated below sea level, has been designated as being in a Flood Zone A area by the Office of Public Works (OPW), meaning that “vulnerable usage” such as housing should not be considered there.


During a meeting to approve the Galway City Development Plan 2023-29, councillors voted to reject the recommendation of its own Chief Executive, and in doing so opened the door for the future development of the 1.3-hectare (3.2-acre) site.

The land, which overlooks Terryland Forest Park, was also identified as a flood risk in the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management report (CFRAM).

Cllr Frank Fahy (FG), proposed that the local authority should ignore the submissions of the OPW and the CFRAM report and rezone the land as residential.

“To say that this land should only be for water-based activity is not correct. To say that all of this land is a floodplain is also incorrect,” he said.

“It is below sea level but because of the dyke, it is not going to flood. There is a bit of land at the bottom [of the site] which is a flood risk, but I would imagine, if plans do go forward for this site, that area would be left open. Some of the land is borderline [flood risk] but not all of it.”

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

This proposal was opposed by a number of councillors including Cllr Owen Hanley (SocDems).

“I would say that 80 per cent if not more [of the site] is in a flood risk area or is of concern. Also, if you develop part of it, you make the rest of it more at risk of flooding because the water is diverted there,” he said.

“While I respect that councillors are arguing in good faith, I am concerned about the way that we are discussing flood risks in this development plan overall.

“It would be inappropriate, given the advice that we have been given, to make this change.”

Despite these objections, councillors voted by a margin of 10 to 4 to rezone the land.

This decision may put the council on a collision course with the Minister of the Environment, Eamon Ryan, as the newly formed Office of Planning Regulators (OPR) had opposed this rezoning. The role of the OPR is to ensure that local development plans are in line with national regulations.

It is expected that the OPR may refer this decision to the Minister for the Environment, who has the power to overrule this decision by Galway City Council.

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240 student bed spaces in Galway are ‘just a drop in the ocean’



From the Galway City Tribune – State-assisted student accommodation is a step in the right direction, but the 242 beds announced for Galway are just a “drop in the ocean”.

That’s according to the President of University of Galway (UG) Students’ Union, Sai Gujulla, who told the Galway City Tribune that while they welcomed the announcement that Government was to begin investing in student beds, it would do nothing to address the crisis in the sector in the short term.

The Government announced this week that for the first time, it would provide State assistance “to stimulate the development of new and additional student accommodation” – financially supporting the construction of 242 on-campus student beds at UG.

However, Mr Gujulla said the number was nowhere near what was required and the proposal formed part of a long-term strategy which didn’t address the very real crisis being faced by students right now.

“It is a welcome announcement, but it’s not sufficient for what’s required.

“It will take a number of years for this to take effect and so it will do nothing for students who need accommodation right now,” he said, adding that the number of students commuting daily to Galway from all over the country was at all-time high as a result of the accommodation shortage.

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

Minister of State and TD for Galway West, Hildegarde Naughton (FG), said the policy would “ensure affordability for all students” by ensuring costs are kept to a minimum during the construction phase.

“This new policy will see 242 student beds delivered in the first phase by the University of Galway, with ATU also given funding to develop its own proposals to provide affordable student accommodation.

“The focus of this policy is to ensure affordability for students and this Government will ensure that costs are kept to a minimum, thus providing more affordable rents,” said Minister Naughton.

Mr Gujulla said it was imperative that this commitment was met and that when Government said affordable, it was affordable for students and parents on low incomes.

“We’ve heard before that accommodation would be affordable, but it must be affordable for all and not just some people,” he said, adding that means testing, similar to that used for accessing the SUSI grant, should be considered as a way of setting rents.

Minister Naughton said this scheme was the beginning of a new policy on student accommodation aimed at making third level education more accessible.

“I look forward to seeing this new scheme rolled out across all our tertiary educational facilities in Galway,” said the Fine Gael TD.

Meanwhile, Mr Gujulla said students were still struggling to find accommodation in the city, despite being back at college for three months.

“We have new cases with the same problems every day and with new Erasmus (European) students and postgraduates arriving in January, it will continue,” he said.

“Rents are still extremely high and they’re not going down and while this intervention by Government is positive, it needs to go further and we need something to address the immediate problem too.”

(Photo: The Goldcrest student accommodation in Corrib Village. University of Galway owns large tracts of land in the area).

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New life breathed into derelict Blackrock cottage



From the Galway City Tribune – Boasting one of the most spectacular views in the country from a reimagined building marrying old and new, Blackrock Cottage on Salthill Prom finally opened this week after a labour of love by its new caretakers.

During a tour of the spectacular outdoor dining pods with chef Martin O’Donnell on the eve of its unveiling, at least four people approached, curious about how the derelict Famine-era building was brought back to life.

“That happens every time I’m out here,” says Martin, who hails from just up the road in Barna.

“The level of interest in this place is unbelievable.”

Most new eateries have to work for footfall. This one has potential customers passing by morning, noon and night, even during the depths of the wildest winter. It’s an unrivalled location opposite that most iconic symbol Galway – the Blackrock diving tower.

Brían McHugh from McHugh Property Holdings Ltd bought the cottage from the previous owner, the late Mary Sjothun (née Flynn) in 2018. Initially turned down for planning permission by Galway City Council, on appeal the design for bringing back the old to life and creating a new light-filled modern extension with a bike rental and repair station on the site was approved by An Bord Pleanála.

The project took 18 months to build during a difficult Covid period, when materials and workers were in short supply.

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

“We didn’t have to keep the cottage as it wasn’t listed. But we wanted to be respectful of an 1830s cottage and its history. So we worked with Galway City Conservation Officer Jim Higgins to keep the beams, the slates on the roof and lime mortar – we’ll finish the whitewashing when we get a dry spell,” explains Brían.

“I think Sean Dockry architects have made a great job of creating a commercially viable building with a modern extension, marrying the old with the new while maximising the views.”

The raised terraces, one of them with a firepit, have all been designed to allow people to sit in sheltered areas while looking out over Galway Bay. The garden has been landscaped with herbs and edible flowers that will be used in the kitchen.

The second phase of the site, expected to be completed next March, will develop a bigger barbecue area with seating for up to 60 people. The bicycle rental area will be added if the greenway becomes a reality.

The takeaway part of the café will be run by the Álainn team, who ran the pop-up coffee van and later container beside the site offering superfood pots and delicious coffee by the Burren roaster Anam Coffee that became such a hit with swimmers and walkers during the pandemic.

Breakfast and lunch will be walk-ins only, with dinner to be offered early next year. The menu is described as contemporary modern Irish using top class local producers that have a good working relationship with Martin. He was head chef in The Twelve in Barna for 15 years and has a slot on Ireland AM on Virgin Media TV.

Things to expect on the menu are pulled confit of duck with eggs benedict, lamb shank and poké bowls with in-house cured fish.

“There’s nothing like this in the west of Ireland – I don’t think there’s anything like this anywhere in the country – a space like this, with so many tables, four inches from the water,” says Martin.

“We’re mid-price range. Blackrock Cottage was always built for the local people, not the elite. We’ll have amazing quality food that will be affordable.”

Brían declines to reveal the extent of the investment in this venture. His company also owns the nearby driving range and the Spinnaker Hotel, as well as various development sites in the city and suburbs.

“It’s not cheap to bring a 200-year-old cottage back to life. But I’m delighted we didn’t take the easy option and we saved a piece of Galway history.”

(Photo by Brian Harding: Gerard O’Donoghue, Operations Manager; Mathieu Teulier, General Manager and Martin O’Donnell, Head Chef at Blackrock Cottage restaurant).

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