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Community fights back with a DIY approach

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Fiona O'Driscoll, Teresa Clay and Barry Kilroy of The Burren Lowlands, at the Kiltartan Gregory Museum. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Judy Murphy meets the people behind a Gort-based initiative to help overcome years of tourism neglect

God helps those who helps themselves might have been a motto coined for the Gort-based Burren Lowlands community group, which kicked into action just over a year ago.

The Burren Lowlands covers a geographical area around South Galway taking in Ardrahan and Kinvara, stretching as far as Crusheen in Co Clare, and ranging from the Burren uplands to the Sliabh Aughties.

But despite its rich heritage and associations with some of Ireland’s best-known literary figures, including WB Yeats and Lady Gregory, this place has been neglected by State organisations, especially those tasked with promoting tourism.

South-East Galway was hard hit by the recession and by the closure of Duffy’s meat plant which had been a major employer in Gort and South Galway. Many of the Brazilians who had settled there during the boom, moved home and local young people emigrated, so the population plummeted.

However, the community decided to take matters into their own hands to ensure the area recovered and was not completely forgotten by tourists in the excitement of the Government-backed Wild Atlantic Way.

Last year, without a penny of State funding, despite having made several submissions, a community-run tourist office opened in Gort’s town’s square, in a premises donated by businessman Mike Mullins of nearby O’Grady’s Bar and Restaurant.

The day it opened, there were tourists outside the door waiting to get in, says businesswoman Fiona O’Driscoll of the Burren Lowlands group. Staffed by volunteers and via a Tús Scheme, the Burren Lowlands tourist office hasn’t looked back since.

While there are definite signs of an upturn in Gort on a busy Friday afternoon, the last few years have been hard, according to Fiona.

A new motorway led to Gort being bypassed during one of the worst recessions Ireland has ever endured, while Galway County Council also introduced parking charges, something that made no sense in a market town, she feels.

But people have joined forces to create change, and it’s working, adds Fiona, for whom “the possibilities here are endless”.

The Burren Lowlands group is all about promoting local events and focusing on “education, business, tourism and heritage,” she explains over coffee in O’Grady’s, which is filled with lunchtime customers.

The people involved in its establishment included representatives of community and business groups as well as Teagasc Professor Cathal O’Donoghue, the co-author of the Burren Lowlands Economic Development Study.

“From that main group, we set up about 10 other little groups to look at education, business, tourism, culture and heritage,” outlines Fiona.

However, they felt that establishing new businesses was too big a challenge because of the start-up costs and payment of Rates to the County Council.

“So we said, ‘let’s work with what we have and we know we have tourism’,” she says.  They decided on a tourist office.

With attractions such as Coole Park, Thoor Ballylee and Kilmacduagh all within shouting distance of Gort, it was just a question of making visitors aware that these places existed and that they were major tourism sites. Gort is fortunate in that it gets a lot of visitors but most are passing through, she adds, so they needed a place to find information.

“We are so near Shannon Airport and so near the Wild Atlantic Way. We are just 10 minutes from the coast and half of the visitors we got last year came from there.”

The others came mostly from Shannon.

“Most of them wanted to see the Cliffs of Moher, Galway and Westport. They didn’t know what was here,” Fiona remarks. “The Government hasn’t spent a penny on this town.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Vitamin D and good postural balance may help as we age

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Health, Beauty and Lifestyle with Denise McNamara

Having just turned 50 aging is particularly on my mind this month. So two recent studies about aging peaked my interest which are worth sharing. The first is a study from the University of South Australia and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is based on data from 294,514 participants from the UK Biobank, a biomedical database with half a million British participants.

Scientists found that in some populations, up to 17 per cent of dementia cases could be prevented simply by raising people’s vitamin D in the blood to 50 nmol/L, which is considered to be the normal level.

Dementia affects over 55 million people worldwide and every year 10 million new cases are diagnosed so the implications could be huge.

It is the first time the impact of very low levels of vitamin D are examined on the risks of dementia and stroke by using genetic analyses among a large study population.

There is widespread vitamin D deficiency among people worldwide, even in sunny regions where sun awareness campaigns, indoor living and other factors contribute to the low vitamin D levels,

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

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Rev Fr Raymond Watters O.P recites a decade of the rosary as the rain begins to pour down during the Blessing of Galway Bay on August 15, 1882.

1922

Dawn surrender

National troops operating from Galway and Athenry at dawn on Wednesday morning surrounded an area about four miles between Liscananaun village and Aucloggeen, on the eastern side of the Corrib, and after a smart movement captured nineteen irregulars, with their officers, twenty-two service and Mauser rifles, a number of service revolvers and automatics, and considerable quantities of ammunition for bombs.

The National troops were under command of Co-Commandant Austin Brennan, O.C., Galway area, and the various battalion and company officers, and the plan to surround these villages, which lie in a marshy waste between the Curragh Line, or Galway-Headford road, and the main road from Galway to Tuam, was evolved after information had been received that a number of irregulars were quartered there, and were commandeering sheep and foodstuffs from people in surrounding districts.

Slowly and silently, accompanied by a Lancia armoured car on which machine guns were mounted, the National troops moved out from Galway shortly before two a.m. on Wednesday. One column took the Galway to Headford road, the other taking the Tuam road.

The column operating on the Headford road swung to the right beyond the Cregg river, taking the road to Drumgriffin. By dawn they had taken up extended formation in the woods around Cregg Castle, and this formed a trap into which the irregulars were subsequently driven.

Trade unions position

Mr. Cathal O’Shannon, T.D., in his presidential address at the Trade Union Congress on Monday, declare that organised Labour was separate from and independent of any political party, and would take no dictation from any quarter outside its own ranks.

He strongly protested against militarism, from whatever quarter it came, and condemned the political censorship of thought and opinion, the ignoring of laws relating to the custody of prisoners, the existence of a semi-military police force, and the propaganda on both sides.

The present conflict or strife, he declared, was unnecessary and counselled the Irish workers to keep aloof from it.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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Country Living

Trying to find the time to slow down that clock

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

AS one gets older the realisation dawns that time – and not material wealth – is our greatest asset but boy does that clock fairly freewheel around with each passing year.

Anytime a conversation switches around to the question of: “How long is such-and-such a person dead,” the guesstimate answers usually need to be doubled. Looking back on time makes us all realise how fast it is flying by.

I always contend that winning the lotto – as exciting and all as that would be – would not make any of us one second younger and in all probability would not add on one day to our eventual date with destiny.  In fact it might even know a few years off if we lost the rag and went mad with the lucre.

My late father used to have a favourite saying about wealth and money namely that while it wouldn’t necessarily bring you happiness in this world it would ‘help you to enjoy your misery’.

Even a couple of Sundays back while sitting in the Hogan Stand and witnessing Galway’s gallant attempt to win the All-Ireland title, it was kind of hard to credit that 21-years had passed since we were last in a senior final and 24-years since we ended a 32-year famine with the victory over Kildare in 1998.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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