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Community rallies to support mum in cancer battle




A Christmas treat for her small children was to take on greater life-changing consequences than one Galway mother could ever have imagined – after she collapsed and doctors discovered she was suffering from terminal cancer.

But Olive Shaughnessy is determined to fight with everything she has – and her friends and community are four-square behind her in her battle…as well as helping her to meet mounting medical expenses for treatment of her terminal condition.

By Thérèse Hannon

The 40 year old native of Portumna now lives in Killeenadeema, Loughrea, with her husband Tom and their four children – John (9), Kate (7), Luke (6), and Kevin (3).

But her life changed irrevocably on December 19 last, as the children broke up for Christmas holidays; Olive took them, as is their tradition, for a trip to the cinema – to see Paddington Bear.

After the screening, she dropped in to pick up some Christmas baubles. And as she puts it so succinctly: “As I bent down to pick up an item I began to see double – and that was it. I don’t remember anything else”.

Olive suffered a burst blood vessel and a broken neck that day. Doctors identified holes in her bones and gave her the dreaded diagnosis – Stage 4, metastatic cancer.

The diagnosis hasn’t stop Olive – a charismatic and jovial extrovert – from leading a full and positive life. Asked how she copes with the realities of terminal cancer she replies; “there’s nothing I feel alone with; I feel very supported”.

Her philosophy is to “keep fighting all the way”. She chooses to see the positive in every situation adding: “I see this as an opportunity to look at life in a different way, to see the positives – all the good there is in the world.”

Olive attributes her strength to the fact that she has ‘always had an incredible faith in God’, adding: “if you have faith at all, you won’t be doing so bad.”

Olive believes in being open and honest about her illness. There is transparency in their household, their children are aware of her condition.

“The word cancer isn’t taboo; discussing cancer with the children gives a greater insight into the process and a fuller understanding about why things are changing,” she says.

Though Olive is courageous in the face of adversity, illness has taken its toll. Her cancer has resulted in a broken neck, corrected by intramedullary nailing. Consequently she is unable to turn her head or pick up her children.

The cancer has spread to her lymph nodes, down her spine, into her neck and her lungs.

“There’s no such thing as me walking out saying – ‘I’m cancer free’. I know I will be receiving chemo every three weeks in UHG for the rest of her life, but I will keep fighting all the way,” she says.

Her husband, Tom, who was working four days a week in Dublin, has since left his job to be home with his terminally ill wife and their four children.

But that means Olive and Tom are now both out of work, and with escalating medical bills and four children under nine to support, the family are understandably under intense financial strain.

Hope arrived when her former biology teacher John Joe Conwell came to her side. Olive was a student of John Joe’s, graduating in the class of ’93. She describes him as being ‘like a dad’ to her in the past few months.

John Joe is the assistant chairman of Portumna Cycling Club and organizer of the ‘Olive Aughty Challenge’, which will take place on Saturday, August 9; registration for the event will take place in The Engine Room, Portumna at 8am.

The Cycle is open to all ages and all fitness levels. There are three strands to the cycle 15k, 50k and 100k. For the 15k cycle, tickets are priced at €10 (single) and €20 (family ticket). The 50k and 100k cycle tickets are priced at €20 and €25 respectively.  Businesses are also encouraged to enter teams, with rates of €100 for a team of four.

The 100k Cycle is mapped out to be a most scenic route, covering three lakes – Lough Cutra, Lough Graney and Lough Derg. And Mark Rohan, a member of the Irish Paracycling Squad will attend and lead out the cycle.

And this is not the first time the people of Portumna have shown their caring nature; the 10k Portumna Forest Park Trail Run, held back in April 6, saw proceeds going to help support the Shaughnessy family.

John Joe – a prolific writer and historian – has also been working to help Olive in collating her journals for a book they are writing together.

Through all of this, Olive is still receiving chemotherapy for her illness in UHG. Asked whether she would be in form to attend the event she responded with fervour “wild horses wouldn’t keep me away!”

Love of family and love of community is central to Olive’s story. Olive declares “the power of people is unbelievable, I can’t express it enough” she has been left overwhelmed by the kindness of the village.

Two local farmers Dermot Brehony and Michael D’Arcy, kindly donated four hoppers of turf to the family. There was a joint community effort in footing the turf and getting it home to the family.

Olive started documenting her story after her attack in December. She writes a blog, which she describes as being very “therapeutic”.

Her book has become very important to her “that book means so much to me… I love getting up and getting time to think”.

Olive is a morning person she wakes early and “types away until I hear the ‘pitter patter’ of feet down the stairs”.

Then, she puts the laptop away, and enjoys precious time with her children.

■ For more information on the charity cycle race ‘Olive Aughty Challenge’ contact  To check out Olive’s blog, visit


Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A city publican who last week helped save the life of a woman who had entered the waters of the Corrib off Wolfe Tone Bridge has made an appeal for young people to ‘look out for each other’.

Fergus McGinn, proprietor of McGinn’s Hop House in Woodquay, had been walking close to Jury’s Inn when he saw the young woman enter the river.

He then rushed to the riverbank on the Long Walk side of the bridge, jumped into the water, spoke to the woman and stayed with her until the emergency services arrived.

The incident occurred at about 3.45pm on Friday last, and a short time later the emergency services were on the scene to safely rescue the woman.

“She was lucky in that the river level was very low and she didn’t injure herself on the rocks and stones just under the water.”

He also appealed to the public to support in whatever they could the work being done by groups like the Claddagh Watch volunteers.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Gardaí have warned city publicans that alcohol cannot be served outside their own premises – even in newly-created on-street spaces designated by Galway City Council as suitable for outdoor dining.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said three Gardaí visited a number of city centre pubs on Thursday afternoon informing them that drinking outdoors was not allowed under licensing laws.

“They warned publicans and restaurants that the area outside their premises is not covered by the licence, and therefore under national legislation, they are breaking the law, because they are not entitled to sell alcohol in non-licensed areas.

“The operators were told that this was an official warning, and they will be back again in a few days and if it persisted, they [Gardaí] would have no option but to issue a charge and forward files to the Director of Public Prosecution. You could not make this up.

“All of the big operators were visited, and received an official warning, and they will be charged if they persist. According to the guards, they’re getting instructions from [Garda headquarters in] Phoenix Park,” he said.

The matter will be raised at a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Call for 50% affordable homes in new Galway City Council estates

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The next Galway City Development Plan should include a greater provision for affordable housing than that recommended by Government, a meeting of the City Council has heard.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) told the meeting that while it was the Government’s intention to introduce a stipulation that new estates should have 10% affordable housing, Galway should go further – building anything up to 50% affordable in developments that are led by the local authority.

The Affordable Housing Bill, which is currently working its way through the Oireachtas, proposes that all developments should have 10% affordable and 10% social housing as a condition of their approval.

Affordable housing schemes help lower-income households buy their own houses or apartments in new developments at significantly less than their open market value, while social housing is provided by local authorities and housing agencies to those who cannot afford their own accommodation.

The Council meeting, part of the pre-draft stage of forming the Development Plan to run from 2023 to 2029, was to examine the overarching strategies that will inform the draft plan to come before councillors by the end of the year and Cllr McDonnell said a more ambitious target for affordable housing was absolutely necessary.

“It must be included that at least 50% of housing must be affordable [in social housing developments],” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) who questioned if the City Council was ‘tied down’ by national guidelines, or if it could increase the minimum percentage of affordable housing required locally.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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