Connemara’s cemeteries – hemmed in so often between rugged mountains and wild Atlantic – are under threat like never before.
Because many of them are almost full – and extending or replacing them may cost millions.
On top of that, the landscape itself provides an even bigger challenge – because of the impact of the storms that wreaked such devastation at the start of the year.
“The high tides and storms in January and February have brought new issues into the picture” says Councillor Seán Ó Tuairisg.
“The Health Service Executive is closely monitoring any risk of flooding from high tides in the future; this is now a key part of the planning process for seaside cemeteries”.
A favourable report from the Health Service Executive is essential before the County Council can decide in favour of planning permission for work on a cemetery.
Councillor Ó Tuairisg says this could stymie efforts to provide more burial space in many locations in Connemara.
The storms in January and February had a severe impact on Connemara cemeteries; a coffin was partly unearthed in Baile na hAbhann, cemetery walls were damaged in areas such as Mweenish (Carna), Gurteen (Roundstone), Barr an Doire (an Cheathrua Rua).
Damage was also caused to old island cemeteries and human remains were washed ashore in many places.
Councillor Ó Tuairisg explains that many cemeteries were probably sited close to the shoreline in Connemara in the past because it was possible to get better depth there than in the rough lands nearby.
Local people in the close-knit communities of Connemara want to keep extensions, and new burial areas, adjoining – or close to – the old cemeteries.
“It’s a natural thing; that is where all belong to them are laid to rest”, Councillor Ó Tuairisg says. But the newer stringencies in the planning process will make it very difficult to get extensions on seaside burial grounds.
The situation in Leenane at the moment exemplifies the difficulties in finding suitable land for cemeteries in Connemara. The local cemetery, which stretches steeply down to the sea shore, is almost full.
Land is available directly to the north but it is not meeting present day planning criteria; the reason relates to the contour of the ground and its proximity to the sea.
“It is nearing crisis point”, says Seán Ó Tuairisg.
The difficulties in extending, or developing, burial areas in Connemara is compounded by the nature of the terrain.
“Eight feet is the depth that is stipulated, but there appears to be a derogation to six feet allowed in parts of Connemara. Only one coffin would be allowed at that depth,” Councillor Ó Tuairisg said.
However, six feet with adequate land filtration, can be very difficult to find in Connemara; substantial infill of earth would often be needed.
“That is the landscape we have – its renowned all over the world – but it is not ideal for cemeteries.
It is going to take a big investment of money to solve this problem. But we must face up to it,” Councillor Ó Tuairisg added.
Exploring the merits of moving into the west
Broadcaster Mary Kennedy has an abiding image of those early mornings when she’d set out from Dublin at the crack of dawn to begin work on another day’s filming down the country with Nationwide.
“I always liked to go in the morning rather than stay there the night before – so I’d be on the road early. And from the moment I’d hit Newland’s Cross, all I’d see was a line of traffic of people trying to make it from home to their workplace in Dublin,” she says.
These were people whose day began before dawn to get their bleary-eyed kids ready to drop at a childminder along the way, so they could be on time for work – and then race home to hopefully see those same kids before they went to sleep.
But if the pandemic had a positive, it was the realisation that work was something you did, not a place you went to. As a result, many people finally grasped the nettle, moving out of the city and sometimes even taking their work with them.
Which is why Mary – busier than ever since her supposed retirement from RTÉ – is presenting a new television series called Moving West, focusing on those individuals and families who have, as the title, suggests, relocated to the West.
One of the programmes comes from Galway, where Mary met with Stewart Forrest, who relocated with his family from South Africa to Oughterard, and Carol Ho, a Hong Kong native who has also settled in Galway.
The TG4 series also stops off in Sligo, Mayo, Kerry, Clare, Roscommon and Leitrim.
Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Community’s tribute to one of their own – saving final cut of turf after his passing
A local community responded in force to the death of one of their own – a man who had given so much of his life for the good of the parish – by paying one last practical tribute to him last week.
They lifted and footed his turf.
John Geraghty – or Gero as he was known – lived for Gaelic football and he’d filled every role imaginable with the St Brendan’s GAA Club since he came to live in Newbridge in 1983.
He’d cut the turf before he died last Tuesday week, but there it lay, until his old GAA friends organised a bunch of guys – made up of the football team, friends and neighbours – to meet in the bog last Wednesday evening to lift and foot/clamp John’s turf.
“Upwards of 50 fellas from the community showed up,” said St Brendan’s chairman Gerry Kilcommins.
Which was just as well, because, as Gerry acknowledged, John – himself a two-time chairman of the club in the past – had a lot of turf cut!
“It took up an area around three-quarters of the size of a standard football pitch,” he said.
Not that this proved a problem, given the enthusiasm with which they rolled up their sleeves for their old friend.
They started at 7.30pm and had it done at 7.55pm – that’s just 25 minutes from start to finish.
Read the full, heartwarming story – and the St Brendan’s GAA Club appreciation for John Geraghty – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Liver donor dad would do it all again in a heartbeat
It is nearly two years since Paddy Browne gave his daughter Sadhbh part of his liver to save her life. And just ahead of Father’s Day, he reflects on how he would do it all over again in a heartbeat, without a single moment’s hesitation.
After an initial testing time in the first six weeks when they beat a path to the intensive care unit after the operation in St King’s Hospital in London, Sadhbh has never looked back.
“She’s thrived and thrived and thrived. She skips out to school every day. She loves the normal fun and devilment in the yard. She’s now six and started football with Mountbellew Moylough GAA, she loves baking, she’s a voracious reader – she’ll read the whole time out loud while we drive up to Crumlin [Children’s Hospital].”
But it could have all been so different.
Sadhbh from Mountbellew was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia shortly after she was born. She quickly underwent major surgery to drain bile from her liver. It worked well until she reached three years old when an infection caused severe liver damage and she was placed on the liver transplant list.
She was on a long list of medication to manage the consequences of advanced liver disease. While she lived a full life, she would tire very easily.
Paddy was undergoing the rigorous process to be accepted as a living donor when one of the tests ruled him unsuitable. His brother Michael stepped forward and was deemed a good match.
Then, further tests revealed that Paddy was in fact eligible for the operation and the previous result disregarded as a false positive.
Read the full, uplifting story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.