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Connacht Tribune

Construction to get underway on €14 million school development

Declan Tierney

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Works are finally expected to commence in the autumn on the provision of a new €14 million school for Presentation College Athenry at a greenfield site on the outskirts of the town.

Planning permission for the new facility – on what is known locally as the Raheen Woods site – was granted and the tendering process is already well advanced.

There was opposition from the IDA to the school going ahead at this location. The 20 site is located beside extensive IDA-owned lands which were purchased from Teagasc in recent years.

When a new Pres secondary school was being mooted, the Department of Education confirmed that the IDA had concerns in relation to the development because of the “potential impact on enterprise development”.

This sparked a lot of local anger as the school, with more than 1,100 students on its roll, is currently bursting at the seams and is using 25 prefabricated buildings in addition to its existing premises, which was designed in the 1980s for 400 students and has no outdoor playing facilities.

But now Minister Sean Canney, who has responsibility for the Office of Public Works, has said he expects work on a new school to start by next September as the tendering process is now well advanced.

Minister Canney has confirmed that he also expects the preferred bidder to be selected by the late summer. A new building for a 1,000 plus student school is part of an overall plan by the Department of Education to relocate four schools in Athenry town.

“The tendering process is well advanced and I expect the contractor to be appointed by the late summer with the preferred bidder likely to be on site by this coming September”.

“The news is very welcome as delays and frustrations have unfortunately been part and parcel of a long running saga surrounding this project.

“I am delighted to note that progressing of the tendering process is the first major step in providing the new school building that is so earnestly needed for the pupils, parents and teachers in Athenry”, added Minister Canney.

The new building will be two storeys in height, with a linked single storey sports facility as well as on-site parking. The school will be located on a site already owned by the school, opposite the Raheen Woods Hotel.

Local FG councillor Peter Feeney said that it was a much needed development and would provide essential parking and playing pitches for the students.

“It is brilliant news for the town and the students as they are currently operating in very cramped conditions. I am led to believe that the new school will be completed by the end of 2018,” Cllr Feeney added.

Around eight years ago Presentation College in Athenry acquired a 20 acre site for the provision of a new school – it is situated close to IDA-owned lands and the authority have expressed concerns over its impact on enterprise development.

The Department were intent on lodging a planning application around that but the process was stalled when it became known that the IDA were likely to lodge an objection.

Department officials spent a lot of time trying to acquire an alternative site and the options were a seven acre site on the Tuam Road beside a Community Council-owned pitch and a four acre site, which was deemed much too small to accommodate a school with a student population in excess of 1,100.

Connacht Tribune

Covid lockdown returns for Kildare, Laois and Offaly

Enda Cunningham

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The Government has announced localised lockdowns for people living in Kildare, Laois and Offaly, following a surge in Covid-19 cases over the past week.

People from outside of those counties have been asked not to travel their unless for work or essential travel.

The restrictions affect travel, pubs, restaurants, swimming pools and cinemas.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the clusters of new cases were of serious concern and described the restrictions as “limited”.

“Over the past 14 days 292 cases of Covid-19 have arisen in Kildare, Laois and Offaly. These represent almost half of all cases detected in Ireland during that time.

“These measures are being put in place to protect the vulnerable in these counties as well as to stop the spread of the virus.

They are in place for two weeks from midnight tonight (Friday) until midnight on Friday, August 20. The situation will then be reviewed,” the Taoiseach said.

Travel and transport

You can only travel within your county, other than for the following reasons:

  • to travel to and from work where that work cannot be done from home
  • to attend medical appointments, collect medicines and other health products
  • for vital family reasons, like providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, but excluding social family visits
  • for farming purposes, food production or care of animals

You should not travel into any of these counties, other than for the reasons above, and you need to travel through these counties to get somewhere else. You should not stop in Kildare, Laois or Offaly unless for essential purposes.

Public and private transport

You should not use public transport unless it is absolutely necessary to do so, and where possible you should not share private vehicles with others from outside your household.

Education and childcare

The following services remain open with appropriate protective measures in place:

  • education and childcare
  • outdoor playgrounds, play areas and parks
  • Economic activity and work
  • Anyone in these counties who can work from home should work from home.

Social

Cafes and restaurants

  • All cafes and restaurants, including bars operating as restaurants, should only offer takeaway or delivery, or outdoor dining (maximum 15 people with strict physical distancing).
  • Hotels can remain open but must limit occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons. Existing guests can remain for the duration of their booking.

Indoor gatherings

  • All indoor gatherings should be restricted to a maximum of 6 people from no more than 3 households in total, while maintaining physical distancing.

Outdoor gatherings

  • Outdoor gatherings should be limited to a maximum of 15 people, while maintaining physical distancing.

Cultural and religious

  • All cinemas, theatres, casinos, betting shops, bingo halls, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools, exercise and dance studios are required to close.
  • Attendance at a funeral service and burial or cremation ceremony should be limited to 25 outdoors. Indoor events connected to the funeral are limited to a maximum of 6 people.
  • Places of worship remain open for private prayer, while services are to be held online.

Sport

No sporting events or matches should take place, with the following exemptions:

  • non-contact training outdoors in a maximum group of 15 people may continue
  • professional and elite sports and horse-racing may continue behind closed doors
  • inter-county training (max 15 people) and fixtures may continue behind closed doors

Residential and healthcare facilities

*Visiting in long-term residential care facilities, acute settings and prisons will generally be suspended in the first instance with the exception of the most critical and compassionate circumstances (for example end of life).

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Connacht Tribune

Relocation homebuyers head to the west

Dara Bradley

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Clifden....popular destination.

The Coronavirus pandemic has encouraged a new exodus of homebuyers to relocate to the west, with remote working now a viable option for many employees.

Galway’s busiest auctioneer has noticed increased interest in properties in the city and county from workers relocating from Dublin, its commuter belt and the Midlands.

The availability of high-speed broadband, which can facilitate working from home, is a determining factor in many homebuyers’ decisions to move to the West.

But the high cost of renting remains the single biggest incentive for people to get on the property ladder, according to Niall Browne, senior sales negotiator at O’Donnellan and Joyce Auctioneers.

“People are paying such high rent that it’s the equivalent to a mortgage repayment and that’s when you buy. That’s the biggest incentive to buy – you’re not giving away dead money,” Mr Browne said.

The property market locally had quietened in the initial months of the Covid-19 lockdown – but it has been buoyant in the past two months in particular, he said.

Mr Browne suggested there was an element of pent-up demand for housing that was now being realised as the Covid lockdown restrictions focused people’s minds on their desire to purchase a home.

“We typically try to get eight to ten sales per month by private treaty, and we had 28 or 29 last month. The previous month was six and the previous month was eight. This month (July) we’re up to 26, and that’s outside of our auction,” he said.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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Connacht Tribune

Nursing Homes shun student nurses over Covid fears

Stephen Corrigan

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Student nurses in Galway are facing financial doom as part-time employers shun those currently on work placement in hospitals over fears they are at high-risk of contracting Covid-19.

First year nursing student at NUI Galway Ciarán Mac an tSaoir told the Connacht Tribune that this had become a particular issue for first and second year students who would traditionally take on healthcare assistant roles in nursing homes, where the fear of spreading the virus is at fever pitch.

“After semester one in first year, you are essentially qualified as a healthcare assistant and a lot of students would take that up as an option. Since Covid-19 came in, a lot of work places are fearful of cross-contamination and that’s not unjustified.

“It’s very understandable that a nursing home wouldn’t want a student who might be going between five or six clinical areas in an acute hospital to be then coming into work in the nursing home,” said Mr Mac an tSaoir.

Nursing students, for whom a large proportion of their university experience is spent on unpaid work placement, spend up to 35-hours a week in a clinical setting and so that could mean them travelling between a Covid-19-free setting of a nursing home to a respiratory word in a hospital such as UHG, he explained.

However, this wasn’t a HSE policy but rather the decision of individual care facilities who were doing their best to ensure coronavirus was kept out.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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