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Corrib infestation cuts off water to Headford homes

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 05-Nov-2009

THE infestation of Lough Corrib by the dreaded Zebra Mussle has cut off the water supply to homes in Headford.

At least six homes around Annaghkeen Bay which have been drawing water from the lake have had their water pumps and pipes destroyed by the freshwater bivalve mollusc.

One resident, Zara Brady, said her foot valve has become infested with the mussels, which have colonized the pipes and infiltrated the pressure pump. The damage means she can never again draw water from the Corrib. 


“The whole of the foot valve looks like it has been poured with concrete. The two inch thick pipe is solid with them and there is a total encrustation on the pump,” Mrs Brady said. 


The infestation is likely to have a similar affect on public and group water schemes operating on the Corrib within a very short period. 


“We really have come to the end of an era. Sixty years is a short lifetime to see the water come bubbling and sparkling out of a brand new tap, and then to be an eye witness to the irreversible changes of a lake’s ecology. 


“Zebra Mussels have already caused problems to water treatment facilities on the River Shannon. Pipes have been obstructed, water for human consumption has been tainted by the mussels because of the waste they leave behind.” 


In 2006 warning signs were erected along lakes in the region urging boat owners to clean their vessels before bringing them to the West in bid to prevent the spread of Zebra Mussels, which had by then colonised much of the Shannon-Erne waterway. 


The signs advised boat owners to remove plant life, drain bilge water and to inspect and hot wash their boat every time they changed water to get rid of young mussels, which may not be visible to the naked eye. Boats that had thumbnail-sized adult mussels attached to the hull should be scraped off and the boat left out of water for a month as the organisms can live out of water for 18 days or more. 


However the €30,000 signage campaign was in vain as the dreaded mussel was discovered to have infested a substantial area of the lake north of Oughterard. 


“Once it’s in, it’s in. There’s very little that can be done once they establish a presence,” mused the Biodiversity Officer for Galway County Council Elaine O’Riordan. 


“Once they are scraped off any sort of infrastructure, buoys, moorings, peers, there are seedlings waiting to replace them.” 


Inspector with the Western Regional Fisheries Board Kevin Crowley said the mussels have been detected right across the lake, on stones in Galway Bay, as well as in Lough Mask. Their priority now is to prevent it spreading to Lough Cara and other lakes in the region. 


There is no law preventing boats from spreading the infestation between lakes. 


“I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse. We’ve been looking for legislation to prevent the introduction of all foreign species here but have been unsuccessful.” 


While some anglers believe they are beneficial to the water as they improve visibility and fish catchability, because they filter feed and the water becomes crystal clear. Each mussel filters one litre of fresh water, which involves recycling nutrients and plankton out of the water, removing a lot of the food that fish are dependent on. 


Prolific breeders, an infestation can see 10,000 present per square metre of water. 


They cause toxic algae blooms because they avoid toxic plankton. Because the water appears clearer, more sunlight penetrates through, encouraging the growth of a lot more weeds. 


Zebra Mussels, originally from Russia, were first detected in Lough Derg on the Lower Shannon in 1997 although it is believed that they arrived there around 1994 on second-hand boats that were imported from Great Britain. 


Zebra Mussels use byssal threads to attach onto a variety of hard and soft surfaces and are readily transported upstream by boat traffic or overland on boat hulls, on nets and on equipment. They spread naturally downstream with water currents thereby allowing them to colonise lakes and slow-flowing waterways. 


In Lough Derg the Zebra mussels have attached themselves to the native mussels, causing them to starve to death because they are unable to open or close. 


At the slipway at Annaghkeen at the height of the angling season there are cars with registrations from Clare, Longford, Roscommon, Cavan, Limerick, Leitrim – all launching boats and engines into the Corrib, according to Mrs Brady. 


She never saw any that were kept out of the water or even washed. “Six years ago they should have taken serious action, like during the foot and mouth outbreak. They should not have been allowed to take any boats into the great lakes unless they had been steam cleaned and quarantined on land,” she said. 


For now the Bradys are getting their water by a connecting pipe from their farm into a local group water scheme. They will have to make more permanent arrangements to ensure their supply into the future.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Rory takes on fresh challenge as lauded DruidMurphy returns

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 03-Apr-2013


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After twenty years Sarah lands dream role in Druid

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 04-Apr-2013

 Sarah Lynch has been living and breathing Druid Theatre since she wangled a job as a runner fresh out of college two decades ago at age 20. After holding down just about every role imaginable there – from company manager to director to stage manager – her appointment as general manager to one of the country’s most prestigious theatre companies last October seemed almost inevitable.

Because once she had tasted the fruit of Druid she was going nowhere . . . and going everywhere. Sarah’s tenure at Druid since 1998 has brought her on a journey that has reached just about every corner of the globe and almost all the islands off Ireland in between.

After graduating from Limerick with a degree in French and English Sarah spent a stint teaching in a secondary school. But it immediately became clear that wasn’t the road for her.

“One thing I was always certain of was I’d be involved in the performing arts, whether on stage or off stage or behind it. The immediate reaction of the audience is such a buzz,” she grins.

Her earliest memory was of her grandfather, Bud Clancy, on stage with his trumpet and dance band. “I must have been three or four because he died shortly after that. But it never left me. I got bitten by the bug. I started playing the trumpet. A friend of my grandfather taught me how to play and I was with the Limerick brass and reed orchestra known as the Boherbuoy Band, I was just a kid with all these adults.”

She learned to play other brass instruments such as the French horn and cornet before turning her hand to the guitar and song-writing. “I taught myself guitar. Sometime I tinker on the piano and I think that’s my next instrument. I love percussion. You can’t get me off a drum kit for love or money. Many is the night I’ve made a fool of myself on one of those,” she laughs.

In 2010, Sarah released her debut album, Letter to Friends, which was launched by playwright Enda Walsh, whose short play, Lynndie’s Gotta Gun, she had directed as part of the 2008 Galway Arts Festival.

The collection of songs was produced by Wayne Sheehy, a musician she had met when opening for Juliet Turner on Turner’s Burn the Black Suit tour.

“I could probably have done it ten years ago but for the manic schedule with Druid and touring so much,” she reflects. “I haven’t done much with it since. I used to play gigs in the Róisín Dubh. The bigger twin is theatre at the moment. The bigger twin bullies the other twin. You don’t get much time to do music.”

After fleeing the classroom, Sarah knocked on the door of a former college mate, Andrew Flynn, now with the Galway Youth Theatre, who kindly offered up his couch. He also managed to get her a job as a runner – the person who does everything from making tea to helping with props – on a Druid production of As You Like It.

“I remember working with Mark O’Halloran, I had great fun with him. There was Helen Norton, it was Maeliosa Stafford directing. He’s coming back to the Druid after ten years to star in Tom Murphy’s A Whistle in the Dark. He left me as a runner, now I’m general manager.”

Much of Sarah’s time behind the scenes at Druid has been spent on the road. In 2009 alone, Druid toured to Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA presenting 364 performances in 26 venues.

Indeed so much of life has been out spent living of a suitcase that she gave up her base in Galway to move back in with her family in Caherdavin, on the Galway side of Limerick city.

The tour of the Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh was so long the crew were instructed to pack two suitcases, one with summer clothes, the other winter gear, as they would be spanning the seasons. Her job now entails a lot of commuting, but driving is where she gets a lot of thinking done.

Sarah’s decision to apply for the more home-based job of general manager was one she made discreetly while on the Druid Murphy tour around the US. She had to undergo her interview in between shows at the Lincoln Center in New York. It was the most nerve wrecking experience of her life, she admits.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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