Works are to commence on the redevelopment of the old Shannon Oaks Hotel in Portumna within a matter of months – meaning it could be reopened for business by the end of the summer.
And that would result in a major multi-million euro boost to the South East Galway town which has been bearing the brunt of the lack of a hotel for almost seven years.
The redevelopment of the hotel is part of a €2 million-plus investment by the new owners, the Comer Group.
Luke Comer told The Connacht Tribune that he intends to restore the hotel to its former glory.
“We have purchased the property and we want to turn it into a new state of the art hotel in Portumna where we feel has loads of potential. We have put the project out to tender and obviously we would prefer to secure a local builder.
“It is in a prime location and we would hope that the new hotel would be up and running by the end of the Summer. I understand that there are two local contractors involved in the process,” Luke Comer added.
The Comers, originally from Glenamaddy, own some 40 hotels across the world including eight in this country and Luke is excited about adding the Portumna venture to their portfolio.
This comes as welcome news for Portumna Chamber of Commerce and President Paul Dillon said that he would give the new owners all the help and advice they required to make the new hotel a success in the town.
“It is wonderful news and the Comers can be assured that we will give them every support that they require. The town needs a hotel to boost our tourism potential and this is great news.
“It would be great for the town. I have been in contact with the new owners and it is now great to see that they have significant plans for the building”, Paul Dillon added. The development also includes several holiday homes and chalets.
It is a significant mark of the drive behind the town Portumna that it managed to commercially survive without the facility of a hotel – and particularly it being mainly dependent on tourism.
Portumna basks on the shores of Lough Derg and when the hotel in the town burned down in 2011, it was devastating but, soon after, it created something of a new enthusiasm amongst the local business community.
It is generally accepted that the development of the new hotel in Portumna has the capacity to create an additional 500 jobs in the town, which is largely dependent on the Shannon for its income.
However, Luke Comer is looking forward to the Portumna challenge and he believes that it can be a success. He believes that other similar towns in the vicinity can sustain a hotel and he is convinced that with The Shannon on its doorstep, his new hotel will prove a success.
“I have given it out to tender and I believe that there that two local contractors interested and I would love to give it out to someone from the area. I am expecting this will be done within the next couple of weeks,” he confirmed.
Gardaí in Galway operating with fewer patrol cars
Five large Garda stations in County Galway are operating with fewer Garda vehicles now than two years ago – leading to a call for the local fleet to be restored to 2020 levels.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has confirmed to Galway West TD Noel Grealish that the Garda fleet in the Galway Garda Division stands at 116 as of October of this year.
That’s greater than any of the years from 2012 to 2019, but it represents a reduction on the Garda fleet when compared with 2020 and 2021 figures.
Galway Gardaí had a dozen fewer vehicles this year, compared with 2020. There are 13 fewer patrol cars, down from 96 to 83; there was no change in the number of vans and motorcycles, and the division acquired one extra 4×4.
Garda stations in Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Tuam, Clifden and Salthill have all lost patrol cars in the past 24 months, according to the official figures.
Independent Deputy Grealish has demanded a restoration of the Garda fleet in Galway to 2020 levels.
“Gardaí have a demanding enough job to do, but it makes that important work even more difficult if they are not allocated the proper resources,” Deputy Grealish said.
“A reduction of twelve vehicles in less than two years across the Galway Division, down from 128 at the end of 2020 to 116 in October this year, is concerning.
“I have asked the Minister for Justice to explain why this has happened, that the number of vehicles in the Galway Division has fallen by ten per cent, when nationally the total fleet actually increased by 6%. I am demanding that they at the very least be restored to their 2020 levels,” he said.
Deputy Grealish pointed out that almost all areas of the county had suffered a reduction in Garda vehicles since the beginning of last year. Ballinasloe currently has six vehicles, a reduction of two since the end of 2020; Clifden also has six, down one; Loughrea was down three to eleven; Salthill was down three to ten; the biggest reduction in Garda vehicles was in the Tuam area down five to twelve.
Galway City’s fleet increased by two vehicles, for a total of 71.
Minister McEntee said that the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was responsible for the administration and management of An Garda Síochána, including the purchase, allocation, and effective and efficient use of Garda vehicles.
“As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure their optimum use in light of identified operational needs and emerging crime trends,” she added.
Galway City Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) last month complained that the number of vehicles available to Gardaí in Salthill and Knocknacarra was insufficient.
Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team
Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.
The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.
Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.
Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.
“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.
It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.
“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”
She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.
“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.
There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.
Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968
As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.
From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.
When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.
Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.
A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.
Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later