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Connacht Tribune

Belgian college head could face jail over GMIT student deaths

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A court hearing is underway in the Belgian city of Leuven in connection with a fire which killed two GMIT students in the city in January 2014.
The Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe and the director of the Institute, Malachy Vallely, are both named as defendants in the case.
The fire broke out in the early hours of Friday 31 January, 2014 in a student apartment in the medieval university city.
19 year-old Sara Gibaldo from Oranmore and 22 year-old Dace Zarina from Longford died in a fire at a house in the university town of Leuven
Both of the women were second year students in the Bachelor of Business degree in hotel and catering management at GMIT and were on Erasmus placements at the time of the incident.
The case is being heard by three judges who will listen to oral evidence from the prosecution and the defendants.
Written submissions for the families of the two women have already been lodged with court, as well as submissions from the defendants.
According to the Irish Independent, Belgian prosecutors are seeking a jail term for the director of the Irish College in Leuven in relation to the fire.
Malachy Vallely has been accused of using his apartment as a “cash cow” for 23 years by renting it back to the college.
The court has been told that fire safety in the apartment was “completely lacking”.
The hearing has been adjourned until the 5th of September, when a verdict will be delivered.

Connacht Tribune

Wave goodbye to City Bypass as long as Greens are in Government

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An artist's impression of proposed Galway Ring Road.

PEOPLE in the West of Ireland should not be ‘fooled’ into thinking that vital infrastructure projects like the Galway City Bypass will get the go-ahead while Eamon Ryan remains in charge of Environment, a former Fianna Fail Minister and West Galway TD has warned this week.

That’s despite Tánaiste Leo Varadkar re-iterating on Galway Bay FM this week that the funding for the project has already been allocated – although he admitted that planning was the final hurdle.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív told the Connacht Tribune that the proposed bypass of Galway city, which has a Bord Pleanála decision due by November 19 next, would end up being choked under the headings of ‘carbon proofing and carbon rating’.

“Make no mistake about it but the word on the ground that’s filtering through to local Green Party representatives is that this project will not go ahead, and will be stopped because of carbon-proofing regulations.

“This is no red herring – over the years, I’ve seen so many road projects in Connemara that were given the go-ahead in principle but have never happened because of so-called processes and procedures,” said Éamon Ó Cuív.

However, he pledged that the six Fianna Fáil representatives across Connacht, would fight ‘tooth and nail’ not to see the West ‘left behind’ with roads projects that were vital for the future of the province.

“We will be meeting directly with Taoiseach, Micheál Martin on Wednesday next [October 20] to stress the importance of a number of roads projects across the West of Ireland, including the Galway City Bypass.

“And I would also stress that we are committed fully to environmental and carbon reduction measures, but the way to do this is not by preventing people in the West of Ireland from using their cars – the cars aren’t the problem – it’s the fuel that’s used to power them,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

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

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Connacht Tribune

Connemara coffee couple are now well grounded!

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Aoife Geary and James Elcock on their opening day, with their first customers - and landlords - Roundstone natives Michael John and Catherine Ferrons, sitting outside.

Aoife Geary always felt like one of the locals in Carna. Even though her parents were living in Galway City, she was largely raised by her granny and grandad Barbara and Coleman Geary. Her first job as a 13-year-old was in the local shop in the Connemara village.

“I know it sounds a bit romantic, but I felt like I was raised by the community, not just in the community. I knew everybody in the shop and everybody knew me,” she reflects.

So, when London was about to go into the first lockdown in March 2020, she and husband James Elcock made a split decision to hop on a flight to Galway armed with two carry-on suitcases.

“Granny was terminally ill with cancer, and I wanted to help out with her care and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to travel. Little did we think we weren’t going to leave.”

Aoife was the live entertainment manager for billionaire Richard Branson’s private members club called Roof Gardens in Kensington while James, a native of Shropshire, was running a restaurant in the bank area of London. She had lived in London since 2013, her husband four years longer.

When he was made redundant, he bought himself a vintage sewing machine in Castlebar and taught himself to use it in an afternoon, setting up his first Irish business making and selling cotton face masks.

They then realised that a takeaway unit in Roundstone had become free, which was overlooking the picturesque pier and with views of the Twelve Bens. They opened My Coffee Cottage in mid-August and business was brisk from the get-go.

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

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Connacht Tribune

Budget’s grant break for college commuters

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NUI Galway.

Grants for some third level students living in certain parts of County Galway, who attend college in the city, could more than double as a result of changes in Budget 2022.

Undergraduates and students on post leaving cert courses living in areas such as Tuam, Loughrea and An Cheathrú Rua will all benefit from an adjustment to the eligibility to the non-adjacent rate for maintenance grants.  Some could get a grant boost of €1,800 next year due to the changes announced in the Budget.

People eligible for a maintenance grant are paid at either a non-adjacent rate or an adjacent rate – determined by measuring the distance of the shortest direct route from your normal residence to college.

Currently, the adjacent rate – which is lower – is paid when your college is 45km or less from where you live. The higher non-adjacent rate is paid when the college is more than 45km away from an eligible student’s home. The non-adjacent rate has been adjusted in Budget 2022 to include 30km to 45km.

This means that eligibility for the non-adjacent rate has been widened, and many students who were previously on the adjacent rate may now be eligible for a higher non-adjacent rate. It means that third level students living in Tuam, Loughrea and An Cheathrú could be eligible for the higher non-adjacent rate next September.

Get the full details on this and the impact of Budget 2022 in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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