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Connacht Tribune

Driving food to the edge

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Food On The Edge director, JP McMahon pictured at the programme launch at the O'Donoghue Centre at NUIG. Photo: Declan Monaghan.

Lifestyle – Chef JP McMahon has been instrumental in putting Galway on the food map through his own restaurants, the Galway Food Festival and Food On The Edge. Ten years after opening his first premises, his passion is undimmed as Judy Murphy found out when she met him.

JP McMahon doesn’t have to think too hard about the high point of his 10-year career as a restaurateur in Galway City. “Winning the Michelin star for Aniar,” he says simply. Aniar, which opened in 2011, won the coveted award just 14 months later and the Dominick Street restaurant has retained it ever since. “Keeping that is probably the hardest thing we do every day,” he says. Another high point is the staff who have worked for them, many of whom are still in contact.

The low-point for the man who, with his wife Drigín Gaffey, owns two other restaurants in Galway is also an easy question to answer.

“Having to close Cava,” he says of the Spanish tapas bar Cava Bodega which was the couple’s first restaurant – it opened in 2008 on Dominick Street.

Cava closed in early 2013 because of what JP describes as “our equivalent to a bad mortgage”, namely upward-only lease. When the recession came, they were in trouble.  It was closed for a year but since its reincarnation in the city’s Middle Street, has gone on to new levels of success. However, at the time they closed, he didn’t know if it would ever re-emerge.

Aniar, meanwhile, attracts food-lovers from Ireland and abroad – mostly abroad, he says – many of whom visit Galway to dine there and in the city’s other Michelin-starred restaurant, Loam.

As well as running Aniar, Cava and Tartare Wine Bar, which collectively operate under the EAT banner, JP has also found time to become a mentor on the RTÉ series, Taste of Success, write a weekly food column for the Irish Times and launch a campaign to have food education included on the school curriculum. He’s also written a cookbook and regularly speaks at food conferences worldwide. In 2015, he broke new ground by launching Food On The Edge, an annual two-day symposium held in Galway every October, which has put Ireland on the international food map. It’s no mean feat for a man who turned 40 this year.

JP McMahon came to cheffing indirectly and without formal training but few people have had more influence on Galway’s or Ireland’s food scene than he’s had.

Dublin-born and raised in Kildare, he graduated in English and Art History from UCC, and during his holidays, worked in the Crawford Art Gallery Café when Isaac Allen of Ballymaloe was at the helm.  Before that, JP had worked in an Italian restaurant in Maynooth during his school holidays – his father taught physics in Maynooth University.

At different times too, he worked in the kitchen of Fat Freddie’s in Galway and was head chef there when he and Drigín got an opportunity to open their own restaurant. They opted for a Spanish theme with Cava Bodega. Later came Aniar, with its focus on West of Ireland ingredients and fine dining. That was followed by Eat at Massimo (now gone). Last year they opened a café and wine bar, Tartare on Dominick Street, across the road from Aniar, again focusing on locally-produced food and selling organic wine.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Thousands on waiting list for student accommodation in Galway

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The student housing crisis is ‘the worst it’s ever been’ – with thousands on waiting lists for rooms; hundreds relying on hostels and friends’ sofas; and countless more facing deferral or dropping out altogether.

The President of NUI Galway’s Students’ Union, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, told the Connacht Tribune that students had been left in a desperate situation, as she called for mass protests to have the issue addressed.

According to Ms Nic Lochlainn, 3,000 students were currently on the waiting lists for NUIG’s on-campus accommodation – Corrib Village and Goldcrest Village – with around 500 in line for any bed that might come up in the Westwood.

“Gort na Coiribe and Dunaras have told us their waiting lists are well into the hundreds too. I’ve only got to contact two of the hostels around town, but Kinlay and Snoozles have almost 200 students between them already – and they’re expecting more.

“The first years haven’t even arrived yet, and on top of all that, you have people in B&Bs and staying on their friends’ sofas,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn.

Pressure on the student rental market had been building for years, she said, but it had gone off the cliff edge this year as a perfect storm was created by increased student numbers and reduced bed availability.

“[Minister for Further and Higher Education] Simon Harris created new places on courses this year and talked about maximum access to education . . . I’m not sure how that works for students who are homeless.

“Because there weren’t many students around last year, some private landlords might have moved on. There was no new purpose-built accommodation delivered, and then Simon Harris creates new places with no new beds,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn of the causes of this year’s problems.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Government asked to “do everything” to ensure Intel chooses Oranmore as base

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The Taoiseach and Tánaiste will be asked to do “everything in their power” to ensure technology giant Intel selects Oranmore as the location for its new microchip manufacturing plant – which could create 10,000 jobs and transform the West of Ireland economy.

The 540-acre site is owned by the Defence Forces and was selected by IDA Ireland as the preferred site for the company’s new EU ‘chip’ base.

BY STEPHEN CORRIGAN
AND DARA BRADLEY

Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany and Intel confirmed to Taoiseach Micheál Martin that the site is under consideration.

Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said the development would be “transformative” and would be Intel’s largest microchip manufacturing plant in the world.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week, councillors backed a proposal from Cllr Liam Carroll to write to Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar to urge them to push forward the plan.

“This would be a game-changer, not just for Oranmore but for the whole of Connacht. Imagine 10,000 directly employed at some stage in the future, and the spinoff from that,” he said.

The Oranmore site is reported to have been selected ahead of three other locations in Ireland.

It is on Intel’s short-list for the proposed project, which would involve building eight factory modules on a single campus at the site off the M6 motorway, northeast of Oranmore, the newspaper reported.

The American multinational tech company has whittled down its short-list to 10 finalists; Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that if it proceeds, the new Oranmore ‘mega-fab’ would dwarf Intel’s existing site in Leixlip, which employs almost 5,000.

Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon (FG) said: “It would put Galway on the map internationally as a place for high-tech investment and it would serve to rebalance the economic imbalance that exists in our country where all of the weight is on the east coast.

“The IDA has a formula where every one new job created in that industry creates about eight or nine more jobs downstream in terms of the supply chain and services. They’re saying 10,000 jobs on site – twice the population of Athenry – on one campus and then another 80-90,000 jobs off site. The figures are phenomenal, mind boggling,” said Deputy Cannon.

The demand for the facility arose during Covid-19 when the supply chain between Asia and Europe broke down.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Fraudsters ‘spoof’ Galway Garda Station’s phone number

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Fraudsters replicated the phone number of Galway Garda Station and used it to call a local woman to demand money.

Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that the number ‘091 538000’ was somehow used by criminals who attempted to extract money – in the form of the online currency Bitcoin – from the victim.   Despite the phone call appearing to come from the Garda station at Mill Street, the woman became suspicious and reported it to Gardaí.

Sgt Walsh said it was the latest in a series of ‘spoofing’ phone calls to have occurred this year.

Spoofing is where fraudsters change the caller ID to ring unsuspecting members of the public to try to extract money or personal information off them.

He said that the number of spoofing incidents reported to Galway Gardaí has more than doubled in the past year.

“It is top of my agenda,” he said.

He pointed out that criminals can obtain a ‘ready to go’ phone and SIM card, relatively cheaply, and it was “very difficult” for Gardaí to trace the caller.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more details on fraud figures in Galway, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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