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Eco tourism to secure the future of Inishbofin

Judy Murphy

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A Galway Hooker in Bofin Harbour, with Cromwell's Barracks in the background. Photos: Marie Coyne.

Lifestyle –  Judy Murphy hears about island’s green and sustainable plan to ensure it doesn’t end up like deserted neighbour

Standing amid the ruined dwellings on the island of Inishark, gazing across to the houses on neighbouring Inishbofin, the difference between the two islands is stark.

Inishark is desolate, inhabited only by sheep, while Bofin with about 180 fulltime residents is a bustling spot for much of the year.

The North Connemara island is loved by tourists, who are catered for by three hotels, a pub, several B&Bs and a range of self-catering cottages. On a sunny weekend in March, there’s no nicer spot in the world.

But it’s not all roses. Our guide, local historian Tommy Burke, and his fellow Bofin man Simon Murray say there’s no room for complacency.

Inishark was depopulated in1960 when residents were moved to the mainland. For Bofin people, meanwhile, the price of ensuring their future requires constant vigilance. They are determined they won’t be forgotten by government as happened to their neighbours.

Inishbofin has been attracting tourists since the early 1960s, and while the island has changed vastly in the past 50 years, its tourism has been sensitively developed. The focus has been on nature, history, archaeology and culture – all of which exist in abundance on Bofin.

And for the past two years, islanders have been working with EcoTourism Ireland to expand this remit. In the process, Bofin has achieved Eco-Certification for its green and sustainable tourism projects and experiences, the first offshore island in Ireland to do so.

These activities include bird-watching, sheep-shearing, fishing, cycling, horse-riding, photography, sailing, guided walks and unguided walks. If it’s outdoor activities you want, then this island, five miles long by two wide, with crystal clear waters and unspoilt beaches is heaven. And the eco-certification which was celebrated with a ceremony in Bofin’s Dolphin Hotel last weekend, ensures that tourism, so vital to the local economy, will not kill the goose that lays the golden egg,

EcoTourism Ireland is the only organisation in Ireland recognised internationally for promoting eco-tourism. This involves respecting the environment, supporting the local economy and being socially and culturally aware.

EcoTourism Ireland is run by Mary Mulvey, a powerhouse of energy, who worked tirelessly with the Inishbofin community, children and adults, to help them achieve the eco-certification status.

And while Bofin initially approached her about developing a tourism strategy, the remit expanded during a year of training to include a community-led biodiversity plan and recycling project. That featured recently on RTÉ’s Eco Eye, showing local people learning how to make furniture from old wooden pallets.

The island also signed up to the Leave No Trace Ireland group, which encourages people to behave in a way that minimises their impact on the landscape. To that end, there will be a video on the Inishbofin ferry asking people not to dump their rubbish on the island, where it becomes a big problem

Bofin has also become the first offshore island to gain Fairtrade status – goods such as tea, coffee and chocolate are bought from Fairtrade operators. And it has launched its own Fairtrade coffee blend, created in Galway, which is sold in participating hotels, guesthouses and in the Beach Bar.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

Army removes explosive device in Knocknacarra

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An army Bomb Disposal Team was called to Knocknacarra last night to deal with a ‘viable’ explosive device.

Following a request from Gardai, the unit was tasked with investigating a suspicious device in a laneway off Cappagh Road at around 10pm.

The area was cordoned off and following an examination, the device was deemed viable and made safe.

It was removed from the scene shortly after 10.30pm and was taken to a Defence Forces location where it will undergo further examination.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Hospital worker failed to self isolate after trip to red-list country

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Management at University Hospital Galway have been asked to investigate ‘as a matter of urgency’ an allegation that a security employee at the hospital returned to work within the 14-day restriction period after coming back from a ‘red-list’ country.

The person has already worked at least two shifts at the hospital – including looking after an elderly patient – despite the fact that the restriction period would not have expired until this Sunday, September 20.

The Galway City Tribune can reveal that in a letter from SIPTU official to a senior UHG manager, it is alleged there was breach of protocol over recent days by an employee of an outsourced security company.

According to the letter to Services Manager Geoff Ginnety, while the worker was not covered under HSE employee rules, “they still must comply with the Government issued protocols”.

The letter from SIPTU states that the worker in question had told his colleagues that he was in a red-listed country and that ‘he did not have to restrict his movements’ for 14 days and could return to work.

“I request that you [Services Manager at UHG] address these concerns as a matter of urgency and provide clear guidance on how to deal with the issue,” the SIPTU letter states.

According to information accessed by the Galway City Tribune, the employee in question returned from a red-listed country on September 6 last and underwent a test for Covid-19 five days later on September 11.

Shortly after that, according to his employers, the results of his Covid tests came back as negative. The Galway City Tribune understands that he returned to his night-shift work on Tuesday night, September 15, and also worked the Wednesday night shift of September 16.

This newspaper has also been informed by reliable sources that on his first night back on duty the employee was left in charge of an elderly patient, while on his second night back at work, he was dutied to the Emergency Department.

When contacted by the Galway City Tribune, a spokesperson for the HSE said that they could not comment on issues relating to individual staff.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Leisureland sinks with €20,000 per week losses

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The plug is being pulled on Leisureland – leaving hundreds of swimmers, mostly children, and trainee lifeguards, high and dry.

Galway Salthill Fáilte CLG, the company that operates the publicly-owned facility, has confirmed it plans to shut down its swimming pool and gym, leaving members of six aquatic clubs, hundreds of schoolchildren, and the general public, without an amenity for the foreseeable future.

Swimming clubs fear they will lose a whole generation of young swimmers in Galway if the pool closes. And they have warned that it could end up costing €1 million to repair and reopen the pool after a prolonged closure.

Leisureland blamed the impact of coronavirus for its financial woes, with losses running at an average of €20,000 per week.

The company said that by August it had already spent its annual €300,000 subsidy subvention from Galway City Council, and the local authority has indicated it is not in a position to increase the subsidy further in 2020.

The planned closure – which could result in the furloughing of over 20 staff from next month – has shocked the local aquatic community.

A lengthy hiatus with Leisureland closed will mean Galway will lose a ‘whole generation’ of swimmers, according to Eamon Caulfield, President of Galway Swimming Club and member and former chairperson of Corrib Water Polo Club.

“We’re particularly upset and aggrieved that this is going ahead, it’s shocking. They should be looking to reverse this decision,” he said this week.

The majority of the five aquatic clubs that use the facility (Galway SC, Shark SC, Laser SC and Tribes and Corrib water polo clubs) are made up of children aged 10-18, including some international athletes. Hundreds of children from Galway schools also learn to swim there.

A water safety group has been using the pool every Sunday morning since it opened in 1973, he said.

“Historically it is where Galway gets its lifeguards from. How can you not have swim lessons in a public pool? How can you not have water safety taught in a pool in Galway?

“It beggars belief, we’re on the sea. The water safety people, where are they going to go, how are we going to get lifeguards for beaches? How are we going to get teachers for teaching swimming?” asked Mr Caulfield.

The clubs have roughly 150 members each and generate €150,000 revenue annually for Leisureland.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full version, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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