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Eco tourism to secure the future of Inishbofin

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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

Galway family’s light show adds magic to Christmas

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Carrick Family Light Show returns tonight (Friday) as 70,000 lights are illuminated in aid of a worthy local charity.

The man behind the lights spectacular, James Carrick, says test runs this week have proven successful and the family is ready to mark another Christmas in style.

“This is our fourth Christmas doing it. We started in 2019, but Covid was around for the last two years so it will be great this year not having to worry about that so much,” says James, who has spent the last few weeks carefully rebuilding the show at his home in Lurgan Park, Renmore.

He’s added “a few bits and pieces this year” – his brother buying the house next door has provided him a ‘blank canvas’ to extend.

Over the past three years, the show has raised almost €30,000 for local charities and James hopes to build on that this year – offering the light show for free, as always, and giving the opportunity to donate if people wish to do so.

The show runs nightly from 6.30pm, Monday to Saturday, with an extra kids show on Sundays at 5pm at 167 Lurgan Park (H91 Y17D). Donations can be made at the shows or by searching ‘idonate Carrick Family Light Show’ online.

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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Chaos’ for Christmas as Martin junction works delayed again

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Motorists attempting to get into Galway are facing a nightmare before Christmas as continued delays to the works at the Martin roundabout create traffic chaos on the east side of the city.

Anger over the controversial project to remove the roundabout at Galway Clinic intensified this week as the completion date was pushed out to February – nearly a year after works began and six months later than the supposed deadline.

Local councillor Alan Cheevers (FF) told the Galway City Tribune that he had lost all confidence in the Transport Department in the City Council and hit out at their “outsourcing the problem” to private contractors.

He said despite repeated representations from him, the local authority was refusing to take responsibility for the bedlam caused by the works, which he said had resulted in “three minor collisions in the last five weeks”.

“The bottom line is that this has been an absolute shambles and I’ve lost all faith in senior officials in City Hall. When I raised the issue again this week, I was accused of looking for newspaper headlines – they will not take responsibility,” said the City East councillor.

“It’s like an obstacle course up there, and now they’re saying February for completion. I’ve no confidence it will even be done by then – they’re out of their depth. If you look at what they’re saying, they say they’ll be doing the surfacing until February,” continued Cllr Cheevers, anticipating that works could still be ongoing next March or April.

In a statement issued by contractors Fox Building Engineers Ltd and Galway City Council, it was claimed that “supply chain issues” had impacted severely on the project.

Motorists this week reported delays of up to an hour just to travel the short distance from Briarhill Shopping Centre as far as the Doughiska Road-Dublin Road junction, a distance of less than 2km.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article,  see the December 2 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Councillors rubber stamp ‘temporary’ helipad after nine years in place

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The helipad on the former Shantalla pitch.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Health Service Executive (HSE) came under fire over the ‘temporary’ helipad serving University Hospital Galway at a meeting to finalise the Galway City Development Plan for 2023-29.

Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, made a point of publicly highlighting his dissatisfaction with the HSE, calling on them to urgently “regularise” the planning permission for the helipad.
BY ANDREW HAMILTON
Speaking on the issue, Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) said that he mistrusted the HSE’s proposal concerning the helipad, saying that previous promises about the site had not been kept.

Currently, University Hospital Galway operates the helipad to transport medical emergencies on Council-owned land in Shantalla – it has been used for past nine years, despite the HSE saying it would be used for six months.

The temporary structure, the busiest helipad in Ireland, transports patients from as far north as Donegal to the hospital.

Councillors voted to change the Galway City Development Plan to provide for a helipad at this location but urged the HSE to normalise the planning permission at the site and to provide compensation to the local community for the loss of a section of the park.

Mr McGrath said that he wouldn’t “wait forever” for the HSE to bring the site in line with the planning laws.

Last month marked the ninth anniversary of when the Saolta University Hospital Group gave a commitment to the people of Shantalla about the public land it borrowed.

Tony Canavan, the then Chief Operating Officer, and now CEO of Saolta, said that the land would be used to accommodate a helipad at the rear of UHG for six months only.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article,  see the December 2 edition of the Galway City Tribune where there is extensive coverage of rezoning decisions under the City Development Plan. You can support our journalism and buy a digital edition HERE.

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