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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

Elective surgeries cancelled at UHG as overcrowding continues

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Galway Bay fm newsroom – Some non-urgent elective surgeries are being cancelled at UHG in a bid to tackle severe overcrowding at the city hospital.

It follows the issuing of a warning from the Saolta Hospital Group that the emergency department is extremely busy and there is ongoing pressure on bed availability.

General Manager at UHG, Chris Kane, says over 500 people presented at the hospital on Monday and Tuesday.

She says the overcrowding situation is very serious, particularly in relation to the ED, the Surgical Unit and the Acute Medical Assessment Unit.

Members of the public are urged to only attend the hospital in the case of emergency, and contact their GP or out-of-hours service if their health problem is not urgent.

Saolta is also reminding the public that the Injury Unit at Roscommon University Hospital is open from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week, to treat adults and children over 5.

Speaking to Keith Finnegan on Galway Talks, Chris Kane said the current level of patients presenting is extremely high and “unusual” for this time of year.

She also noted there’s also been a rise in patients being treated for Covid-19, including in the ICU.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway rowers aim for Olympic gold!

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Best of luck to two Galway rowers – Aifric Keogh of Aill an Phréacháin in Na Forbacha, and Fiona Murtagh from Gortachalla in Moycullen – who are part of Team Ireland’s Women’s Coxless Fours team who compete in an Olympic final in Tokyo at 1.50am (Irish time) Wednesday.

Coverage on RTÉ 2 television begins from 1am.

Ireland – who were second in their heat after Australia, who set a new Olympic Record – are in lane two, with Great Britain on their outside, and Australia, favourites for a gold medal, in lane three.

The Netherlands, China and Poland are in lanes four, five and six at the Sea Forest Waterway.

Poor weather meant some rowing events were re-scheduled but the Women’s Fours final was not impacted.

Jim Keogh, Aifric’s father, told the Tribune he was hopeful ahead of the final.

“To make the Olympics is tough, to make the final is tough, to make the medal is tougher,” he said.
Photo: Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty.

*Full coverage of the race and reaction in this week’s Connacht Tribune and Galway City Tribune 

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Connacht Tribune

Paedophile sentenced to a further 17 months in prison

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A convicted paedophile, described by a Garda as ‘a prolific child abuser’, has had a 17-month prison sentence added to a 13-year sentence he is already serving for the rape and sexual abuse of children.

Disgraced primary school teacher and summer school bus driver, 69-year-old Seosamh Ó Ceallaigh, a native of Tuirín, Béal a’ Daingin, Conamara, had at all times denied two charges of indecently assaulting a ten-year-old boy at a Gaeltacht summer school in Béal a’ Daingin in 1979.

The offence carries a maximum two-year sentence.

A jury found him guilty by majority verdict following a four-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last month.

At his sentence hearing last week, Detective Paul Duffy described Ó Ceallaigh as a prolific child abuser who had amassed 125 child abuse convictions, committed while he was a primary school teacher in Dublin and while he operated an Irish language summer school in Beal a’ Daingin.

They included convictions for rape and sexual assault for which he is currently serving sentences totalling 13 years.

Those sentences were due to expire in August 2024, but last week, Judge Rory McCabe imposed two, concurrent 17-month sentences on Ó Ceallaigh, before directing the sentences begin at the termination of the sentences he is currently serving.

The judge noted Ó Ceallaigh’s denial and lack of remorse and the lifelong detrimental effect the abuse had on the victim as aggravating factors.

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