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Families face nightmare of repossession

Declan Tierney

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Cllr James Charity

The owners of 1,500 homes across the county are facing the renewed prospect of repossession by the financial institutions who provided them with mortgages they now cannot afford to repay.

This week has seen more than 100 of these home owners – many with young school-going children – before Galway Circuit Court having been issued with legal proceedings by the lending institutions.

Fifteen repossession orders made – a mix of family homes and investment properties – while others were granted stays on the order for several months so that they could try and come to an arrangement with the banks and lending firms.

One family from East Galway asked to remain in their home until their son completes his Leaving Cert next year as they didn’t want his routine disrupted by a change of home. This was granted.

Many of those before the Repossession Court in Galway this week had obtained mortgages for investment properties while others admitted having been lured into availing of mortgages for properties that they could not realistically afford.

Barrister and Galway County Councillor James Charity said that it was an “across the board” situation in the court in terms of who were being issued with proceedings from the banks.

Cllr Charity is representing several home owners and families who are facing the possibility of being homeless in a matter of months.

Some householders decided to ‘bury their heads in the sand’ by not turning up in the Repossession Court and this resulted in the banks being granted an automatic ruling in their favour.

Many of those before the court this week were those who had availed of mortgages which they are now not in a position to repay – some have fallen six and eight months into arrears.

But the frightening aspect to all of this is that there are 1,500 householders who are now apprehensively waiting to be added to the court repossession lists over the coming months as they are waiting for their cases to be heard.

“This week alone we had more than 100 repossession cases listed before Galway Circuit Court, many of which were family homes. Unfortunately, this is a trend being replicated right throughout the country at present and the numbers are simply staggering.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Packed like sardines in Salthill and only 200 allowed gather at a game

John McIntyre

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John McIntyre

Inside Track with John McIntyre – sports@ctribune.ie

IN a moment of madness, I decided to take a cycle out to Salthill last Saturday. By the time I got to the Blackrock Diving Tower, I thought I had just come through Torremolinos or one of those sun hot spots on the Costa Del Sol. There were cars and people everywhere.

The first inkling that Salthill would be heaving came when there was a traffic-jam halfway back the Lough Atalia Road leading to the Docks. Such were the number of cars, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Pearse Stadium was hosting a Connacht football final that afternoon.

If the people of Offaly, Laois and Kildare – all currently under partial Covid-19 lockdown – could see the carefree holiday mood in one of the West’s favourite tourist attractions, they’d be wondering had they stumbled on a parallel universe.

As readers will know from previous columns, I have a jaundiced view of NPHET and the Government’s cautious approach to relaxing the coronavirus restrictions. The scaremongering continues at frightening levels and many people are living in a climate of fear – though few of them were in Salthill.

NPHET must be immune to what’s really happening on the ground. If it thinks that there is widespread compliance, the group is living in cloud cuckoo land. All over Ireland’s favourite tourist attractions, there are thousands of holiday makers with little or no observance of social distancing.

My frustration over this scenario is fuelled by the way sport and its followers have been so badly compromised by the Covid-19 restrictions. My club Lorrha was playing in the Tipperary hurling championship last Friday evening and many of our diehard supporters couldn’t get a ticket to the match.

It’s the same in every GAA parish. So much unnecessary agitation and frustration. On Sunday evening, reporting duties took me to Ballinasloe for an attractive derby clash between Tommy Larkins and Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry. In a nutshell, there was nearly as many people inside as outside the wire. The ‘gathering’ limit of 200 annoyingly remains, especially in the context of the throngs in places like Salthill.

NPHET have justified not increasing crowd limits to beyond 200 over fears that people will congregate afterwards and the assumption that individuals from different families are travelling together in the one car. Frankly, it’s a load of nonsense and just irrational justification for not being prepared to compromise.

Of course, if the Government had any backbone instead of acting like a lapdog, it would never have come to this. I am fed up of hearing the line, in the interests of ‘public health’, as if people are dying from nothing else other than the coronavirus. The reality is that there have only been a handful of fatalities from the disease over the past fortnight. In the same period, how many have passed away from cancer and cardiac issues when their standard of care wasn’t what it should have been due to the fixation with Covid-19 over the past four months?

There’s now a genuine health and safety issue at play as well in relation to sporting fixtures. We have all images of fans hanging off trees and ladders, and others on rust-laden roofs, in their desperation to support their local teams. Furthermore, does NPHET have any idea what their draconian approach is doing to the mental health of some people?

There was no justification for stopping sporting activity in Laois, Offaly and Kildare last Friday. Locking down the affected towns where there was a surge of new infections in local meat processing plants would have made more sense. There have been no clusters spread through sport so why should codes like GAA and soccer be punished?

We all appreciate that the virus hasn’t gone away and there is an obligation on all of us to act responsibly, but only making the use of masks compulsory for most indoor settings from last Monday takes the biscuit altogether. Why has it taken so long? The pandemic has been with us since last March and only now is this measure deemed appropriate.

Over the past few weeks, I have observed individuals wearing masks travelling alone in cars, while cycling, and outdoors where there’s hardly a sinner in sight. What’s that all about? It’s not as if you can pass on the virus to yourself! Horse racing is going to extremes altogether. Now everybody at a meeting has to wear a mask outdoors. Suffice to say, they all look ridiculous walking around in what is the equivalent of big open fields.

I have absolutely no issue with our civil liberties being compromised in the ongoing quest to supress the virus, but logic is being repeatedly thrown out the window. NPHET’s ‘one size fits all’ approach must be urgently reviewed and the Government needs to stand back and make up its own mind about what activity constitutes genuine risk.

Though I believe the horse has long since bolted when it comes to wearing masks in indoor centres, I am willingly obeying the rule while as team manager of Lorrha, all our players have their temperatures checked before each training session; there are hand santisers supplied; and the training props are disinfected.

The primary focus should be on sorting out meat processing plants and the direct provision centres, while travel in and out of the country ought to be restricted to emergencies or on compassionate grounds. House parties also need to be clamped down on. Everything else is hardly worth a hill of beans in tackling this pandemic.

Keeping gatherings at 200 and not allowing pubs to reopen are soft targets. I am not proposing anarchy or anything like that, but the powers that be need to wise up and concentrate their efforts on the places where outbreaks of the virus are occurring. Everything else is just window dressing.

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Connacht Tribune

Old mills set for new life as distillery

Declan Tierney

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An artist's impression of the new distillery.

An old corn mill in East Galway is set to be transformed into a €6 million whiskey and gin manufacturing distillery – once planning permission has been granted for the development.

And if approved, the distillery has the potential to create more than 15 new jobs directly in the village of Ahascragh, providing a huge economic boost to the area – and rescuing the old corn mill which ceased operation in the 1950s.

A planning application for the new brewery has just been submitted by Gareth and Michelle McAllister of McAllister Distillers in North Dublin, with a decision due before the end of the year.

Gareth McAllister told The Connacht Tribune that he intended to renovate the old building while retaining some of the old features such as a mill wheel, and utilise the stream that runs through the property.

The complex, as well as producing various styles of Irish whiskey and gin, will also include a visitor centre, rooms for hospitality events, a retail shop and cafe.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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Connacht Tribune

Aer Arann marks half a century of linking islands to the mainland

Dara Bradley

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Current Aer Arann owners Jarlath Conneely (left) and Peter McKenna, pictured in front of their aircraft. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

When Coley Hernon of Cill Rónáin on Inis Mór wrote letters to newspaper editors in 1970, questioning why the Aran Islands couldn’t have an air service like that operating from many Scottish islands, a number of Galway businessmen responded to the challenge.

Among them were visionaries Jimmy Coen and Ralph Langan, who established a local airline, Aer Arann Islands – and on August 15, 1970 the first flight took place between Inis Mór and the Galway mainland, at Oranmore.

According to the Connacht Tribune archives, the inaugural flight of the twin-engine plane, which cost £40,000, carried ten people in all, including a number of Bórd Fáilte officials and tourism representatives.

“The weather was unkind and heavy mist and squally winds made for unpleasant conditions but nevertheless the inaugural flight went off according to schedule,” the Tribune newspaper report said at the time.

When they landed, they were greeted by members of Aran Islands Tourist Development Association at a new £20,000 airstrip at Killeaney.

That first commercial flight from Galway’s mainland to the Aran Islands will be commemorated this weekend, 50 years later.

From those humble beginnings, it’s a company that has faced turbulence during its five decades, not least in recent years when there was uncertainty over State supports (PSO, Public Service Obligation) for the service . . . but at its core has always been a sense of duty to serving islanders.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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