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Connacht Tribune

Fitzmaurice calls on Minister to reverse PO closures

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Junior Minister Sean Canney has been urged to reverse the decision to close rural post offices or risk being accused of “playing Mighty Mouse in Galway and Mini Mouse in Dublin”.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said it was time for his fellow Independent – recently appointed minister of state at the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment with responsibility for natural resources, community affairs and digital development – to take an immediate stand on this issue and look after the people working and living in rural Ireland.

“The Minister needs to show that it is he, and not the civil servants, who is running the department,” he argued.

“It appears as if his coalition bosses are up to their old tricks of closing rural Ireland by stealth.

“He must stand up for the rural post office or he will leave himself open to the charge of playing Mighty Mouse in Galway and then turning into Mini Mouse in Dublin.”

A total of 18 post offices in Galway are set to close under new consolidation plans negotiated by An Post and the Irish Postmasters’ Union.

The post offices earmarked for closure are in Ballyconnelly, Ballyglunin, Ballymoe, Cloghbrack, Colemanstown, Cornamora, Eyrecourt, Garrafrances, Glinsk, Inverin, Kiltulla, Kylebrack, Lettermullen, Menlough, Moyard, New Inn, Renvyle, and Woodlawn.

Last month villagers in Eyrecourt staged a protest about the loss of their post office, claiming the €80,000 in pensions and social welfare payments could now benefit the Offaly village of Banagher, the location of the nearest post office.

An application to retain a postal service by shop owner Dermot Duffy was refused because Banagher was less than 15km away from Eyrecourt, which also did not have 500 residents – breaching criteria set down by An Post.

Deputy Fitzmaurice, whose own village of Glinsk will lose its post office, said closing 160 outlets would “hammer the final nail in the coffin of many communities in rural Ireland”.

“Where will it all in end? If the services available in rural parts of the country continue to be cut at the current rate, there will be nothing left in just a few short years.

“Businesses – such as shops and pubs, which are struggling to survive as it is – which avail of the services provided by their local post offices may also be forced to consider closing in the wake of losing their nearest outlet,” he said.

“These post offices provided businesses in their locality with a lifeline which allowed them to grow and prosper. The services available also allowed people living in the area to conduct their business close to home.”

People forced to travel an additional 15km to collect a payment may end up spending that money there rather than in their village, which would lead to the closure of other businesses.

“This Government of the posh Dublin 4 boys is a disgrace. When it comes to rural Ireland – between railways, pubs, Garda stations and post offices – it is running out of things to close; and in the case of broadband it appears to be incapable of building anything.”

Deputy Canney did not respond when contacted by the Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Community fights back on hospital ‘downgrade by stealth’

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Raw emotion, sadness and some anger filled the air at Clifden Town Hall on Sky Road last Sunday afternoon as a shaken community gave honest, personal accounts of the impact the closure by stealth of Clifden District Hospital would have on the people of North Connemara.

The public meeting was hastily organised after fears emerged on Friday that the HSE may transfer respite services from Clifden to Merlin Park Hospital, 50-plus miles away in Galway City.

Families were told their loved ones in Clifden Hospital may have to move home, or go to Merlin Park the following Monday, due to ‘issues with staffing’.

An axe has hung over Clifden Hospital for some years, but this latest move stirred the community to fight back to retain services locally.

Galway County Councillor Eileen Mannion (FG), who organised the public meeting with Senator Sean Kyne, said 625 people signed the attendance sheets and an estimated 650 people attended.

“The community effort spreading the word was unbelievable; the turnout was unbelievable,” she said.

“It wasn’t just anger; it was raw emotion in the room. Sadness. Family members spoke about the calls they got on Friday. The feeling that their elderly person was being rejected; that they weren’t being respected.

“One man stood up, three years waiting for respite care for a family member, and then to be told after a few days in there that she’d have to be taken home or to Merlin Park.

“We’re 50 miles from Galway. If there’s no traffic you might get to the outskirts in an hour but with the traffic in Galway, you could be another hour to get to Merlin Park. Not everyone has transport either and they’ve to rely on buses.

“A young woman stood up at the meeting and said her dad was dying in Galway. And she had to go to Saint Vincent de Paul to get money to pay for a B&B so that the family would be close to him when the end came. People gave their personal stories, and it was just heart-breaking.”

(Photo by Carmel Lyden: Teresa Conneely from Roundstone addresses people at the public meeting in Clifden Town Hall).

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

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Connacht Tribune

Pilgrim took to his feet to realise dream!

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Clifden man Breandan O Scanaill, who is on a pilgrimage from his home town of Clifden to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, received a Mayoral welcome and a memorial crest when he arrived at the Asturian town of Navia last week.

Breandan, whose walk from his home outside Clifden to the reputed burial place of St James in Santiago, began in April, was walking through Navia in Spain when a local man came over to chat to him.

“He asked me about my journey and was interested in the fact that an Irish man had turned up in the town,” says Breandan, who had been admiring the Chapel of San Roque at the time.

The local man outlined the history of the building and the town to Breandan and they began chatting more generally about history and architecture – topics dear to the pilgrim’s heart.

Breandán’s new friend introduced himself as the Mayor of Navia, lgnacio Garcia Palacios, who invited the visitor from Clifden to visit the Town Hall.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Local Property Tax rate to stay unchanged despite Council chief’s plea

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Councillors have agreed to keep the Local Property Tax (LPT) rate unchanged – despite pleas from management that Galway County Council is predicted to spend at least €22 million more than it brings in for the next two years.

County Chief Executive Jim Cullen had recommended an increase of 15% on the LPT rate for 2023 and 2024 – amounting to €2.1m extra in the coffers annually – which would bolster its case when it came to pleading for a greater share of funding from central government.

In an estimation of income and expenditure for the Council, taking into account “unavoidable” expenditure and income changes set to hit, the Council would run a deficit of €9.04m in 2023 and 13.2m in 2024 – well over €22m unless there was a change in finances.

“I am hopeful of an uplift in baseline [funding] levels . . . we cannot continue to ignore the fact that other councils have raised LPT and their citizens enjoy a better standard of services that in Galway,” he stressed.

He told a meeting this week that €9m would be needed to maintain services next year at the same level as 2022. This was due to significant cost increases given that inflation is reaching 9.6% currently. Pensions, gratuities and payroll increases from the national pay agreement, increments and additional staff were all adding to bigger outgoings.

Without that extra funding, it will be necessary to reduce spending by that amount with a negative impact on service and staffing levels, he said.

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

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