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Former Galway Airport MD on his new life in Australia

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I’d been away from Ireland for 17 years first time round, but once I’d returned then, I thought I was home for good – before the global financial crisis changed that!

BY JOE WALSH

So it was with a heavy heart when I left home for the second time in November 2011.

But now I’m in my fourth year in a fantastic country, Australia – and I have certainly found a new place to call home, which, when I left, I didn’t think that was possible!

Saying goodbye to my Dad on the farm this time was one of the most difficult parts; in classic Irish father son fashion we don’t deal with the emotions that well and certainly don’t tell our parents enough how much we love them!

I owe so much to my parents in that they both gave me the solid foundations to grow and develop, to work hard and be respectful of others.

My mother was taken from us well before her time and was an inspiration for me and a day doesn’t go by where I not reflecting or thinking of her in some way or asking her for support!

Joe Walsh (centre) with his Beca Project Team.

Joe Walsh (centre) with his Beca Project Team.

Growing up in Portumna, Melbourne was a far off place where my Dad’s older brother Michael John had immigrated to in the fifties to then join the Victoria Police Force, never to return home and again in typical Irish fashion to lose contact once their mother had passed away.

Unfortunately he passed away in the nineties and had no family of his own so a reconnection wasn’t possible.

So Melbourne had a family connection and it was going be the start of a new chapter.

As soon as I landed I was brought in to the Beca family, as an employee-owned company with some 3,000 staff its core values of tenacity, care, enjoyment and partnering resonated with me.

They gave me a blank canvas and several opportunities were presented to me in terms of my role, with the rider of getting the best fit for me and consequently Beca!

As a senior member of the airport’s team my first task was to lead the runway overlay project at Hobart Airport, Tasmania.

I was in the Australia less than a month and this was a great introduction to the business and allowed me to bring my approach to project delivery.

The project was a success and gave me a great insight in to working in the Australian airport sector. Tasmania is a beautiful state and Hobart certainly gave me a real Galway feel.

I’ve had incredible exposure within the business and with key clients like Melbourne Airport.

Beca have given me the platform to develop the airport’s business and in doing so delivering some significant infrastructure projects along the way. I love working with a talented group of people from all corners of the world and bringing my personal stamp to their continued development and progression in the business.

My partner Pooi Ling, an Australian citizen, campaigned for years on all things Australian and had finally settled in to our life in Craughwell and our lovely home and dogs.

I made my decision to emigrate in May 2011; in my then-role as Managing Director of Galway Airport I had a meeting with the Minister of Transport who informed us of the Government’s decision and effectively a complete change of policy to no longer support Galway Airport.

Our world changed that day and the future of Galway Airport without that essential support was determined. It had a huge impact on our valued team at the airport.

My five years in Galway Airport were a significant chapter in my career and life which I will never forget.

We rehomed one of our dogs and shipped Tory our treasured Irish Water Spaniel to Melbourne, via Belfast, London, Singapore and Sydney, having got him from a breeder in Clarecastle we brought some of Clare with us too.

It was said to me before I left that a pet offered a great way of adjusting to a new life, I didn’t know how having a pet would affect us getting established in Melbourne so was somewhat apprehensive!

It was the best decision we made and I certainly couldn’t agree more with the view on helping to settle.

I changed my early morning walks on the old N6 in to Craughwell to early morning walks in central Melbourne, established a routine very quickly which helped me deal with my change in life.

Tory suffered anxiety on being left and consequently he follows me everywhere now and is constantly watching for me, which I love!

We very recently bought a house in Geelong, the second largest city in Victoria, with a population of circa 200k and everything a city of its size has to offer. It’s a great place to live and within short drives to the coastal towns of Portarlington, Barwon Heads, Queenscliff and Geelong. I commute daily to either Melbourne or Melbourne Airport if not travelling interstate, this is my time to read or listen to music and get ready for the day ahead or wind down from the day gone.

Overall and despite the distance factor when I miss being close to family, I consider Australia my second home and have a tremendous sense of belonging here – and the desire to make my contribution to its continued growth and success following in the footsteps of all those great Irish people who have gone before us.

My next milestone will be to go for my citizenship in December this year – and then I will proudly carry an Australian passport.

CITY TRIBUNE

Murals are part of initiative to restore pride in Ballybane estate

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From the Galway City Tribune – A poem about litter forms part of a vibrant colourful new mural painted on the walls of a City Council estate in Ballybane.

The poetry and artwork by local artist Irene Naughton is part of an initiative to restore pride in Sliabh Rua.

The final two lines of Ms Naughton’s poem, called The Dragon’s Foot, read: “The land, the sea and the river all get hurt when we leave a littered footprint on the earth.”

The full poem was painted onto boundary walls as part of a large colourful mural that was created by Ms Naughton.

The street art includes handprints from children living in the estate on the city’s east side.

It also depicts an enchanted forest, a dragon sitting atop Merlin Castle, a view of the Burren, a wolf, butterflies, insects and foliage, as well as a man playing the guitar, a former resident who died.

Ms Naughton, who was commissioned by the City Council’s Environment Department, said it took about five days to complete.

“The residents were very, very helpful and kind,” she said.

Councillor Noel Larkin (Ind) explained that the mural was part of a wider, ‘Ballybane Matters’ project, which stemmed from Galway City Joint Policing Committee (JPC).

“We were doing a lot of talking at the JPC about anti-social behaviour, and it seemed to be more prevalent in the Ballybane area. When we boiled it down, it was in the Sliabh Rua and Fána Glas areas.

“Month after month it was just talking. So Níall McNelis [chair of the JPC] said we should set up a small group to hone in on exactly what was going on,” he said.

A group was formed to focus on improving the Council estate of about 40 houses.

As well as Cllr Larkin, it included: Sergeant Mick Walsh, Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer and community Gardaí Maria Freeley, Nicola Browne, Kenneth Boyle and Darragh Browne; Fr Martin Glynn; Imelda Gormley of Ballybane Taskforce; Councillor Alan Cheevers; Donal Lynch, chairperson Merlin Neighbourhood Residents’ Association; and two members of Galway Traveller Movement, Katie Donoghue and Kate Ward.

Ms Gormley carried out a survey to get feedback from residents.

“A lot of the problems people had were horses on the green, people being harassed going in and out of estates, trailers full of rubbish left around the place, the City Council not cutting the grass, and anti-social behaviour,” explained Cllr Larkin.

Small improvements, with community buy in, has helped to revitalise the estate.

Cllr Larkin praised Edward Conlon, community warden with the City Council, who has been “absolutely brilliant”.

“He looked funding that was available to get trees or shrubs and to get the grass cut more regularly,” he said.

“Fr Martin got a residents committee set up because he knew people through the church, and that means there is community buy-in, people are actually taking an interest now.

“When we started originally, Sergeant Mick Walsh mentioned ‘the closed curtain syndrome’. You go into your home in the evening close your curtain and don’t want to see what’s going on outside. Whereas now, with community pride restored to the area, if somebody is acting the maggot outside, people are keeping an eye on it and that curbs anti-social behaviour,” said Cllr Larkin.

Covid-19 delayed the project but it “came together very quickly” once work started.

Cllr Larkin said that the project will move to other estates in Ballybane, including Fána Glas and Castlepark, but they also plan to maintain the progress made in on Sliabh Rua.

“We decided to concentrate on Sliabh Rua, because if we could crack Sliabh Rua we could crack the rest of them. Pride has been restored in the community,” added Cllr Larkin.

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CITY TRIBUNE

QR codes hold the key to podcast tour of Galway City

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From the Galway City Tribune – From singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran’s teenage days busking on the corner of William Street, to the rich past of the 14th century Lynch’s Castle on Shop Street, a new interactive tour of Galway City covers modern and ancient history.

Regional tour guide Jim Ward has created a series of podcasts detailing the history of eight places of interest in Galway City.

The Salthill native has created two-dimensional QR codes that are located at each of the eight locations, which allow visitors to download the podcasts to their smart phones.

Each podcast gives a flavour of the tours that Jim gives in ‘real-time’ when he leads hordes of tourists around the city’s famous sites.

The podcasts range from five to ten minutes and are located on or near buildings at the following locations: Eyre Square, William Street, Lynch’s Castle, the King’s Head, St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, the Latin Quarter, Spanish Arch and Galway Cathedral.

During the Covid-19 Lockdowns, Jim gave virtual tours by video through sustainable tourism website, Flockeo.

He has also brought Ukrainian refugees on tours through the city streets to allow them to become familiar with Galway’s rich history.

The podcasts are hosted on his website, galwaytrails.ie and are accessed on mobile devices through via QR codes scanned onto posters.

Jim said he was grateful to the businesses of Galway, who have allowed his to put up posters on their premises near the sites of interest.

“I propose to ask Galway City Council for permission to place some on public benches and poles at a later date.”

He said the idea was to “enhance interactive tourism in Galway and bring connectivity to the city”.

He also has other plans in the pipeline, including rolling-out an interactive oral history of certain areas such as Woodquay.

This would involve interviewing local people of interest in certain historic parts of the city, which could be accessed through podcasts. The stories would be their own, or that of local organisations.

“The recordings would be accessed through QR codes on lamp posts or park benches and would provide a level of interactivity and connectedness with our historic town,” Jim added.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Renters in Galway City have to fork out an extra €11,500 annually

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From the Galway City Tribune – Renters in private accommodation in Galway City are paying, on average, around €11,500 more per annum than they were at the bottom of the market ten years ago.

According to figures published by property website Daft.ie this week, the average monthly rent in the city now stands at €1,663 – that’s up a whopping 138% since the market trough in early 2012, when it stood at around €700.

At the end of June this year, the average monthly rent had risen 16.4% – one of the biggest jumps in the country.

Nationally rents in the second quarter of 2022 were an average of 12.6% higher than the same period a year earlier, as availability of rental homes reached an all-time low.

County Galway has seen a similar pattern of increases – average rents stood at €1,184 per month, up 12.4% on the previous year. The averages have also more than doubled – up 132% – since the bottom of the market.

At the moment, there are fewer than 60 properties available for for rent in Galway city and county – the lowest figure recorded since the Daft.ie rental reports began in 2006.

A breakdown of the figures shows that a single bedroom in Galway city centre is renting for an average of €588 per month, up 19.5% on June 2021, while in the suburbs, a similar room is commanding €503 per month, up 15.9% on a year earlier. A double room is generating €633 (up 16.4%) in the city centre and €577 (up 19.2%) in the suburbs.

In the city, an average one-bed apartment is currently ‘asking’ €1,110 per month (up 17.3% year on year); a €1,297 for a two-bed house (up 15.6%); €1,542 for a three-bed house (up 16.9%); €1,923 for a four-bed house (up 21.8%) and €2,016 for a five-bed house, which is up 10.6%.

Ronan Lyons, Associate Professor of Economics at Trinity College Dublin and author of the Daft report, pointed to a resurgent economy which has accentuated the chronic shortage of rental housing in Ireland.

“The shortage of rental accommodation translates directly into higher market rents and this can only be addressed by significantly increased supply.

“While there are almost 115,000 proposed rental homes in the pipeline, these are concentrated in the Dublin area. Further, while nearly 23,000 are under construction, the remainder are earlier in the process and the growth of legal challenges to new developments presents a threat to addressing the rental scarcity,” he said.

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