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Connacht Tribune

Former GP’s clinic swaps humans for pets!



For nearly 30 years, generations of Barna families went through the surgery in Truskey West of Dr Ann Gibbons – the village’s well-liked and respected General Practitioner.

Now, just over ten years after her passing, there’s hustle and bustle back in the former GP clinic . . . with sick mammals of a different sort!

Because the late Dr Ann’s eldest son, John Mulligan (36), has opened up a veterinary clinic in the very same building his mother cared for and treated so many people.

Barna native John and his business partner, Sara Roche, the daughter of dairy farmers from Kylemore in Abbey near Portumna in East Galway, set-up West Coast Vets a year ago.

And it’s been thriving – the pair officially launched a new dedicated ‘small animal’ clinic recently, too.

John’s family always kept animals at their home in Truskey West, including poultry, horses, cats and dogs and for many years he had it in mind to return there to set up a veterinary clinic in his mother’s clinic. “It definitely was always in the back of my head,” he said.

After completing his Leaving Cert at Garbally College in Ballinasloe, John studied Microbiology at UCG (now NUIG), and used that degree to get onto a Veterinary course in the University of Glasgow.

It was during this five-years course he met Sara, who was in the year below him in the same course, having studied Biomedical Science in Galway first.

John graduated in 2011 and worked in the north of England in the countryside of Northumberland, an hour from Newcastle; and when he returned to Ireland he worked firstly in a veterinary clinic in West Donegal and then in Kilcormac, a village in rural Offaly between Birr and Tullamore.

All those places were what John calls “proper old fashioned mixed practices”, just like West Coast Vets in Barna.

“A lot of people in my class haven’t seen a cow since they graduated. Other lads were vice versa and never wanted to chat to a dog or cat owner again and concentrated on dairy cows. I love the mix. I might see a cat in the morning, a horse in the afternoon and I might be up in the middle of the night with a calving cow,” he said.

The clinics catchment is wide – it takes in Barna, Moycullen, Furbo, Spiddal, Knocknacarra, Galway City and Connemara – which offers that mix.

“People are delighted that we’re this side of town. If you want to pop in for penicillin for a sheep, you don’t have to drive the far side of town with the traffic, which would be a two or three-hour trip from An Cheathrú Rua,” he said.

John is fluent in Irish, which is another bonus in Connemara. “A lot of the old timers, and some of the young people as well, prefer to speak Irish. It’s the day-to-day working language of a lot of people.”

And there’s no shortage of work, John insisted. “There’s plenty of work if you want it. There’s nobody in Connemara with 150 dairy cows, but there might be 150 lads with two cows, and they need to be looked after. They’re very attached to their animals and their animals probably get better individual care than some of the animals I’ve seen on massive big farms.

“They’re getting properly minded and properly individually fed. On a small Connemara farm where you might have 10 cows, the lame cow is looked after properly.

“The other thing you have in Connemara is the pony, the Connemara pony. There’s so many different farms with one mare or two mares and they all have a foal every year and they need minding. Then there’s such a growing population in Barna with cats and dogs. So it’s a real mixed job and it’s busy,” he said.

More than 120 mostly clients and some friends attended a barbeque at West Coast Vets’ first birthday celebrations last weekend.

“It was like the loaves and the fishes! We had a side of beef, 40 beef burgers, 50 venison burgers, 60 chicken pies, and a suckling pig, a salmon and a dozen mackerel! We were celebrating the fact that we’ve a year under our belts and we’ve just opened a dedicated small animal clinic. And it was just a way of saying ‘thank you’ for all the support we have received since opening,” added John.

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Connacht Tribune

Nurses call in Chief Fire Officer on ED overcrowding



UHG's Emergency Department.

The nurses’ union has formally urged the Chief Fire Officer to investigate 17 alleged breaches of the fire regulations as a result of chronic overcrowding in the emergency department at University Hospital Galway.

It’s the second time the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has done so since Christmas, fearing the lives of staff and patients are being put in grave danger.

The emergency department was busier than normal last week, with between 222 and 251 patients turning up to be seen per day. On Wednesday of last week there were 53 patients waiting on trolleys, according to figures released by the Saolta Hospital group. That went down to 47 on Thursday and Friday.

This week has seen little let up. On Monday and Tuesday the number of people who could only get a trolley was down to 36 and 38 respectively.

Local area representative of the INMO, Anne Burke, said as a result of very high attendances at the temporary emergency department, management had opened a transit area where between 12 and 14 people could be accommodated in cubicles.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Comer has eyes on the prize



Damien Comer undergoing an eye test at Specsavers; the Galway star is encouraging all to look after their eyesight and hearing.

If you Google Damien Comer, the first entry the search returns is a dedicated Wikipedia page, which declares: “He’s better than David Clifford”.

And while Wikipedia as a source of fact isn’t necessarily always reliable, who are we to argue with it?

But whatever about comparisons with Kerry greats, the Annaghdown clubman is certainly up there among Galway’s finest ever footballers.

Winning a first All-Star last season, from his third nomination, was proof of that. It was a special personal accolade, but he’d trade it in a shot for a Celtic Cross.

“It was nice to get but if I finish my career not having won an All-Ireland, I’ll be very disappointed,” he declared.

Comer hints that the 2022 All-Ireland final loss to Kerry last July was not one of his better games in maroon, and it’s one he thinks about regularly.

“Yeah, I would yeah, I’d think about it a bit. But I try to forget it as well, because it wasn’t a good day for me, personally, anyway.

“You try to forget about it and yet you have to try to learn from it and improve on the mistakes you made, and stuff you didn’t do that you should’ve done, and different things that you can bring to this season.

“It’s one that’s hard to forget about really because we were there for so long. Sixty minutes in, neck-and-neck, and then they just pulled away, so it was disappointing,” he said.

Damien Comer has teamed up with Specsavers to encourage people to take a more proactive approach to their eye and hearing health. There’s a full interview with him ahead of Sunday’s National Football League Final, is in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway publican reflects on traumatic journey that ended with his abuser in jail



Paul Grealish. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Galway businessman Paul Grealish remembers the moment back in 2000 when he was given a sheet of paper and asked to write about his life. He was on weekend-long self-development course that he’d been sent on by his brother John. At the time, John was managing director of their family business for which Paul and their sister, Joan, also worked.

“The course was probably done in an attempt to make it easier to manage me,” says Paul with a laugh, adding that he “was tough to manage” back then.

He was enjoying the course – until he received that blank sheet.

“I got about four or five sentences in, writing about my early life. Until I got to the primary school part . . . I was in tears,” he remembers. “I was so used to compartmentalising things, I didn’t see the danger.”

In the early 1970s, aged nine and ten years, Paul had been beaten and sexually abused by his teacher, Brother Thomas Caulfield, at Tuam CBS primary school.

He had repressed those memories for nearly three decades.

“You bury the memory, and you bury it as deep as you can. There’s an awareness of something terrible there but it’s too frightening for you to actively remember.”

Paul was so terrified of those memories that he’d lost all recollection of his childhood. He couldn’t tell his story.

He was meant to show it to one of the course leaders – a counsellor, he thinks. Instead, Paul put the nearly-blank sheet before the man and explained what had happened.

Realising Paul’s plight, that man gave him a list of phone numbers for counsellors in Galway.

“Every now and again, I’d look at it and think about ringing them but I didn’t,” Paul says.

However, the abuse that had robbed Paul of his childhood and blighted his adulthood with feelings of guilt and self-hatred refused to stay buried. Finally, he knew he had to deal with it. That journey began in the early 2000s and Paul finally got closure earlier this month when Caulfield was sentenced to 27 months in prison – with the final seven suspended – for his crime.

Read Paul’s full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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