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Galway adventurer tackles world’s highest peaks for charity

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It takes a special mental fortitude and bravery to scale some of the world’s most desolate mountains, but these are attributes that Killererin native Peter O’Connell possesses in spades.

He has climbed the highest peaks for good causes – most recently for Jigsaw – and while mountaineering started as a hobby, it has now clearly turned into a huge passion in his life.

Most recently, on June 1, Peter set off to tackle the 20,310ft Denali Mountain located in Alaska, United States. With only a 23kg backpack of supplies on his back and another 50kg on his sled he would have to make do with only these items for the next three weeks.

With little to no comfort or luxury items, every item needed to be carefully selected because he would be hauling this weight up steep slopes and peaks.

Although, he did manage to take along both Galway and Killererin flags which he was happy to say he, “wasn’t going home without getting both to the top.”

On this expedition, his days consisted of 6am starts at minus 15 degree temperatures and he was usually in his sleeping bag at 9pm.There were many challenges for him and his crew which they needed to overcome.

“The toughest part is the temperature changes, from minus 20 to plus 20 in the space of an hour; it’s hard to keep the clothing and sun protection correct. One morning I didn’t have goggles on and the wind was blowing, my eye lashes started frosting and sticking together,” he said.

Peter O'Connell plants the Galway flag on the summit of Denali Mountain.

Peter O’Connell plants the Galway flag on the summit of Denali Mountain.

His climbing group contained seven “enthusiastic and positive” Americans and himself. The mountain, which has only a success rate of 18% from attempted climbs, is something which motivated the Galway business man ever further.  But the actual climb wasn’t the biggest obstacle for him.

“The tough part can be dealing with team members and trying to keep everyone happy. Sometimes I wish I had more patience, a psychology degree could be handy,” he joked.

His preparation was quite meticulous before he even began his ascension.

“I always keep fit throughout the year, but the training increased substantially since Christmas. The training involved regular trail running in Connemara, long days of hiking with a heavy backpack along with strength and conditioning classes with In2fitness in Salthill. I usually train every day. My diet is sensible; an avoiding alcohol is preferable but not always practical.”

While he agrees physical fitness is an absolute necessity he stated that mental toughness is just as important.

“You need to be able physically, but staying positive and staying motivated is what will get you where you want to go. I find it easy to be motivated when I’m surrounded by such beauty.

“The mountains are so spectacular that I find it hard to ever complain, I just appreciate how lucky I am to have the opportunity to be in such a special place,” he added.

While Peter is a keen climbing enthusiast, there is another more pressing motivation for these climbs. These bigger climbs are used as an opportunity to raise funds for selected charities.

In this particular case, the charity he has chosen is Jigsaw Galway, a free and confidential support service for young people aged between 15 and 25 living in the city and country.

Even more admirable is the fact all donations will be matched by both his companies OCC Construction, Sweet Spot Capital and EpicIreland.com

Mental health is something which is very close to Peter heart, with suicide having affected his family.

“Mental health for young people is a huge issue and I think small things can make a big difference. I sometimes get depressed myself and I can see how people without a good support network in place could suffer. For me, getting away to the mountains is a great escape from everyday life,” he said.

This isn’t the first major charity driven climb that Peter has undertaken, in 2013 he became the first Galway native to climb Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain which raised an over €50,000 for the Pieta House charity.

He has plenty more plans on the horizon and his mountaineering goal is to eventually complete the seven summits which are the highest point on each of the seven continents. Another would be to take an Irish expedition to Antarctica.

“I would like to organise an Irish expedition in Antarctica. Maybe ski to the pole, I know one or two guys crazy enough to go, so watch this space. I’m pushing on now too, so I’ll need to find someone to tolerate my gallivanting,” he says with a smile.

Justin McDermott of Jigsaw Galway described Peter as “one of our most wonderful supporters.”

“We are so proud of Peter for what he has achieved in summiting Mount Denali. He has been an incredibly passionate supporter of our work for a number of years now and the fact that he uses this expedition to again raise awareness and vital funds for Jigsaw Galway is a small indicator of his commitment.  He is a very, very proud Killererin man and Galway man and a true hero in our eyes,” said Justin.

Jigsaw Galway is located on the Fairgreen Rd, Galway City. Their opening hours are 12pm-6pm Monday-Thursday for drop in hours. Friday’s office hours are 9.30am-1pm and 2pm-5pm. Saturdays are for first time visits, by arrangement from 10.30am-3pm. Their telephone number is: (091) 549252.

■ If you would like to donate to Peter’s campaign please CLICK HERE

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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