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Galway City’s oldest pharmacy closes its doors

Denise McNamara



After nearly eighty years doling out advice and medicine to the people in ‘The West’ area of the city, the oldest pharmacy in Galway has shut up shop.

O’Beirn’s Pharmacy on Henry Street pulled down its shutters last week after Allcare, the franchise group which owned it, decided the branch was no longer viable.

Pharmacist Mark O’Flaherty and two assistants – Corina Walsh and Hayley Colman – will lose their jobs. The chemist was opened by pharmacist and medical doctor Seamus O’Beirn on April 12, 1935.

According to the archives of the Connacht Tribune, he opened it in the hope that some of his large family might take up the trade as adults.

He died just six months after the chemist began trading, leaving a wife and 10 children behind. But his plan worked – two of his daughters, Eibhlin and Síle, qualified as pharmacists and kept the family tradition of healing alive for a second generation. In fact, six of the 10 children studied medicine in one form or another.

And it continued into a third generation, when Síle’s daughter Brigid (pronounced Bríd) joined the company in 1972 and took over from her mother and aunt in the 1990s.

She qualified as an assistant pharmacist and ran the business until selling up at the height of the Celtic Tiger in 2005 when pharmacy chains were opening up shops all over the country.

For years, customers would travel from as far away as Connemara to visit the pharmacy, such was the loyalty built up over the years.

The little pharmacy evolved to sell luxury items like cosmetics and, in the past 20 years, health foods and alternative remedies.

When O’Beirn’s first opened its doors, antibiotics did not exist and pharmacists had to make up their own prescriptions and tonics.

It also became known as the place to buy theatrical, stage and special effects makeup through Dr O’Beirn’s connections with the stage. He had co-founded An Taibhdhearc Theatre, the national Irish language company, on Middle Street.

Mark O’Flaherty, a native of Naas, Co Kildare, was appointed to manage the practice nine years ago.

“We were kept going. We wouldn’t have been as busy as somewhere like Salthill with a big passing trade, we were a little off the beaten track, but we had a strong local trade,” reflected Mark.

Having bought a home in Galway, Mark tried to get other work here but has been unsuccessful in securing another position. He will move to Dublin where locum work is available.

“It was a great place to work. It was a lovely small community, you felt a part of a really tight-knit community here in The West. There have been a lot of changes here, a lot of older people are passing on, houses are being sold up and rented to students so the demographic is changing.”

Three pharmacies still trade within five minutes walk of the Henry Street institution – Moughan’s on Cookes Corner, Pat Hogan’s on Fr Griffin Road and the Crescent Pharmacy.


Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan



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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Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley



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

Enda Cunningham



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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