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Galway families join in festive welcome for Chernobyl kids



Three Galway families are hosting children from the Chernobyl region this Christmas.

The children arrived last Thursday week and will be in Galway until January 5 and they have already been taken into the bosom of their various communities so they can experience a Galway Christmas.

Fiona Conneely of Camus in Conamara has been hosting Chernobyl since 2006 and this year with husband Joseph and their four adult children are hosts to Veronika (15) and her sister Yulia (13).

Actually the Conneely ‘children’, four boys and a girl aged from 21 to 25 years have just arrived home from England to spend Christmas at home and to share it with the two Chernobyl children. Both have been with the Conneely family before and it’s Veronika’s second Christmas in Conamara.

On Sunday they went Christmas carolling in Oranmore and hooked up with the Egan McDonagh family who are hosting a young girl also under the same programme, Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International (CCI).

“We will bring them to a panto and to the cinema for sure to see Paddington but honestly, they love walking down Shop Street just looking at the lights and they loved the Continental Market on Eyre Square. We are delighted to be sharing out Christmas with them,” said Fiona.

Paula McGurrell, a choreographer and dance teacher in Galway city, says hosting for the CCI has “changed my life.”

Paula, a Dubliner who is living in Knocknacarra, will be bringing her eleven year old Russian girl to spend Christmas with the McGurrells.

“I had always done charity work either with Childline or with the elderly but hadn’t for years until I read an article about hosting children from Chernobyl and a plea for host families and I applied. I can honestly say, it has changed my life. I get more out of it than they do. They have so little at home and they expect so little when they come here. My friends arrived with gifts for her and she didn’t want to accept the second lot saying she already had got some,” says Paula.

Paula doesn’t have children of her own but works with children year round and has no regrets at signing up as a host. “I am learning Russian because it’s too frustrating not knowing what they are saying and obviously the children pick up some English while they stay in Galway. We will go ice-skating and to a panto in Dublin and possibly the cinema. She loves the cinema. We will also try and hook up with the other Chernobyl children in Galway if we can.”

Paula takes two children during the summer, which is for a longer period, up to three weeks, though during that time there are more group activities.

The four children being hosted in Galway are part of a group of 30 in total who arrived at Dublin Airport for the Christmas as part of CCI’s work to bring children from improvished backgrounds and state-run institutions in Belarus to Ireland for wholesome holidays. Many of the children develop bonds with their host families and return again and again.

The summer visits which are longer almost always involve medical check-ups and sometimes treatment for some of the Belarus children.

Voluntary CEO of CCI Adi Roche said: “This is one of the most joyous and heart-warming moments of the year for me. While the needs here at home are great, it is marvellous to see the Irish people reaching out to those beyond our shores and showing love to abandoned and orphaned children who live with huge physical and intellectual disabilities.

“Nothing as magical as this will ever have happened in their lives. This is the true meaning of Christmas – it’s about the giving, not the getting – the giving with open hearts, open arms and open homes.”

CCI has delivered €96.5 million worth of humanitarian and medical aid to impoverished communities and children across Belarus, Ukraine and Western Russia since 1986. More than 24,700 children from Belarus – the country most affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster – have come to Ireland with CCI for life-prolonging holidays during the summer and at Christmas time.

■ For more information or to make a donation, log on to or call 021-4558774.

Connacht Tribune

One half of Hollywood’s golden couple sings Galway’s praises after trip



Magic Mike star Joe Manganiello and his chihuahua Bubbles, with Fergus Lally of Galway’s Celtic Chauffeurs at the Cliffs of Moher.

He may be married to the highest paid actress in the world, but that did not stop Magic Mike star Joe Manganiello savouring the best that Galway had to offer – hailing the people, the cheese, chocolate and salmon during his trip west.

The American actor, who played stripper Big Dick Richie in Steven Soderbergh’s box office hit Magic Mike, was not joined by Modern Family’s Sofía Vergara until a week later on his trip around Cork.

But he did ring his wife of six years in the US while exploring the countryside of south Galway and Clare with guide, Fergus Lally, who had picked him and his chihuahua Bubbles up from the Glenlo Abbey Hotel in Bushypark on the city’s edge.

“I had a great time with him. I brought him to the Cliffs of Moher and along the way we stopped off at the Hazel Mountain Chocolate factory, the cheese shop at the Aillwee Caves and he had a tasting at the Burren Smoke House in Lisdoonvarna,” reveals Fergus.

“He had an amazing time tasting all the foods. The back of the car was full – everybody did well out of him. He was blown away with the places I brought him. He loved the history of the Corcomroe Abbey and Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara. He was a great guy. I was delighted to drive him. The two of us just clicked.”

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from  

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Connacht Tribune

Covid-19 outbreak compounds UHG crisis



UHG's Emergency Department.

As Government applied the brakes on the planned full reopening of society this Friday, the West’s largest public hospital remained in a state of crisis – dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks, large numbers of patients and lengthy wait times in its Emergency Department and postponed elective procedures.

An outbreak of Covid-19 at University Hospital Galway (UHG) was having a significant impact on critical care services, Saolta University Healthcare Group has warned.

UHG confirmed it was dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks on two wards of the city hospital. A further two wards were being used exclusively to treat Covid positive cases.

This was impacting other patients – elective procedures were postponed at UHG this week due a lack of beds.

On Monday, 41 patients with Covid-19 were being treated in UHG compared with 19 the same day last week.

Portiuncula was treating eight Covid positive patients on Monday, twice as many as last week.

There were two Covid patients in ICU in Ballinasloe and six in ICU in UHG; there were four in ICU in total at both hospitals last week.

Saolta said that people presenting at the Emergency Department in UHG were experiencing long waiting times.

“The hospital has seen a significant increase in patients presenting to the hospital and many of these patients are very sick and need to be admitted to the hospital for treatment.

“As a result of the ongoing pressures and lack of bed capacity a number of elective procedures are being postponed. Patients are being contacted directly if their procedure is being postponed,” Saolta said.

Read the full story – and our latest on Covid-19 – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download the digital edition from  

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Connacht Tribune

Galway lecturer’s transatlantic story of Boston dynasty and Irish roots



Larry Donnelly, with the Bostonian, on the grounds of NUI Galway.

Of all the transatlantic cultural differences that greeted Bostonian Larry Donnelly on arrival in Galway, the search for a clean towel in something called a hot press left him puzzled and perplexed most of all. He also came to quickly realise that Hoover had so conquered the vacuum cleaner market that the brand name had become a verb.

But the Boston-born son of an Irish father and Scottish mother – from a famed American political dynasty with roots firmly embedded in Galway and the west – found infinitely more that united his old and new home than divided them.

His voice is familiar to radio listeners from his frequent analysis of American politics; his thoughts are already well-known to readers of his weekly column in – and law students at NUIG have benefited from his expertise in that field on both sides of the Atlantic.

He spent a fair portion of lockdown writing the Bostonian, a biography in part – not just his own, but of his family and his uncle, US Congressman Brian Donnelly (the man forever synonymous with the Donnelly Visas) in particular.

Typical of him, he rarely puts himself centre-stage but what he succeeds in doing is putting his life, his work and his journey into context. He was a man with roots on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean long before he ever made the journey to live here.

The photo on the cover of the Bostonian sets out the stall for the book, uniting uncle and nephew in an iconic pic; US Congressman Brian Donnelly marching in the 1983 Dorchester Day Parade in Boston – and an eight-year-old Larry Donnelly in the baseball cap looking up in wonderment.

“I’d always intended it to be a book about more than me. I particularly wanted it to be the story of Brian’s political career because that deserves to be told – but I didn’t think he would allow that to happen, because he has always loathed the limelight,” he says.

Read the full story – and an exclusive excerpt from the Bostonian – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download the digital edition from  

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