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Connacht Tribune

Galway girl strikes Henley gold

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Galway native Katie O’Brien made history on several fronts last weekend as she became the first Irish Para Rower ever to enter the prestigious Henley Women’s Regatta in England – and promptly went on to win gold, the first Irish medal in Henley since 2010.

On top of that, Katie – from Clarinbridge – also set a course record at what is the premier rowing Regatta for women in the UK, drawing rowers from all over the world.

What is even more amazing is that Katie achieved all of this little over a year after taking up rowing and while still only seventeen years old.

But sporting success is nothing new to Katie or the O’Briens – she herself is also an accomplished horsewoman and her brother Sean was the captain of the Irish U20 rugby team for the Six Nations this year.

Katie’s victory at Henley has gained widespread acclaim but the biggest triumphs of her life so far have happened in a much quieter place.

She was born with Spina Bifida, and her parents were told that she would struggle to sit up and would never be able to walk. By the time she was ten years old she had more serious operations notched up than birthdays.

Katie underwent gruelling reconstructive leg surgery in her early teens and through extraordinary force of will, pain, and hard work she has built herself to be able walk unaided.

This again is another family trait as anyone who knew him could testify to the fierce determination and strength of character of Katie’s father, Iain O’Brien, who sadly passed away in November 2012 after a long battle with cancer.

Katie, who competed in the Trunk and Arms single scull category, dominated all stages of the competition, winning the time trial on Friday, setting the course record of 4:30 in her semi final on Sunday before going to win the final by three lengths later that day, in a time of 4:39.

National Para Rowing coach Peter Heaney described Katie as “a special kid who has all the right attributes.” Her progress since taking up rowing in January 2013 is “astounding.”

Coach Heaney explained that Katie was sent to Henley in order to gain experience, as she is pivotal to the Irish Para Rowing team’s plans for the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro 2016.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Violent incident in Tuam leaves seven hospitalised

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Gardaí are investigating after an incident in Tuam yesterday left seven people injured.

A violent altercation broke out between a large group at the cemetery in Tuam at about 4pm yesterday.

Around 30 Gardaí responded to the incident at the cemetery on the Athenry Road in Tuam, which broke out following two funerals in the area.

Gardaí supported by members from the wider North Western Region and the Regional Armed Support Unit had to physically intervene between parties and disperse those present.

Five males and two females were injured during the course of the incident and were taken to University Hospital Galway with non-life threatening injuries.

A 16-year-old boy was arrested at the scene, as he tried to flee in possession of a knife.

He was taken to Tuam Garda Station and has since been released. A file is being prepared for the Juvenile Liaison Officer.

Gardaí are appealing for any witnesses to this incident or for anyone with any information to contact Tuam Garda Station .

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Connacht Tribune

Anger over ANC ‘snip’

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Agriculture Minister, Charlie McConalogue

ANGRY farmers hit out during last week’s Galway IFA at the Dept. of Agriculture over what they described as their ‘heavy handed tactics’ in docking BEAM penalties from ANC payments made last week.

Although Agriculture Minister, Charlie McConalogue, has apologised for the actions taken by his Department officials, delegates who attended last Thursday’s night county IFA meeting in the Claregalway Hotel, hit out at what happened.

In some cases, according to Galway IFA Chairperson, Anne Mitchell, farmers who had already paid back the BEAM penalty also had the money deducted from their ANC (Areas of Natural Constraint) payments made last week.

Many farmers received ‘a shock in the post’ when their ANC payments were hit with the deductions of penalties from the BEAM scheme – earlier they had been warned of interest penalties if any balances weren’t repaid within 30 days.

At the core of the problem was the inclusion of a 5% stock numbers reduction in the BEAM scheme (Beef Exceptional Aid Measure) aimed at helping to compensate farmers for a drop-off in beef prices between September, 2018 and May, 2019.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Siblings find each other – and their Connemara roots – after 80 years

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Reunited...Pat and Miceál McKeown outside their mother Síle’s birthplace in Carna.

By Erin Gibbons

A family separated for over 80 years was reunited at the end of an emotional journey in Connemara last weekend – thanks to DNA testing and the expert help of heritage researchers.

Pat McKeown, who lives in Staffordshire in the UK, is the daughter of Síle Gorham from Roisín Na Mainiach, Carna – but she was given up for adoption and reared for a time in a Belfast Mother and Baby Home.

Now, at the age of 81, she found her roots – returning to her mother’s native place for the first time last weekend, in the company of her long-lost brother Micheál.

It was an emotional end to a lifelong search for her roots that even led her to hire a private detective to try and locate her family and to discover her name.

All of this proved unsuccessful – and she had effectively given up her search when she was contacted unexpectedly by a man called Miceál McKeown, who turned out to be her brother.

Micheál – an artist and sculptor – and his daughter Orla had made the connection through DNA testing, after Miceál too had set out to discover more about his own roots.

That revealed that Síle Gorham had married Michael McKeown in 1939, and Síle went on to have three more children named Áine, Séan and Miceál.

Pat visited Connemara last weekend for the first time to learn about her mother Síle and the Connemara ancestry which she feels was robbed from her for her entire 81 years.

She was accompanied by Miceál, his wife Rosemary, daughter Orla and son-in-law Rueben Keogh.

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

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