A Galway man is taking on the charity challenge of a lifetime – running 13 half marathons in 13 countries in 13 weeks.
Fergal O’Flaherty – son of the late pharmacist Matt O’Flaherty – set off from Dublin in a jeep called ‘iVan’ yesterday (Sunday) destined for New Delhi in India in an effort to raise €100,000.
The ‘Dublin2Delhi’ 13 half marathons will be run en route to India to raise money for two charities; On the Road Again in Ireland and Child Nutrition Foundation in India.
The challenge will see him travel through the UK, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, People’s Republic of China, Tibet, Nepal and finally India.
This event is the brainchild of Fergal, who is now living in Dublin. It was a dream of his late father’s to undertake a road trip, but he passed away just one month before they were to set off.
“Our Dad and Mum had ten kids. They dedicated their lives to raising us and getting us a good education. Back in 2010, as Dad reached his eighties, he and I planned a road trip together.
“He wanted to go to the Isle of Man to drive the TT motorbike circuit. It was a dream of his since the motor-biking days of his youth. We were to go on the 8th of August. On Tuesday, July 13, Dad got a heart attack in Galway Shopping Centre and died later that day.
“Our Dad’s sudden death affected us all. It was a terrible shock for our family, and his passing a great loss. We have all done our best to come to terms with it in our own individual ways.
“Mine was to take up running. I had never ever run before in my life. I got off the couch, and started by running down my local road for a minute at a time.
“My sisters Maeve and Deirdre encouraged me into some good running routines. I ran a 10k race for the RNLI Lifeboats and found it very rewarding. After that I ran a few 5k and 10k races and was pleasantly surprised by my progress.
“My sister encouraged me to join her at our neighbourhood running club, Brothers Pearse AC (in Dublin). Running with others makes it so much easier, so it wasn’t long before I was training for my first half marathon. I was more able to cope with things after running. Running really enabled me to handle Dad’s passing better. Running got me through.
“I was driving Dad’s old car a lot after he died (a 1996 Toyota Corolla). It was so reliable and trustworthy. It started every day, rain or shine, frost or snow. Driving it reminded me a lot of Dad.
“Sometimes that made me blue, sometimes happy. I started thinking about the road trip again and thought, why not? Why not do it anyway? Why not do it in his honour? With the help of many others I have planned, fine-tuned and added to the original plan, and added to it in a way that I hope will make Dad laugh and smile,” said Fergal.
He explained that the concept is to continue the good work his father did and continue to help those who need it – supporting those who assist wellbeing and personal development, wellbeing of children and mental health.
“Dad was always helping others during his life here. He volunteered with the St Vincent De Paul for over 30 years. He knew the more disadvantaged areas of Galway and Connemara better than most. This trip will recognise his willingness to help others carry on,” he said.
Fergal aims to raise €100,000 for the two nominated charities – 100% of funds raised will be donated, and the cost of getting to India has been privately funded.
On the Road Again is an Irish charity which designs Personal Development Programmes to improve physical wellbeing and mental health.
The Child Nutrition Foundation is based in India, where 6,000 children die every day from malnutrition. The CNF aims to reduce this rate in vulnerable communities.
To donate, visit dublin2delhi.com
Coroner calls for shared resource for unidentified human remains
The Coroner for West Galway has recommended establishing a shared database for unidentified human remains after the body of a Limerick man found off Inis Mór 25 years ago lay unidentified in Galway City despite his family’s tireless efforts to find him.
At an Inquest last week, Coroner Ciarán MacLoughlin said the family of Denis Walsh had their grief ‘compounded’ by this delay and said while his identification in January of this year had been as a result of advances in DNA technology, there had been at a ‘missed opportunity’.
Denis Walsh Jnr (23) disappeared from his home in Caherdavin on the outskirts of Limerick City on March 9, 1996.
In a deposition to inquiry into his death, his father, Denis Walsh Snr, described his son as having ‘never caused any trouble growing up’. He said he had ‘started to hang around with the wrong group’ at around 18 years old, which led to drug taking, and detailed how Denis Jnr been ‘in and out’ of psychiatric care before he went missing.
In the period directly before his disappearance, his father said he had been ‘getting on reasonably well’.
After he failed to return home on March 9, a missing person’s report was lodged with Henry St Garda Station in Limerick City.
The inquest at City Hall heard that Sheila Ní Shúilleabháin, Caherciveen, Co Kerry, had been holidaying in Kilronan in April 1996, and while walking on the beach on the morning of April 7, she and a friend discovered the partial remains of a body.
The remains were removed to University Hospital Galway for post mortem examination.
Mr Walsh Snr, who was in attendance at the inquest, questioned why nobody had contacted him or his wife, Mary Walsh after the body was found.
Reading from newspaper clippings at the time, he said it had been reported in the Tuam Herald on April 13, 1996, that the body was of a male with ‘neatly-cut brown hair’ – a description fitting that of his son.
Dr MacLoughlin, explained that the remains found were badly damaged. He said the part of the skull which would have enabled identification using dental records ‘was not present’.
Mr Walsh Jnr’s body remained at the mortuary in UHG for 18 years and was removed to a plot owned by the hospital at New Cemetery, Bohermore, in 2014.
Bereavement Liaison Officer Ann McKeown told the inquiry that a decision was taken to bury a number of unidentified remains, including that of Mr Walsh Jnr, in ‘individual coffins with unique identification numbers’ that could be used in the event of a positive identification.
Ms McKeown said she had accompanied Mr Walsh Jnr’s body to the cemetery, and that prayers had been offered by the hospital chaplain.
Reading a report from Forensic Science Ireland, Dr MacLoughlin said that efforts to match the DNA of the body found of Inis Mór in 1996 had failed in July 2008, March 2011 and June 2018.
DNA swabs were taken from the parents of Mr Walsh Jnr in February 2011 which were also stored with Forensic Science Ireland.
However, Dr MacLoughlin said these swabs had been used to search an Interpol database and that they had not been used to seek a match from the records of unidentified bodies found within the State.
“There was no requirement to look at the profiles in the lab. What happened was this was all done in Limerick, independent of us in Galway. I’m not sure they’d have known in Limerick what we were doing in Galway,” said Dr MacLoughlin.
A database for 20 unidentified remains was established in 2015 but it didn’t take into account existing ‘living profiles’ such as those provided by Mary and Denis Walsh.
“You were missed,” said the Coroner.
Mr Walsh Snr said at one point, Gardaí in Mayorstone, their local Garda Station in Limerick, had been contacted by police in Cornwall about a body discovered there.
“If police in Cornwall could contact Mayorstone, why in the name of God could Gardaí in Galway not contact Gardaí in Mayorstone.
“As far as I’m concerned, there is no contact between [Gardaí in] Galway and Limerick,” he said.
Dr MacLoughlin gave an open verdict, stating that it was impossible to determine a cause of death.
He recommended that a database of unidentified remains, to be stored at Forensic Science Ireland based at Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park, should be established and shared between every Coroner’s Office and Garda Station in the State.
He said advances in technology had allowed the laboratory in Dublin to identify Mr Walsh in 2021 using methods not available in 1996.
“But it took 25 years to get to that. I know for me, life goes on, but for you, it wasn’t like that,” Dr MacLoughlin told Mr Walsh Snr.
“For 25 years, you have thought of him; you’ve missed him at Christmas and at family celebrations. For 18 years, he was in the mortuary in Galway and for the next seven years, he was interred in Galway only 60 or 70 miles away.”
Dr MacLoughlin said he recognised that Mr Walsh Jnr’s family had gone to huge lengths to find their missing son and brother, and expressed his deepest sympathy to them for their loss.
Mr Walsh Jnr’s body was recently exhumed from New Cemetery and moved to the family’s plot in Limerick.
Preparing Connemara for influx of tourists
Facilities near beaches and popular tourist spots in Connemara need to be looked at as a matter of urgency before the tourist season gets into full swing, local councillors urged at their Area Meeting last week.
Councillors outlined some of the problems that had arisen during the ‘good weather weekend’ of April 24/25, relating to signage, parking, traffic control, litter issues and toilet facilities.
Fine Gael councillor, Eileen Mannion, said that given the ongoing situation with Covid, Connemara was going to be a very busy place during the upcoming summer tourist season.
“People do want to come out here; they make a big difference to the local economy; we want them to have a good experience; but we do need them to respect the local communities.
“When people go into Galway city, they cannot park where they like, so why should it be any different in Connemara,” said Cllr. Mannion.
Cllr. Tom Welby (Ind.) said that one of the first things to provide was basic signage as regards parking and traffic control. “There is going to be a lot of internal tourism this year,” he said.
According to Cllr. Pádraig Mac an Iomaire (FG), there were a lot of problems across beaches in the Connemara area relating to litter, toilets and signage during the fine weekend last month.
“In Spiddal for example, at busy times, there is a real difficulty with access issues and especially so in relation to the emergency services. Would it be possible to keep one side of the roadway here [Spiddal] free of parking?” asked Cllr. Mac an Iomaire.
Cllr. Tomás Ó Curraoin (Rep. SF) said that there were a lot of problems with camper vans in the Carna area leaving litter and rubbish behind them.
Council Engineer, Paraic Breathnach, said that the Council had the capacity to provide more signage, bins and portaloos, if the need arose, but added that parking and traffic issues were a different matter.
“We as a Council don’t have the teeth to deal with the issue of parking, camper vans and traffic control. That is very much a Garda matter,” he said.
Glass roof over Latin Quarter among raft of proposals to Galway City Council
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to put a roof over the Latin Quarter – with outdoor heaters to combat Galway’s changeable weather – is among a raft of suggestions that will be considered by the Council as it draws up the next City Development Plan.
The widespread use of outdoor theatre and extended opening hours for retail and cultural attractions are also on the cards as members of the public and lobby groups push for a city that offers the broadest range of tourist attractions.
As part of series of measures put forward to improve the outdoor offering in the city, one submission – which is understood to have been noted by the Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath in his report on plan, which is at ‘pre-draft’ stage – is to put a glass ceiling on the city centre’s main commercial thoroughfares.
Planners are currently considering the proposal as part of more than 500 submissions made to Council in the first public consultation for the document, which will shape development in the city for six years after 2023.
It’s proposed that by covering the length of Quay Street/Latin Quarter in high retractable glass panes ‘mounted on decorative supports’, and installing street heaters, ‘a comfortable outdoor ambiance could be created’.
This is one of almost 50 submissions made in the area of economic development, where the theme of improving the city’s night-time economy and tourism offering feature prominently.
In another submission from Fáilte Ireland, the tourism authority expresses its desire that the next City Development Plan should have a chapter dedicated to tourism, such is its importance to the city’s economic success.
As well as developing Galway’s growing reputation as a ‘foodie destination’, developing the night-time economy is identified as being ‘an important aspect of ensuring a vibrant city centre and means more than just developing a bar and restaurant culture’.
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.