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Galway teachers and students learn from CERN

Denise McNamara



Two Galway teachers have been applying the tricks of the trade from the world’s most eminent scientists since returning from the European home of nuclear research in Geneva to their classrooms for the new term.

Neasa Mhic Dhonncha, science and maths teacher and Transition Year coordinator at Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin in Carraroe and Eleanor Nolan, the head of science and STEM coordinator at Claregalway College, spent three weeks this summer at CERN.

The pair were invited by the Galway Science and Technology Festival to attend the course alongside 54 teachers from 31 different countries after bringing their students to several events in recent years.

The course involves workshops, lectures and site visits at the engine room of international physics, with the opportunity to network with some of the great brains in science as well as teachers from across different educational backgrounds.

Talks examine the origins of the universe, teachers study particle physics, cosmology, particle accelerators and medical applications of particle physics. Workshops focus on how to improve science teaching to students in order to stimulate interest in the next generation.

“It was a brilliant course, very intensive. Just talking to other teachers and finding out about how they do things in their country was invaluable, sharing their ideas about teaching methods, it was very helpful,” enthuses Neasa.

“Instead of talking about particle physics, you get the overall picture of what’s happening in CERN, which is reinforcing information and getting a different understanding of it.”

CERN hit the headlines last year after the news that experiments performed by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) on the campus in Geneva had discovered a Higgs boson, the so-called God particle, which the current model of physics describes as giving mass to all particles in the universe. Being at the site of the discovery gave a true sense of the enormity of the breakthrough, but what became clear after the visit was that nothing was clear at all.

“Nobody’s really 100% sure about anything. They’re still investigating everything. Even the findings last year, they’re still working on them and trying to get beyond that, they’re still investigating,” explains Neasa.

There has been a surge in interest among students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects, particularly in higher level maths with an extra 25 points up for grabs in the CAO system. Four times the number of students in Carraroe are taking the combined psychics and chemistry course compared to a decade ago.

This week 44 city students and five teachers from Coláiste na Coiribe on the Tuam Road and Coláiste Einde in Salthill left on a four-day school tour to CERN.

The group is being led by teachers Mícheál Ó Marcacháin and Matt Lockett, who last year participated in the same High School Teachers programme.

Matthew explained that a visit to CERN gives an immediacy to physics, which is applied in every walk of life. Much of the science behind cancer treatment is based on the work of medical imaging invented at the Geneva centre while the internet was also invented there. It was through work here that satellites and mobile phones were created.

“The curriculum tends to focus on physics that was discovered three to four hundred years ago. Even modern physics was discovered in the last 120 years.

“It’s good to show how it’s evolving which helps drum up interest.”   Following last year’s visit, both colleges introduce particle physics at a much earlier stage of the curriculum and they use new power point presentations and classroom resources. There are plans to hold masterclass webcasts with CERN scientists.


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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