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Connacht Tribune

Galway woman celebrates her centenary – with her first flight

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Seatbelt and headphones on, Nonie McTiernan was a picture of contentment as she waited for the rotor-blades to increase their speed and for the Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter to take off.

But this was no ordinary chopper trip; because Nonie was celebrating her 100th birthday and this was her first flight.

“It was wonderful”, she said. “We must have been up for 15 or 20 minutes. It was lovely to see all the houses and fields down below. I really enjoyed it.”

Nonie Larkin-McTiernan pictured with her letter and cheque from President Michael D. Higgins which was read to her by her grand-niece, Angela Larkin. EIREFOTO

Nonie’s brother, 86 year old Francie Larkin of Lisdeligna, Killimor, organised a big birthday celebration for his sister.

“She’s the best sister anyone ever had”, he said. “Nonie was the third eldest of our family of twelve and she was always there for the rest of us. There’s only the two of us left now”.

And what a party they had. Two marquees were erected on Francie’s farm for 175 invited guests. The day began with mass celebrated by Killimor parish priest, Fr. Ciaran Kitching who gave a warm talk about Nonie and the Larkin family.

He was assisted by Fr. Christy O’Beirne – as well as a small choir who sang beautifully, accompanied by organist Noreen Shiel and John Keane on guitar.

Following the mass, Nonie’s grand-niece Angela Larkin from New York, read a letter from President Michael D. Higgins in which he congratulated Nonie on reaching her 100th birthday and enclosing a cheque for €2,575.

A full dinner was then served to all the guests and this was followed by dancing to the music of K2 led by John Keane. During the evening there were numerous musical guests who contributed to the festivities.

Following her maiden flight, Nonie spoke for a while about her life. Born in 1918, she grew up on the family farm and went to school in Coola, three miles away. In her early 20s, she moved to Dublin where she worked for a few years.

In 1951, Nonie took the long voyage from Queenstown (Cobh) to the USA as she had some relatives there.

“I promised my mother that I would come home in five years and I did that” she said. “On holidays in Dromahair, County Leitrim in 1956, I met John McTiernan and two years later, on 12th February 1958, we married in St. Iomar’s Church, Killimor. We settled in Roughan, Riverstown, County Sligo and raised two children, a son, Pat and a daughter Ann-Marie. I have three grand-children and two great-grandchildren”, she added.

Her husband John died suddenly at the young age of 54.

When asked the inevitable question, to what did she attribute such a long and healthy life, Nonie replied: “I never drank or smoked and I worked hard all my life”.

She finished by entertaining the crowd with two wonderful recitations, ‘The Noble Boy’ and ‘My Dog Trey’ to huge applause.

To round off the celebrations, Nonie took to the floor with her son-in-law, John Francis Fowley and was soon joined by all the guests.

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Connacht Tribune

Unauthorised developments in County Galway go unchecked for months

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The Planning Enforcement Section of Galway County Council is so understaffed that complaints of unauthorised developments are not being investigated for months, the Connacht Tribune has learned.

In one case, a complaint alleging a house was under construction in a picturesque and environmentally sensitive part of Conamara without planning permission was not investigated by the Council for at least six months.

And it can be revealed that there is a ‘large’ backlog of complaints of unauthorised developments in the county, which the Planning Enforcement Section at County Hall has blamed on staff shortages, according to correspondence obtained by the Connacht Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI).

In response to repeated requests by a concerned member of the public to intervene and investigate an allegation of unauthorised development in an environmentally protected area of Conamara, the Council’s Planning Department indicated it was too stretched.

“Unfortunately, the planning enforcement section is experiencing a period of prolonged staff shortages and consequently there are a large number of files awaiting investigation/review,” it said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Access Centre provides pathways to University of Galway for the disadvantaged

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Photo of Imelda Byrne

Great leaps have been made in recent years to make access to tertiary level education a realistic prospect for once marginalised groups in society.

With the deadline for CAO applications approaching next week, the Access Centre at the University of Galway is aiming to reach as many underrepresented groups as possible ahead of next academic term.

Head of the Access Centre, Imelda Byrne (pictured), said research has shown that those who once felt third level ‘wasn’t for them’ are increasing their presence at UG, and bringing a richness to the sector that had for a long time been missing.

In the five years up to 2021, there was a 100% increase in the number of students registering for the Disability Support Service at the university, while those coming from Further Education and Training courses in institutes like GTI had surged by 211% over four years.

“The message that we really need to get out there is that the CAO is not the only route into third level. There are a number of pathways,” says Imelda.

“There are loads of places set aside for students coming from a place of disadvantage,” she continues, whether it’s national schemes such as the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for socio-economic disadvantage; or the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE); or the university’s own programme for mature students.

Those places are there to ensure those from all backgrounds get an opportunity to reach their education potential, tapping into hugely talented groups that once may have missed that opportunity.

“What we have seen is that when they get that opportunity, they do just as well if not better than other students,” continues Imelda.

For HEAR and DARE scheme applicants, and for those hoping to begin higher education as a mature student, next Wednesday’s CAO deadline is critically important.

But beyond the CAO applications, the Access Programme will open up in March to guide prospective students, whatever challenges they are facing, into third level.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway County Council ‘missing out on millions’ in derelict sites levies

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Photo of Cloonabinnia House

Galway County Council is missing out on millions of euro in untapped revenue due to a failure to compile a complete Derelict Sites Register.

That’s according to Galway East Sinn Féin representative, Louis O’Hara, who this week blasted the news that just three properties across the whole county are currently listed on the register.

As a result, Mr O’Hara said the Derelict Sites Levy was not being utilised effectively as countless crumbling properties remained unregistered – the levy amounts to 7% of the market value of the derelict property annually.

The former general election candidate said Galway County Council was ill-equipped to compile a proper list of derelict sites and called on Government to provide the necessary resources to tackle the scourge of dereliction across.

“There are still only three properties listed on Galway County Council’s Derelict Sites Register . . . anyone in Galway knows that this does not reflect the reality on the ground and more must be done to identify properties, and penalise owners who fail to maintain them,” said Mr O’Hara.

The situation was compounded by the fact that the Council failed to collect any of the levies due to them in 2021.

“This is deeply concerning when we know that dereliction is a blight on our communities. Derelict sites attract rats, anti-social behaviour and dumping, and are an eyesore in many of our local towns and villages.”

“The Derelict Sites Levy should be used as a tool by local authorities to raise revenue that can then be utilised to tackle dereliction, but they are not adequately resourced to identify and pursue these property owners,” said Mr O’Hara.

(Photo: The former Cloonabinnia House Hotel is on the Derelict Sites Register).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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