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Connacht Tribune

Garda chief hopes for Dog Support Unit in Galway



A business case has to be made to Garda headquarters for a new Dog Support Unit for use in drug detection in Galway.

Chief Superintendent Tom Curley confirmed this week that he is ‘actively pursuing’ the matter and he hopes to have a dog unit based in the new regional headquarters in Galway City when it opens next year.

He made the comments during a discussion on combatting drugs at a meeting of the County Galway Joint Policing Committee (JPC) held this week.

The Chief Supt told the meeting that during the first eight months of this year, there have been 27 seizures of drugs for sale or supply in the county (up from 24 in the same period last year), with a further 111 cases of simple possession of drugs (down from 115).

Among the drugs seized were cannabis with a street value of almost €782,000; cocaine valued at almost €27,000; ecstasy valued at €320 and heroin worth €5.

Cllr Aidan Donohue asked if it was a sign of the times that there is more money in the economy, leading to more cannabis use or if it’s down to more detection of grow houses.

Chief Supt Curley said the comparative figure for cannabis seizures in 2016 would not be too different from the current year.

“We have an excellent Divisional Drugs Unit under Peter McGuinness, he has an excellent team in the districts. We have two Gardaí in each of the districts, which has been of huge benefit to us in the fight against drugs.

“Clifden is an example, where in the space of three or four months, we had three big seizures. There’s more buy-in by the public; people are out there watching, they see strange cars coming at different times of the day and night, and we’re working very well together. That’s the reason why the figures are so good,” he said.

Cllr Noel Thomas said the cannabis figures was “huge”, and wondered if a lot of Garda resources were being used on targeting cannabis, and perhaps it was more than necessary considering that elsewhere in the world, the drug is being legalised.

He said the effects of alcohol and cannabis, while some of the other drugs seized were “completely mind-altering and dangerous”, and it would be great if more resources could be channelled towards targeting them.

Cllr Thomas said he is not an ambassador for the use of cannabis, does not use it himself and it is not good for you, and believes it is addictive, but wondered if the Gardaí are fighting a losing battle.

Cllr Tom Healy said he had grave concerns about new substances coming onto the market. There was a very good understanding of the “classical drugs” over the past 50 years, but new substances are effectively untested and are proliferating through cheap manufacturing in places like China, and being sent through the mail. He asked what Gardaí were doing to familiarise themselves with the new substances.

Chief Supt Curley said he was not getting into a debate on the legalisation of cannabis, but it could be clearly seen that there is huge demand for it and people are making millions from its sale and supply.

“If we see illegal drugs, we will investigate, detect and arrest,” he said.

“We work very closely with the National Drugs Unit. In the last number of weeks, we had the Medicines Board down. Any agencies out there, we’re working with them.

“With our new building in Murrough [opposite GMIT in Galway], I’m actively pursuing a business case for a dog unit. It would be of huge benefit in relation to the detection of illegal drugs. We’re continuing to upskill,” said the Chief Supt.

Connacht Tribune

Radio series a first for new An Spidéal production company



Liam Ó Maonlaí (centre) with guests Barry Kerr and Síle Denvir from the first programme of Cuan an Cheoil.

A host of Ireland’s finest musicians gathered in Galway’s new intimate arts space – and recorded ten weeks of special programmes that will go out on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta every Thursday, starting tonight.

Cuan an Cheoil is the first radio series produced by Stiúideo Cuan, the new arts venue and production company in the heart of An Spidéal.

The new ten-part series, kicking off tonight at 7pm, will feature ten of the country’s best-known musicians, who will join Hot House Flower Liam Ó Maonlaí each week to play and to chat with him about various aspects of music and life.

Liam describes the programmes as ‘a musical conversation’ between himself and his guests.

They were recorded in Stiúideo Cuan in An Spidéal in a relaxed and open atmosphere, an attempt to recreate the informality of a group of musicians playing together at home, as opposed to a concert setting. The idea is to allow the musicians the space to be creative, to improvise and to compose on the spot, and the musicians who took part in the series got great satisfaction and enjoyment out of the process.

Síle Denvir and Barry Kerr will join Liam for the first programme of the series on January 20. Síle, from Conamara, is a member of the group Líadan, and has also performed with the Chieftains.  Barry Kerr, musician, composer and painter, is originally from Armagh but now living in Conamara.

Other musicians taking part in the series include Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh & Nia Byrne, Peadar Ó Riada & Mick O’Brien, Mary Bergin & Conor Connolly, Johnny Óg Connolly & Liam O’Connor, Róisín Chambers & Maitiú Ó Casaide, Méabh Ní Bheaglaoich & Niamh Varian-Barry, Rónán Ó Snodaigh & Myles O’Reilly, and Caoimhe & Séamus Ó Flatharta.

A visual stream for this programme will also be available online every week.

Stiúideo Cuan is a new creative arts and music centre based beside Ceardlann an Spidéil craft village in An Spidéal.

Founded by composer, fiddle-player and pianist Charlie Lennon and his daughter, fiddle-player Éilís Lennon, the studio has recently been redeveloped to enhance the facilities there which now include a performance venue, with rehearsal and production space, as well as recording and audio-visual post-production facilities.

Cuan an Cheoil will be broadcast on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta every Thursday from 7pm to 8.30pm, starting tonight.  See for further information or to listen back.


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Connacht Tribune

Athenry student makes wheelchair waves to create unique artwork



Joshua Whelan proudly poses beside his artwork, an abstract interpretation of the Athenry town map.

A young Athenry student has been making waves after his artistic endeavours endeared him to the nation.

Joshua Whelan, a First Year pupil at Clarin College in Athenry, has cerebral palsy – and a passion for art, which was revealed when he joined Serena Joyce’s art class a few months ago.

And he has now produced his first large artwork – an abstract interpretation of the Athenry town map, which he produced by using the wheels of his wheelchair to apply the paint.

It was testimony to Serena’s determination to find a way for him to make his mark – and she found inspiration from other wheelchair artists, like American artist Tom Hollenstein.

Serena enlisted the help of Martin O’Connell, Joshua’s special needs assistant, to produce the painting which now hangs proudly in Clarin College for all to see.

Martin steers the chair, but at Joshua’s direction as he tells Martin how he wants the wheelchair to move across the canvas.

When the painted was posted on social media, it drew a huge reaction and led to Joshua featuring on RTÉ News last week.

And Joshua’s mother Ingrid was understandably proud of her son.

“He’s amazing. It’s a credit to the school and Serena and Martin, and the support he’s had to help realise his skills and abilities,” she said.



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Connacht Tribune

NUIG distributing Covid test kits to students



Breda Smyth, HSE West Director of Public Health Medicine and Personal Professor of Public Health Medicine, NUI Galway pictured with Professor Charles Spillane, Director of NUI Galway's Ryan Institute and PhD students Lorene Lefebvre and Gilles Dupouy and Master's students Killian Marlborough and Brian Joyce at the launch of UniCov in semester one 2021. Photo: Aengus McMahon.

Tens of thousands of antigen test kits are being provided to NUIG students alongside Project UniCoV as part of public health efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19.

From Monday 17 January, students will be able to collect packs at four locations across campus.

Professor Breda Smyth, Chief Investigator of Project UniCoV and HSE West Director of Public Health, urged students to avail of the kits as well as additional testing, by signing up to take part in Project UniCoV.

“Everyone attending campus needs to adhere to the basic public health measures in the first instance – including not coming to campus if you have symptoms and are supposed to be self-isolating or restricting movements.

“Being able to offer free antigen test kits on campus at NUI Galway and giving students the opportunity to take part in Project UniCov demonstrates how we can take a layered approach to public safety and the welfare of students and staff.”

Students can collect five tests at a time. They are being advised to test twice a week, three days apart. They are also being advised to self-isolate if they test positive or develop symptoms and to follow public health advice.

Students are also being encouraged to avail of the option for further free antigen and/or salvia PCR testing for twelve weeks in semester two. A special QR code is being made available to students to support the research.

NUI Galway students are also encouraged to get the vaccine booster, to continue to wear face coverings and sanitise hands. The University saw high levels of compliance from students with public health guidelines during the academic year and we thank them for that.

The distribution of free antigen test kits is funded by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.


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