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Connacht Tribune

Global online education is thriving from Galway through turbulent times




Alison HQ in Parkmore.

As the coronavirus rages across the world, one Galway company – specialising in free online learning – has seen a five-fold increase in traffic to its already busy website…making it one of the top 5,000 most popular websites in the world.

Alison, the global free online learning platform, based in Parkmore, has over 14 million registered members worldwide and two million graduates of their 1,500-plus free online courses. This surge in website traffic is due to several factors, according to Alison founder/CEO Mike Feerick.

“With so many people now working from home, the obvious thing for many is to spend time upskilling online, doing the courses that they have perhaps put off doing for years,” he said.

Popular courses are Microsoft Excel, Touch Typing, Project Management and across the developing world, English language courses.

“We anticipated the impact of the Coronavirus early on and see it not just as an opportunity to help but as a responsibility,” said Mike.

Alison, he said had ‘created courses in the past to educate global audiences about the Swine Flu, SARS and Ebola epidemics’.

“During the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, of the 50,000 people in West Africa who studied the Alison course, many found it the only informational resource available to them, where government information efforts were scarce on the ground,” he revealed.

Mike Feerick also firmly believes that Ireland has ‘the resolve necessary across the population to deal with the crisis’ – and that is through aggressive testing and tracing.

But he added: “The lack of coordination across the US States and the lack of national leadership is a great cause for concern for us here.”

“Where I am most concerned however is Africa, where the hospital and informational resources available elsewhere are not as developed”.

To combat the lack of information on Coronavirus, Alison created a course on the disease ( and, with the help of medical professionals across the world who are members of Alison, have translated the course into over 50 languages.

“It’s a big undertaking which we are organising through our office in South Africa. Our target is any language which is spoken by over 10 million people. It has been an interesting exercise” he said.

Alison has also seen greater demand in Ireland where it already has 200,000 members.

“Students are taking time at home to do courses such as Maths. We have free video grinds on Lower and Higher Junior and Leaving Cert maths and relevant courses in the Sciences and Business.

“They have the opportunity also to explore areas that they might have an interest in away from the school curriculum, such as coding, or even make-up artistry.

With the current boom in traffic, Alison is expanding rapidly, and is seeking to fill several positions at its Parkmore, Galway Headquarters.

While Alison now has offices in South Africa, Nigeria and Mumbai, India, its “brain trust”, as Mike Feerick calls it, is based in Parkmore. Everything is decided out of Galway he said, all strategy and implementation, taking the time to add that Ireland needs more Irish-owned internationally trading businesses that brings new money into the country, and moreover, the Galway area.

Alison has immediate openings in technology in back-end and front-end engineering, systems administration, Database management, Business Analysis, Data Science and Data Analytics. It also has vacancies in global marketing.

Mike Feerick states that marketing vacancies have been hard to fill from Galway, due to the scarcity of businesses who run marketing operations from the West of Ireland.

If anyone would like to apply, email


You will also find this story – and 18 pages on Galway’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops today. You can also buy a digital edition online from or have a paper included with your supermarket shop delivery.

Connacht Tribune

New York-based Galwegian thrives in heart of virus epi-centre

Denise McNamara



Tadhg Reynolds in Times Square, on the empty streets of Manhattan.

An aspiring entrepreneur and Galway native, who had just set up a digital marketing company in New York when the pandemic struck, continues to work twelve-hour days as companies scramble to stay afloat.

Tadhg Reynolds, 24, from Kinvara, left for a better life exactly a year ago, on graduating from NUIG with a degree in Business Information Systems.

On his arrival, he joined a digital marketing start-up in Manhattan focused on e-commerce before branching out on his own, concentrating on Facebook ads, email and Instagram posts for companies in the US as well as in Ireland.

And then Covid-19 sent shockwaves around the world.

America is now the epi-centre of the pandemic and New York has been hardest hit, with 12,000 new cases confirmed and 600 deaths recorded on the day Tadhg spoke to the Connacht Tribune.

Tadhg had been worried that his newly found business would fall by the wayside as digital marketing is usually the first thing cut in hard times.

“I’ve actually started taking on new clients – companies selling home exercise equipment, hand sanitisers, hand moisturisers are doing really well so I’m helping them capitalise and everything seems to be going ok,” he remarks.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also order the paper with your online delivery – or buy a digital edition on

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Connacht Tribune

Hospitals plan for anticipated virus upsurge

Dara Bradley



ICU staff at Portiuncula Hospital – with a very clear message for the public. Photo taken by hospital staff because of visiting restrictions.

Extra space to store dead bodies prior to burials and cremations has been added at University Hospital Galway (UHG).

Upgrade works at the mortuary had already started prior to the Covid-19 crisis but additional capacity for potential coronavirus deaths was added as a worst case scenario precaution.

‘Preliminary talks’ about the possibility of opening a temporary field hospital in Galway, if in the worst-case scenario the four city hospitals fill-up, have also taken place as part of the HSE’s wide-ranging pandemic plans.

The capacity planning comes as Dr Pat Nash, Chief Clinical Director of Saolta Hospitals Group this week warned we are ‘far from over the hump’ in relation to Covid-19 infections and deaths, even though the public’s compliance with social distancing has slowed the spread of the virus.

The latest figures confirm there were a total of 128 positive cases of Covid-19 in Galway, as of midnight on Sunday, compared with 86 the previous Sunday. That’s up 42 cases in a week, but Sunday’s sharp rise of 16 new cases accounted for almost 40%.

Several hospital sources confirmed that temporary refrigerated prefabricated buildings have been installed alongside the morgue. These have increased by many multiples the 15 spaces in the existing, permanent morgue. An autopsy theatre at the morgue has been moved temporarily to the Fever Hospital building at UHG.

Members of the public who contacted the Connacht Tribune had noticed building work at the city morgue at UHG.

Dr Nash said some construction work was progressing beside the morgue on a new laboratory building that will accommodate the blood and tissue establishment unit. That unit was previously granted planning permission as part of an extension to the morgue.


See full story – and a further 20 pages of coverage of the Covid-19 crisis – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also order the paper with your online delivery – or buy a digital edition on

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Connacht Tribune

NUIG research team found pandemic was long on the cards

Denise McNamara



NUIG Professor Máire Connolly.

Back in 2017, a research report led by NUIG Professor Máire Connolly warned that the risk of a pandemic emerging was greater than ever before.

Influenza viruses originating in animals was first in the list of identified threats to human health.

“The timing and origin of the next pandemic is uncertain, but improved preparedness can minimise the impact on human lives and health, and the disruption to economies and societies that results,” she remarked on the publication of the EU ‘Pandem’ report following 18 months of research.

It was unfortunately all too prescient.

“It is a little bit eerie looking back,” Prof Connolly admits this week. “I don’t think we actually envisaged it would be as harrowing as it is.”

The Galway City native’s previous roles with the World Health Organisation (WHO) revolved around health security and disease control in emergencies. She worked with the organisation between 1995 and 2012, often at the heart of devastating crises in the likes of Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, Iran, Gaza, East Timor, Uganda and Syria.

Her husband Mike Ryan, who she met in 1988 while studying medicine at NUIG, is currently at the forefront of the global battle against Covid-19 through his role as executive director of WHO’s health emergencies programme.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also order the paper with your online delivery – or buy a digital edition on

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