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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

Gardaí in Galway operating with fewer patrol cars



Five large Garda stations in County Galway are operating with fewer Garda vehicles now than two years ago – leading to a call for the local fleet to be restored to 2020 levels.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has confirmed to Galway West TD Noel Grealish that the Garda fleet in the Galway Garda Division stands at 116 as of October of this year.

That’s greater than any of the years from 2012 to 2019, but it represents a reduction on the Garda fleet when compared with 2020 and 2021 figures.

Galway Gardaí had a dozen fewer vehicles this year, compared with 2020. There are 13 fewer patrol cars, down from 96 to 83; there was no change in the number of vans and motorcycles, and the division acquired one extra 4×4.

Garda stations in Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Tuam, Clifden and Salthill have all lost patrol cars in the past 24 months, according to the official figures.

Independent Deputy Grealish has demanded a restoration of the Garda fleet in Galway to 2020 levels.

“Gardaí have a demanding enough job to do, but it makes that important work even more difficult if they are not allocated the proper resources,” Deputy Grealish said.

“A reduction of twelve vehicles in less than two years across the Galway Division, down from 128 at the end of 2020 to 116 in October this year, is concerning.

“I have asked the Minister for Justice to explain why this has happened, that the number of vehicles in the Galway Division has fallen by ten per cent, when nationally the total fleet actually increased by 6%. I am demanding that they at the very least be restored to their 2020 levels,” he said.

Deputy Grealish pointed out that almost all areas of the county had suffered a reduction in Garda vehicles since the beginning of last year.  Ballinasloe currently has six vehicles, a reduction of two since the end of 2020; Clifden also has six, down one; Loughrea was down three to eleven; Salthill was down three to ten; the biggest reduction in Garda vehicles was in the Tuam area down five to twelve.

Galway City’s fleet increased by two vehicles, for a total of 71.

Minister McEntee said that the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was responsible for the administration and management of An Garda Síochána, including the purchase, allocation, and effective and efficient use of Garda vehicles.

“As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure their optimum use in light of identified operational needs and emerging crime trends,” she added.

Galway City Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) last month complained that the number of vehicles available to Gardaí in Salthill and Knocknacarra was insufficient.

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Connacht Tribune

Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team



Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.

The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.

Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.

Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.

“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.

It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.

“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”

She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.

“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.

There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.

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Connacht Tribune

Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78



Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.

Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968

As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.

From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.

When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.

Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.

A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.

Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later

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