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GMIT stops purchases until new budget plan is agreed

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Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) suspended all procurement in its three schools due to financial pressures at the college.

The suspension, effectively banning certain staff from making purchases, was initiated by management after reviewing expenditure reports for the three schools (Galway City, Mayo and Letterfrack) in June.

GMIT Financial Controller, Jim Fennel, instigated the procurement suspension in the Engineering, Marketing and Science schools.

He said the suspensions would remain in place until, “the relevant head of school/function has agreed a plan with me to stay in budget for 2014”.

Meanwhile, the financial plight of the city college was revealed at a GMIT Common Partnership Forum in April, attended by various members of staff and management.

Minutes of the meeting show that GMIT needs, “a €1.7 million cut to balance budget”. It was noted that already there had been a “series of cuts across the sector”.

GMIT President, Michael Carmody, according to the minutes, “noted the challenging times” and is to revert to the Governing Body with a report in relation to the college’s budget.

Mr Carmody will also be meeting with the Higher Education Authority regarding GMIT’s budget.

It was pointed out at the forum that retention of students is a cause for financial concern; and that a 20% retention rate for first years is “not acceptable”.

The forum also identified that the collection of fees and bad debts from students was an issue contributing to GMIT’s financial predicament.

“Bad debts of €300,000 is a significant loss of revenue and needs to be addressed,” according to the minutes of the forum meeting.

Read more in today’s Connacht Sentinel

Connacht Tribune

Chief Medical Officer has a new string to her bow

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The woman who guided Galway and the West through the global pandemic is taking over from Tony Holohan as Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer.

Professor Breda Smyth, HSE West Director of Public Health has been promoted to interim CMO.

The Mayo native takes over the role on July 4 when Dr Holohan resigns after 14 years in the position.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that Professor Smyth would fill the role, on secondment, on a short-term basis until a new permanent CMO is appointed.

Currently she is a professor for public health medicine at NUI Galway, a consultant in Public Health for HSE West, and has specialised in public health for the past 16 years.

Professor Smyth was a member of NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team), which advised on Ireland’s response to the pandemic including recommending lockdown restrictions and guidelines.

Professor Smyth said: “I am excited to have the opportunity to work together with colleagues in the Department of Health, and across our health and social care service to build on the considerable work done, both before and during Covid-19, to promote and protect public health and the health and wellbeing of the population of Ireland.

“The pandemic has placed a spotlight on public health, and I look forward to the opportunity to advance the public health agenda through important, cross-government initiatives like Healthy Ireland and Sláintecare to improve the health and wellbeing of the entire population including marginalised groups and continuing to address inequities in health.”

Minister Donnelly said that the process of recruiting a full-time replacement for Dr Holohan has started.

He thanked Professor Smyth for filling the role “on an interim basis until the completion of an open competition for a permanent CMO”.

Minister Donnelly said: “Professor Smith has a unique skill set with the requisite mix of academic, policy and frontline experience having provided leadership, expert and professional guidance of public health nationally and in HSE West over the last number of years. She has contributed significantly to the national response to Covid-19 in her many roles throughout the management of the pandemic.

“Professor Smyth brings this considerable experience, excellent leadership ability and extensive public health skillset to the role and I very much look forward to working with her.”

The new acting CMO also enjoys an extremely successful parallel life as an accomplished musician – a member of a family who have graced stages across the globe…including last weekend’s Galway Folk Festival when she played in Monroe’s.

A native of Straide, she and her siblings Cora, Maria and Sean – a founder member of the band Lunasa – are no strangers to the spotlight. Cora and Sean, like her sister, are also a qualified doctors and Maria, has a PhD in biochemistry.

“Music was very much a part of our lives,” she said in the past. “Our mother, Nancy, was a primary school teacher before we were born, and she brought us to classical music lessons. We played fiddles, tin whistles, bodhrans and piano – we tried out loads of instruments, but we’ve really remained with the fiddle and tin whistle.”

She toured and performed worldwide as a violinist with Michael Flately’s Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames which included performances at The Ryder Cup and the prestigious Red Cross Ball for the Royal Family in Monaco.

Playing fiddle and tin whistle, she released her debut album ‘Basil and Thyme’ in 2002 and was subsequently nominated as female traditional musician of the year by the ‘Irish Music Magazine’.

She has recorded and performed with many international artists including Paul Brady, Eddie Reader, Sharon Shannon, Gerry Douglas, Luka Bloom, Hazel O’Connor and many more.

Breda Smyth also married into another musical family; her husband is Jimmy Higgins, percussionists with the Stunning and more recently a familiar presence with Christy Moore.

They have two children, Blathnaid and Donal, who is an accomplished soccer player, who left Galway United for a sports scholarship with UCD.

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Connacht Tribune

‘Invisible man’ banned for series of driving offences

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A Conamara man who officially ‘didn’t exist’, and who did not obtain a driver’s licence because his birth was never registered, was put off the road for several road traffic offences.

Jason Sullivan (20) of Monas Place, Lough Conneera, Kilkieran pleaded guilty at Derrynea District Court to dangerous driving, drunk driving, and driving without insurance or a licence at Rosmuc on March 27, 2021.

Prosecuting Sergeant Pádraig Clancy gave evidence of the dangerous driving offence which included veering over onto the other side of the road, and driving at speed around bends and corners with Gardaí in pursuit.

At one point, he said, Sullivan’s car lifted off the ground and sparks were flying when it connected again with the surface of the road.

He was detected with 42 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood; the legal limit for experienced drivers is 50 milligrams alcohol per 100 blood, and it is 20 milligrams alcohol per 100 millilitres for learner and other drivers.

Subsequent to that, Sullivan was caught six times driving without insurance or a licence at various dates between March and June of last year.

Defending solicitor Michael McDarby said his client, a seaweed cutter and wind farm worker, pleaded guilty to all offences.

He explained his client’s birth wasn’t registered, which meant “officially he didn’t exist” and he could not get a driver’s licence because he had no birth cert. That was not an excuse, he said, but he has since been regularised.

Asked by Judge Mary Fahy, why his birth hadn’t been registered, Sullivan said: “I don’t know what happened; there was some mistake when I was born”.

Judge Fahy imposed fines totalling €850 plus a mandatory fee of €250 to the Medical Bureau for the blood test, and two-year disqualifications for each of the first four offences in March.

She imposed one-month prison sentences for each of the six subsequent no insurance offences, suspended for two years; driving without a licence on each occasion was taken into account.

“If you drive while disqualified you’ll go to prison,” she warned.

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Connacht Tribune

Extra Dáil seat likely for Galway East constituency

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The Galway East constituency looks set to be restored to a four-seater in time for the 2025 General Election under a consultative process currently taking place.

Figures from the last Census suggest Galway is entitled to another seat – and the odds are that will be delivered in the east of the county.

But the redraw could also mean that voters in areas like Claregalway, parts of Oranmore and Headford would now move to Galway East.

At the moment the three Galway East seats are held by poll-topper Sean Canney (Ind), Minister Anne Rabbitte (FF) and Ciaran Cannon (FG) – but with or without a redraw Sinn Fein’s Louis O’Hara would have been in the mix after he was the ‘last man standing’ in 2020 with more than 7,000 first preferences.

The creation of a fourth seat in the constituency, as is now extremely likely, will clearly buoy up his chances of making it to Dáil Eireann.

Veteran councillor and astute political analyst Cllr Jimmy McClearn of Fine Gael told the Connacht Tribune that he did not see the two main parties making any gains in the constituency even if it was restored to a four-seater.

“We may be selecting candidates in the hope of gaining an additional seat but given the figures, the polls and the reality of the situation, I think we will be happy to hold our own,” Cllr McClearn added.

Fine Gael will select sitting TD Ciaran Cannon and while the party will have to run a candidate in North Galway, this is likely to be Cllr Pete Roche from Abbeyknockmoy who polled more than 6,000 first preferences in 2020 but didn’t make much ground after that.

Fianna Fail will have Minister Rabbitte but the expected addition of young Cllr Albert Dolan in Monivea is set to create a lively internal contest.

Tuam’s Donagh Killilea, who polled almost 5,000 first preferences for the party last time out, will be determined to get on the ticket as he too has designs on a seat.

While most party analysts believe that Deputy Canney is still destined to be a poll-topper, they concede that Sinn Fein is destined to make a gain as few believe that the other parties have any chance of making a gain – given their performance in the polls.

Independents such as Cllr James Charity (Corrandulla), Kilconnell publican Cllr Timmy Broderick, Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ballinasloe) and Cllr Geraldine Donohue (Loughrea) may consider throwing their hats into the ring.

(Photo: the three sitting East Galway TDs after being elected).

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