Sex trafficking, gangland shootings and murder – deep South America is a far cry from South Galway.
RTÉ’s Charlie Bird found that being a small fish in a big pond in the media world of the US was tough going but Gort reporter James Mahon has found it a thrill a minute since joining a local television news network in the deep south of America in January.
The 22-year-old former Gort Community School pupil and NUI Galway graduate has been reporting on all sorts of debauchery since arriving with WDEF News 12, a CBS News affiliate channel based in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
He says he’s covered all sorts of events, from tornados, black gangland crime, sex trafficking and murder, or homicide as they say in the States, in his short time working as a reporter in the ‘Bible-belt’.
“The first few weeks, there was a lot of gangland crime, which I wasn’t used to,” he laughs.
“It was black on black gangland . . . in a strange way they opened up to an outsider. They (black gangland criminals) see themselves as outsiders and were more willing to speak to an outsider. I look white and middle class but because I was Irish I was an outsider and they opened up . . . I’m trying to ask them about a shooting and they were asking about leprechauns, and lucky charms and Harry Potter,” he recalls.
Producers at WDEF News 12 decided that James had a quirky approach to reports, and that it would be novel and interesting for him to shoot a series about everyday events and activities in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. The result is Through Irish Eyes, three episodes of which are available on WDEF News 12’S YouTube channel, and a fourth episode is airing next week.
The idea is that viewers email in and suggest things James should do – already he has taken part in line-dancing, was MC at the National Corn Bread Championships, a traditional Creole cooking competition he describes as “ICA on speed”, and a strange take on how St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in the not-so-Irish Southern states, where the emphasis is “on drinking and not really on Irish culture or heritage”.
He will be skeet shooting next week, which is similar to clay pigeon shooting and he’s looking forward to suggestions from viewers over the Summer, including playing college American Football and baseball; another possible topic includes the ‘drive-through culture in the US.
James, whose parents Oliver and Peggy and sister Mary still leave near Kilbeacanty after graduating from NUIG, studied journalism in Sheffield and then took the advice of Emmy award winning news anchor CNN’s Jim Clancy, and applied to hundreds of stations in the US.
Connacht Tribune tributes to loved ones
These past few months have seen so many communities left to silently mourn family members and friends, whose funerals they would have attended in such numbers, were it not for the current Covid-19 restrictions.
But those that are gone have not been, and will not be, forgotten – which is why we want to open the pages of the Connacht Tribune to you to tell their stories.
If you’ve lost a loved one, whether to Covid-19 or not, or if your community or organization or sports club is mourning the death of a valued member and friend, you can email us your tribute and we will publish it in our papers.
All you have to do it to click on the above link, and it will take you to a short set of questions which you can fill in – and then add whatever you feel tells the story of the life of your friend, family member or colleague.
You can email that with a photograph to us, to email@example.com or you can post it to ‘Obituaries’, Connacht Tribune, 21 Liosban Business Park – and please enclose a contact number in case we have any queries.
We sympathise with anyone who has lost a loved one at this awful time, particularly given that so many people were unable to mourn with them and their family in person – and we hope that this will help in some small way to show those family members that we are all united in grief, even from a distance.
This is an additional feature we are providing alongside our long-established weekly Family Notices section where loved ones are remembered immediately by Months Mind Notices and annual anniversary remembrances. You can contact our team for further details at firstname.lastname@example.org
WATCH: The Olivers to the rescue … again!
Father and son rescue team Patrick and Morgan Oliver were back in action in Salthill this morning, when they helped a swimmer who got into difficulty.
A member of the public raised the alarm at around 10.30am and the Coastguard sought the assistance of Galway Lifeboat who launched from Galway Docks.
Two members of the lifeboat shore crew made their way to the promenade to assist in the rescue.
Patrick and Morgan Oliver were fishing off Salthill at the time and spotted the man taking refuge on Palmers Rock about 200 metres from Salthill shore. They took him on board their fishing boat and brought him back to Galway Docks. Galway Lifeboat in the meantime was stood down.
The man was taken into the Lifeboat station where he received treatment for symptoms of hypothermia until an ambulance arrived.
Assurances given on progress of road, bridge and bus projects
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – It will take time and a lot of money, but the city’s network of major transport projects will proceed on schedule – that was the assurance given this week to councillors by City Council Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath.
Councillors had expressed concerns at their meeting on Monday about the slow rate of progress being made with major capital projects including two new pedestrian bridges over the River Corrib.
However, Brendan McGrath told the meeting that the timelines for the range of capital transport projects – while challenging – were reasonable, pragmatic and achievable.
“All of the projects are moving forward but we must adhere to all the procedures and the different stages that have to be complied with: we have no choice in that,” said Brendan McGrath.
Senior City Council Engineer, Uinsinn Finn, in reply to a number of queries about potential new bus routes, said that while the Council worked closely with Bus Éireann and the bus companies, the local authority didn’t decide on the routes.
Earlier in the meeting, Cllr Peter Keane (FF), asked ‘how it could take 63 months’ to deliver a pedestrian/cycle bridge over the Corrib even though the piers (old Corrib Railway Line) were already in place for the project.
“How can it take over five years to put a bridge like this over the Corrib,” he asked, after hearing that this €11 million Greenways-linked project would not be completed until 2026.
There is a snappier timescale for the Salmon Weir Pedestrian/Cycle Bridge – to be located adjacent to the existing structure on the southern side – with planning consent expected by next Summer and a completion date set for the end of 2022.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.