Reliable internet will be still be a pipe dream for many rural households who are looking at 2020 at the earliest to get connected under the Government’s latest broadband initiative – with a date ten years out from now touted by some of the more “cynical” councillors.
A senior official in the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources who reiterated the Government’s commitment that all premises in the State will have access to high speed broadband regardless of location was widely derided at this week’s Galway County Council meeting.
Sean Griffin explained to the councillors meeting in Loughrea that after commercial companies invested €2.5 billion to supply 1.6m premises, 70% of the country would have access to broadband of a minimum of 30 Mbps on download by next year.
State intervention was required to get the remaining 30% connected along 100,000km of road network, which included villages with less than 900 premises, rural ribbon developments and one-off houses.
A map was published last November which indicated every building in the country which either had or would have broadband by 2016. An intervention strategy will be published midway through the year outlining what level of work is required to ensure 100% coverage.
Tenders will be sought to roll out the broadband network by December with plans to start the work next year.
“We expect it will be a fibre-based solution to ensure it’s an infrastructure that will last into the future…we expect it to start being rolled out by 2016 and completed by 2020,” said the civil servant.
But councillors scoffed at the department’s broadband plan as nothing more than electioneering ahead of an upcoming election.
Cllr James Charity (Ind) labelled it an attempt to renege on commitments made to 86 rural locations in the run up to last year’s local elections. His fellow independent Des Joyce remarked that rural Ireland could well be left until 2025 to have such a basic resource.
Cllr Sean Canney (Ind) said jobs in Headford would have to move to Galway if companies wanted to grow and remain competitive due to the lack of broadband. “Shame on us,” he exclaimed.
“The whole thing is a farce and ye’ve known it for the last five years,” fumed Cllr Seamus Walsh (FF), who accused the department of hiding behind regulations to delay the roll-out.
Cllr Noel Thomas (FF) said he had proof that companies were claiming to have coverage in an area and once people were locked into expensive contracts “boom it’s gone”.
Fine Gael Cllr Aidan Donohue said the education of children was being put at risk because they were not able to use their computers at home.
Sinn Féin Cllr Tom Healy said it was no wonder the project was “in the state it’s in” when one of the Government’s commercial partners was Eircom, which maintained ‘dial up’ broadband as long as possible for exhorbitant rates and did not invest in infrastructure upgrades.
Councillor Tim Broderick (Ind) said you might as well burn the document if it is subject to a cost benefit analysis, citing a case of a house being constantly flooded which is not getting State support as it did not meet the cost benefit criteria.
Mr Griffin said while he understood the frustration and cynicism of councillors, his department was going full steam ahead with the plan, which had to meet regulations about public procurement, State aid and public consultation.
“Our policy is to have a high speed broadband service to every premises in the country no matter where they are – we are single-mindedly dedicated to that. I understand completely the frustration and empathise.
“This is the biggest and most important infrastructure project in the country for the next 20 years. Please don’t be under any illusion we’re not committed to making it happen because we are.”
Gentleman Jim – the consummate journalist
Obituary by Dave O’Connell
Jim Fahy was a man of many paradoxes; a big imposing man who never tried to impose himself on anyone; an instantly recognisable face who only ever wanted to tell the story, never to be it; a reporter for the big, international story…but just as happy to record the minutiae of ordinary life.
Where there was no contradiction however was in his commitment to his profession – his quest to bring the news to the masses, driven by a phenomenal work ethic, an insatiable desire to find the answers and a lifelong dedication to his role as RTÉ’s man in the West.
That dedication to his craft brought plenty of plaudits – his career was bejewelled with over 40 awards for his work – but he always saw himself as the storyteller, never the story.
Like so many of the national service’s finest broadcasters, he cut his journalistic teeth in the world of newspapers – in Jim’s case, under the expert tutelage of Tuam Herald editor and owner, JP Burke.
And he learned well from the Master, because over his 38 years as RTÉ’s first Western Correspondent and Western Editor, he set the standard for regional broadcasting, covering his patch with curiosity and enthusiasm that never dimmed from first day to last.
His long-running Looking West series has rightly been singled out in recent days as his greatest legacy; those conversational documentaries that told – in the first-person and from memory – the story of Ireland through so much of the last two centuries.
Ever patient and dogged, he would sit for hours and hours with those who could offer a direct line back to the Famine – recounting the stories they’d heard from those who’d lived through it.
Thus he opened a window, for example, on life in the Big Houses, chatting with those who lived there – as easily to members of the aristocracy as the household staff – to get an insight into their lives and the world around them.
He loved words – possibly a throwback to his early days in print – but he also knew how to let a picture tell a story. And he also knew when to listen.
The past few days has also recalled his famous interview with the late Monsignor James Horan, against a backdrop of JCBs digging into the boggy mountain that was to become Knock Airport, as he asked the question the world wanted to – “Monsignor Horan, what exactly is going on here?”
“We’re building an airport…and we have no money, but we’re hoping to get it next week or the week after.”
You didn’t need an intrusion – just an ability to ask the question and step back to let the answer tell the tale.
He chronicled every big Galway story from early seventies to 2011 – Digital’s rise and fall and the similar trajectory of Bishop Casey; All-Ireland wins and losses; the Saw Doctors, Druid’s growth, the Arts Festival, the Races; the BrazilIans in Gort; sea tragedies; the Christmas tears and goodbyes at Knock airport; the Kiltartan floods and the Derrybrien mudslide; Michael D in the Dáil and the Áras – producing what good journalism is supposed to do…provide the first draft of history.
The Kilreekill native who had long lived in Tuam was the station’s longest serving regional correspondent, when he retired in 2011. Truth be told, that wasn’t his decision; it was just the state broadcaster’s arbitrary policy of retiring people at the age of 65.
Typically, he wanted to fade away on the back of a final broadcast – a piece on Paul Fallon’s 1,000-mile charity run as he passed through Oranmore on New Year’s Eve 2011, where typically he jogged alongside, still asking questions as he tried to take his quiet leave.
But the big man was never going to be allowed to simply fade into the ether, and President Higgins led the tributes to Jim in a personal message on that evening’s Six One News – saying how much he would be missed and how Jim had reported on everything political, cultural and international that had happened in the West under his journalistic tenure.
Fittingly it was the President who again led the tributes on Jim’s death at the weekend, describing him as ‘one of Ireland’s finest broadcasters’.
“It will be as RTÉ’s voice of the west of Ireland that Jim will be most fondly remembered,” said President Higgins.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin also took time out to remember Jim Fahy’s ‘distinct voice and eye for a story uncovered every facet of life in the west of Ireland, as well as major international events like 9/11’.
Because the Galway man was one of the first journalists from Europe to arrive in New York in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Galway and the West was his daily beat, but the world was his oyster.
He’d interviewed Mother Teresa and travelled to Somalia with former President Mary Robinson in the late 1990s – a decade after he’d produced a series of programmes from London on that latest generation of young people to emigrate to Britain.
Typical of the man, once he retired, he made no effort to hold onto the limelight; instead he enjoyed life with Christina, his children and his grandchildren; he pursued his passion for sailing and reading – and if he departed this world way too soon at the age of just 75, he packed a lifetime into every day.
The recurring tribute from so many of his colleagues – in RTÉ and the wider journalistic community – was the advice he generously imparted, the encouragement he ceaselessly offered, and the praise he never failed to bestow when a job was well done.
He thrived on the big stories but never missed the small ones either; he mixed in exalted circles but had a passion for the ordinary and the marginalised – a need to tell their story in his own kind and inimitable way.
Jim Fahy died at home in Gardenfield, outside Tuam, on Friday night, surrounded as always by his beloved family. His Requiem Mass took place in the Cathedral of the Assumption, Tuam on Monday, with burial afterwards in Kilbannon Cemetery.
His wife Christina will miss him most of all, as will his son Shane, daughter Aideen, daughter-in-law Brenda, Aideen’s fiancé Colm, his treasured grandchildren Amy, Dylan, Hugh, Clodagh and Dara, brother Pat and his wife Nora, his relatives, friends – and all who knew him in the media world of wich he was such an integral part.
Údarás enjoys year of growth despite Covid
There were 3,180 full-time jobs in companies supported by Údarás na Gaeltachta in the Galway Gaeltacht at the end of last year – the highest level ever in the history of the organisation.
The Údarás annual report reveals that 337 new jobs were created in client companies in 2021 – the highest level of new employment created in any of the counties overseen by Údarás for the second year running.
Even when the number of jobs lost was taken into account, that was still a net increase of 7.6% or 225 jobs in full-time employment on the previous year.
Most of the new jobs were created in companies operating in the medical devices, science and engineering sectors, including Freudenberg/Cambus Medical, Aran Biomedical, CLS, ÉireComposites, Zoan Nuáil Teo, Micron Clean, and HiTech Health.
During 2021, the Board of Údarás approved new projects which will ultimately create 108 jobs in the Galway Gaeltacht – with an estimated total investment of €3.09 million when these projects are underway.
The annual report also reflected on a number of significant announcements for the Galway Gaeltacht during 2021 – topped by Aran Biomedical’s 150 new high-quality jobs and more than 40 new highly skilled jobs created by Cambus Medical/Freudenberg Medical as part of a €1.9m expansion.
ÉireComposites also revealed plans to create 40 new jobs after signing a multi-million Euro contract with Spirit AeroSystems.
There was also notable positive reaction to the the Conamara Láir ‘Filleadh Abhaile’ campaign with over 120 relocation inquiries.
And the launch of the Ros an Mhíl Harbour report predicted that 900 jobs could be created in the renewable energy sector.
Two significant five-year Actions Plans were also published last year, both aiming to drive job creation, industry and tourism – both in An Cheathrú Rua and the Iorras Aithneach area.
Overall, the Údarás report revealed that 825 new full-time jobs were created in Gaeltacht companies in 2021, the highest number of jobs created in one year since 2008.
When job reductions are taken into account, there is a net increase of 446 in overall employment – the largest annual net increase since 1996.
Údarás na Gaeltachta Chief Executive Mícheál Ó hÉanaigh said that Gaeltacht communities and companies ‘deserve huge recognition for their perseverance during this pandemic’.
“The resilience shown has resulted in an increase in Gaeltacht employment over the past year,” he said.
“The challenges placed on Gaeltacht businesses and communities by this pandemic and Brexit are yet to be overcome but it is a source of considerable encouragement to see greenshoots of recovery by companies including the surge in the medical device sector in the Gaeltacht.
“Some of these indigenous companies are a real source of inspiration to others, those businesses that started out with just one or two employees and are now among the largest employers in the Gaeltacht,” he added.
Tuam has second new Bishop
The Church of Ireland community has a new Bishop of Tuam – with the current Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory taking on a significantly expanded Diocese.
The appointment of the Rt Revd Michael Burrows as the Bishop of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe comes just a week after the installation of Francis Duffy as the new Catholic Archbishop of Tuam.
Bishop Burrows’ appointment was confirmed after a meeting of the Episcopal Electoral College for the United Dioceses of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe, in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.
The Bishop-elect said he was grateful to the Electoral College for their affirmation and trust.
“I leave a diocese which I have greatly loved after nearly 16 years, having learned so much from them, but clearly it is a time to embrace the new challenge of a new diocese and I look forward to working to cement the new United Dioceses of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe and serving God’s people there,” he said.
Bishop Burrows succeeds the Rt Revd Patrick Rooke – formerly Bishop of Tuam, Killala and Achonry – and the Rt Revd Dr Kenneth Kearon – formerly Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe – who both retired at the end of October 2021, at which time the two dioceses were united.
The Right Reverend Michael Burrows was born 1961 and was ordained in 1987 after graduating from Trinity College Dublin. He is married to Claire with four grown-up children and is a keen railway enthusiast and organist.
He has served as Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory since 2006, and was previously Dean of Cork, Rector of Bandon, Church of Ireland Chaplain at Trinity College Dublin, and Curate in Douglas with Frankfield.
The Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, welcomed the appointment.
“Bishop Michael Burrows has served the Church of God and the Church of Ireland assiduously as deacon, priest and bishop. The clergy and people of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory have been greatly enriched by his commitment, compassion and energy,” he said.
“He will readily invest all these qualities in the life of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe. I wish him all that is best in his new diocese under God,” he added.
Following the ratification of the election by the House of Bishops, the Bishop-elect will be translated from the United Dioceses of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory to the United Dioceses of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe on a date to be determined.