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Heartbreak and hope in searing teenage novel

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Deirdre O'Sullivan.

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

Galway author Deirdre Sullivan has created a powerful heroine in her latest novel, Needlework, which will receive its Galway launch in Dubray Bookshop, Shop Street, next Friday, March 18.

Needlework’s central character is 17-year-old Ces, who is trying to reclaim her body and discover her self-worth after years of abuse and domestic violence at the hands of her father.

She and her mother, Laura, have finally escaped, but Laura has gone into meltdown so Ces has been pretty much left to fend for herself.

She’s in school, has a part-time job and must keep the house in order as her mother is suffering from depression and only gets up to go to work or to meet her new boyfriend.

Ces – who was named after her father, Francis, but will not use the full version of her name because of what he has done – is emotionally damaged too, but must keep going.

She finds comfort and escape in the world of tattooing – learning her trade on pigskin and dreaming up designs for when she can actually practise on human flesh.

“The topic of abuse is a delicate one, so I was conscious of doing it justice,” says Deirdre, originally from Galway City and now living in Dublin where she teaches children with autism.

She began writing the story after hearing a first-hand account from somebody who had experienced violence at home. While that planted the seed, her novel has taken its own journey.

“I let it percolate and the story is very different,” says Deirdre, who is so passionate about this subject she could speak on it for hours.

She points out that one in three women will experience domestic abuse of some sort.

“But you don’t realise how prevalent it is until you start talking. Then everybody has a story.”

Deirdre Sullivan has already carved out a reputation as a writer for young adults, with her Prim series of three novels.

The first two, Prim Improper and Improper Order, were shortlisted for the Children’s Books Ireland awards, while the final one, Primperfect, was also shortlisted for the European Prize for Literature. It was only YA novel to be nominated for this award from any European country.

Needlework is also about a teenager girl.

“I always write about teenage girls and what would it be like to be going through things as a teenager. It’s what interests me,” Deirdre explains.

But Needlework is her darkest work yet, albeit with hope at the end. Ces is beautifully drawn, funny, angry and very damaged, but determined not to be a victim. And, given what she has experienced, that’s not easy.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Confusion reigns – but publicans continue serving pints outdoors

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Galway City publicans continued this week to serve alcohol in newly created on-street outdoor dining sections – despite warnings from Gardaí that it was against licensing laws.

The local branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) said it is hoping Government will, if necessary, introduce legislation that facilitates pubs serving alcohol in public spaces reclaimed for outdoor hospitality.

On Friday last, our sister newspaper, Galway City Tribune revealed that Gardaí had visited a number of city pubs warning they were not legally permitted to serve alcohol outdoors in temporary on-street seating areas created by Galway City Council.

Publicans were told that if they continued to flout the rules, files would be sent to the DPP.

When the crux subsequently hit the national headlines, Justice Minister Heather Humphreys urged Gardaí to ‘use their discretion’.

“The overwhelming majority of licensed premises are operating safely, and we in Government are determined to continue to support them. If local issues arise, I would urge local authorities, Gardaí and businesses to engage.

“However, I will also examine whether further measures are required from Government. Licensing law is a complex area but I have spoken to the Attorney General this morning and we will take further action if necessary,” Minister Humphreys said.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Apple plans second bite at Athenry data centre

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An artist's impression of the proposed Apple Data Centre.

Apple intends to have another bite at plans to build a data centre in Athenry.  Apple Operations Europe has applied to Galway County Council for more time to construct a controversial data centre on a greenfield site at Derrydonnell.

The company said it will identify “interested parties to develop the project” between now and 2026 to meet global growth in demand for data storage facilities.

It will spark hope in the County Galway town of a revival of the €850 million project that was dogged for years by planning delays and court appeals and was subsequently shelved. It may also attract fresh objections.

The world’s largest technology company was granted planning permission to build a €850 million data centre near Athenry in 2015.

An appeal to An Bórd Pleanála by a handful of local residents was not successful, and the planning appeals board confirmed the local authority’s decision in 2016.

But the company ultimately aborted its plans for County Galway in 2018 after three objectors sought a review of the decision through the courts.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Mum’s dream holiday turns to nightmare after cancer diagnosis

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Julia McAndrew, in hospital in Mexico.

A mother who went to Mexico on a dream holiday to spend Christmas with family is too weak to return home after being diagnosed with advanced cancer.

From the minute Julia McAndrew landed in the South American country, her health took a major downward spiral.

Her son and daughter were shocked when she asked for a wheelchair to make it through the airport.

She and daughter Eliska had flown out to see her son Patrick, who had relocated to Mexico to run an online learning business.

They initially thought she had fallen ill due to the rigours of a 22-hour, multi-stop flight.

But when her stomach problems did not improve and she began to lose a lot of weight and suffered from very low energy, they sought medical help.

This had to be done privately and without the financial help of an insurance company, Patrick reveals.

She was initially diagnosed with anaemia and kidney failure and underwent various treatments, including blood transfusions that appeared to be working.

But three weeks ago, medics discovered that what she had was Stage 4 breast cancer. Julia had cancer a decade ago but was given the all-clear after receiving treatment and a major change in lifestyle.

“It’s returned with a vengeance this time around. It’s spread to her pelvis, ribs and lungs,” reflects Patrick.

The cost of the treatment is $40,000 (€33,000) a month. Her family are hoping to build up her strength enough to endure the long flight home to Oranmore.

They have launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise €280,000 to pay for her treatment and in less than a week a phenomenal €36,000 has been donated.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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