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Hell to Paradise – story of triumph over tragedy

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Author Suzanne Strempek Shea with Mags Riordan of Malawi's Billy Riordan Memorial Clinic, and Leo Moran of the Saw Doctors.

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

Suzanne Strempek Shea started writing fiction while working as a journalist in Springfield, Massachusetts. Since her first novel, Selling the Lite of Heaven was published in 1995, she has gone on to write four more, with her fifth due out later this year.

The US born author is in Galway this week, reading from her latest book, a true story which proves that fact is stranger than fiction. And in this case, sadder, although This is Paradise is also an amazing account of how one woman overcame enormous tragedy and transformed it into a positive force for other people.

This is Paradise is about Cork-born Mags Riordan whose 26-year-old son Billy drowned in Malawi in 1999. The country in the south-east of Africa, is one of the most beautiful, but poorest in the world. After he drowned there – the third of her five children to die in tragic circumstances – Mags travelled to Africa to erect a stone in his memory in Cape Maclear, the village where he died.

It was beautiful, but when she saw the poverty in which people were living, Mags decided that a memorial stone was not enough. So, with great determination, and in the face of many obstacles, she set up the Billy Riordan Memorial Clinic in Cape Maclear.

Since then, it has served over 275,000 people and saved countless lives. With a staff of 34 it is also the second biggest employer in the village, a place where unemployment is at 90 per cent, .

Suzanne first got to know Mags in 2004 when the career guidance teacher, who lived in Kerry, took part in the Eastern State Exposition, a major fair held annually in Massachusetts, where Suzanne lives. Mags was selling crafts from Malawi to raise funds for the fledgling clinic, while Suzanne was working at another stand, helping a friend from Kerry who was selling knitwear.

The stands were beside each other and Suzanne, as a journalist, was keeping a good ear on nearby conversations. She noticed people going to Mags’ stand, asking about the crafts.  Mags would tell them about Billy’s death and the clinic she had established in his memory. Some people listened and bought, others found it harder to cope with the story.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Just the spirit

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Gareth and Michelle McAllister pictured at the old mill in Ahascragh where the new whiskey and gin distillery will be estabished. Photos: Gerry Stronge.

A former grain mill in the village of Ahascragh is being converted into a distillery thanks to Gareth and Michelle McAllister who have big plans to meet growing demand for craft Irish whiskey and gin in the Far East as well as closer to home. They are also developing a visitor centre in the distillery and are currently offering people a chance to invest in their company as DECLAN TIERNEY learns.

A product that will be developed in the East Galway village of Ahascragh will find its way Asia and various other parts of the world following a courageous initiative by a couple who aim to become huge names in the distillery industry.

Given their thirst for the distilling of craft whiskey and gin, Dublin couple Gareth and Michelle McAllister are set to put the tiny village on the international map by transforming an old corn mill into a major employer as well as a tourist attraction as part of a €10 million investment.

Works have already started on giving the old mill, previously an ivy-clad eyesore in the village, a brand-new look and the couple hope to go into full production by the end of next year – ready for the 2022 Christmas market.

Employment has already commenced in the marketing and administration end of the distillery and when it’s in full production, Gareth and Michelle will create around 40 new jobs in the village.

They will be producing two whiskey products and one gin when they’re at full capacity but already they are bottling a single malt under their own product name. This is currently on the market . . . and is proving particularly popular, despite limited availability at the moment.

The distillery is a labour of love for Gareth, a chemical engineer by profession, and Michelle who worked as a psychologist but is now operating the café in Ahascragh that they opened earlier this year to coincide with the launch of the distillery.

Both worked in China for seven years in different roles and while there, they discovered that there was a big demand for Irish-made spirits. They are now determined to explore this particular niche in the market as well as developing outlets across Europe and in the market here at home.

“This has been foremost in our plans and aspirations for some considerable time,” explained Gareth. “Since our time in Asia and Singapore we discovered that Irish spirits were a much sought-after product. As part of my training as a chemical engineer, distilling formed part of this.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Sex education from the mouths of babes

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Relationships and sexuality educator Grace Alice O’Shea.

Health, Beauty and Lifestyle with Denise McNamara

I remember having ‘the talk’ a year before menstruation as I was about to enter fifth class and my twin sisters were embarking on their final year of national school. Sitting down beside us in the garden while enjoying the endless summer sunshine, my mother revealed the horrifying details about periods, showed us sanitary pads and then issued the very stern advice about staying away from boys as we could get pregnant once we started having them.

I don’t recall any detail about how this could happen and the leap from bleeding every month to carrying a baby seemed enormous, but there were no questions asked. We were mortified to even be discussing it.

If only there had been a book like Sex Educated around. The imagination would certainly not have run as wild.

It is written by relationships and sexuality educator Grace Alice O’Shea on behalf of Sexual Health West, a charity that has been delivering workshops to young people through the West of Ireland Sexuality Education Resource (WISER) for over 30 years.

All information in the book is inspired by questions put by young people in the workshops, where they are encouraged to ask questions openly or write them down anonymously.

“Receiving and answering questions has arguably beenthe most important part of our work. Each year, they have given us a unique and invaluable insight into the minds of young people,” reveals Grace.

“Talking about sex does not encourage young people to rush out and have sex. Talking openly and honestly about sex supports the unlearning of unhelpful and harmful beliefs around sex and shame. It empowers young people to make decisions based on accurate information and compassion, and to advocate for themselves, their bodies, their wellbeing and their relationships.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Country Living

A stout defence of the humble sausage and its coat of ketchup

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

Alas, I’m of an age to remember when such things as ‘shop ham’, tomato ketchup, Chef sauce and flagons of Bulmers (cidona, I hasten to add) were all considered great treats on the few occasions during the year when they arrived in the storage cupboards of the colder rooms in the house . . . kind of DIY fridges that didn’t require any electricity.

A few weeks back, as I was extolling my lifelong love for ketchup and my refusal to ever eat chips without a consistent lathering of the red stuff (vinegar is also another essential) when I was gently chided by a colleague about my rather crass dietary leanings.

She told me that she would never let a container of ketchup inside her sauces receptacle, whether it be a glass bottle (always preferable) or one of those more girthy plastic containers. The basis for her antipathy was, that ketchup when applied to food, tended to wipe out all other tastes – her point being that it really was a case of ‘what you were having with your ketchup’.

Admittedly, I was initially rocked back a bit at being chastised for my love of ketchup and from somewhere – and in keeping with the current mood of the nation – the words of the Garth Brooks anthem, kept filtering into my head of: “I’ve got friends in low places.” At that point, I felt that I dare not mention such things as sausage sandwiches on white bread, greasy streaky rashers, tins of spaghetti or canned fruit.

There’s scarcely a day that I pick up a paper or magazine where I don’t read about some food that we shouldn’t eat anymore or another product that was supposed to be very bad for us but has now been discovered to have enzymes and bacteria that will keep my heart ticking for longer; maintain my brain at its most perceptive; and keep such horrible things as ulcers and dodgy gall bladders out of the pain arena.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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