Parts of East Galway, where tourists are ‘as rare as hen’s teeth’, are now set to benefit from an initiative steered by both Fáilte Ireland and the Office of Public Works.
Parts of the county like Tuam, Headford, Ballinasloe, Loughrea and Craughwell – which are not prominent on the tourist trail – are set to reap the rewards of the new marketing plan which will be launched in a matter of weeks.
It involves a loop of the Wild Atlantic Way being extended to Loughrea, Gort and Craughwell, while other parts of the county will benefit from a new tourism brand to be established in the Midland region.
The new initiatives are to encourage tourists, who are already familiar with the 2,750 kilometre Wild Atlantic Way, to wander off the beaten track and discover some other fascinating attractions in Galway like Ross Errilly Franciscan Friary near Headford, St Mary’s Cathedral in Tuam or Athenry Castle.
Galway East TD Seán Canney has welcomed proposals by Fáilte Ireland to increase tourism potential in Galway East.
These initiatives have come to fruition following meetings and discussions which Deputy Canney instigated during his role as Minister for the Office of Public Works with Fáilte Ireland, Department of the Environment and the National Parks and Wildlife.
“Gaps were recognised in the tourism branding and it was agreed that the best approach was to combine the resources of the various departments to deliver the optimum benefit”, he explained.
It is proposed to launch the Wild Atlantic Way Region in early 2018 which will showcase areas that are not on the existing driving route in an effort to encourage visitors to come places off the beaten path and explore more attractions in East Galway.
“I am delighted to see this type of branding for areas which have to date been ignored. There is enormous potential for growth in tourism in areas like Tuam, Headford and Athenry.
“We have so many hidden gems right across Galway East and now recognition is finally being given to these areas. Portumna is a perfect example of a location which has so much to offer in terms of heritage and water amenities”, Deputy Canney added.
The new initiative has also been welcomed by Galway East Fine Gael Minister Ciarán Cannon.
“As part of our programme for government, Failte Ireland has been instructed to develop a marketing strategy for the area colloquially known as ‘Ireland’s Lakelands’, which includes Portumna and East Galway,” he said.
“This is a very important development in attracting tourists to our local towns and villages that have yet to benefit from massively increased tourism numbers over the last decade”, added Minister Cannon.
“Last year some 1,000 people were surveyed in Ireland, the UK, USA, France and Germany to share their views on two proposed midlands tourism concepts and a lot of the learning derived from that process will now feed into the development of a new brand for this region which has so much to offer,” he revealed.
Minister Cannon also outlined that significant investment has already been made in tourism across South East Galway.
“In 2017 our government invested €750,000 in Portumna’s Harbour and Amenity Park which provided for the doubling of the mooring space and the development of integrated services for camper vans,” he said.
“We also have recently invested an additional €25,000 in amenities at Portumna Forest Park. In addition to this, Portumna Castle and its Irish Workhouse Centre have seen increasing numbers of visitors in the past few years and the refurbishment of Portumna Castle`s Coach-house, to accommodate tea rooms, toilet facilities and exhibition areas, will be completed this year which coincides with the Castle`s 400th anniversary,” Minister Cannon concluded.
O’Donnellan & Joyce celebrate 40 years in business
When O’Donnellan & Joyce started in 1982, little did they know that one day they would be celebrating 40 years in business. Celebrating the big 4-0 in September meant this has been a landmark year for the company.
In the beginning back in 1982 they worked mostly in lettings and private treaty sales. Their auctions began in 1984 on the Aran Islands with the sale of land and a pub.
Colm commented: “It is definitely one of my highlights over the past 40 years, everyone needs to start somewhere and it was a fabulous start.” The auction was held outside in the summer and is a far cry from the auctions held today.
These days O’Donnellan & Joyce ‘Wild Atlantic’ property auctions which take place in Galway’s Harbour Hotel, are renowned throughout Ireland, with properties for sale from Galway up to Donegal and all along the western seaboard right down as far as Kerry and over in Dublin.
Modern technology now means their auctions can reach a global audience with their live stream online bidding platform attracting international bidders as well as national and local bidders who can now bid and view the auction from the comfort of their own homes leading to a dramatic expansion of audiences across the world in recent years.
Combining modern technology with nationally renowned auctioneer Colm O’Donnellan taking bids on the day, brings tremendous excitement to the live auction room.
Not only do O’Donnellan & Joyce have their successful auction department, they also have a substantial new homes division, their private treaty department which sells on average over 350 homes a year, rentals division and their rapidly growing commercial & valuations department.
Like most businesses, it is the people who make the business. O’Donnellan & Joyce has 16 full time staff with many of them there for over 20 years.
Meeting hears of “devastating impact” of Huntington’s on families
The Minister of State for Disability at the Department of Health has acknowledged the devastating impact which Huntington’s Disease has on the entire family.
Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte met with families affected by the disease at the Huntington’s Disease Association of Ireland annual meeting in Ballinasloe.
The Minister spoke positively about her intention to ensure families affected by HD will have access to necessary services and that family carers, who often care for several family members, have assistance.
She acknowledged the vital need for HD specialist support in the community to overcome the misunderstanding and stigma associated with the disease over generations.
The Minister also confirmed her priority to fully resource at least four of the seven required community neuro-rehabilitation teams around the country.
A member of a family affected by HD in County Galway said: “It is very encouraging to have Minister Rabbitte speak at our meeting to acknowledge the huge struggles families face.
“Huntington’s Disease desperately needs more recognition, more specialist support and more awareness from healthcare professionals; policy makers; and the general public.
“As children we grew up watching our Dad help care for Mum and just a few years later he had to start over with my older brother.
“Now my sister has symptoms and it is an ongoing struggle to get her the care and support she needs. HD families can overcome the fear and stigma associated with this disease if we know there are sufficient resources to ensure health and social care professionals can understand and help,” he said.
Huntington’s Disease affects the body’s nervous system – the network of nerve tissues in the brain and spinal cord that co-ordinate your body’s activities. This leads to progressive deterioration – physically, cognitively, and mentally until the individual becomes dependent on the help of others. Symptoms include motor (movement), mental health (for example mood) and cognitive (for example learning and thinking) disturbances, which in the majority of cases appear in mid-adult life.
Approximately 1,000 people in Ireland live with symptoms of HD or with the altered gene that triggers the disease. There are more than 3,000 people nationwide who are living at risk of developing the disease and hundreds of family carers left to struggle without adequate supports.
Despite the impact on families, from one generation to the next, there is little awareness of the condition and very limited specialist services. Unlike most other European countries, Ireland has no specialist multidisciplinary services or HD specialist nurses. By comparison, Scotland, with a similar-sized population have 10 regional multidisciplinary clinics with a team of 19 HD specialists offering outreach support throughout the country.
Concerns over day care move
Day care services at St Brendan’s Community Nursing Unit – which have been suspended for the past 18 months – have re-opened at the Loughrea Hotel.
Services restarted on Monday following a lengthy search for a suitable premises, and expected to continue operating from the hotel for around 18 months while an existing building on the St Brendan’s campus is “repurposed” by the HSE.
However, at least one local councillor has expressed concerns that the same level of services will not be available at the hotel.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) ordered the closure of day services at St Brendan’s, so that the space could be used by permanent residents of the nursing unit for dining and activities such as cooking and baking.
Local area councillor Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher said that between the hotel and St Brendan’s hospital, a day care service will now be available on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with the capacity to serve 86 people every week.
“The service is vital to Loughrea and East Galway. Everyone was very disappointed to see the day service suspended. We all have neighbours and friends who use the service and this was a vital lifeline for them, allowing them to socialise with others, to have a lovely meal together and to have any minor medical issues dealt with.
“I’m delighted that a suitable premises has been found in Loughrea town, which has been the traditional location for the service and also offers users a chance to avail of other services in our local town. The Loughrea Hotel is the perfect location with all of the necessary services on site and is easily accessed by the service users”, the Fine Gael councillor and Cathaoirleach of Loughrea Municipal District said.
However, Independent councillor Geraldine Donohue raised concerns about the level of services that will be provided and said she had been asked by constituents how much the temporary service was going to cost.
“I believe that HIQA should have been challenged from the outset for our purpose built Seven Springs Day Care Centre to remain at St Brendan’s. As far as operating Day Care Services from the Loughrea Hotel, I have concerns that the services that the attendees enjoyed at Seven Springs will not be available at the Loughrea Hotel,” she said.
Meanwhile Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said HSE management are also planning to repurpose an existing building on the St Brendan’s campus to establish a permanent home for the day care service.
He said he had attended a site meeting recently to identify potential buildings on the campus.
“We now need to begin developing a permanent home for the service at St Brendan’s as it makes sense from so many perspectives to have the service on campus.
“At our site meeting we walked the campus and have identified a number of potential locations. The HSE’s building management team will now create a shortlist of locations and ultimately a decision on the final location will be made in consultation with staff.
“The intention is to partner with the Topping Trust, a local charity, to create a state-of-the-art day care facility at St Brendan’s to open in the shortest possible timeframe. We are all working towards that outcome and there’s a serious sense of urgency attached to the project,” said Deputy Cannon.