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Illegal cigs threat ‘will shut’ city shops

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A significant number of shopkeepers in Galway will be forced to ‘shut up shop’ because of the prevalence of illegal cigarettes here, a newsagents’ representative group has warned.

And figures provided to the Galway City Tribune by JTI Ireland (Japan Tobacco International, which controls more than half the Irish market) show that almost one-third of all cigarettes smoked in Galway have been smuggled into the country, or are counterfeit.

According to the JTI survey – which owns brands such as Benson & Hedges, Silk Cut and Camel – 30.7% of discarded cigarette packets in Galway were illegal, almost on a par with the 31.1% recorded last year.

Stephen Daly, President of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents’ Association (CSNA) said his members face closure, because of losses incurred.

“I’m not surprised at the figure, we’re seeing it all over the country, you can see it on the figures at the tills,” said Mr Daly, who owns Happy Days in the Galway Shopping Centre.

“The customers are gone, there are faces we don’t see coming into the shop anymore. We are very conscious of the health impact of smoking, and these people too, but they’re now willing to take a chance on what’s in their illegal cigarettes, because they can get them half price.

“We’ve had a lot of lay-offs in this sector already, and it’s very difficult to find anywhere else for cuts to be made. So there are a lot of shops in Galway and elsewhere that are facing closure because of this.

“Tobacco accounts for 25% of our sales, and we make an 8.5% margin on the products. But where retailers make their money is the smoker who comes in to buy cigarettes, and they’ll pick up additional goods like a newspaper, chewing gum and maybe a drink. We have higher margins of 20% to 40% on other products.

“If tobacco sales were gone in the morning, our business would be immediately halved,” said Mr Daly.

 A spokesperson for JTI Ireland said the problem with illegal tobacco is ‘significant’ and will worsen if Health Minister James Reilly’s proposal to introduce standardised packaging goes ahead.

“If somebody cannot differentiate between two completely different brands, they’re likely to go to the person who is selling the ‘traditional’ style box on the street,” he said.

F or more on this story, see the Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

All out in force to cheer home one of their own

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Fiona Murtagh…back home with her Olympic medal on Sunday. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Sitting on an airplane, mid-air from Japan en route to Dublin, Olympic bronze medallist from Moycullen, Fiona Murtagh was unsure whether anyone would be at the airport to meet her and teammates Aifric Keogh of Na Forbacha, Eimear Lambe and Emily Hegarty when they touched down.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, there was no big welcoming party planned for Dublin Airport. But Fiona need not have worried; as she strode out of airport security and into Arrivals, all her family were there to hug her.

Fiona hadn’t seen her parents Marguerite and Noel since April because of a pre-Olympic training camp in Italy; and her siblings Pádraig, Lorraine and twin Alan all turned up, too.

“Oh my God, I couldn’t believe it. It was actually really emotional, it was so lovely. I didn’t expect the full family to be there. Tears came to my eyes. I hadn’t seen mom and my dad in seven weeks,” said Fiona.

That was just the first leg of what was to be a heart-warming homecoming for a hero.

The family drove back to Galway with Fiona, who had heard “through the grapevine that there was going to be something in Bushypark”.

“But the scale of it, I didn’t expect it at all, it was incredible, it was so lovely to see everyone come out and support and see me”, she said.

Read the full story over eleven pages of coverage on the homecoming of our Olympic heroes in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Rowing heroes reunited for special day to savour

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Hero’s homecoming…Aifric Keogh with her parents Susan and Jim Keogh. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

About halfway through her homecoming on Bank Holiday Monday, Aifric Keogh spotted a very familiar face in the crowd lining the road.

It was her fellow Olympic medallist Fiona Murtagh from Moycullen, whom she’d soldiered with in Tokyo days earlier to win bronze in the Women’s Coxless Fours final.

Fiona was outside Furbo Church with her boyfriend, on the way to Pádraicín’s to meet mates. The plan was to watch Aifric’s open-top bus and cavalcade pass-by. Fiona had no intention of joining in – but she had no choice.

“When I looked down and saw Fiona, she was laughing at me, waving up. So, I made the bus stop and dragged her up there beside me,” laughed Aifric.

It meant that those turning out on the second leg of the journey from Na Forbacha to An Spidéal and back again, got two Olympic legends for the price of one!

“I made her come up with me. And then we were driving through Spiddal and we actually drove passed her aunt’s house, so her aunt and cousins and mom were outside waving up at us. It was really nice for us to be so close together here in Galway,” said Aifric.

That was just one of several special moments from a homecoming the 28-year-old rower will treasure.

Whereas Fiona came back to Conamara straight from Dublin Airport, and had a hero’s welcome in Moycullen on Sunday, Aifric stayed in Dublin on Sunday, driving down the following morning.

As she passed through Barna on the way to her parents’ house in Aill an Phréacháin in Na Forbacha, she could see flags, bunting and bonfires being prepared for her official drive-through later that evening. But what she witnessed on that journey to the home house of her parents, Jim and Susan, didn’t prepare her for the size of turnout.

“It was amazing. I didn’t know what to expect. Obviously, I was expecting some of my friends and family but seeing so many people from Spiddal, Barna and Furbo coming out along the road the whole way was just crazy,” she said.

Read the full story over eleven pages of coverage on the homecoming of our Olympic heroes in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Saw Doctors sell out – to shoot back into the charts!

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Saw Doctors...as they were in the early days (from left) Leo Moran, Pearse Doherty, John 'Turps' Burke, Davy Carton and (front) Johnny Donnelly.

It’s official – the Saw Doctors have finally sold out. Because, as of this week, it’s impossible for fans to get their hands on a copy of the Galway band’s iconic first album, remastered 30 years on from its original incarnation.

The good news is that the band are now going to do a fourth vinyl pressing of ‘If This is Rock And Roll, I Want My Old Job Back’ – but given the global renaissance in vinyl, it will be the beginning of September before they’ll be for sale.

So far, the album has sold all 1,500 copies pressed – and that has increased hopes of the band playing live again, once pandemic restrictions are eased, according to the band’s manager Ollie Jennings.

“A guy called Simon Moran is the biggest music promoter in the UK; he’s based in Manchester and he’s worked with Peter Kay in the past, who got him into the Saw Doctors.

“He has, twice in the last six months, written personal emails begging the band to tour the UK,” he says.

And that’s not some vanity project, because he knows that – the last time the Saw Docs played in the UK in 2017 – they did 20 shows that drew 30,000 fans.

“We sold out the Manchester Apollo with 4,000; we sold out two nights at Glasgow’s Barrowlands with 4,000 each night. He knows we will do the business,” says Ollie.

Up to now, the prospects of another tour seemed remote – but the success of the album has rekindled the Saw Doctors, and something magical happened when the band got together to sign the rereleased LP.

“It was a wonderful afternoon in Leo’s house in Tuam; loads of laughs and old stories; just magic – it was like being back in 1990 or 1991 again,” says Ollie.

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

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