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Investing in communities in bid to spur new creativity



Lifestyle – Judy Murphy discovers social collaboration is the way forward as a Galway credit union ploughs money into the community it serves

Social collaboration” is the driving force behind an innovative scheme being spearheaded by a Galway credit union, which is benefiting three community groups here at home and one in disease-ravaged West Africa.

Galway Simon Community, Druid Theatre’s Fuel Programme which supports new artistic projects, and the Cúram Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUIG, as well as the Credit Union movement in Sierra Leone will benefit to the tune of €100,000 over the next five years, via the Community Engagement Programme initiated by St Anthony’s and Claddagh Credit Union.

Access to ongoing funds will allow the groups to plan for the longer term, while the Irish groups can also raise matching funding, says Louise Shields of St Anthony and Claddagh Credit Union, about the scheme.

“We’re involved in the community and are always on the lookout to provide additional services to our members,” she explains.

“The Credit Union would always have given community support to various groups, but it would have been on a more ad hoc basis.  This is about continuing what we have always done but with formal structures and commitment.”

This new programme came about after some soul-searching by the board and employees of St Anthony’s and Claddagh Credit Union. That involved asking themselves “why are we here and where do we want to be in five years’ time?”. For Louise, the answer was simple.

“We feel that social collaboration is the way forward.”

Credit Unions don’t have the skills to deal with homelessness or medical devices, she adds, but they want to participate in society in a way that will benefit their members.

“So, we partner with groups who do have that expertise. It’s all about having a long-term impact on the community and also benefiting the members.”

And since St Anthony’s and Claddagh – with two branches in the city and one in Oughterard – has 43,000 members, “stretching from Abbeygate Street to Maam Cross, across all demographics”, a lot of people stand to benefit.

“Maybe Cúram will come up with a cure for Parkinson’s, Fuel will nurture the next Garry Hynes and someone in Simon will move out of homelessness,” says Louise.

In addition to the €100,000 that has already been committed to four projects over the next five years, St Anthony and Claddagh plan to broaden the scheme next year to include two more community organisations. The scheme is open to groups working in arts, education, sports, community and international development.

This money comes from surplus funds that traditionally would have been dispersed among members in the form of rebates on loans and as dividends. But with interest rates so low at present, that would make little sense, according to Louise.

So, the members made a decision to invest in the community on a long-term basis, bringing a new dimension to the Credit Union’s engagement with society.

“It allows the groups concerned to make a strategic leap and to develop their projects year on year,” says Louise.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Students see red over in-person exams




NUI Galway has moved this week to deny accusations that it is ‘playing Russian Roulette’ with students’ wellbeing by proceeding with in-person exams.

The Students’ Union blasted the university for its decision to forge ahead with examinations in exam halls amid sky-rocketing Covid-19 cases.

President of the SU, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, slammed college authorities for what she described as a ‘reckless attitude to students’ health and wellbeing’.

“The stubborn refusal by university management is playing Russian Roulette with the health of students and their families.

“We are talking about forcing people to attend multiple spreader-events right before they go home to their families for Christmas. This is reckless and irresponsible from university management, particularly when there is a tried and trusted alternative available,” said the student leader.

In-person exams for the vast majority of students were cancelled last year as the university remained closed throughout the most stringent Covid-19 restrictions.

However, students have been back attending lectures since September and NUIG plans to proceed with normal exams for the first time since Summer 2019 – albeit with a number of risk mitigating measures in place.

The Connacht Tribune has learned that following applications by in excess of 500 students for ‘reasonable accommodation’ – where certified conditions that increase the risk of adverse reaction to Covid infection – there will be 1,600 instances where exams will be sat in individual rooms.

It is understood that there are 16 exam venues this year – a much greater number than in previous years – and that additional cleaning measures including ‘air fogging’ will be carried out to sanitise large venues.

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

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Connacht Tribune

Big buy-out to trigger supermarket war



Groceries giant Tesco bared its teeth this week in Galway’s supermarket war as it announced it will take over the ten Joyce’s outlets across the county – as the expanding footprint of discount retailers in Galway continues to grow.

The British supermarket giant revealed that it is to acquire the Joyce’s chain – rebranding and redesigning the until now family-owned grocers, thus increasing its foothold in Galway by 200% – bringing its store count across city and county to 15.

This comes as Aldi is in the process of increasing its Galway workforce by 100 through the construction of stores in Mountbellew, Tuam, Athenry and on the Monivea Road in Galway City – Lidl also has a new store under construction in Knocknacarra and another on the way in Athenry.

In a statement this week, Tesco confirmed it intends to ‘welcome’ the more than 500 Joyce’s employees ‘as colleagues of Tesco Ireland’, but when contacted by the Connacht Tribune declined to comment how that might look in the restructured business.

A spokesperson for the retailer said the plans were being kept under wraps until the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) signed off on the acquisition.

“As this transaction is subject to CCPC approval, such details are being reviewed and it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment in further detail at this stage,” she said.

Whether the proximity of Joyce’s in Oranmore to the existing Tesco in the town would have an impact on either store could not be elaborated on, she added.

The move could spell good news for consumers though, as retailers including the multinationals as well as Dunnes and Supervalu continue to vie for top spot for market share. Suppliers could also see an increase in demand, stated Tesco this week.

See full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from

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Connacht Tribune

Children forced to flee from back of burning home



The scene of the fire outside this Galway city home in Westside.

SEVEN children had to be evacuated from a house in Galway city at the weekend after two cars were set on fire in the early hours of the morning – one of them close to the front door of the house.

The incident is the latest in a series of tit-for-tat retaliations in a long-standing feud between two families going back over a number of years – Gardaí have expressed major concerns about the recklessness and dangers of the car burnings.

Two units of Galway Fire Brigade along with Gardaí were at the scene of the latest arson attack on two cars parked in the Carn Ard area of Rahoon in Galway city – one of them parked at the roadside and the other on the front driveway of a house.

The emergency services were alerted at around 6am on Sunday morning last after the cars were set alight – there were concerns for the safety of the family inside when the car on the driveway rolled forward towards the front door of the house.

Both vehicles were destroyed in the incident while the front door of the house was smoke damaged. Family members, who were inside at the time – including seven children – made their exit via the back door and back garden of their residence.

This is the fourth car burning incident over the past fortnight – all are understood to be all related to the ongoing feud between two families which also involves people from other parts of the county.

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

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