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Connacht Tribune

Kids join childcare list – before they’re even born

Denise McNamara



Mountbellew Community Childcare Centre has a waiting list for children not even born yet, with 30 pupils attending an afterschool run by their staff in the nearby national school gym.

Planning permission for a €180,000 extension was granted last year but their application for a Pobal grant to part-fund it was turned down last year. This year they have applied for funding of €70,000 to build the extension which can accommodate 118 babies and children in the crèche, playschool, breakfast club and afterschool.

The centre has 50 places available since it opened in 2008 and has almost always been full, according to manager Denise Flanagan.

But in the last three years demand from parents has sky-rocketed due to the convenience of the before and after school service as well as the free playschool scheme.

“I’ve had parents coming up to me and saying they are a few weeks pregnant and can I put their name down for a place,” Denise told the Connacht Tribune.

“There’s a staff member who couldn’t get their child in here and they have to leave to pick up their child from a different playschool and bring them to a babysitter. Another family moved across the road and they can’t get in. It puts so much pressure on families – I hate having to tell local people we can’t fit them in.

“We can take six babies from six months old and we’re booked until 2020 – these are babies that haven’t even been born yet.”

The centre which has 18 staff has children who travel from afar as Skehanna and Ballygar for childcare. Some parents have had to arrange multiple pick-ups and drop-offs as they could not secure a place in the community childcare facility.

For the last two years Mountbellew National School has agreed to rent the school gym to the centre to facilitate the afterschool but the arrangement is not ideal as it means pupils spend a long time on school grounds.

“When the Government set up the free playschool scheme they didn’t investigation whether there were enough places. Now parents are putting their children into playschool from age three so it’s putting pressure on childcare centres.”

The centre held a public meeting last month to discuss the situation and 70 parents turned up.

“They’re all desperate to get their children in. We’ve been fully compliant with our Tusla and Pobal inspections and most of the staff have been with me since we opened in 2008 which is pretty rare in childcare.

“We know our children very well, it’s a very family atmosphere and we’re proud we’re doing so well but it’s causing a huge amount of stress on parents to find a full-time childcare place,” explained Denise.

“We are ready to go with the extension. We have a bank loan approved on condition we get Pobal funding and the local priest has agreed to sell us the site beside us. We’ve put a huge amount of effort into making sure the application is right.”

Roscommon Galway TD Eugene Murphy urged Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone to review the case of Mountbellew Community Childcare Centre.

“I have been contacted by so many parents and members of the public from the Mountbellew area regarding this pressing matter. One concerned father told me in January of this year he and his wife queued outside Mountbellew community childcare centre from 5.30 am to try to get their daughter a place for September, only to be told there was no room at the inn,” the Fianna Fáil deputy told the Dáil.

“Mountbellew is fortunate to have a childcare centre of this calibre. All the emails to me from parents have noted the professional nature of staff and the loving, caring and nurturing environment. Investing in this centre makes economic sense. We must be able to facilitate parents to work and contribute while our children, the future generation, are nurtured in the best environment possible.”

Minister Zappone replied that over the past four budgets, investment in early learning and care and school age childcare has increased by 117%, rising from €260 million in 2015 to €575 million in 2019.

This year there was a capital budget of €9.6 million for the sector, with €6.1 million of this funding for the 2019 early learning and care and school age childcare capital programmes.

She was unable to comment on the application process but stated that the outcome of the appraisal would be communicated to applications this month.

Connacht Tribune

Homemade Wimbledon is a different bale game!

Francis Farragher



James Craughwell about to serve over the tape – and the sheep gates – to brother Christopher with mum, Anne, in the background. The family dog Prince is showing a keen interest in taking up the role of ‘ball boy’. The brollies on the deck chairs were actually purchased at the Wimbledon tournament that the Craughwells attended in 2017.

WIMBLEDON mightn’t be happening for the tennis professionals this year due to COVID-19 – but one North Galway family are planning their own version of the tournament.

The younger members of the Craughwell family in Menlough village have had a tradition over the years of lining out their own court on the silage slab that’s available for recreation purposes during the early weeks of the Summer.

The three sons of Jarlath and Anne Craughwell – Christopher, Shane and James – rarely missed the opportunity through the years to ‘get the silage slab ready’ for their own Wimbledon tournament.

“The dimensions of the silage slab are almost exactly the same as a tennis court [78 feet X 36 feet} so back the years we always organised our own games. When the silage was made, then that was always it for another year,” Christopher Craughwell told the Connacht Tribune.

As the lads grew older the summer tennis court hadn’t been used for a few years but in 2020 with the introduction of the coronavirus restrictions, it seemed like a perfect time to bring it back.

“This year we took it a stage further. We used the sheep gates for the net with a line of white electric fence tape along the top so this is probably the best job we’ve ever made of it.

“The silage won’t be made for at least another month so were planning to stage our own family tournament over the coming weeks. With the weather so good, it’s been a great way to pass the time,” said Christopher.

See the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops or available for delivery with your groceries. You can also order the paper from An Post at no additional charge – or purchase a digital edition on this website.

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Connacht Tribune

City Council houses Travellers in county

Declan Tierney



Cllr Donagh Killilea.

Galway City Council will spend close to half a million euro to house a Traveller family – in a property well outside its own local authority boundary.

Instead the family of four, who previously lived on the Carrabrowne halting site, will be accommodated in the house at Kiltulla near Carnmore, which is deep in Galway County Council’s local government area.

The City Council is understood to have paid €388,000 for the property which will require another €50,000 to refurbish – leaving little change out of half a million euro.

Angry residents, who were unaware of the plan, have now organised a petition to City Council CEO Brendan McGrath to voice their objection to the move.

But Cllr Donagh Killilea believes that there is a bigger issue at stake – with Galway City Council acquiring property wherever they like.

And Senator Ollie Crowe said that he believed the City Council – of which he was a member up to his Seanad election – should be acquiring property within their own area and that this acquisition was ‘unprecedented’.

He said that it was his view that there would be nothing bought outside the city boundary and that the money spent on this property would refurbish a lot of the City Council’s housing stock that had fallen into a state of dilapidation.

See the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops or available for delivery with your groceries. You can also order the paper from An Post at no additional charge – or purchase a digital edition on this website.

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Connacht Tribune

Long drives still out of bounds for golfers

Declan Tierney



Teeing off from the 12th tee at Galway Bay Golf Resort in Oranmore this week on the re-opening of golf courses around the country. There is nothing to suggest that any golfers travelled more than 5km to play in Oranmore. Photo: Keith Kelly.

This week’s relaxation of travel restrictions saw an exodus to the garden centres and the golf courses – but Gardaí have this week reiterated their warning to those planning to excede their five kilometre limit that they may find themselves in the heavy rough.

The first phase of a return to ‘normality’ went to plan, despite the early rush to newly reopened facilities. Even the rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of furloughed golfers, who were on the first tee from daylight.

Time sheets for golf clubs across the county were choc-a-bloc as they opened their doors to members for the first time since the end of March – but many clubs privately admitted that more than half of those who played had travelled way beyond the 5k restriction.

That led Gardaí to warn that they will be mounting checkpoints and turning people back home – adding that the golf clubs themselves have a responsibility to advise members on the travel rules.

Tuam Sergeant Pat Hastings confirmed that Gardaí had the power under the Health Preservation and Protection Act 2020 to turn back individuals travelling more than 5k from their homes.

He warned that a file will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions to deal with anyone who continually breached the regulations.

See the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops or available for delivery with your groceries. You can also order the paper from An Post at no additional charge – or purchase a digital edition on this website.

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