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Launch of ‘drowning watch’ scheme coincides with start of college year

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Arthur Carr, founder of Galway Waterways Patrol; Liam O'Carroll, Anchor Safety; Maura Fahy, Secretary, Galway Waterways Patrol; Mayor of Galway, Frank Fahy and Ken O'Sullivan, Chairman, Galway Waterways Patrol. PHOTO: IAIN McDONALD

Volunteers from the new Galway Waterways Patrol are aiming to hold their first patrol on the weekend that students return to the city.

GWP was officially launched last week at the Radisson Blu Hotel, where a number of enthusiastic volunteers listened to an outline of proposals and information on the training that will be delivered before the first patrol.

“We are very, very unique in Galway. We have nearly 200 miles of waterways in Galway City. That’s a huge amount of water,” said GWP founder Arthur Carr to those who attended the launch.

“They have one river flowing through or they have the docks in any of the other cities where these waterway patrols are being carried out.

“And, for instance, in one river in Limerick, in three years, they have saved or prevented 300 accidents. That is just one. Cork is bigger than that because they’ve been at it a little bit longer. Wexford is huge. They haven’t been at it that long.

“We have huge amounts of waterways to patrol and we need your help,” he said.

Galway Mayor Frank Fahy – who is also a taxi driver – said he regularly comes across people in distress.

“Galway Waterways Patrol is something that should have been done years ago, and in my other life as a taxi driver, I regularly come across people who are in distress, or attempting to go in the river or in the canals.

“In a lot of cases, your first responder when you see people going into the water would be the Gardaí or the Fire Brigade, and I have to say in my 25 years of experience as a taxi driver I’ve seen quite a few people going in the river.”

In many cases, he said, there are young people who don’t get into the nightclubs with their friends and end up wandering around the city on their own. According to the mayor, some of these young people accidentally end up in the water.

“It isn’t deliberate. It’s not suicide. They’re either out of it on drink or drugs or a mixture of both. We have a lot of waterways in the city that are very open, and it’s very easy to get lost and we need to do something.”

GWP are looking at having patrols at “prime risk times”, which are between 11pm and 4am – times when many young people will be out in the city.

“When you’ve a group of five or six young people and one is turned away from the nightclub, he’s on his own. It’s not acceptable in my book that nightclubs should have that policy. And if they do turn somebody away, they should have a very valid reason for why they do it,” said Cllr Fahy.

GWP are planning to provide free training to all volunteers before they go on patrol and this training will be provided by the Red Cross and Civil Defence. The role of the volunteers will be to observe and report any incidents to the emergency services, which will be on the scene, typically, within two minutes.

Volunteers will be in orange, high-vis jackets while on patrol, so that the emergency services can spot them easily. The jackets are orange so that they don’t clash with the guards or the fire services. Emergency services will recognise the colour immediately and know exactly where the emergency is.

So far, similar patrols have saved many lives, and prevented accidents all over the country and with the high number of drownings in Galway over the years, GWP is exactly what the city needs.

“Last year the lifeguards that we trained and assessed around the country plucked 831 people from actually drowning. They plucked them out of the water, about to drown,” said Deputy CEO of Irish Water Safety, Roger Sweeney, at the launch.

“400 lost children were found, lost and wandering by themselves, alone beside water, and reunited by lifeguards with their parents.

“But the 831 that nearly drowned could have been a bigger problem. One of the issues can be double drownings and that’s where somebody actually goes in to try and rescue somebody else.”

Last year, there were 114 drownings in Ireland, 12 of which were in Galway. That’s one more drowning incident than the 11 that took place in Galway the previous year. On average, according to Mr Sweeney, there are 135 drownings in Ireland every year.

“So it’s a particular problem. We had twice as many young children aged under 14 drown last year: six. Usually three drown every year. We had the same number of teenagers drowning. Six of them drowned last year – half of them suicides and half of them accidental.

“Alcohol is a big problem and if you look at the statistics overall, in one third of all drownings in Ireland, the casualty has consumed alcohol,” said Mr Sweeney.

For more information, or to become a volunteer, email galwaywaterwayspatrol @gmail.com

Connacht Tribune

Galway historian’s 14 new books bring running total to 70!

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Steve Dolan.

There may be a book in everyone – but producing 18 of them for publication in one week is taking it to a different level. And yet that’s what Galway historian Steve Dolan has done for Heritage Week. . . adding 18 books this year to bring him up to 70 over the last seven years – and he’s firmly committed to hitting one hundred.

By day – and given the workload, increasingly by night – he is the chief executive of Galway Rural Development (GRD), but the Carrabane resident has had a lifelong passion for history. And that’s what he turns to as a form of relaxation which peaks at this time every year.

Not alone that; he already has the first five of next year’s publications completed – and he’s only starting!

This year’s booklets are all on the theme of Gaelic Games and every one of them is in aid of a different community group or charity. Theoretically, they are limited editions, but – given his own love of the subject matter – he won’t see anyone who shares that passion miss out.

While all eighteen new publications share that GAA theme, the diversity of subject matter within that is breath-taking – and an incredible achievement in terms of the workload and production.

From the story of the county title that Liam Mellows were robbed of in 1942 to the contribution of An Cath Gaedhealach to Galway GAA in 1947/48 or Galway’s 1923 and 1925 All-Ireland victories to sport in County Galway during the revolutionary years; the books are as much about social history as about sport.

See the full list of publications in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

And if they are of interest to you, you can contact Steve at sdolan@grd.ie to buy them.

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Connacht Tribune

Why did Galway suffer just half as many Covid deaths as Mayo?

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Galway and Mayo, two neighbouring counties, have had hugely contrasting experiences with Covid-19-related deaths.

Analysis of the latest figures reveals that Mayo’s Covid mortality rate is more than double that of Galway’s.

The disparity has prompted a Galway West TD to call for an investigation to see what caused the disparity.

Fresh data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) shows that Covid deaths in Galway have topped the 250 milestone.

Up to the end of July, HSPC has been notified of some 251 Covid deaths in Galway since the Pandemic was declared in 2020.

This gives a mortality rate of 97.3 per 100,000 population, which is the second lowest of any county in the Republic after Sligo.

During the same timeframe, neighbouring Mayo notified 296 Covid deaths, which gives a mortality rate of 226.8 per 100,000.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Hurling legend’s distillery plans for heart of Conamara

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Joe Connolly....Conamara vision.

Plans have been lodged to build a multi-million euro whiskey distillery on the Conamara coastline – the brainchild of Galway hurling legend Joe Connolly and his family.

And if it gets the green light, it will square a circle that has its roots firmly in the same Conamara soil – where both of the All-Ireland-winning Galway captain’s grandfathers were renowned distillers too . . . only of the illegal variety.

The plans for the Cnoc Buí Whiskey Distillery & Heritage Centre outside Carna – lodged by Údarás na Gaeltachta on behalf of Drioglann Iarthar na Gaillimhe Teoranta – describe a facility that will provide a first-class visitor experience and greatly enhance the local area’s tourism offering.

Once complete, Cnoc Buí will comprise the distillery itself, bonded warehousing, a bottling hall and tasting bar – as well as the heritage centre, shop and café.

That will create over 30 jobs in the first five years, with the heritage centre alone aiming to attract 16,000 visitors in the first year of operation – rising to at least 52,000 by year five in Iorras Aithneach, an area blighted by unemployment and emigration.

On top of that, their own economic analysis envisages the creation of another 130 jobs in the Carna/Cill Chiarain area – in leisure, hospitality and accommodation on foot of that significant increase in visitor numbers.

The Connollys see Cnoc Buí as ‘an asset which will enrich the entire community’.

“It will enhance the local tourism product and serve as a focal point for both the local community and visitors,” said Cnoc Buí director Barry Connolly.

“The building has been carefully designed to reflect the beauty of its surroundings, because we want our distillery to be an attractive hub, with its Visitors’ Centre and Tasting Bar. It will provide employment, draw in tourists and add value to other business in the area,” he added.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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