The long-awaited move of St Joseph’s College (the Bish) from Nuns’ Island took a step forward this week as a design team was appointed to draw up plans for what will be a 1,000-pupil school on a site in Dangan, adjacent to the NUI Galway campus – with the move expected to take place by 2025.
Principal John Madden said this was the first step in a long journey, but all at the school were “absolutely delighted” that plans to move to a site big enough for its 760 pupils were moving forward.
“The design team is talking about probably five years [before a new school opens] because it will take time to get everything in line – they must first identify a number of designs. They then have to be brought to the Department of Education to sanction it, and that could take up to a year.
“Then it must go for planning permission and that process takes time,” said Mr Madden.
The Bish was a flagship school for the Patrician Brothers worldwide, he said, and while it would be moving out of the city centre after 158 years, they would be ensuring to take the school’s long-held tradition of excellence in education with them.
The school had outgrown the 1970s-build in Nuns’ Island and in order to adapt to the needs of students in the future, by expanding subject choice and offering on-site sports facilities, a move was necessary, said Mr Madden.
“Because of a lack of space, we haven’t been able to offer our students practical subjects. We are awaiting temporary accommodation so we can offer Home Economics and Technology to our first years next year and we have been able to offer Art, Music, Spanish and Graphics for this years’ first years.
“It is great for students to get as broad an education as is possible and to enable them to make choices, rather than be confined to a limited number of subjects. That has worked well for us in the past, but we want to offer choice in the future,” he said.
Plans for the Bish to move to Dangan were first mooted 20 years ago and despite a major setback in 2005 – when city councillors voted not to rezone lands necessary for the development – a change to the City Development Plan in 2017 has enabled plans to progress.
A land-swap is understood to be the basis of proposals, with NUIG to take ownership of the site at Nuns’ Island if the move goes ahead. NUIG and Galway City Council are currently engaged in developing a regeneration masterplan for the wider Nuns’ Island area.
Meanwhile, Mr Madden said Covid-19 had put in focus the lack of space at their current site, with social distancing requiring the setting up of additional classrooms on- and off-site.
“Up to three weeks ago, we were operating from four buildings around the city. We’ve since been able to add four classrooms on-site by converting an old bus garage, a bike shed and a weights room. We’re also leasing the Presentation Building on Presentation Road for our sixth year students.
“We had Nuns’ Island theatre on the go for a few weeks too, and we have been using the monastery building across the road [from the school] for a number of years, which had allowed us to grow our student numbers up to 700. The building we’re in was built for about 500 students,” said Mr Madden.
Hospitals cope with overcrowding and staff shortages as Covid crisis peaks
Confirmed cases of Covid-19 continue to skyrocket in Galway, as virus-related frontline healthcare staff shortages persist and now overcrowding emerges as a new threat.
Galway experienced four days of record-breaking positive case notifications in the past week, as hospitalisations grew exponentially and pressure was heaped on the critical care units at University Hospital Galway (UHG) and Portiuncula.
Hospital management said it was unsure whether community transmission had peaked locally yet – and they expect hospitals to be under ‘significant pressure’ from Covid admissions well into February.
Nurses have highlighted how overcrowding in the Emergency Department of the county’s two main public hospitals has returned – some 112 patients were stuck on trolleys awaiting admission to UHG and Ballinasloe on five mornings in the past week. Meanwhile, it hasn’t yet been officially confirmed that the new UK variant of Covid is present in Galway, but authorities believe it is.
The latest data shows there has been no let-up in new cases notifications in Galway – 604 confirmed cases were notified for Monday, the highest in Ireland and Galway’s worst ever day by a long shot.
It was a frightening figure but it was not for one day and was part of clearing the backlog of cases over Christmas and New Year, the HSE said.
That pushed Galway’s 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 to 1033.9 more than double what it was a week ago and eight times what it was a fortnight ago. Some 2,668 new Galway cases were notified in the fortnight to midnight Tuesday.
Read the full story and comprehensive coverage of the Covid-19 crisis in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Suffer little children – report shines a light into shameful past
The final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes shines a light into the darkest recesses of our shameful past; young women and tiny babies neglected by Church and State – fellow, frail human beings whose lives and deaths somehow didn’t matter at all.
These women and their children were punished, hidden out of sight; mistreated at best; physically and sexually abused at worst – and way, way too many were left to die without a shred of dignity in their lives or in their passing.
The Trojan work and dedication of people like Catherine Corless lifted the stone on the shame – but it is only in their shocking stories, as we’ve read and heard this week, that we can get any sense of the depths of this depravity.
Many of the mothers were little more than children themselves, who had their little babies taken from them and given away with even a sliver of consent.
There were no records of their adoption, and no willingness, even decades later, to help those babies to find their birth mothers. Because to do so would have exposed the cruel and heartless manner of their forced adoptions in the first place.
And yet exposing this scandal is only the first step; an apology was the very least they were entitled to. Now we as a nation, and particularly those religious orders who ran the homes, must do everything to redress this wrong.
We must open the files so that they can discover their full life stories, find their living relatives, and be compensated so that at least the rest of their lives are in complete contrast to all they’ve endured until now.
We need to look at how we can give hundreds of innocent babies a proper burial – however belated and insufficient that may be.
Nothing will undo the damage – but now that the depths of this depravity have finally been laid bare, there must be no equivocation, no prevarication; just a commitment to doing whatever it takes to try and right a terrible wrong.
See full coverage of the Commission’s Report in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Galway couple celebrate a remarkable 75th wedding anniversary
THEY are without doubt the King and Queen of Rosscahill – 104-year-old Martin McEvilly and his 96-year-old wife, Kathleen – who last week celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.
Both Martin and Kathleen still live at home as part of the Killannin community, and although Covid has presented its difficulties, they still managed to have a small anniversary celebration on January 7 last.
The couple tied the knot back on January 7, 1946, just three months after World War II had ended, when Martin was 29 and his bride – also a McEvilly (from nearby Oughterard) – was just 21 years of age.
Seven children later – three boys and four girls – there are now also many grandchildren and great-grandchildren to carry on the McEvilly lineage, and hopefully too, the genetic gift of longevity.
Two of ‘the lads’ – Pat and Mike – still live locally as do daughters Noreen (now a carer for her parents) and Madge, while John (the youngest) is in Boston, with daughters Mary and Christina in Sydney and Australia.
Son Pat, who lives in Knockferry, said that the 75th diamond wedding anniversary, was still a very special occasion for the family and one of great happiness.
“You don’t hear of them too often – 75th wedding anniversaries – and it was a very special occasion for all of us, to have our parents still alive and well,” said Pat.
Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie