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Connacht Tribune

Macnas on fire ahead of epic Gilgamesh

Judy Murphy



Georgina O'Connor, Production Co-ordinator; Mark O'Donnell, Executive Director; and Bridin Murphy Mitchell, Executive Producer, at the launch of Gilgamesh this week.

Lifestyle – Macnas Theatre Company is embarking on its most ambitious project yet, a retelling of world’s oldest epic, a timeless tale of humanity, love, revenge and the quest for immortality. It will run for the rest of the year in different venues and across various platforms. Artistic Director Noeline Kavanagh tells JUDY MURPHY about its evolution and about the importance of surprise to the company’s work.

Rain is bucketing down on the roof of the Macnas workshop in the city’s Fisheries Field as the company’s Artistic Director Noeline Kavanagh sips her first espresso of the day – not that this animated, energised woman needs it.

Covid-19, meanwhile, is pitching the world into unprecedented territory as Galway’s groundbreaking theatre company prepares for the launch of Gilgamesh, its epic production for Galway 2020. There are reasons for concern, but Noeline who was planning this project long before Galway submitted any bid book to become European Capital of Culture isn’t fazed.

“I have plan B,” she says firmly, “and plan C, D and E if they’re needed.”

Capable and creative, Noeline has already fought the good fight to get Gilgamesh up and running – like many other Galway companies which dealt with the 2020 European Capital of Culture organisation, Macnas faced problems over 2020’s financial commitments to the project and delays in getting contracts signed.

So, being at the stage where Macnas can focus on the massive workload is wonderful and she’s grateful to be there.

“The European Capital of Culture gave us the opportunity to think beyond the obvious and beyond our hall door,” she explains. “It offered us a panoramic view that could only exist in our imagination until then; to have a vision of this scale that we could get funding for. It was radical.”

Macnas never has any problem with ideas, she says. “It’s getting the support to implement, develop and sustain the company has always been the challenge.”

Macnas grew out of Galway Arts Festival in the mid-1980s, hitting the streets with parades the likes of which had never been created by an Irish company before.

“Macnas has always been about surprise and with Gilgamesh, that’s what we are aiming to do,” says Noeline, whose links with the company stretch back to her youth when she was a volunteer.

Now, because of Galway 2020 funding, the company is in a new phase, which involves working with visiting artists on an ongoing basis, while ensuring its own core creative staff are also involved.

Visiting artists include playwright Marina Carr (The Mai, By the Bog of Cats) who is writing the script for an outdoor show that will be performed in June and an indoor one, scheduled for November.

The event will also have a prologue and an epilogue – with the prologue starting in unexpected places around Galway City in April.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

New York-based Galwegian thrives in heart of virus epi-centre

Denise McNamara



Tadhg Reynolds in Times Square, on the empty streets of Manhattan.

An aspiring entrepreneur and Galway native, who had just set up a digital marketing company in New York when the pandemic struck, continues to work twelve-hour days as companies scramble to stay afloat.

Tadhg Reynolds, 24, from Kinvara, left for a better life exactly a year ago, on graduating from NUIG with a degree in Business Information Systems.

On his arrival, he joined a digital marketing start-up in Manhattan focused on e-commerce before branching out on his own, concentrating on Facebook ads, email and Instagram posts for companies in the US as well as in Ireland.

And then Covid-19 sent shockwaves around the world.

America is now the epi-centre of the pandemic and New York has been hardest hit, with 12,000 new cases confirmed and 600 deaths recorded on the day Tadhg spoke to the Connacht Tribune.

Tadhg had been worried that his newly found business would fall by the wayside as digital marketing is usually the first thing cut in hard times.

“I’ve actually started taking on new clients – companies selling home exercise equipment, hand sanitisers, hand moisturisers are doing really well so I’m helping them capitalise and everything seems to be going ok,” he remarks.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also order the paper with your online delivery – or buy a digital edition on

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Connacht Tribune

Hospitals plan for anticipated virus upsurge

Dara Bradley



ICU staff at Portiuncula Hospital – with a very clear message for the public. Photo taken by hospital staff because of visiting restrictions.

Extra space to store dead bodies prior to burials and cremations has been added at University Hospital Galway (UHG).

Upgrade works at the mortuary had already started prior to the Covid-19 crisis but additional capacity for potential coronavirus deaths was added as a worst case scenario precaution.

‘Preliminary talks’ about the possibility of opening a temporary field hospital in Galway, if in the worst-case scenario the four city hospitals fill-up, have also taken place as part of the HSE’s wide-ranging pandemic plans.

The capacity planning comes as Dr Pat Nash, Chief Clinical Director of Saolta Hospitals Group this week warned we are ‘far from over the hump’ in relation to Covid-19 infections and deaths, even though the public’s compliance with social distancing has slowed the spread of the virus.

The latest figures confirm there were a total of 128 positive cases of Covid-19 in Galway, as of midnight on Sunday, compared with 86 the previous Sunday. That’s up 42 cases in a week, but Sunday’s sharp rise of 16 new cases accounted for almost 40%.

Several hospital sources confirmed that temporary refrigerated prefabricated buildings have been installed alongside the morgue. These have increased by many multiples the 15 spaces in the existing, permanent morgue. An autopsy theatre at the morgue has been moved temporarily to the Fever Hospital building at UHG.

Members of the public who contacted the Connacht Tribune had noticed building work at the city morgue at UHG.

Dr Nash said some construction work was progressing beside the morgue on a new laboratory building that will accommodate the blood and tissue establishment unit. That unit was previously granted planning permission as part of an extension to the morgue.


See full story – and a further 20 pages of coverage of the Covid-19 crisis – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also order the paper with your online delivery – or buy a digital edition on

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Connacht Tribune

NUIG research team found pandemic was long on the cards

Denise McNamara



NUIG Professor Máire Connolly.

Back in 2017, a research report led by NUIG Professor Máire Connolly warned that the risk of a pandemic emerging was greater than ever before.

Influenza viruses originating in animals was first in the list of identified threats to human health.

“The timing and origin of the next pandemic is uncertain, but improved preparedness can minimise the impact on human lives and health, and the disruption to economies and societies that results,” she remarked on the publication of the EU ‘Pandem’ report following 18 months of research.

It was unfortunately all too prescient.

“It is a little bit eerie looking back,” Prof Connolly admits this week. “I don’t think we actually envisaged it would be as harrowing as it is.”

The Galway City native’s previous roles with the World Health Organisation (WHO) revolved around health security and disease control in emergencies. She worked with the organisation between 1995 and 2012, often at the heart of devastating crises in the likes of Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, Iran, Gaza, East Timor, Uganda and Syria.

Her husband Mike Ryan, who she met in 1988 while studying medicine at NUIG, is currently at the forefront of the global battle against Covid-19 through his role as executive director of WHO’s health emergencies programme.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also order the paper with your online delivery – or buy a digital edition on

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