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Massive turn-out expected for march to save mental health unit

Ciaran Tierney



A key four day period in the campaign to save a brand new €2.8 million acute mental health unit in Ballinasloe begins today (Sunday) when hundreds of people are expected to join a protest march through the town (1pm).

Four days later, on the day the Dail resumes after its summer break, a delegation from the East Galway town will meet a group of politicians in Dublin – including Labour’s Minister of State for Health Kathleen Lynch – to make the case for keeping the unit open.

The Health Service Authority (West) decision to close the brand new 22-bed unit has caused uproar throughout East Galway and Roscommon since it was announced six weeks ago.

Doctors, mental health care professionals, sports and social clubs, and the families of service users have joined a vocal campaign group which has vowed to keep the unit at St Brigid’s Hospital open.

The protest march on Sunday has been organised by the East Galway Mental Health Action Group, which sprung up after over 500 people attended an emotional meeting in the town two weeks ago.

Senior mental health service managers in the area went over the heads of the HSA (West) by writing to the National Director to call for an external review of the shock decision to close the state-of-the-art unit.

This week, the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) said the plans to remove the 22 acute beds from St Brigid’s without putting community health teams in place as an “abuse” of the national Vision for Change strategy for mental health services.

“Vision for Change is  not so much that you need to remove beds more that the needs for beds is removed, while the HSE  West is using Vision as a means of cutting beds without having the community supports in place to meet the demand for services,” said PNA National Secretary Noel Giblin.

The PNA believes adequate community based teams for older people and those with intellectual disability cannot be put in place by the end of the year, given that it took 14 years for a smiliar model to be introduced to the mental health services in Cavan and Monaghan.

Mr Giblin said the reality of the situation in Galway and Roscommon was that 32 acute beds were being taken out of the system, while there were no acute mental health teams in place who could treat patients in their own homes.

Those attending the protest will assemble at the Ballinasloe Library car park at 12.30pm, before marching through Society Street, Main Street, and New Road, before finishing in St Michael’s Square, where a number of speakers will address the protestors.


For more on this story, see the current edition of the Connacht Tribune

Connacht Tribune

Old mills set for new life as distillery

Declan Tierney



An artist's impression of the new distillery.

An old corn mill in East Galway is set to be transformed into a €6 million whiskey and gin manufacturing distillery – once planning permission has been granted for the development.

And if approved, the distillery has the potential to create more than 15 new jobs directly in the village of Ahascragh, providing a huge economic boost to the area – and rescuing the old corn mill which ceased operation in the 1950s.

A planning application for the new brewery has just been submitted by Gareth and Michelle McAllister of McAllister Distillers in North Dublin, with a decision due before the end of the year.

Gareth McAllister told The Connacht Tribune that he intended to renovate the old building while retaining some of the old features such as a mill wheel, and utilise the stream that runs through the property.

The complex, as well as producing various styles of Irish whiskey and gin, will also include a visitor centre, rooms for hospitality events, a retail shop and cafe.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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Connacht Tribune

Aer Arann marks half a century of linking islands to the mainland

Dara Bradley



Current Aer Arann owners Jarlath Conneely (left) and Peter McKenna, pictured in front of their aircraft. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

When Coley Hernon of Cill Rónáin on Inis Mór wrote letters to newspaper editors in 1970, questioning why the Aran Islands couldn’t have an air service like that operating from many Scottish islands, a number of Galway businessmen responded to the challenge.

Among them were visionaries Jimmy Coen and Ralph Langan, who established a local airline, Aer Arann Islands – and on August 15, 1970 the first flight took place between Inis Mór and the Galway mainland, at Oranmore.

According to the Connacht Tribune archives, the inaugural flight of the twin-engine plane, which cost £40,000, carried ten people in all, including a number of Bórd Fáilte officials and tourism representatives.

“The weather was unkind and heavy mist and squally winds made for unpleasant conditions but nevertheless the inaugural flight went off according to schedule,” the Tribune newspaper report said at the time.

When they landed, they were greeted by members of Aran Islands Tourist Development Association at a new £20,000 airstrip at Killeaney.

That first commercial flight from Galway’s mainland to the Aran Islands will be commemorated this weekend, 50 years later.

From those humble beginnings, it’s a company that has faced turbulence during its five decades, not least in recent years when there was uncertainty over State supports (PSO, Public Service Obligation) for the service . . . but at its core has always been a sense of duty to serving islanders.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway among counties least hit by Covid

Dara Bradley



Galway has so far suppressed the spread of Coronavirus this summer – with the latest figures showing the county is one of the least affected in the Republic of Ireland in the past fortnight.

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 population stands at just 3.1 in Galway in the last two weeks, compared with the national average of 18.42.

Three of the counties plunged into a partial lockdown again last Friday – Laois, Kildare and Offaly – had cases per 100,000 over the past fortnight of 86.19, 146.51 and 123.14 respectively.

The rate in Clare was 28.62, Mayo was 6.32, Roscommon was 1.55, and Tipperary was 1.25.

In the past week, Galway surpassed the 500-mark for confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic struck in March.

None of them are now in hospital, according to the data.

In the week to Sunday, there were a total of three new cases confirmed in Galway, bringing the running total to 501. The previous week, there a total of five new cases.

On Tuesday of this week, both of Galway’s two public hospitals, University Hospital Galway and Portiuncula, were Covid-free, and were not treating any patients in wards or in ICU who were confirmed as having Covid-19.

Get all the latest coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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