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Connacht Tribune

Mastering the art of walking and cutting in straight lines





Sinking sourdough and DIY haircuts aside, TESS FINCH-LEES is viewing lockdown in a positive light – and won’t let up until she’s told she has to.

“Who’s that?” says Gobnait (not her real name) whose house I used to pass on my pre-lockdown walk. “It’s me,” I’d say, lifting my sunglasses to prove I’m not Lady Gaga incognito.

It’s her way of telling me I should catch myself on for wearing sunglasses in the middle of January. I could tell her I have light sensitive eyes but she doesn’t suffer fools gladly and I admire her astuteness.

I’ve changed my route since lockdown because the road isn’t wide enough to accommodate my ego and social distancing. That’s what Gobnait would say and I miss our daily dalliance.

Despite that, and with the easing of lockdown imminent, I find myself reluctant to relinquish my newfound bubble, for various reasons.

My DIY haircut with blunt scissors didn’t go as planned. Just cut in a straight line, what could possibly go wrong?


One side was shorter than the other and in a scene reminiscent of Father Ted’s dented car sketch (I’ll just give it one more tap), I kept cutting until one side was aligned with my upper ear while the other hovered in follicular limbo just below the chin.

Panicking ahead of a Zoom meeting, my options included the following: a bandana (a la Duran Duran), a balaclava (a la bank robber) or a baseball cap (a la who’s that eejit?). I went with the latter and kept my head down until someone said: “who’s that in the baseball cap”?

I also haven’t mastered the art of making sourdough bread (my heart’s not really in it) and, while the rest of the country has been spring cleaning since March, I haven’t even started.

I’m not ready to stop listening to the sound of the cuckoo, carried in the wind from the Burren across the bay and the butterflies of giddiness it unleashes, leaving endorphin infused contrails in their wake.

Whilst I cling to lockdown like Paschal Donohoe clings to his ministerial salary, many are chomping at the bit for freedom.

A vexed psychologist on RTE, warned of the psychological impact of children not being able to hug their grannies.

If there’s a second wave, as already seen in Germany and China, what about the psychological impact on the child if granny dies of Coronavirus?

What about the psychological impact on the doctor working with dwindling resources who has to decide who gets the last ICU bed and/or ventilator?

And what about the psychological impact on the nurse who has to tell the family that their loved one has died?

At time of writing, 30% of the people diagnosed with Coronavirus are previously healthy Health Care Workers. What of the psychological impact on them and their families who risk their lives to save ours?

The shortage of PPE is an ongoing worry for healthcare staff with reports of post-traumatic stress disorder emerging, unsurprisingly. If there is a second wave, our capacity to respond could be significantly depleted.

Meanwhile, having spent six weeks in lockdown, leaving many financially destitute, it emerged that people continued to enter Ireland and the safeguards, such as self-isolating and filling in contact tracing forms, weren’t actually mandatory and therefore as effective as a chocolate tea pot.

Data from one week alone revealed that more than a third of passengers arriving at Dublin Airport and a quarter of those coming in at Dublin Port who were asked to self-isolate did not respond to follow-up calls, many were untraceable.

When confronted with this revelation in the Dáil last week, Leo Varadkar said that mandatory quarantine might be forthcoming but warned about the impact on tourism.

The elephant in the room of course is Britain. Our nearest neighbour, which has the second highest death rate from Coronavirus in the world.

In non-lockdown conditions, one contagious person can infect, on average three people, who will then potentially infect another three.

By the time you multiply that variable ten times, exponentially the original person could have infected over 88,000 people.

That’s why New Zealand’s premier, Jacinda Ardern locked down early, quarantining everyone entering the country and rolling out rigorous contact tracing and testing regimes.

After one month and twenty deaths, she reduced the infection rate to zero enabling the safe easing of lockdown.

As long as Ireland’s border strategy against Coronavirus remains that of voluntary quarantining, I’m staying in lockdown.

Gobnait and I have started a Zoom Book Club and our first book is, “Who’s that” by D.O Lally.

It’s about a girl with lopsided hair who wears dark glasses in January and goes cuckoo trying to make sourdough bread in a ramshackled kitchen, somewhere in County Galway (recommended reading age 0-3 mths).


Connacht Tribune

Exploring the merits of moving into the west

Dave O'Connell



Mary Kennedy with Carol Ho, one of the Galway interviewees for her new TG4 series, Moving West. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Broadcaster Mary Kennedy has an abiding image of those early mornings when she’d set out from Dublin at the crack of dawn to begin work on another day’s filming down the country with Nationwide.

“I always liked to go in the morning rather than stay there the night before – so I’d be on the road early. And from the moment I’d hit Newland’s Cross, all I’d see was a line of traffic of people trying to make it from home to their workplace in Dublin,” she says.

These were people whose day began before dawn to get their bleary-eyed kids ready to drop at a childminder along the way, so they could be on time for work – and then race home to hopefully see those same kids before they went to sleep.

But if the pandemic had a positive, it was the realisation that work was something you did, not a place you went to. As a result, many people finally grasped the nettle, moving out of the city and sometimes even taking their work with them.

Which is why Mary – busier than ever since her supposed retirement from RTÉ – is presenting a new television series called Moving West, focusing on those individuals and families who have, as the title, suggests, relocated to the West.

One of the programmes comes from Galway, where Mary met with Stewart Forrest, who relocated with his family from South Africa to Oughterard, and Carol Ho, a Hong Kong native who has also settled in Galway.

The TG4 series also stops off in Sligo, Mayo, Kerry, Clare, Roscommon and Leitrim.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from

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Connacht Tribune

Community’s tribute to one of their own – saving final cut of turf after his passing

Dave O'Connell



Well saved...members of St Brendan's GAA Club honour their departed stalwart, John Geraghty, after a record-breaking evening saving his turf.

A local community responded in force to the death of one of their own – a man who had given so much of his life for the good of the parish – by paying one last practical tribute to him last week.

They lifted and footed his turf.

John Geraghty – or Gero as he was known – lived for Gaelic football and he’d filled every role imaginable with the St Brendan’s GAA Club since he came to live in Newbridge in 1983.

He’d cut the turf before he died last Tuesday week, but there it lay, until his old GAA friends organised a bunch of guys – made up of the football team, friends and neighbours – to meet in the bog last Wednesday evening to lift and foot/clamp John’s turf.

“Upwards of 50 fellas from the community showed up,” said St Brendan’s chairman Gerry Kilcommins.

Which was just as well, because, as Gerry acknowledged, John – himself a two-time chairman of the club in the past – had a lot of turf cut!

“It took up an area around three-quarters of the size of a standard football pitch,” he said.

Not that this proved a problem, given the enthusiasm with which they rolled up their sleeves for their old friend.

They started at 7.30pm and had it done at 7.55pm – that’s just 25 minutes from start to finish.

Read the full, heartwarming story – and the St Brendan’s GAA Club appreciation for John Geraghty – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from

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Connacht Tribune

Liver donor dad would do it all again in a heartbeat

Denise McNamara



Daddy’s girl…Sadhbh Browne with her very special message on organ donations. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

It is nearly two years since Paddy Browne gave his daughter Sadhbh part of his liver to save her life. And just ahead of Father’s Day, he reflects on how he would do it all over again in a heartbeat, without a single moment’s hesitation.

After an initial testing time in the first six weeks when they beat a path to the intensive care unit after the operation in St King’s Hospital in London, Sadhbh has never looked back.

“She’s thrived and thrived and thrived. She skips out to school every day. She loves the normal fun and devilment in the yard. She’s now six and started football with Mountbellew Moylough GAA, she loves baking, she’s a voracious reader – she’ll read the whole time out loud while we drive up to Crumlin [Children’s Hospital].”

But it could have all been so different.

Sadhbh from Mountbellew was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia shortly after she was born. She quickly underwent major surgery to drain bile from her liver. It worked well until she reached three years old when an infection caused severe liver damage and she was placed on the liver transplant list.

She was on a long list of medication to manage the consequences of advanced liver disease. While she lived a full life, she would tire very easily.

Paddy was undergoing the rigorous process to be accepted as a living donor when one of the tests ruled him unsuitable. His brother Michael stepped forward and was deemed a good match.

Then, further tests revealed that Paddy was in fact eligible for the operation and the previous result disregarded as a false positive.

Read the full, uplifting story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from

Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.

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