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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

O’Donnellan & Joyce celebrate 40 years in business



Staff from O’Donnellan & Joyce celebrate 40 years in business

When O’Donnellan & Joyce started in 1982, little did they know that one day they would be celebrating 40 years in business. Celebrating the big 4-0 in September meant this has been a landmark year for the company.

In the beginning back in 1982 they worked mostly in lettings and private treaty sales. Their auctions began in 1984 on the Aran Islands with the sale of land and a pub.

Colm commented: “It is definitely one of my highlights over the past 40 years, everyone needs to start somewhere and it was a fabulous start.” The auction was held outside in the summer and is a far cry from the auctions held today.

These days O’Donnellan & Joyce ‘Wild Atlantic’ property auctions which take place in Galway’s Harbour Hotel, are renowned throughout Ireland, with properties for sale from Galway up to Donegal and all along the western seaboard right down as far as Kerry and over in Dublin.

Modern technology now means their auctions can reach a global audience with their live stream online bidding platform attracting international bidders as well as national and local bidders who can now bid and view the auction from the comfort of their own homes leading to a dramatic expansion of audiences across the world in recent years.

Combining modern technology with nationally renowned auctioneer Colm O’Donnellan taking bids on the day, brings tremendous excitement to the live auction room.

Not only do O’Donnellan & Joyce have their successful auction department, they also have a substantial new homes division, their private treaty department which sells on average over 350 homes a year, rentals division and their rapidly growing commercial & valuations department.

Like most businesses, it is the people who make the business. O’Donnellan & Joyce has 16 full time staff with many of them there for over 20 years.


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Connacht Tribune

Meeting hears of “devastating impact” of Huntington’s on families



Patricia Towey, Huntington's Disease Association of Ireland; Minister of State Anne Rabbitte and Chairperson Thomas Lillis at the Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe for a members meeting of HDAI. Photo: Andrew Downes, xposure.

The Minister of State for Disability at the Department of Health has acknowledged the devastating impact which Huntington’s Disease has on the entire family.

Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte met with families affected by the disease at the Huntington’s Disease Association of Ireland annual meeting in Ballinasloe.

The Minister spoke positively about her intention to ensure families affected by HD will have access to necessary services and that family carers, who often care for several family members, have assistance.

She acknowledged the vital need for HD specialist support in the community to overcome the misunderstanding and stigma associated with the disease over generations.

The Minister also confirmed her priority to fully resource at least four of the seven required community neuro-rehabilitation teams around the country.

A member of a family affected by HD in County Galway said: “It is very encouraging to have Minister Rabbitte speak at our meeting to acknowledge the huge struggles families face.

“Huntington’s Disease desperately needs more recognition, more specialist support and more awareness from healthcare professionals; policy makers; and the general public.

“As children we grew up watching our Dad help care for Mum and just a few years later he had to start over with my older brother.

“Now my sister has symptoms and it is an ongoing struggle to get her the care and support she needs. HD families can overcome the fear and stigma associated with this disease if we know there are sufficient resources to ensure health and social care professionals can understand and help,” he said.

Huntington’s Disease affects the body’s nervous system – the network of nerve tissues in the brain and spinal cord that co-ordinate your body’s activities. This leads to progressive deterioration – physically, cognitively, and mentally until the individual becomes dependent on the help of others. Symptoms include motor (movement), mental health (for example mood) and cognitive (for example learning and thinking) disturbances, which in the majority of cases appear in mid-adult life.

Approximately 1,000 people in Ireland live with symptoms of HD or with the altered gene that triggers the disease. There are more than 3,000 people nationwide who are living at risk of developing the disease and hundreds of family carers left to struggle without adequate supports.

Despite the impact on families, from one generation to the next, there is little awareness of the condition and very limited specialist services. Unlike most other European countries, Ireland has no specialist multidisciplinary services or HD specialist nurses. By comparison, Scotland, with a similar-sized population have 10 regional multidisciplinary clinics with a team of 19 HD specialists offering outreach support throughout the country.


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Connacht Tribune

Concerns over day care move



St Brendan's Community Nursing Unit in Loughrea: day care services have moved to the Loughrea Hotel.

Day care services at St Brendan’s Community Nursing Unit – which have been suspended for the past 18 months – have re-opened at the Loughrea Hotel.

Services restarted on Monday following a lengthy search for a suitable premises, and expected to continue operating from the hotel for around 18 months while an existing building on the St Brendan’s campus is “repurposed” by the HSE.

However, at least one local councillor has expressed concerns that the same level of services will not be available at the hotel.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) ordered the closure of day services at St Brendan’s, so that the space could be used by permanent residents of the nursing unit for dining and activities such as cooking and baking.

Local area councillor Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher said that between the hotel and St Brendan’s hospital, a day care service will now be available on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with the capacity to serve 86 people every week.

“The service is vital to Loughrea and East Galway. Everyone was very disappointed to see the day service suspended. We all have neighbours and friends who use the service and this was a vital lifeline for them, allowing them to socialise with others, to have a lovely meal together and to have any minor medical issues dealt with.

“I’m delighted that a suitable premises has been found in Loughrea town, which has been the traditional location for the service and also offers users a chance to avail of other services in our local town. The Loughrea Hotel is the perfect location with all of the necessary services on site and is easily accessed by the service users”, the Fine Gael councillor and Cathaoirleach of Loughrea Municipal District said.

However, Independent councillor Geraldine Donohue raised concerns about the level of services that will be provided and said she had been asked by constituents how much the temporary service was going to cost.

“I believe that HIQA should have been challenged from the outset for our purpose built Seven Springs Day Care Centre to remain at St Brendan’s. As far as operating Day Care Services from the Loughrea Hotel, I have concerns that the services that the attendees enjoyed at Seven Springs will not be available at the Loughrea Hotel,” she said.

Meanwhile Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said HSE management are also planning to repurpose an existing building on the St Brendan’s campus to establish a permanent home for the day care service.

He said he had attended a site meeting recently to identify potential buildings on the campus.

“We now need to begin developing a permanent home for the service at St Brendan’s as it makes sense from so many perspectives to have the service on campus.

“At our site meeting we walked the campus and have identified a number of potential locations. The HSE’s building management team will now create a shortlist of locations and ultimately a decision on the final location will be made in consultation with staff.

“The intention is to partner with the Topping Trust, a local charity, to create a state-of-the-art day care facility at St Brendan’s to open in the shortest possible timeframe. We are all working towards that outcome and there’s a serious sense of urgency attached to the project,” said Deputy Cannon.

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