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Connacht Tribune

Michael D still has stamina to play the political game

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President Michael D Higgins joins Terry the Tiger on one of his many visits to Eamon Deacy Park.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

Nobody can deny that Michael D Higgins loves his sport; there he was at the League final in Croke Park on Sunday, fresh from his attendance at the club finals on St Patrick’s Day.

He was a massive Galway United fan when he still lived in the city, and still goes to the occasional League of Ireland game in Dalymount or Richmond Park.

So the President is a sports fan; big deal, you might say. But that notion of never being “as láthair” extends to every facet of his public life.

Higgins has been a diligent, and ubiquitous, and popular president since 2011, and has achieved approval ratings similar to his predecessor Mary McAleese – a huge achievement, given her massive popularity.

Seven years on from a gruelling and brutal election campaign, he is now edging closer to declaring his interest in a second term – something he more or less ruled out when running first time out.

That said, what started out as a firm commitment earlier in that campaign saw Michael D become a little more circumspect and ambivalent towards the end, buoyed by a strong swing away from Sean Gallagher towards him.

“One can never predict the love of the people,” he replied.

Since 2015, he has been making dropping increasingly pointed comments he was seriously considering a second term in the Aras – and over the last three months, that has crystallised into an explicit desire.

He set out to have a Presidency that would allow young people have a voice, he also promised initiatives on ethics. And he achieved both, involving the universities, in particular, in helping him set out a vision for an ethical Ireland.

The former Galway West TD arrived in the Aras after more than four decades in the cut-and-thrust of politics. He had become a redoubt for left-wing thinking in the decidedly centrist Labour Party. This was a political leopard who wasn’t going to lose his spots.

The notion of the President being apolitical is not enshrined in the Constitution but became accepted practice. Higgins has been perhaps the most political of our Presidents without ever being party partisan.

To read Harry’s column in full, please see this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Drug drivers in Galway warned over new roadside testing

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Those who take recreational drugs could be caught for driving under the influence for days after consumption, gardaí have warned.

At a meeting of the City Joint Policing Committee (JPC) on Monday, drivers were warned that there would be serious consequences for getting behind the wheel with drugs in their system.

This comes as Galway Gardaí roll out a new roadside test for drugs which reduces the time required for a result – and broadens the list of drugs for which drivers are tested.

Chief Superintendent Gerard Roche told the meeting that since last Thursday, the new test had come into use – cautioning drivers that in the run up to Christmas and immediately afterwards, some 1,500 mandatory intoxication testing checkpoints would be carried out.

Gardaí would be testing for the presence of drugs, he said, for which “the sanctions are quite severe”.

“The new drug driving tests have been in use since December 1. It now only takes four to six minutes for a result – it was anything up to 30 minutes. The analysis is much quicker and the range of drugs tested for is wider.

“People should be aware that drugs stay in the system for a long time – it could be four or five days, or even a week in the system and it will still show up on the test,” said the chief.

City Councillor Frank Fahy (FG), who drives a taxi in the city, said people in general were not aware of the extent of drug use and he believed that this new test would show up just how prevalent it was.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the December 9 edition of the Connacht Tribune or Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Ukrainian curator’s Galway exhibition features work of war-affected young artists

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At the beginning of this year, Ukrainian artist Martisha Sea was looking ahead to an exhibition of her work in Kyiv on March 10.

But just a few weeks before it was due to open, Russia invaded Ukraine and she found herself in Galway – forced from her home by a war which has reduced her home to rubble and keeps her awake at night in fear of what might happen the loved ones she had to leave behind.

The shock, pain and fear stoked by Putin’s invasion is the basis of the exhibition Martisha has curated which will be launched this Friday night at Gallery 126 in Galway City.

“I want Ukrainian artists to be visible,” Martisha tells the Connacht Tribune this week, as she puts the final touches to the exhibition which features the work of five Ukrainian visual artists including her own paintings, as well as the work of Ukrainian children.

For Martisha, art is one method of “healing the scars” inflicted by the war which broke out in her country when Russian troops invaded in February, forcing millions of Ukrainians to flee their homeland.

“Art is a way to express those feelings,” says Martisha who explains that no two experiences have been the same since the war began.

“Some children have been raped and tortured. In Ireland, most people arriving here have been more or less fine, but I wanted to create a project with children involved.”

An open call for Ukrainian artists was issued, she says of getting the ‘Point Zero’ exhibition started, and through that, a collection of paintings, sculptures, photography and music has been gathered.

On the opening night, the bandura, a traditional Ukrainian instrument, was played by Tetiana Herasymova, while the exhibtion’s soundtrack has been created by a musician Martisha collaborated with previously on a project for Kyiv Botanical Gardens.

Martisha will also perform on a number of occasions throughout the exhibition’s run, in a display which she says will expose her vulnerability and encapsulate the reality faced by Ukrainians since the outbreak of war.

In April, Martisha and her younger sister were still in their home city of Kryvyi Rih, but intensifying bombing and concerns for her sibling’s health meant that leaving became the only option for the pair.

They both made the heart-breaking decision to flee, leaving behind the life they had built, taking only what they could carry and their two cats.

■ Point Zero is at Gallery 126 located in Hidden Valley, Woodquay, Galway, at 6pm and runs until December 30.

This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article,  see the December 9 edition of the Connacht Tribune or Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Whiskey plan turns sour for producers

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The distance between a whiskey production enterprise and a proposed warehouse for its maturation was one of the reasons why planning has been refused.

The proposal was to construct a single storey warehouse building around two miles from Ballinasloe to complement the existing distillery in Ahascragh – but it has been given the thumbs down.

The planning application was submitted by Easyfix Limited, which manufactures rubber products, for the development adjacent to their existing business at Persse Business Park in Ballinasloe.

The company own the site at this location but had intended providing a warehouse to facilitate the existing whiskey and gin distillery in Ahascragh, which has recently received several awards for their products.

Galway County Council rejected the proposal stating that it would be built on a rural unserviced location – around eight miles from the primary business in Ahascragh.

Planners said that in the absence of a robust justification for a warehouse development in an unserviced location, it would be “incompatible with the ethos of rural enterprise”.

They also said that the particular site was occupied by mammals (without specifying what these were) and that from an ecological and environmental point of view, the proposed development was unacceptable.

In the planning application, it was stated that the proposed development would involve whiskey maturation and bottling stages of the production process.

They applicants said that the maturation and bottling were inherent key stages of whiskey production and occurs after and separate from the distillation process.

The McAllister Distillery in Ahascragh in the old mill is nearing completion but the owners are already brewing their own products.

According to their submission to the planning authority, Easyfix Limited stated that when the McAllisters were granted planning for the distillery a couple of years ago, the maturation and bottling was not permitted.

“An extensive warehousing facility is required to facilitate this process in order to assist the Ahascragh Distillers.

“The distillery site is located on a confined site within the village and would not have the access to expansive space required to accommodate and associated maturating and bottling facility,” it was argued.

The application was accompanied by a letter from the Ahascragh Distillery owners Michelle and Gareth McAllister who said that a warehouse goes hand in hand with a whiskey distilling operaton.

They said that a rural and less dense setting was preferable as a maturation warehouse for whiskey needs to be secure.

It would have limited access points with safety and security being a top priority for what they said would be the storage of “a very valuable product”.

“The site at Persse Park is ideal for our whiskey maturation warehousing. It is close to the distillery in Ahascragh allowing for daily deliveries of freshly made spirit for casking and storage in the warehouse,” they said.

(Photo: Gareth and Michelle McAllister from Ahascragh Distillery).

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