A Different View with Dave O’Connell
It was about three weeks before Christmas and Galway Airport was still up and flying; most of those waiting for the flight to London had empty bags in their hands, anticipating the transportation home of several bulky purchases from the environs of the Oxford Road.
Among those queueing for the flight was a familiar face – the then-TD from North Mayo, Jerry Cowley, who was as full of the Christmas spirit as anyone else but whose London expedition wasn’t a shopping one.
Instead the GP from Mulranny sheepishly explained that he was on a different pre-Christmas mission – to find the forgotten Irish and bring some of them home for Christmas.
He didn’t mean to deflate the festive spirit because he’d never have told you his business only you were nosy enough to ask – but in an instant you realised that this was the real meaning of Christmas.
This was no one-off excursion either because, long before he sat in Leinster House, Jerry Cowley had an indefatigable commitment to helping the Irish ex-pats who might have fallen through the cracks.
His dream was St Brendan’s Village in his adopted home of Mulranny – a vision that became a reality and provided a place where elderly people from the area, no longer able to care for themselves independently, now had somewhere to live close to everything and everyone they knew best.
But this was also a housing complex for the returning emigrant, the generation who left these shores in the forties, fifties and sixties to seek a better life in London and who may not have seen their dreams come true.
The emigrants he had in mind were from Mayo and while Mulranny might not have been their home place, it was a million miles better than a squat in Cricklewood or Camden Town.
And on that December morning, Jerry Cowley was off to London – not for the shopping or the Christmas spirit – but to find the forgotten Irish and bring them home.
Some would have come for the Christmas and other might have stayed, but in either case when there was no one looking for them, Jerry Cowley was the man.
He called it the Safe Home Ireland project – and that charitable scheme has now expanded, with outreach offices in Galway, Portlaoise and Limerick.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Community fights back on hospital ‘downgrade by stealth’
Raw emotion, sadness and some anger filled the air at Clifden Town Hall on Sky Road last Sunday afternoon as a shaken community gave honest, personal accounts of the impact the closure by stealth of Clifden District Hospital would have on the people of North Connemara.
The public meeting was hastily organised after fears emerged on Friday that the HSE may transfer respite services from Clifden to Merlin Park Hospital, 50-plus miles away in Galway City.
Families were told their loved ones in Clifden Hospital may have to move home, or go to Merlin Park the following Monday, due to ‘issues with staffing’.
An axe has hung over Clifden Hospital for some years, but this latest move stirred the community to fight back to retain services locally.
Galway County Councillor Eileen Mannion (FG), who organised the public meeting with Senator Sean Kyne, said 625 people signed the attendance sheets and an estimated 650 people attended.
“The community effort spreading the word was unbelievable; the turnout was unbelievable,” she said.
“It wasn’t just anger; it was raw emotion in the room. Sadness. Family members spoke about the calls they got on Friday. The feeling that their elderly person was being rejected; that they weren’t being respected.
“One man stood up, three years waiting for respite care for a family member, and then to be told after a few days in there that she’d have to be taken home or to Merlin Park.
“We’re 50 miles from Galway. If there’s no traffic you might get to the outskirts in an hour but with the traffic in Galway, you could be another hour to get to Merlin Park. Not everyone has transport either and they’ve to rely on buses.
“A young woman stood up at the meeting and said her dad was dying in Galway. And she had to go to Saint Vincent de Paul to get money to pay for a B&B so that the family would be close to him when the end came. People gave their personal stories, and it was just heart-breaking.”
(Photo by Carmel Lyden: Teresa Conneely from Roundstone addresses people at the public meeting in Clifden Town Hall).
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read extensive coverage of the Clifden Hospital story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Pilgrim took to his feet to realise dream!
Clifden man Breandan O Scanaill, who is on a pilgrimage from his home town of Clifden to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, received a Mayoral welcome and a memorial crest when he arrived at the Asturian town of Navia last week.
Breandan, whose walk from his home outside Clifden to the reputed burial place of St James in Santiago, began in April, was walking through Navia in Spain when a local man came over to chat to him.
“He asked me about my journey and was interested in the fact that an Irish man had turned up in the town,” says Breandan, who had been admiring the Chapel of San Roque at the time.
The local man outlined the history of the building and the town to Breandan and they began chatting more generally about history and architecture – topics dear to the pilgrim’s heart.
Breandán’s new friend introduced himself as the Mayor of Navia, lgnacio Garcia Palacios, who invited the visitor from Clifden to visit the Town Hall.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Local Property Tax rate to stay unchanged despite Council chief’s plea
Councillors have agreed to keep the Local Property Tax (LPT) rate unchanged – despite pleas from management that Galway County Council is predicted to spend at least €22 million more than it brings in for the next two years.
County Chief Executive Jim Cullen had recommended an increase of 15% on the LPT rate for 2023 and 2024 – amounting to €2.1m extra in the coffers annually – which would bolster its case when it came to pleading for a greater share of funding from central government.
In an estimation of income and expenditure for the Council, taking into account “unavoidable” expenditure and income changes set to hit, the Council would run a deficit of €9.04m in 2023 and 13.2m in 2024 – well over €22m unless there was a change in finances.
“I am hopeful of an uplift in baseline [funding] levels . . . we cannot continue to ignore the fact that other councils have raised LPT and their citizens enjoy a better standard of services that in Galway,” he stressed.
He told a meeting this week that €9m would be needed to maintain services next year at the same level as 2022. This was due to significant cost increases given that inflation is reaching 9.6% currently. Pensions, gratuities and payroll increases from the national pay agreement, increments and additional staff were all adding to bigger outgoings.
Without that extra funding, it will be necessary to reduce spending by that amount with a negative impact on service and staffing levels, he said.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the story, including the councillors’ discussions, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.