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Mother of two invents safety device for epileptics



A Galway entrepreneur and recent graduate is making waves in the medical device industry with her award-winning innovation EpiSafe – a monitor and alarm system for those diagnosed with epilepsy – which was inspired by the death of her own brother.

As part of her Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing course, 40 year old mother of two Audrey Holland undertook the Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise module in her final year at NUI Galway.

Through this module she was required to engage in group based projects with the aim to develop a unique enterprising idea – which in Audrey’s case went back to a tragic loss in her own family a short while beforehand.

Audrey’s brother Trevor Tierney tragically passed away from an epileptic seizure in March 2014 aged just 30.

“My brother Trevor passed away from a seizure and I suffer from a milder form of it myself, so I know how vulnerable it can be for someone with epilepsy,” she explained.

Now, under Audrey’s leadership, her group developed a unified epilepsy monitoring and alarm system called EpiSafe, which won the first place Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise Award in 2015.

The concept of EpiSafe is the amalgamation of modern hardware and software design to monitor the triggers of an epileptic seizure in a non-invasive way.

“I had an engineering friend who was a great help in terms of the hardware side of the project,” said Audrey.

Wirelessly connected to the user’s phone, the device is worn on the wrist and gathers data related to the user’s blood oxygen level, heart pulse rate and movement to determine the factors that triggers a seizure.

The device will then trigger an alarm to notify user selected individuals or services in the event of an epileptic seizure.

EpiSafe was also one of top ten finalist innovations at the Irish Student Entrepreneur awards in 2015.

At the moment, the company is now in an important stage of development and is seeking funding from investors in order to advance to the next stage of production, including developing a prototype and carrying out clinical trials.

The device may well be adapted for cardiac patients in the future, as the modifications needed wouldn’t be too dissimilar to the original device, explained Audrey, but for the moment the aim is to obtain funding for EpiSafe’s development.

In addition, Audrey is also applying for an all-female funding grant from Enterprise to help with the development.

The recent graduate admits that though the research isn’t easy, she thoroughly enjoyed working on the device and looks forward to the development stage.

“I wouldn’t say it’s easy work but, like anything in the world, if you have an interest in what you do, it’s easy.”

According to Irish Health statistics there are currently up to 40,000 people who are estimated to suffer from epilepsy in Ireland, while the debilitating condition affects approximately 50 million people worldwide.

One of the major concerns for sufferers and their family members is the associated vulnerability and potential danger that comes with the sporadic nature of epileptic seizures.

Naturally, this can have a serious impact on the quality of life of all concerned and more importantly, can have a detrimental effect on the ability of the individual with epilepsy to live an independent lifestyle.

“Anything that can help someone lead a more normal and independent life is definitely worth the work put in,” she explained.

Audrey is heading up to Dublin later this month for a networking evening run by the Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Programme and will be talking to a number of budding female entrepreneurs.

Her EpiSafe company is one of the first start-up companies involved with the Galway entrepreneur incubation programme StartX6 run by Dave Cunnigham, winner of the Top Outstanding Young People of Galway Award with JCI Galway.

The innovation hub enlist creative individuals with a business proposition every six months, who are then supported, mentored and driven to the launch of their business by StartX6’s panel of experienced professionals and entrepreneurs.


GAA club’s tournament honours stalwart who died at just 28



Pictured at the launch of the Darragh Frain Memorial Tournament which takes place in Mervue this Saturday. Back: Kevin Curran, Kevin Barrett, Robert Fitzgerald, Aidan Brady, Alan O'Donnell, Donal Murphy, Eanna O'Connell, Eoghan Frain, David Henry. Front: Aodhain Ó Conghaile, Liam O'Donnell, Rory Murphy, Fionn Fitzgerald and Michael Barrett.

The untimely passing of a city GAA stalwart six years ago is still deeply felt by the club he represented but he remains an inspiration to young up-and-coming footballers who will be displaying their skills this weekend.

The Darragh Frain Memorial Tournament for under-age teams will take place in St James’ GAA grounds at Mervue tomorrow, Saturday, when many memories of a great young clubman will be exchanged.

Darragh, from Lurgan Park in Renmore, was just 28 years of age when he lost his battle with cancer in 2016. Since then his beloved club has been organising a tournament for young footballers that’s proving immensely popular.

For tomorrow’s event, the St James club will entertain local teams including St Michael’s, Salthill-Knocknacarra, Killanin and an Cheathrú Rua, as well as Kiltane (Bangor Erris) and Elphin-Ballinameen from North Roscommon.

It is a nine-a-side tournament, which takes place from 11am to 5pm, and will involve Under-11 teams who will compete against each other during the day.

The fact that Darragh’s late father, Tom Frain Senior, hailed from Roscommon means that GAA support for the event is coming from both counties – this makes it extra special, as well as adding to the profile of the tournament.

Best friend and one of the event’s main organisers, another St James stalwart David Henry explained that this was the sixth year of the tournament and that Darragh would be very pleased that his name was being associated with the development of under-age football.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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‘Too many cafés’ as city retail continues to decline



Barber Tom Nally outside his premises.

The changing face of Galway city centre is a source of concern to those who say it reflects a decline for people in terms of retail choices.

Those who regret the loss of several long-standing family-run operations in the city in recent years don’t believe that what has replaced them has enhanced the appearance of Shop Street, in particular.

“We are looking at a proliferation of coffee shops, bookies and mobile phone outlets in their place,” observed long-standing city centre businessman Tom Nally.

Cllr Niall McNelis agreed there were far too many coffee shops in the city centre and believed that anything that has been zoned retail by the Council should remain retail.

The Labour Councillor said a proper retail strategy needed to be adopted and some of the ‘big-name brands’ needed to be encouraged into the centre of Galway to lure shoppers into town.

Meanwhile, popular barber Tom Nally regretted the number of family operations that have ceased trading in the recent past.

“It is sad to see the long-established family businesses in the city centre going and it would be great to say that what is replacing them will enhance our streets . . . but unfortunately this is not the case,” he added.

Mr Nally who has been operating out of his High Street premises for almost 50 years, said the number of unoccupied premises in an around the city centre was a new phenomenon.

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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State cracks down on quick-buck landlords



New measures to clamp down on illegal short-term lets in the city will kick in next month, in an attempt to tackle mounting pressure on the rental market.

From September 1, sites such as Airbnb and will no longer be allowed to advertise short-term rentals if the correct planning permission is not in place.

The measure seeks to strengthen laws introduced in 2019 which state that the use of a property for short-term letting for longer than 90 days in a rent-pressure zone requires permission from the local authority.

City Councillor Niall Murphy (Green) said the move follows on from an objection he lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI).

“The ASAI said it couldn’t be expected to police these ads so the websites like Airbnb were off the hook. But after September, they will have to ensure that those advertising on their sites have planning permission,” he said.

The proliferation of short-term lets in the city has been a contentious issue for a number of years, with scores of holiday leases available at the same time as city residents are battling it out for an extremely limited number of rental properties.

This week, almost 400 short-term lets were available on the leading website, Airbnb, while just 19 homes were up for rent on

Get the full story in this week’s Galway City Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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