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Connacht Tribune

New threat to rural post offices

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A whole tranche of local Post Offices could be facing closure – without the knowledge of the community – on foot of a new ‘retirement’ package being offered by An Post.

The national postal service is looking for up to 400 sub-postmasters to voluntarily take a package worth two years of their salary as a golden handshake. This would amount to €30,000 at the lower end of the scale.

But where postmasters agree to that deal that will effectively mean the end of the Post Office in that community.

An Post is calling it a ‘consolidation’ – but the end result will mean that the nearest sub office will be considerably further away than it used to be.

The only exceptions which An Post is making to the “consolidation” process are Islands communities where it is a policy to maintain the post offices that are there, open.

The sub-postmasters who are being offered the deal may accept or reject it but they do not have any obligation to tell anybody about it.

Neither will An Post provide any detail about who has been offered the package or where it has been offered – because of “right to privacy” regulations.

Sub Postmasters who wish to avail of the deal have until next Tuesday, July 31, to make their claim.

It is not known how many of the offers of the two year retirement package have  gone out in County Galway but two sub post offices, at least, in Connemara are being focused on – and possibly more.

The basic income for sub postmasters is €15,000 annually and hundreds of post offices do not generate much beyond that because of a low level of business.

An Post has a policy of phasing out these post offices where possible and “consolidating” the service by transferring the business to another post office.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Long wait lies ahead for elective hospital plans in Galway

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Galway faces at least another five-year wait before a new elective hospital is delivered at Merlin Park.

Detailed project briefs and a business case for long-promised facility, which is due to transfer elective care from University Hospital Galway to Merlin Park, are currently being drawn up.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that the HSE aimed to have those steps completed by the end of this year before they go to the Department of Health for approval under the public spending code.

In response to a question from City Councillor Declan McDonnell (Ind), the HSE said the completion of these documents would provide a clearer timeline, but 2028 was their current aspiration for a completion date.

“The ambition at this stage, subject to necessary planning approval processes, is for Galway Elective Hospital to, in a sustainable manner, reach full operational capacity by the end of 2028, i.e. it is fully built, fitted out and operational,” stated the reply.

“The desire is for the elective hospital to achieve initial operational capacity, with limited capacity to provide some procedures, as soon as possible, with an ambition to open it to receive patients in 2027.”

Cllr McDonnell said he could not understand why it was taking so long to progress a project that was vital to the people of not only Galway but the wider region.

“We also haven’t received a design map of the site – is the site identified or will we have the same problems we had with the Galway Hospice site,” asked Cllr McDonnell, referring to An Bord Pleanála’s rejection of plans for a hospice on the EU protected meadows in Merlin Woods.

Assistant National Director of HSE Capital and Estates, Joe Hoare, confirmed that the site identified was within the existing “hospital core” in Merlin Park.

“As it is in the core areas, it should be achievable and should work . . . we are quite confident it is a site that can deliver a hospital and work with all hospital requirements,” he said.

Cllr McDonnell said there were currently plans, at various stages of development, for a new Emergency Department and Mother and Child Block at University Hospital Galway, and questioned if it would be more efficient to merge all plans for healthcare in Galway for swifter delivery.

CEO of Saolta Hospitals Group, Tony Canavan, said as well as the new ED and Mother and Child Block, plans were advancing for the replacement of a lab at UHG and a new cancer unit.

“That is what is required in order to address the problems we have with access to the Emergency Department and waiting lists,” he said.

Mr Hoare said it did not make sense to tie the five projects together as some were at a more advanced stage.

“We can’t hold up a project until the next one gets approval. There are a number of these projects that have been planned for several years and we need to push them on,” he said.

Projects costing more than €200 million had to be approved under the Departmental Spending Code which took time, but was a necessary process that had to be gone through.

“The CEO of the HSE was down recently and there is a lot of effort in terms of Saolta hospital management, and a new impetus to push projects on,” said Mr Hoare.

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Connacht Tribune

Charlotte’s Vision raises €42,000 for metastatic breast cancer in six months

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A charity founded by the friends and family of a Tuam woman who’d battled so bravely against cancer have honoured her memory in the best way possible – by raising over €40,000 towards researching cures for the form of the disease that killed her just before her 42nd birthday.

Charlotte’s Vision, named after Tuam woman Charlotte Sweeney, was only set up last October, in partnership with the National Breast Cancer Research Institute is raising money for research into Metastatic Breast Cancer.

And in the six months since, it has raised €42,000 – primarily through a hugely successful New Year’s Eve Ball, but also through ongoing donations.

Charlotte Sweeney died on December 16 2021, after her metastatic breast cancer spread to her liver.

Her family and friends launched a new fundraising drive to fund research that they hope will give a longer life to other women with the disease.

Charlotte was passionate about science and a graduate of NUI Galway and the University of Coleraine – and despite her illness, she continually researched the latest treatments and looked into how best she could complement treatment she was undergoing be it with yoga, mindfulness and her diet.

Her mum Virgie admitted that they family are still coming to terms with the loss of Charlotte.

But she added: “doing something positive in her name, knowing we could be helping other families is refreshing.

“We want to say thank everyone for their very kind support since her passing and since setting up Charlotte’s Vision. Charlotte impacted so many lives when she was alive and even in her death, she is still helping people.”

Charlotte’s Vision chairperson Caroline Downey said that her friends just want to continue Charlotte’s fight in trying to find ways of curing ‘this awful disease’.

“Currently one in seven women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, some breasts cancers are curable however if you are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer or Stage 4 the survival rate is so low, it is not good at all. “Research is key to fight this disease and we will continue to fight to save lives,” she said.

And Charlotte’s legacy is already paying dividends, according to Professor Micheal Kerin, Project Director at the Lamb Institute.

“We have research on patients with Stage 4 disease which is strongly supported now by Charlotte’s Vision and will hopefully create novel strategies for treating this group with advanced disease,” he said.

“We are also concentrating and supporting the development of a fit for purpose comprehensive cancer centre on the grounds of the University Hospital which will allow us expand our research programme in the Cancer Centre,” he added.

Charlotte’s Vision committee are asking that you consider their charity when you are undertaking your next run, walk, cycle or swim joining ‘Char’s Tribe’ in their ongoing fundraising campaigns.

The next event is the VHI Mini Marathon; if you are interested in being part of Team Charlotte’s Vision contact Caroline on 087 4482070 or email charlottesvision22@gmail.com.

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Connacht Tribune

Women centre stage in Irish famine folk musical

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Julie Sharkey and Martin Gilligan in Amy Day's folk musical, In the Midst of Plenty, which will visit the Town Hall Theatre on June 7 and 8.

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

When Ann-Marie O’Sullivan moved to Ireland from Greece in 2018, she didn’t expect that a few years later, she would be directing and appearing in a folk musical about Ireland’s Great Famine. But through a series of serendipitous circumstances, that’s what happened.

The musical, In the Midst of Plenty, written by US based Amy Day and presented by Roscommon’s Enchanted Croí Theatre Company will visit Galway’s Town Hall Theatre next month as part of a 14-venue national tour.

Anne-Marie, who was born in England to an English mother and Irish father with roots in Connemara and Kerry, has a long background in theatre.  When she decided to move from Athens to Ireland in 2018, she couldn’t afford to live in a city here.

“And I have two pets,” she adds.

So, for those reasons, rather than “having any grand seven-year plan”, she ended up living in Roscommon, in the former servants’ quarters on the grounds of Strokestown House,  once home to the Mahon family, and now Ireland’s National Famine Museum.

Anne-Marie set up her company, Enchanted Croí in September 2019, but it had barely got off the ground when Covid arrived. She kept working and, during lockdown, embarked on a project about Olive Pakenham Mahon of Strokestown House (d 1982), to mark the reopening of the Famine Museum. Then she was told about California-based writer/composer-lyricist Amy.

Amy, a lecturer in legal writing in California, had visited Strokestown in 2019, while on a day off from teaching a course on human rights at the University of Galway.  The Famine Museum had awoken something in the academic and folk musician.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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