One in five overseas visitors to Ireland last year came to Galway, making it the third most popular destination in Ireland in what was the busiest year yet for the Wild Atlantic Way since its inception.
Fáilte Ireland’s Chairman, Michael Cawley, the senior management team and the board of Fáilte Ireland – the National Tourism Development Authority – gathered in Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, last week for its quarterly meeting.
A number of representatives from local Galway tourism businesses from the region were invited to brief the Authority members on their season to date and their future business plans.
These included the Connemara Sands Hotel, the Renvyle House Hotel, Blath na Mara Seaweed, Udaras na Gaeltachta, Galway County Council and the Connemara Aran Islands Tourism Network.
The Authority told the meeting that the agency is continuing to work on the Visitor Experience Development Plan for the Connemara Coast and Aran Islands which was launched in 2018. It will identify the stand out features for the area and aims to increase visitor dwell time and spend.
Fáilte Ireland’s vision for the Wild Atlantic Way is to deliver sustainable growth to all areas of the West Coast for the benefit of local communities and businesses.
One of the agency’s main aims for Galway is to gain a broader spread of tourism across all parts of the county including Connemara Coast and the Aran Island and extend the season so that tourism businesses can stay open beyond the traditional summer season.
Fáilte Ireland would continue to invest in this, stressed Miriam Kennedy, Head of the Wild Atlantic Way at Fáilte Ireland.
“Last year was our strongest yet since we launched it in 2014, we had over 3.7m international visitors, over 4.7m domestic visitors and between them they spent €3bn, supporting over 80,000 jobs along the West Coast.
“Galway continues to be a popular tourist destination – 18% of overseas tourists to Ireland visited Galway in 2018, making it one of the three most popular counties in the country for overseas tourists.”
However, this had been a challenging year for the tourism industry particularly with uncertainty around Brexit.
“As the National Tourism Development Authority, we continue to work with the local industry to sustain Ireland as a high-quality, competitive and best in class tourism destination.
“We do this by supporting tourism enterprises to innovate and through delivering tailored programmes that help assess the risks, respond to changes, access tourists using the right channels and diversify into other markets.”
Over the last five years, the agency has invested amounts of between €1.95m and €73,000 on ten projects across the country, with the investment totalling €10.5m between 2015 and 2019.
This summer, Kylemore Abbey opened its new visitor experience with €1.7m Fáilte Ireland investment. It has also spent €1.9m in the Connemara National Park to develop of an additional 10.5 km of new trails, a children’s natural play area and carpark facilities. Both are now open for visitors year-round.
Fáilte Ireland has identified festivals as a key driver for tourism growth, particularly during off-season times. Over the past two years the agency has invested €729,000 into four Galway festivals – the Galway International Arts Festival, the Oyster Festival, the Galway Film Fleadh and the Vodafone Comedy Festival with a further €73,000 given to the two local authorities to distribute to local festivals.
The latest industry figures show that 38% of holiday makers stay in hotels with one fifth staying in guesthouses and B&Bs. Hotels are favoured by Americans and the British while the French and German tourists prefer to stay in homes.
In 2018, there were 84 hotels across Galway with 11,913 beds, 16 guesthouses with 425 beds, 122 B&Bs with 1,300 beds, 107 self-catering units with 544 beds, 14 hostels with 1,123 beds, four caravan and camping parks which can accommodate 799 people and a further 14 homes with the Irish Welcome standard with 595 beds.
Gardaí in Galway operating with fewer patrol cars
Five large Garda stations in County Galway are operating with fewer Garda vehicles now than two years ago – leading to a call for the local fleet to be restored to 2020 levels.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has confirmed to Galway West TD Noel Grealish that the Garda fleet in the Galway Garda Division stands at 116 as of October of this year.
That’s greater than any of the years from 2012 to 2019, but it represents a reduction on the Garda fleet when compared with 2020 and 2021 figures.
Galway Gardaí had a dozen fewer vehicles this year, compared with 2020. There are 13 fewer patrol cars, down from 96 to 83; there was no change in the number of vans and motorcycles, and the division acquired one extra 4×4.
Garda stations in Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Tuam, Clifden and Salthill have all lost patrol cars in the past 24 months, according to the official figures.
Independent Deputy Grealish has demanded a restoration of the Garda fleet in Galway to 2020 levels.
“Gardaí have a demanding enough job to do, but it makes that important work even more difficult if they are not allocated the proper resources,” Deputy Grealish said.
“A reduction of twelve vehicles in less than two years across the Galway Division, down from 128 at the end of 2020 to 116 in October this year, is concerning.
“I have asked the Minister for Justice to explain why this has happened, that the number of vehicles in the Galway Division has fallen by ten per cent, when nationally the total fleet actually increased by 6%. I am demanding that they at the very least be restored to their 2020 levels,” he said.
Deputy Grealish pointed out that almost all areas of the county had suffered a reduction in Garda vehicles since the beginning of last year. Ballinasloe currently has six vehicles, a reduction of two since the end of 2020; Clifden also has six, down one; Loughrea was down three to eleven; Salthill was down three to ten; the biggest reduction in Garda vehicles was in the Tuam area down five to twelve.
Galway City’s fleet increased by two vehicles, for a total of 71.
Minister McEntee said that the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was responsible for the administration and management of An Garda Síochána, including the purchase, allocation, and effective and efficient use of Garda vehicles.
“As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure their optimum use in light of identified operational needs and emerging crime trends,” she added.
Galway City Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) last month complained that the number of vehicles available to Gardaí in Salthill and Knocknacarra was insufficient.
Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team
Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.
The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.
Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.
Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.
“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.
It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.
“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”
She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.
“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.
There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.
Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968
As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.
From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.
When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.
Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.
A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.
Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later