A week ago at the Dublin Convention Centre, among nearly 900 invitees and their guests, Galway entrepreneur Bruce Henry stood with his hand over his heart as he recited the oath of fidelity to the Irish state, received his certificate of naturalisation and was officially made an Irish citizen.
For this Canadian turned Paddy, his story is one of tenacity, triumph and success and reminds us that with hard work, anything is possible. Almost penniless in his early days in Ireland, he now runs the hugely-successful Galway entertainment company Murder on the Menu.
While citizenship ceremonies are relatively new to Ireland, preparing for this moment has been something Bruce has looked forward to for the past six years since he first arrived in Dublin.
“I flew from my home of Winnipeg to Toronto, then onto Heathrow and from Heathrow into Dublin and even though it was raining, I was so excited for this new adventure I was about to embark on. My ancestors were Irish and left Ireland in 1838 so reconnecting with my Irish roots was really important to me. Having lived in Canada my entire life, I was ready to experience Irish culture in my own way,” says Henry.
Bruce arrived in Dublin on April 23, 2009 and immediately tried to find work in the nation’s capital. Unfortunately, at this time redundancies were skyrocketing at nearly 1,200 a week and after nearly three months, the job search seemed hopeless.
“Nobody was calling me back. After months and hundreds of CVs, I just couldn’t get an interview. I was starting to lose hope. I was living in a hostel on the Dublin Quays and shared a room with 17 other people and I was critically low on cash. I could feel my days were numbered”.
That is until a phone call from Ennis, Co. Clare changed everything.
“I received a call from a company in Ennis and they wanted to meet me for an interview later that week. I literally only had €50 to my name, so I knew I was going to have to ring my parents and ask to borrow the €25 for the train fare. Luckily they said yes!
“I made my way to Ennis and I treated this interview as if my life depended on it because in that moment, it really did. I didn’t sacrifice everything back in Canada to come to Ireland for just a few months. There was so much more I wanted to see and do and I wasn’t ready to come home yet, so I dug really deep and found the strength to make it work.”
After a three-hour train journey and an interview that lasted over an hour, Bruce Henry emerged triumphant and boarded the train back to Dublin with a signed contract of employment in hand.
“It was really one of those defining moments in my life. I had the choice to give up and go home or stay and fight for my place here. I choose to stay and while it has been difficult with a lot of obstacles to overcome, it’s all been worth it. Nothing worth having is ever easy to achieve,” says Bruce.
While living in Ennis, Bruce began taking the bus up to Galway on the weekends to experience the City of Tribes for himself. After his three-month contract in Ennis ended, Bruce decided Galway would become his new home and he made the move in October 2009. From there he worked in the hospitality industry for a number of different hotels and restaurants until starting his own business in the summer of 2013.
“I always knew I was destined to work for myself because regardless of where I worked, I always wanted to do things my way which as you can imagine, didn’t really work for many of my employers. I focused on entertainment and tourism and developed a business based on things that I was most passionate about. That’s where Murder on the Menu started.
“Since we started in 2013, we’ve become Ireland’s favourite murder mystery entertainment company for hen parties, birthday’s, anniversaries, corporate team building and sports and social nights out. Last year, we completed over 60 private parties and entertained thousands of people. This year we’re on track to doing 200 parties and we’re even developing a new murder mystery pub tour for Galway this summer.”
The company has grown since its inception and established a new office in Galway in March of this year. It currently employs two additional staff members and has been nominated for a number of local business awards.
“I came to Ireland at a time when the financial system was in such peril I couldn’t even get a bank account. I had to get my employer to write me a letter of introduction before the banks would even talk to me. To go from that to owning my own company, creating new jobs and now expanding, I’m proof that there are opportunities here in Ireland. The country is open for business, the economy is recovering and things are looking up.
“With that said, this has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I’ve changed and continue to develop and grow since I arrived back in 2009. I’ve truly learned what it was like to starve, take risks and work harder everyday than I did the last. For me, persistence is key and my strongest trait is my tenacity, my willingness to try try again.
“I love Canada and not a day goes by where I don’t think about my family and loved ones back home but I’ve worked hard to get where I am and I’m staying in Ireland. This is my home now and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
As one of the countries newest citizens, what was his first act as an Irish citizen.
“Immediately after the ceremony ended, I jumped on the Luas and headed to my favourite Dublin Pub where I enjoyed a pint of Guinness. Stereotypical I know, but I feel like I’d be letting the country down if I didn’t.
“On a more serious note, I’m proud to say that my first official civic act will be voting in the Marriage Equality referendum on May 22 where I’ll be certainly voting Yes for Equal Marriage. I feel like I represent a new generation in Ireland, one that’s more progressive, more forward thinking and more accepting. I’m so proud to be an Irish citizen and I can’t wait to see what the next six years are like”.
Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site
An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.
The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.
It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.
In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.
“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”
The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.
A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.
A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.
It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.
Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.
The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.
NUIG student accommodation firm records loss
The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.
However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.
Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.
The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.
Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.
The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.
Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.
Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.
The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).
The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.
It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.
As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.
It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.
In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.
Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan
Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.
Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.
The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.
It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.
Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.
Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.
“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”
The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.
He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.
“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.
“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.
“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.