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”.
State to look at plan to protect historic monastic ruins
Officials from the Office of Public Works have confirmed that they will visit what is widely regarded as the most complete Franciscan monastic ruins in Ireland to see what works are required to save it.
And a local public representative has said that he does not want to be part of a generation that allowed Ross Errilly Franciscan Friary to fall into worse disrepair.
Correspondence sent this week to those who diligently look after the friary has suggested that the OPW’s Head of Historic Properties will come down to establish what emergency works are required.
This follows the recent visit by the Minister for the Office of Public Works Patrick O’Donovan to Ross Errilly Franciscan Friary which dates well back before the 1400s and requires urgent works to be carried out.
Cllr Andrew Reddington (FG) said: “It would be an absolute disgrace if we were the generation that allowed this friary to deteriorate even further.”
It was explained to the Minister while visiting the Abbey that it is in desperate need of emergency works and it was essential that the Minister brought this back to his department.
He was informed that it was around the late 1980s when there was any major works carried out on the abbey by the OPW.
“The abbey needs remedial work urgently as it is falling into disrepair and the main area of concern is the tower.
“There has never been any serious remedial work done on the tower and there has never been scaffolding put up around the outside of it to deal with the exterior of the tower,” Cllr Reddington told The Connacht Tribune.
A local group who met with the Minister explained that there is no electricity at the abbey or any toilet facilities for visiting tourists.
He was informed that the nearest electrical pole is only 200m away, so it wouldn’t be difficult to get electricity to the abbey.
The abbey, he was told, needs electricity which would then mean there would be options in terms of security lighting and closed-circuit television to prevent any vandalism taking place.
Those who look after the Franciscan Friary – including Glen Corbett and former Galway footballer Seamus McHugh – gave a detailed run down of emergency works that need to happen at the abbey.
They said that it was critical that emergency works start as soon as possible to protect the abbey for future generations.
The Minister committed to working with the group on this. The delegation than joined OPW officials and Finna Construction who gave them a tour of the OPW offices in Headford which benefited from a €5 million investment.
This week came the commitment that the OPW would visit the friary to establish the emergency works that need to prioritisation.
(Photo: Seamus McHugh, Minister Patrick O’Donovan, Glen Corbett and Cllr Andrew Reddington at Ross Errilly Franciscian Friary in Headford)
Gardaí issue alert over fuel thefts
Householders, farmers and truckers in the West of Ireland have been advised to put security measures in place to protect their fuel tanks, following a number of thefts over the past month.
While the thefts aren’t an everyday occurrence, Gardaí have advised that with fuel prices likely to remain high over the coming months, basic security precautions should be put in place.
Galway is one of a number of counties where fuel thefts have occurred over recent weeks with home heating oil, trucks and farm diesel in different parts of the country targeted by the thieves.
Sergeant Michael Walsh, Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer, said that while the number of thefts reported in Galway had been quite small, fuel thievery was still an ongoing problem.
He said that some of the precautions recommended included a secure fencing off, of outdoor fuel tanks with good quality perimeter fencing.
“Fuel tanks that are located away from houses or offices are most at risk and in these situations, robust perimeter fencing, and gates need to be properly secured.
“We are also recommending that people and businesses consider installing alarms, anti-siphoning devices, security lighting and CCTV cameras,” said Sergeant Walsh.
He added that fuel thieves often used small drill and syphoning pump to steal the fuel with the whole operation completed in a matter of minutes.
Last month in Limerick, thieves stole an estimated €500 worth of diesel from trucks parked overnight in a business park – large trucks and artics can have a fuel capacity of over 100 gallons.
“As with a lot of robberies, fuel thieves will tend to pick out the opportunist targets. Fuel is a valuable commodity and basic security measures need to be put in place,” said Sergeant Walsh.
Where businesses have multiple users of their fuel tanks, the Gardaí also advise that a fuel management system should be put in place to record the users as well as the dates and times when they access the supply.
Housing plan turned down over lack of pedestrian access
The lack of a pedestrian connection to the town centre was listed as one of the reasons why a development of almost 40 houses has been turned down in Ballinasloe.
The proposed development at Poolboy would have been adjacent to an existing housing estate – but planners cited the lack of connectivity to the town centre as a reason why it was refusing the application.
The plans outlined the provision of a mix of three-bedroom detached and semi-detached houses along with 20 townhouses as part of the 38 unit development.
They were submitted by Crownbell Limited, which is based in Clarinbridge, and sought a connection to the existing access road serving the Cuil na Canalacht estate which was granted permission back in 2012.
However, Galway County Council refused planning on the grounds that the proposed development did not provide sufficient pedestrian access to the wider urban area of Ballinasloe.
They said that to grant planning would pose an intensified risk to the safety of pedestrians and other road users and lead to “unsustainable mobility patterns” in the immediate area.
It was stated that the development would be prejudicial to public safety and contravene the sustainable transport policy objectives of the Galway County Development Plan.
Furthermore, planners said that the site was in an area that is zoned open space recreation and amenity in the Ballinasloe Local Area Plan.
They said that this seeks to protect and enhance such areas for exercise facilities, sports grounds and playing fields and to grant planning would set an undesirable precedent.
Given the site’s location to the River Suck, the applicants submitted an environmental impact assessment and screening report. The development would be around 300 yards from the River Suck Callows.
It was proposed that the development would connect to the existing sewer scheme, and it was stated in a submission that it would not overly burden the system.
However, it was a lack of pedestrian access from the site into the town centre which eventually scuppered the proposed development plan.