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Connacht Tribune

Perfect storms underline the ficklesness of politics




Parting of the ways...Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster.

World of Politics with Harry McGee –

It’s been a tough old start to the year, north and south, with senior politicians (experience and relatively inexperienced) getting potent reminders of how fickle a business it is.

Earlier this week, Minister for Health Simon Harris tweeted chirpily: “Hospital waiting lists falling – 1st time in 2 years. 50% reduction in longest waiters too. 2017 – the year we drive down waiting times”.

It was a big and brave promise – and that tweet might come back and haunt him by the end of the year….or alternatively he might be one of the few health ministers in history to leave the job not running a high political temperature.

The big January spike in A&E waiting lists gave the state’s youngest Minister a bit of a jolt and reminded him that health is not a quickstep routine on the way to greater things.

Harris displayed a little naivety last week (and it’s seldom he does) when he said the spike had taken him by surprise. The early January figures are always high. Less staff working because of Christmas rosters and a big rise in admissions leads to a perfect storm.

This problem has been around for two decades and it has yet to be solved. I came across this article this week, written a decade ago by my colleague in The Irish Times Eithne Donnellan (and a former Tuam Herald reporter!).

She described the situation in Letterkenny Hospital then in exactly the same way as we are reporting on the trolley crisis now.

That article was prompted by an emotional outburst on the Late Late Show by actor Brendan Gleeson, who was infuriated by the manner in which his elderly mother was shoved onto a trolley when she was admitted to a Dublin hosptial.

There are lots of voices and lots of agendas and it’s still impossible to identify exactly why it happens. Is it lack of staff in the frontline services? Or lack of beds in A&E or elsewhere? Or the refusal to use wards for trolleys? Or too many staff being rostered off at Christmas? Or problems with job demarcation? Or delayed discharges? Why is is worse in certain hospitals? Is it a lack of step-down beds?  Is it worse here than in all other comparable countries? And if so, why?

Despite this recurring January spectacle, the data and the explanations seems elusive and murky, especially to non-specialists.

If it wasn’t enough, the other Simon, Simon Coveney, has been facing his own winter spike.

The takeover of a Nama-owned office block, Apollo House, in Dublin by homeless campaigner certainly back footed the Minister for Housing and his plans to tackle homelessness.

Sure, there was an element of gesture to it but it was effective and did highlight what’s become a major problem. There’s a bigger problem that’s harder to portray – and that’s the hundreds of families living in cramped, squashed dispiriting rooms their lives in B and B’s.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Remote working creates rural boom

Stephen Corrigan



Report....Professor Alma McCarthy.

Urban dwellers are now looking to up sticks and move to the countryside, as working from home becomes the norm – and with a new survey showing almost all workers who have made the switch hoping to maintain some level of remote working, rural life is becoming increasingly attractive.

According to one of the lead researchers behind the second national employee survey carried out since the onset of Covid-19, remote working is surging in popularity, with 94% of over 5,600 participants hoping to continue working remotely for some or all of the time – an increase from 83% six months ago.

Professor Alma McCarthy of the Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUIG told the Connacht Tribune that the desire to continue working from home had grown since the first phase of the survey in April, with more flexible hours and no traffic adding to its appeal.

“What we are looking at here is a particular cohort of the workforce that have jobs which lend themselves to working from home, and where people have that opportunity, we see that support has gone up [for remote working].

“Most people want a blended type of working arrangement, where they work from home some of the time and go into the office maybe one or two days a week. I think that is probably how it will look from now on,” said Prof McCarthy.

The number of people who wish to work from home five days a week has more than doubled since April, now at 27% compared to 12% in the early days of Covid-19.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download a digital version from our website

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Connacht Tribune

Retail outlets stay positive despite shut-down

Stephen Corrigan



Challenge...Fiona Charity.

Galway retailers have reiterated calls to shop local online in the coming weeks, as Level 5 restrictions force them to close their doors in the run up to peak shopping season.

From today (Thursday), unessential retailers must shut up shop until December 1 – limiting outlets such as clothes, furniture and toy shops to online sales and collections only.

One such shop is Modella Fashion in Corrandulla, which only opened its doors for the first time in July, and while owner Fiona Charity said it was clearly a huge challenge to start a new business in a pandemic, she remained hopeful that she could weather the storm.

“It’s obviously hugely disappointing, but public health is the most important thing, and if this works, we might have more freedom for Christmas.

“We are lucky in that we went live with our website last week and that’s been really busy already. Even though we can’t open, people are able to order online and have their order delivered, or click and collect,” said Ms Charity ahead of closing this week.

Likewise, Standún in An Spidéal has seen a surge in their online sales since the onset of Covid-19, according to manager Deirdre Ní Ghríofa, who said the message for everyone was to “shop local as much as you possibly can”.

Ms Ní Ghríofa said they had a big increase in local sales online during the early days of the pandemic and that was something she hoped would continue in the run up to Christmas.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download a digital version from our website

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Connacht Tribune

Back in our bubble – and braced for the impact

Dara Bradley



Fourth Class pupils from Galway Educate Together NS in Newcastle enjoying the wonder of science to mark the launch of Galway Science and Technology Festival's 2020 online programme running from November 8 to 22.

Galway is braced for the economic impact of this week’s return to lockdown – with both the pub and retail sector preparing for the worst.

The head of the county’s publicans predicted that as many as one in five outlets will never reopen, given that the best case scenario now is that they’ll return to Level 3 for Christmas,  which limits outdoor drinkers to just 15.

In a stark warning, Chair of the Galway branch of the VFI, Joe Sheridan, said a conservative estimate was that 20% of pubs won’t reopen – but that could rise to one-third if they didn’t see some return to business for the festive season.

Retailers too were predicting the worst – but still with the belief that a good December could save them.

The reasoning behind the move to Level 5 was underlined by the fact that new cases of the infection are now rising at a rate of 500 per week.

After another record week of positive cases in Galway, there were 13 patients in two public hospitals being treated for Covid-19 – twelve in UHG and one in Ballinasloe.

There were a further three suspected cases in UHG.

See full coverage of the Covid crisis in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download a digital version from our website

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