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Connacht Tribune

Pilgrim – humanity at its best during time of terror

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Rex Ryan in Pilgrim, a drama set in Newfoundland in September 2001 after the terrorist attack on New York's Twin Towers.

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

While working as a hotel barman in 2010, Philip Doherty struck up a friendship with a Scottish businessman,  a long-time resident of the hotel.  Over a drink one night, the man told Philip how he’d been on a flight from London to Texas on September 11, 2001. Suddenly and without explanation, two stealth bombers appeared and the plane changed course. Everybody was freaked out.  It was only when the plane landed in a tiny airport in Gambo, Newfoundland, that passengers were told New York’s Twin Towers had been the subject of a terrorist attack. Hundreds of other airlines from all over the world had been diverted to the same airport and for three days, this businessman and his flying companions were forced to remain on the plane for security reasons. Some people went slightly mad, others became quiet and others slept.

When the passengers were finally allowed off, they had to leave their luggage on board and most of them had run out of cash. But the local community came to the rescue, putting people up in halls, churches and even their homes. The town’s only pub was open 24-7 and everything was free.

This episode resonated with Philip, whose bar-work allowed him to follow his real passion, which was writing plays.

“I remember thinking it would make a great story,” says the Cavan-born graduate of NUIG. But Philip, who has a BA degree in English and Sociology and Politics and a Masters in Drama and Theatre Studies, wasn’t sure what form it would take.

Philip, who founded the Gonzo Theatre in his native Cavan during the recession in 2009, has form writing for theatre radio dramas.

A few years later, while working with young Dublin actor, Rex Ryan, he got his answer. They first collaborated on The Circus of Perseverance, a full-length play with a cast of seven, that Philip had written and directed for Gonzo, which was staged at the 2012 Dublin Fringe Festival. Philip was blown away by Rex’s performance and it was a similar story the following year, when he played multiple roles in Philip’s drama, The Birthday Man. That performance led to him receiving a nomination for Best Actor at the Fringe.  Philip realised he could tell the story of the Gambo experience by teaming up with Rex for a one-man show that offered one man’s perspective on this extraordinary event, “a positive story against the backdrop of something so terrifying”, says its author.

“For one guy to be walking through this world, exploring it, a guy who is selfish and irresponsible . . .and what a beautiful way for his life to come into focus and for him to change.

For more,  read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Unauthorised developments in County Galway go unchecked for months

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The Planning Enforcement Section of Galway County Council is so understaffed that complaints of unauthorised developments are not being investigated for months, the Connacht Tribune has learned.

In one case, a complaint alleging a house was under construction in a picturesque and environmentally sensitive part of Conamara without planning permission was not investigated by the Council for at least six months.

And it can be revealed that there is a ‘large’ backlog of complaints of unauthorised developments in the county, which the Planning Enforcement Section at County Hall has blamed on staff shortages, according to correspondence obtained by the Connacht Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI).

In response to repeated requests by a concerned member of the public to intervene and investigate an allegation of unauthorised development in an environmentally protected area of Conamara, the Council’s Planning Department indicated it was too stretched.

“Unfortunately, the planning enforcement section is experiencing a period of prolonged staff shortages and consequently there are a large number of files awaiting investigation/review,” it said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Access Centre provides pathways to University of Galway for the disadvantaged

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Photo of Imelda Byrne

Great leaps have been made in recent years to make access to tertiary level education a realistic prospect for once marginalised groups in society.

With the deadline for CAO applications approaching next week, the Access Centre at the University of Galway is aiming to reach as many underrepresented groups as possible ahead of next academic term.

Head of the Access Centre, Imelda Byrne (pictured), said research has shown that those who once felt third level ‘wasn’t for them’ are increasing their presence at UG, and bringing a richness to the sector that had for a long time been missing.

In the five years up to 2021, there was a 100% increase in the number of students registering for the Disability Support Service at the university, while those coming from Further Education and Training courses in institutes like GTI had surged by 211% over four years.

“The message that we really need to get out there is that the CAO is not the only route into third level. There are a number of pathways,” says Imelda.

“There are loads of places set aside for students coming from a place of disadvantage,” she continues, whether it’s national schemes such as the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for socio-economic disadvantage; or the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE); or the university’s own programme for mature students.

Those places are there to ensure those from all backgrounds get an opportunity to reach their education potential, tapping into hugely talented groups that once may have missed that opportunity.

“What we have seen is that when they get that opportunity, they do just as well if not better than other students,” continues Imelda.

For HEAR and DARE scheme applicants, and for those hoping to begin higher education as a mature student, next Wednesday’s CAO deadline is critically important.

But beyond the CAO applications, the Access Programme will open up in March to guide prospective students, whatever challenges they are facing, into third level.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway County Council ‘missing out on millions’ in derelict sites levies

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Photo of Cloonabinnia House

Galway County Council is missing out on millions of euro in untapped revenue due to a failure to compile a complete Derelict Sites Register.

That’s according to Galway East Sinn Féin representative, Louis O’Hara, who this week blasted the news that just three properties across the whole county are currently listed on the register.

As a result, Mr O’Hara said the Derelict Sites Levy was not being utilised effectively as countless crumbling properties remained unregistered – the levy amounts to 7% of the market value of the derelict property annually.

The former general election candidate said Galway County Council was ill-equipped to compile a proper list of derelict sites and called on Government to provide the necessary resources to tackle the scourge of dereliction across.

“There are still only three properties listed on Galway County Council’s Derelict Sites Register . . . anyone in Galway knows that this does not reflect the reality on the ground and more must be done to identify properties, and penalise owners who fail to maintain them,” said Mr O’Hara.

The situation was compounded by the fact that the Council failed to collect any of the levies due to them in 2021.

“This is deeply concerning when we know that dereliction is a blight on our communities. Derelict sites attract rats, anti-social behaviour and dumping, and are an eyesore in many of our local towns and villages.”

“The Derelict Sites Levy should be used as a tool by local authorities to raise revenue that can then be utilised to tackle dereliction, but they are not adequately resourced to identify and pursue these property owners,” said Mr O’Hara.

(Photo: The former Cloonabinnia House Hotel is on the Derelict Sites Register).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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