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Connacht Tribune

Pirates of the airwaves get their day in sun

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John Walsh who began his broadcasting career in pirate stations in Dublin during the 1980s, later went on to work as a journalist with RTÉ and was involved in setting up Teilifís na Gaeilge, now TG4. He's now a lecturer in NUIG. PHOTO: JOE O’SHAUGHNESSY

Lifestyle – Pirate radio made its first impact on Ireland in the 1970s, gaining a firm foothold in the 1980s, as it pushed boundaries in terms of content and technology. While the industry was unregulated and fiercely competitive, it nurtured new talent and helped change society and broadcasting. Former journalist John Walsh, who began his career in a pirate station, tells JUDY MURPHY about recording its rich history.

Radio – whether it’s on in the background as we’re doing housework at home or keeping us company on our walks or car journeys, it is part of our daily lives, offering us music, chat and news; local, national and international. And even with increasing competition from podcasts, radio remains hugely popular.

These days, radio in this country is well-regulated by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.  But it wasn’t always that way and in the 1980s, the radio landscape was ‘like the law of the jungle’ according to NUIG lecturer and former journalist John Walsh.

Dubliner John who began his broadcasting career as a student in the 1980s on pirate radio, has teamed up with his friend and former pirate colleague Brian Greene to capture that era via the online website, pirate.ie.

The many pirate stations that existed throughout Ireland from the 1970s onwards are now part of history, but they played a huge role in shaping our current radio environment, he says. Not to mention that they added colour and diversity to what had been a monochrome society, as they pushed boundaries technically and in terms of content.

“It would be too simplistic to say they modernised Ireland but they were part of that process,” John says.

However, because these were illegal stations, their history has never been properly archived, explains the lecturer for whom this is a personal project, separate from his job in the university.

Given John’s enthusiasm for the subject and his vast knowledge, it’s clear that creating this open and free archive on pirate.ie is a labour of love for him and for Brian who works in Phoenix Community Radio in Blanchardstown.

They set up the website two years ago to mark the 30th anniversary of the closure of pirate radio.  Legislation was introduced in 1988 to formalise independent and local radio services and regulate what “had been a jungle”, John outlines.

Several pirate stations from Galway feature in their online archive, including the short-lived community radio, Independent Radio Galway, and commercial stations such as Atlantic Sound, Coast 103 and WLS.

Listening to clips from these on the website is like travelling back in time to Ireland and Galway of the 1980s.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Meeting hears of “devastating impact” of Huntington’s on families

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Patricia Towey, Huntington's Disease Association of Ireland; Minister of State Anne Rabbitte and Chairperson Thomas Lillis at the Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe for a members meeting of HDAI. Photo: Andrew Downes, xposure.

The Minister of State for Disability at the Department of Health has acknowledged the devastating impact which Huntington’s Disease has on the entire family.

Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte met with families affected by the disease at the Huntington’s Disease Association of Ireland annual meeting in Ballinasloe.

The Minister spoke positively about her intention to ensure families affected by HD will have access to necessary services and that family carers, who often care for several family members, have assistance.

She acknowledged the vital need for HD specialist support in the community to overcome the misunderstanding and stigma associated with the disease over generations.

The Minister also confirmed her priority to fully resource at least four of the seven required community neuro-rehabilitation teams around the country.

A member of a family affected by HD in County Galway said: “It is very encouraging to have Minister Rabbitte speak at our meeting to acknowledge the huge struggles families face.

“Huntington’s Disease desperately needs more recognition, more specialist support and more awareness from healthcare professionals; policy makers; and the general public.

“As children we grew up watching our Dad help care for Mum and just a few years later he had to start over with my older brother.

“Now my sister has symptoms and it is an ongoing struggle to get her the care and support she needs. HD families can overcome the fear and stigma associated with this disease if we know there are sufficient resources to ensure health and social care professionals can understand and help,” he said.

Huntington’s Disease affects the body’s nervous system – the network of nerve tissues in the brain and spinal cord that co-ordinate your body’s activities. This leads to progressive deterioration – physically, cognitively, and mentally until the individual becomes dependent on the help of others. Symptoms include motor (movement), mental health (for example mood) and cognitive (for example learning and thinking) disturbances, which in the majority of cases appear in mid-adult life.

Approximately 1,000 people in Ireland live with symptoms of HD or with the altered gene that triggers the disease. There are more than 3,000 people nationwide who are living at risk of developing the disease and hundreds of family carers left to struggle without adequate supports.

Despite the impact on families, from one generation to the next, there is little awareness of the condition and very limited specialist services. Unlike most other European countries, Ireland has no specialist multidisciplinary services or HD specialist nurses. By comparison, Scotland, with a similar-sized population have 10 regional multidisciplinary clinics with a team of 19 HD specialists offering outreach support throughout the country.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Concerns over day care move

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St Brendan's Community Nursing Unit in Loughrea: day care services have moved to the Loughrea Hotel.

Day care services at St Brendan’s Community Nursing Unit – which have been suspended for the past 18 months – have re-opened at the Loughrea Hotel.

Services restarted on Monday following a lengthy search for a suitable premises, and expected to continue operating from the hotel for around 18 months while an existing building on the St Brendan’s campus is “repurposed” by the HSE.

However, at least one local councillor has expressed concerns that the same level of services will not be available at the hotel.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) ordered the closure of day services at St Brendan’s, so that the space could be used by permanent residents of the nursing unit for dining and activities such as cooking and baking.

Local area councillor Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher said that between the hotel and St Brendan’s hospital, a day care service will now be available on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with the capacity to serve 86 people every week.

“The service is vital to Loughrea and East Galway. Everyone was very disappointed to see the day service suspended. We all have neighbours and friends who use the service and this was a vital lifeline for them, allowing them to socialise with others, to have a lovely meal together and to have any minor medical issues dealt with.

“I’m delighted that a suitable premises has been found in Loughrea town, which has been the traditional location for the service and also offers users a chance to avail of other services in our local town. The Loughrea Hotel is the perfect location with all of the necessary services on site and is easily accessed by the service users”, the Fine Gael councillor and Cathaoirleach of Loughrea Municipal District said.

However, Independent councillor Geraldine Donohue raised concerns about the level of services that will be provided and said she had been asked by constituents how much the temporary service was going to cost.

“I believe that HIQA should have been challenged from the outset for our purpose built Seven Springs Day Care Centre to remain at St Brendan’s. As far as operating Day Care Services from the Loughrea Hotel, I have concerns that the services that the attendees enjoyed at Seven Springs will not be available at the Loughrea Hotel,” she said.

Meanwhile Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said HSE management are also planning to repurpose an existing building on the St Brendan’s campus to establish a permanent home for the day care service.

He said he had attended a site meeting recently to identify potential buildings on the campus.

“We now need to begin developing a permanent home for the service at St Brendan’s as it makes sense from so many perspectives to have the service on campus.

“At our site meeting we walked the campus and have identified a number of potential locations. The HSE’s building management team will now create a shortlist of locations and ultimately a decision on the final location will be made in consultation with staff.

“The intention is to partner with the Topping Trust, a local charity, to create a state-of-the-art day care facility at St Brendan’s to open in the shortest possible timeframe. We are all working towards that outcome and there’s a serious sense of urgency attached to the project,” said Deputy Cannon.

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Connacht Tribune

Plant closure’s sour note for Council rates income

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Rates blow for Council: the Arrabawn plant in Kilconnell.

Focus has shifted towards finding a new use for the soon-to-be disused milk bottling plant in Kilconnell – as the County Council faces a hole in its budget due to a loss of rates income.

Despite the best efforts of local councillors, TDs and industry representatives, Arrabawn’s decision to withdraw from Kilconnell appeared to be irreversible, the Ballinasloe Municipal District meeting was told.

Local representatives met with the board of Arrabawn in Nenagh in the immediate aftermath of their decision and Cllr Michael Connolly (FF) said it was his sense that “there was no going back”.

“The whole business has changed. Even previous to the energy crisis, the plant was operating at a loss.

“We have to see that the plant is put to some alternative use – maybe a cheese manufacturing plant . . . maybe a brewery,” said Cllr Connolly, adding that the company had made it clear there would not be a milk production plant in Kilconnell again.

“They did say they would look at a joint-venture, or to sell it,” he said.

Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) said she took a different view and would “never say never”, adding that she felt the company had engaged very well with local representatives.

“I wouldn’t write it off completely,” said the Cathaoirleach of the Ballinasloe MD.

“I would hope there would be a fresh imagining of the premises and that it doesn’t become a derelict site in one of our most beautiful villages,” continued Cllr Parsons.

Cllr Dermot Connolly (SF) said this month’s decision to close the plant, which followed the sale of Arrabawn’s liquid sales book to the Aurivo co-op, was “capitalism at its worst” and had come as a devastating blow to the farming and rural economy in east Galway.

“We need to ensure that the maximum number of jobs are maintained in Kilconnell and that whoever has to take redundancy gets a good redundancy payment.

“Arrabawn did say that they were looking to explore ways milk could still be brought to the plant in Kilconnell and that there might be some way of processing milk to be maintained there . . . it is vital this facility is maintained there,” said Cllr Connolly.

County Council Director of Services, Liam Hanrahan, said the loss of commercial rates for the plant, the loss of employment and the future use of the buildings in Kilconnell were all high on the Council’s agenda.

“The loss of rates is a concern. We have expressed our concern on the loss of our rates base to the Department [of Local Government].

“We don’t want to see a large industrial plant left vacant in a small town like Kilconnell. It doesn’t take long for a building to become derelict,” said Mr Hanrahan.

“The County Council will be more than happy to sit down with anyone who takes an interest in that – the last thing we want to see is a building become derelict and become a drain on everyone’s resources,” he continued.

Cllr Timmy Broderick (Ind) said the looming energy crisis could see a repeat of this scenario in towns across the county.

“Arrabawn could pale in significance to the challenge coming down the road.

“We need to ensure we stand behind eery industry facing this in the not-too-distant future. There is a train crash coming down the line,” he said of the increased cost of running a business.

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