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Poitín makers Micil distil the first Galway whiskey in over 100 years



Expansion: Micil’s Jimín and Pádraic Ó Griallais at the distillery in the Oslo Bar, Salthill.

Two Galway brothers are setting up Galway’s first Irish whiskey in over a century – six generations and almost two centuries on from their great-great-great grandfather distilling poitín on a hillside in South Connemara.
Micil Distillery’s Pádraic and Jimín Ó Griallais are following a family tradition going back over 170 years – in the footsteps of Micil Mac Chearra – with the announcement that, while their own whiskey matures, they will release two initial independently bottled Irish whiskeys this summer.
It’s a major expansion for Micil, already renowned for their poitín and gin, which will also create new jobs within their team in Galway.
“I founded Micil Distillery in 2016 in honour of my great, great, great grandfather Micil, with the dream of being the first in my family to distil legally,” said Pádraic.
“The success of Micil Irish Poitín, Micil Heritage Peated Poitín, and the multi-award-winning Micil Irish Gin has enabled us to move into the next phase of our growth plan and begin laying down Irish whiskey.
“In January 2021 we filled our first casks with the new make spirit which will be Galway’s first Irish whiskey in over a century.
“Our family has over 170 years of craft distillation knowhow, the longest continuous family distillation heritage in Ireland, and it brings us tremendous pride to be building on this legacy by bringing Irish whiskey back to Galway,” he added.
They believe that their production capacity is perhaps the smallest of any whiskey distillery in Ireland.
“With our small single copper pot still, we can only produce a maximum of one standard 200 litre cask per week, compared with the approximately 30 casks per week produced by some of the better known ‘small’ Irish distilleries and the thousands of casks a week produced by the likes of Jameson and Bushmills,” said Pádraic.
“Our production methods are painstakingly slow, and we do everything by hand with no automation. Our focus is purely on distilling spirits of exceptional flavour and quality, not on yields or profit margins,” he added.
Their first runs have been peated single malts, using 100% Irish barley, malted using Connemara turf from their own family farm in Inverin.
And while their own Galway whiskey matures for the legal minimum of three years, Micil plan to release two independently bottled Irish whiskeys this summer.
“In an industry with its fair share of smoke and mirrors, it was imperative to us that we were distilling our own Irish whiskey here in Galway before releasing a product that we haven’t distilled ourselves, though we’re obviously finishing it in our own casks,” said head distiller Jimín.
“Three years is a long wait, and in the meantime we wanted to give people a small taste of what’s to come. The important thing is to be transparent about things like this, and that’s where we’ve seen other spirits companies fall short. It means a lot to us, we’re first and foremost distillers after all. It’s in our DNA,” he added.
Their product expansion will also see an increase in staff numbers, according to Pádraic.
“To date it’s been a core of just myself, my brother Jimín and my co-founder Ross, and it’s been hard going for us at times with lots of long days and sleepless nights, in an industry dominated by huge multinationals with limitless funds,” he said.
“But we recently hired Mark McLaughlin, one of Irish whiskey’s leading brand specialists, and are currently in the process of recruiting a global sales manager for the business as well. These new additions to our team will provide valuable skills and experience as we grow, and further our ability to achieve our goals,” he added.


School reports better atmosphere and reduced stress due to pilot project



Celebrating one year of the School Streets project in Scoil Iognáid were, back: Community Engagement Garda Claire Burke; Patrick Greene, Director of Services, Galway City Council Mayor of Galway City, Councillor Colette Connolly; Hildegarde Naughton, TD, Minister of State, Department of Transport; and City Council Community Warden, Barry Cummins. Front: Diarmuid Mac Giollarnaith, Matthew Mac Uidhir, Caoimhe Drea, Ellen Ní Olláin and Lola Mae Nic Cormaic from 6th class. Photos:Andrew Downes, Xposure.

Daily car use at Scoil Iognáid has reduced by 14% in the past year since Galway City Council introduced a School Streets pilot project to the area.

More children are walking (+11%), scooting (+3%) and cycling (+7%) on a daily basis, according to a report published by Galway City Council.

Staff reported that children were arriving to school more ready to learn, with an improved atmosphere and reduced stress at the school gate. Parents and the wider community reported a better walking and cycling environment, improved access and community spirit.

A ‘School Street’ is a road outside a school with a temporary restriction on motorised traffic at school drop-off and pick-up times – creating a safer, calmer space for children, parents and residents to walk, scoot or cycle. The pilot project in Scoil Iognáid was formally launched in November, 2020, with hundreds of families joining to create the first city-centre School Streets project in Ireland.

As part of the pilot project, Palmyra Row, Palmyra Avenue and Raleigh Row were pedestrianised from November 30 during the school pick-up and drop-off times during the school term. Residents retain access to their homes during these times, as do cyclists or ‘blue badge’ holders, accessing the school.

The project is funded by the National Transport Authority and delivered with the support of the Green-Schools Travel programme, An Garda Siochána, and the wider school community.

Galway West TD and Minister of State in the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton TD described the City Council report as “incredibly encouraging”.

She said the findings would provide information on how to boost increased levels of children taking a healthier and greener mode of transport to and from school.

“Crucially, the report and findings published by Galway City Council acts as a step-by-step blueprint for local authorities nationwide to replicate these results in their own counties,” Deputy Naughton stated.

“Earlier this year I launched a new programme, Safe Routes to School, which is investing in safe walking, cycling and scooting infrastructure on the lead-up to and entrances of our schools. The programme aims to deliver and is delivering, results just like those we can see from this School Streets pilot.”

Director of Services at Galway City Council Patrick Greene said there was reason to celebrate as the School Streets pilot turned one.

“The National Transport Authority identifies the front of school as the place where children congregate in the greatest numbers and where they are most vulnerable to indiscriminate parking practices, hazardous crossing conditions and air quality issues from idling cars.

“The School Streets pilot at Scoil Iognáid has created a space where children as young as four and five are scooting and cycling with their older classmates, as they arrive into school. “Galway City Council is now looking to progress ‘Safe Routes to School’ and ‘School Zones’ at more schools in the city – these designs will create a safer front-of-school environment for children and if any opportunities arise to deliver School Streets or ‘traffic-free’ streets. Galway City Council welcomes the opportunity to explore this with the school community,” he added.

The full report from the public consultation on April/ May 2021, and further information on the School Streets project can be found at

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Tommy confident that relic from 1914 shipwreck is in sight



Tommy Holohan at the remains of the Nordlyset, a 1,600 ton steel barque carrying a cargo of deal which was wrecked off Mutton island in November 1914. PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.


When Claddagh native Tommy Holohan was growing up on Galway Bay, he remembered how neighbours used to have contests to swim out to the wreck of a ship off Mutton island.

Now he believes he may have located the anchor of the same ship, named Nordlyset, in the sands off Nimmo’s pier.

“We’re not sure, but the anchor chain is here and close to part of the keel, so there’s every reason to think the actual anchor is a couple of foot below, “Holohan says.

“If it can be located, and then raised, it should be exhibited as a key part of Galway’s maritime history,” he feels.

The Nordlyset, or Northern lights, was a three-masted 1,600-ton steel sailing barque which was built in Greenock, Scotland, in 1891.

It was carrying a cargo of timber deal from Rimouski, Canada, into Galway when it hit rocks off Mutton island in November 1914.

No members of the crew perished, but much of its cargo was either washed ashore or was salvaged, Holohan says.

“They got her off the rocks and towed her in, and the hull was sitting upright and we could see it for several years” he explains.

“The Claddagh men had contests to swim out to her,” he recalls.

“Then Hammond Lane Metal Company was sent to take what was of value from it and stripped it down,” Holohan says.

“It was a beautiful ship, and a ship that sailed the oceans. It was fitted with the most modern technology they had at the time.

“Galway had been setting its sights on becoming a major transatlantic port and, of course it was one of several ships to run aground in the Bay – but perhaps one of the better-remembered by people who are still alive,” Holohan says.

“All that was left after Hammond Lane finished was the keel, and we think the anchor has to be here. “I think if the proper buoys were used,  it might help to lift the keel and that would point to the anchor,” he believes.

The wreck was also close to South Park, known as the ‘Swamp;, which was the Galway dump until the late 1950s, he points out.

“When we were growing up on the Claddagh, we had no toys, so we would be back looking for toys in the dump, or food. When my mother was young, she and her sisters were sent down to the dump for cinders for the fire,” he says.

Holohan is a grandson of Nan Toole, who was known for her medicinal cures in the Claddagh. She delivered him as a home birth in 1951 and died a year later in 1952.

A keen athlete, Holohan holds the world record for the number of times an Irish person has run the New York marathon consecutively, and has also run marathons in Dublin, Boston, Edinburgh and the Mojave desert.

He is a founder member of the Anti-Austerity Alliance and stood for the alliance in the local elections in 2014, and in the 2016 general election. Apart from politics and running, he also maintains a keen interest in local history.

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Publicans in antigen plea to Government



Johnny Duggan of the Vintners Association: Antigen tests could help minimise restrictions at times when Covid is circulating widely.

Galway publicans are pleading with Government to pilot an antigen test scheme in the city in January – a move that could rescue the local hospitality sector.

Galway City Vintners have proposed the introduction of a pilot scheme in city centre pubs in January, which if successful, could allow the sector to re-open with minimum restrictions, even when the Covid-19 is rampant.

Government Ministers and the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) are divided on the efficacy of antigen tests, which give rapid results that are less reliable than PCR tests.

But publicans believe asking customers to produce a negative antigen test result – as well as their Covid-19 certificates – to get served in pubs, this could help save the hospitality sector by reducing the need for social distancing inside venues.

They don’t believe it would be necessary all-year-round, but could be useful in keeping hospitality open with minimum restrictions during weeks when Covid is circulating widely in the community.

They said it would allow the safe return of drinking at bar counters, dancing in venues, and extended opening hours. Currently pubs, even late bars, must close at 11.3pm instead of 2.30am.

Galway City Vintners expect Covid will continue in waves and this proposal is an attempt to be proactive to keep their businesses, the sector – and socialising in pubs – afloat, according to spokesman Johnny Duggan.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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