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Connacht Tribune

Political highs and lows of a rollercoaster year

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Dr Mike Ryan...one of the faces of 2020.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

This strangest of years has resulted in some very unusual moments and events in politics, and as we head to its conclusion, here – in no particular order – is my list of highlights.

(Big) Political Party of the Year: Sinn Féin. Like all parties it has had an uneven year. It’s found itself in more than one spot of bother (more of that later). But it surpassed everybody’s expectations in the general election including its own. The only reason it wasn’t the biggest party is that it didn’t run enough candidates. And if it had any inkling it would have won so big, it definitely would have chosen different candidates in a number of constituencies.

(Small) Political Party of the Year: The Social Democrats. Another party that defied expectations. Before February it had only two TDs, Roisin Shortall and Catherine Murphy, and both of them were co-leaders. Of all the parties who might gain from the referendum campaign on the 8th amendment, the Social Democrats were the best suited. And so it turned out – the party trebled its number from two to six with four excellent new TDs in Jennifer Whitmore, Holly Cairns, Cian O’Callaghan and Gary Gannon.

Top Scientist: Dr Mike Ryan of the World Health Organisation. Mike is from Curry Co Sligo and studied medicine at NUIG, around the same time as myself. He has spent most of his career at the WHO, often on the frontline – he made numerous trips to Africa to respond to deadly Ebola outbreaks. His comment at the beginning of the year that “speed trumps perfection” has become the phrase that has defined the coronavirus. He has been a rock of common sense and of non-dramatic advice.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Shannon back in full flight!

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Turlough O'Neill, Ryanair Base Captain at Shannon; Shannon Group CEO Mary Considine, and First Officer Virginie Blazin, pictured at Shannon Airport at the announcement of new services to Corfu and Gran Canaria.

There was a festive atmosphere at Shannon Airport this week as the inaugural Ryanair Corfu service prepared to take flight – ahead of another new service to Gran Canaria, which begins this week.

The new route to the popular Greek Island will operate twice weekly on Tuesdays and Fridays until the end of October, and the new weekly Ryanair service to Gran Canaria (Las Palmas) begins this Saturday.

All of this means that Shannon Airport is now serving Alicante, Barcelona, Stansted, Gatwick, Kaunas, Krakow, Wroclaw, Warsaw, Manchester, Corfu, Faro, Lanzarote, Malaga, Palma, Tenerife, Gran Canaria (Las Palmas) and Turin.

Passengers on the first Corfu-bound flight enjoyed a pre-departure reception in the airport’s transit lounge which was decorated in festive style.

To celebrate the new routes, the airport gave one lucky passenger a special surprise, return flight tickets for two people to a choice of one of Shannon Airport’s 17 exciting destinations.

A special water cannon salute by the airport’s fire service added an extra sense of occasion as airport staff welcomed passengers and looked after them throughout their time in the airport.

Welcoming the new air services Mary Considine, CEO, Shannon Group, which owns and manages Shannon Airport said: “The global pandemic has had a huge impact on all our lives and being able to once again welcome our passengers as they take to the skies bound for sun drenched holiday destinations is really wonderful.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Pixies slot proves time is now for the Clockworks

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The Clockworks...supporting Pixies on September tour.

Groove Tube with Cian O’Connell

When Pixies were announced as Galway International Arts Festival headliners way back in 2019, a promising Loughrea four-piece were fresh from relocating to London and bullishly embracing their role as the new faces of former Oasis manager Alan McGee’s Creation 23 record label.

Two years on, the US alt-rock pioneers are yet to grace the Big Top – but the Clockworks, made up of James McGregor, Tom Freeman, Seán Connolly and Damian Greaney, are set to make a US debut in their company with a series of support slots that cement their place as one of Galway’s biggest artistic exports.

In less than six weeks’ time, Pixies will embark on a September tour of the states with the Clockworks by their side for six gigs. The Galway group play their own maiden headline US show in New York’s Mercury Loung on September 8.

On their horizon too, is an end-of-year Irish tour with Dublin indie-rock outfit Inhaler as well as a host of festival appearances, barring cancellations.

With news of the Pixies tour coming in the same week NewDad were announced as support for Fontaines D.C.’s highly anticipated Belfast show on August 13, it is powerful evidence of the ground Galway acts continue to break.

“It’s very exciting to have loads of gigs lined up after absolutely nothing for so long,” James admits.

“It’s really nice to feel like we’re going to hit the ground running and when Pixies came through, that was just amazing and what a way to start. It’s our first time gigging in America – my first time going there personally.

“All four of us are massive fans of Pixies too. Any time they’d come to Ireland, we’d always try and throw our hat in the ring for a support slot and just to think that now we’ll be going around the States with them is insane.”

Read the full interview in this week’s Groove Tube, in the Connacht Tribune – on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital version from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

All out in force to cheer home one of their own

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Fiona Murtagh…back home with her Olympic medal on Sunday. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Sitting on an airplane, mid-air from Japan en route to Dublin, Olympic bronze medallist from Moycullen, Fiona Murtagh was unsure whether anyone would be at the airport to meet her and teammates Aifric Keogh of Na Forbacha, Eimear Lambe and Emily Hegarty when they touched down.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, there was no big welcoming party planned for Dublin Airport. But Fiona need not have worried; as she strode out of airport security and into Arrivals, all her family were there to hug her.

Fiona hadn’t seen her parents Marguerite and Noel since April because of a pre-Olympic training camp in Italy; and her siblings Pádraig, Lorraine and twin Alan all turned up, too.

“Oh my God, I couldn’t believe it. It was actually really emotional, it was so lovely. I didn’t expect the full family to be there. Tears came to my eyes. I hadn’t seen mom and my dad in seven weeks,” said Fiona.

That was just the first leg of what was to be a heart-warming homecoming for a hero.

The family drove back to Galway with Fiona, who had heard “through the grapevine that there was going to be something in Bushypark”.

“But the scale of it, I didn’t expect it at all, it was incredible, it was so lovely to see everyone come out and support and see me”, she said.

Read the full story over eleven pages of coverage on the homecoming of our Olympic heroes in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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