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Connacht Tribune

Post-Covid normality will have a very different feel

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin announcing the easing of restrictions.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

No sooner does one crisis come to an end in politics, but – before you can draw breath or pat yourself on the back – a new one is coming down the track. On the upside, we’re reaching the end of the lockdown. Last weekend’s good weather gave us a small preview of the kind of summer we will have, once the shackles of all the restrictions have been thrown away.

A weight will be lifted off our shoulders; problem is that somebody somewhere will come up with a brand new weights.

It reminds me of a joke from the great American comedian Jerry Seinfeld. He talked about going on a family holiday and the hassle and stress of packing the car with luggage, holiday paraphernalia and rowdy kids, and the prospect of a long hot drive in August bank holiday traffic.

This was his pay off line. “So you finally get the last item into your trunk (boot) and close it. You know the walk between the trunk and the driver’s door? You might not realise it but that in fact is your holiday.”

The point of all that is that the transition back to normality is not going to be a seamless affair. The first question is – what is normal going to look like?

For sure, it’s not going to be like the status quo ante. Sure, reopening is happening at a scale and a pace that nobody anticipated. Hotels and guesthouses are already open. By next Monday we will have outdoor hospitality and the return of many amenities including cinemas

By July there will be outdoor gigs, hundreds of spectators at sporting events, indoor dining and drinking, and even the return of international travel.

I was surprised that the normally conservative National Public Health Emergency Team agreed to the changes. When I spoke to a Minister last week, I asked what kind of resistance NPHET had put up to the proposed reopening. I was not expecting the response.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Wave goodbye to City Bypass as long as Greens are in Government

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An artist's impression of proposed Galway Ring Road.

PEOPLE in the West of Ireland should not be ‘fooled’ into thinking that vital infrastructure projects like the Galway City Bypass will get the go-ahead while Eamon Ryan remains in charge of Environment, a former Fianna Fail Minister and West Galway TD has warned this week.

That’s despite Tánaiste Leo Varadkar re-iterating on Galway Bay FM this week that the funding for the project has already been allocated – although he admitted that planning was the final hurdle.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív told the Connacht Tribune that the proposed bypass of Galway city, which has a Bord Pleanála decision due by November 19 next, would end up being choked under the headings of ‘carbon proofing and carbon rating’.

“Make no mistake about it but the word on the ground that’s filtering through to local Green Party representatives is that this project will not go ahead, and will be stopped because of carbon-proofing regulations.

“This is no red herring – over the years, I’ve seen so many road projects in Connemara that were given the go-ahead in principle but have never happened because of so-called processes and procedures,” said Éamon Ó Cuív.

However, he pledged that the six Fianna Fáil representatives across Connacht, would fight ‘tooth and nail’ not to see the West ‘left behind’ with roads projects that were vital for the future of the province.

“We will be meeting directly with Taoiseach, Micheál Martin on Wednesday next [October 20] to stress the importance of a number of roads projects across the West of Ireland, including the Galway City Bypass.

“And I would also stress that we are committed fully to environmental and carbon reduction measures, but the way to do this is not by preventing people in the West of Ireland from using their cars – the cars aren’t the problem – it’s the fuel that’s used to power them,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

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

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Connacht Tribune

Connemara coffee couple are now well grounded!

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Aoife Geary and James Elcock on their opening day, with their first customers - and landlords - Roundstone natives Michael John and Catherine Ferrons, sitting outside.

Aoife Geary always felt like one of the locals in Carna. Even though her parents were living in Galway City, she was largely raised by her granny and grandad Barbara and Coleman Geary. Her first job as a 13-year-old was in the local shop in the Connemara village.

“I know it sounds a bit romantic, but I felt like I was raised by the community, not just in the community. I knew everybody in the shop and everybody knew me,” she reflects.

So, when London was about to go into the first lockdown in March 2020, she and husband James Elcock made a split decision to hop on a flight to Galway armed with two carry-on suitcases.

“Granny was terminally ill with cancer, and I wanted to help out with her care and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to travel. Little did we think we weren’t going to leave.”

Aoife was the live entertainment manager for billionaire Richard Branson’s private members club called Roof Gardens in Kensington while James, a native of Shropshire, was running a restaurant in the bank area of London. She had lived in London since 2013, her husband four years longer.

When he was made redundant, he bought himself a vintage sewing machine in Castlebar and taught himself to use it in an afternoon, setting up his first Irish business making and selling cotton face masks.

They then realised that a takeaway unit in Roundstone had become free, which was overlooking the picturesque pier and with views of the Twelve Bens. They opened My Coffee Cottage in mid-August and business was brisk from the get-go.

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

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Connacht Tribune

Budget’s grant break for college commuters

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NUI Galway.

Grants for some third level students living in certain parts of County Galway, who attend college in the city, could more than double as a result of changes in Budget 2022.

Undergraduates and students on post leaving cert courses living in areas such as Tuam, Loughrea and An Cheathrú Rua will all benefit from an adjustment to the eligibility to the non-adjacent rate for maintenance grants.  Some could get a grant boost of €1,800 next year due to the changes announced in the Budget.

People eligible for a maintenance grant are paid at either a non-adjacent rate or an adjacent rate – determined by measuring the distance of the shortest direct route from your normal residence to college.

Currently, the adjacent rate – which is lower – is paid when your college is 45km or less from where you live. The higher non-adjacent rate is paid when the college is more than 45km away from an eligible student’s home. The non-adjacent rate has been adjusted in Budget 2022 to include 30km to 45km.

This means that eligibility for the non-adjacent rate has been widened, and many students who were previously on the adjacent rate may now be eligible for a higher non-adjacent rate. It means that third level students living in Tuam, Loughrea and An Cheathrú could be eligible for the higher non-adjacent rate next September.

Get the full details on this and the impact of Budget 2022 in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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