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SAC designation creates Connemara no-go area



There is a real danger that nobody will build a new house in Connemara again after another 2,300 acres in the region was designated a Special Area of Conservation.

This means that these lands cannot be touched from a development point of view – underlining claims that Connemara will become “a no go area” for those who want to live there.

The designation has also impacted negatively on the much needed upgrade of the road from Maam Cross to Clifden which locals say is having an adverse impact on tourism in the region.

Oughterard’s Cllr Tom Welby says that more than 70% of Connemara is designated a Special Area of Conservation meaning that there are no developments allowed.

“Earlier this month Galway County Council were informed that 14 sites in Connemara had been designated as Special Areas of Conservation. Once they are identified, they cannot be touched.

“They have the full protection of an SAC. It limits a huge amount of things that the owners can do with it. But the added problem is than any lands within twelve or fifteen kilometres of an SAC are also impacted,” Cllr Welby explained.

Concerns were also expressed at a public meeting in Maam Cross last week about risks that could arise from short term measures to improve the N59 road from Oughterard to Maam Cross.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív said an overlay or surface job would lead to increased speeds on a road that is too narrow as it is.

Deputy Noel Grealish was among those who feared that the National Parks and Wildlife Service were totally against the present upgrading plan.

Around 600 people have signed a petition calling on An Bord Pleanala to grant permission for a full upgrade of the road.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service came in for stinging criticism at the public meeting about the N59 organised by Sinn Fein in Maam Cross. Even with planning permission, the Oughterard to Maam Cross upgrade plan is stalled for over two years because the Wildlife Service does not agree with the work methods proposed.

Meanwhile, Cllr Welby said that areas in Cong, Claddaghduff, Renvyle and Carna were impacted by the new designations which means that these lands cannot be built upon. The owners cannot plant a tree or open a drain without permission, he added.

“There are around 20 or 30 restrictions and the land owners have to go before the Minister for the Environment before they can touch their own lands”, Cllr Welby added.

He also referred to the fact that 260 acres of land in Kiltartan in South Galway had also been designated a Special Area of Conservation simply because it flooded last winter.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service designates lands under the European Union’s Habitats Directive in a bid to protect natural habitats, plants and wildlife. Cllr Welby argues that land designations have recently led to the refusal of the important N59 upgrade scheme – and government intervention is needed.

Connacht Tribune

Nurses call in Chief Fire Officer on ED overcrowding



UHG's Emergency Department.

The nurses’ union has formally urged the Chief Fire Officer to investigate 17 alleged breaches of the fire regulations as a result of chronic overcrowding in the emergency department at University Hospital Galway.

It’s the second time the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has done so since Christmas, fearing the lives of staff and patients are being put in grave danger.

The emergency department was busier than normal last week, with between 222 and 251 patients turning up to be seen per day. On Wednesday of last week there were 53 patients waiting on trolleys, according to figures released by the Saolta Hospital group. That went down to 47 on Thursday and Friday.

This week has seen little let up. On Monday and Tuesday the number of people who could only get a trolley was down to 36 and 38 respectively.

Local area representative of the INMO, Anne Burke, said as a result of very high attendances at the temporary emergency department, management had opened a transit area where between 12 and 14 people could be accommodated in cubicles.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Comer has eyes on the prize



Damien Comer undergoing an eye test at Specsavers; the Galway star is encouraging all to look after their eyesight and hearing.

If you Google Damien Comer, the first entry the search returns is a dedicated Wikipedia page, which declares: “He’s better than David Clifford”.

And while Wikipedia as a source of fact isn’t necessarily always reliable, who are we to argue with it?

But whatever about comparisons with Kerry greats, the Annaghdown clubman is certainly up there among Galway’s finest ever footballers.

Winning a first All-Star last season, from his third nomination, was proof of that. It was a special personal accolade, but he’d trade it in a shot for a Celtic Cross.

“It was nice to get but if I finish my career not having won an All-Ireland, I’ll be very disappointed,” he declared.

Comer hints that the 2022 All-Ireland final loss to Kerry last July was not one of his better games in maroon, and it’s one he thinks about regularly.

“Yeah, I would yeah, I’d think about it a bit. But I try to forget it as well, because it wasn’t a good day for me, personally, anyway.

“You try to forget about it and yet you have to try to learn from it and improve on the mistakes you made, and stuff you didn’t do that you should’ve done, and different things that you can bring to this season.

“It’s one that’s hard to forget about really because we were there for so long. Sixty minutes in, neck-and-neck, and then they just pulled away, so it was disappointing,” he said.

Damien Comer has teamed up with Specsavers to encourage people to take a more proactive approach to their eye and hearing health. There’s a full interview with him ahead of Sunday’s National Football League Final, is in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway publican reflects on traumatic journey that ended with his abuser in jail



Paul Grealish. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Galway businessman Paul Grealish remembers the moment back in 2000 when he was given a sheet of paper and asked to write about his life. He was on weekend-long self-development course that he’d been sent on by his brother John. At the time, John was managing director of their family business for which Paul and their sister, Joan, also worked.

“The course was probably done in an attempt to make it easier to manage me,” says Paul with a laugh, adding that he “was tough to manage” back then.

He was enjoying the course – until he received that blank sheet.

“I got about four or five sentences in, writing about my early life. Until I got to the primary school part . . . I was in tears,” he remembers. “I was so used to compartmentalising things, I didn’t see the danger.”

In the early 1970s, aged nine and ten years, Paul had been beaten and sexually abused by his teacher, Brother Thomas Caulfield, at Tuam CBS primary school.

He had repressed those memories for nearly three decades.

“You bury the memory, and you bury it as deep as you can. There’s an awareness of something terrible there but it’s too frightening for you to actively remember.”

Paul was so terrified of those memories that he’d lost all recollection of his childhood. He couldn’t tell his story.

He was meant to show it to one of the course leaders – a counsellor, he thinks. Instead, Paul put the nearly-blank sheet before the man and explained what had happened.

Realising Paul’s plight, that man gave him a list of phone numbers for counsellors in Galway.

“Every now and again, I’d look at it and think about ringing them but I didn’t,” Paul says.

However, the abuse that had robbed Paul of his childhood and blighted his adulthood with feelings of guilt and self-hatred refused to stay buried. Finally, he knew he had to deal with it. That journey began in the early 2000s and Paul finally got closure earlier this month when Caulfield was sentenced to 27 months in prison – with the final seven suspended – for his crime.

Read Paul’s full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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