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Connacht Tribune

Shedding light on dark days

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Kieran Tuohy doesn’t really know why he was compelled to create a body of work that draws on and explores one of the darkest events in Irish history – the Great Famine. A psychic friend told him that it was possibly because he lived through it, but “I don’t believe in that kind of stuff”, he says firmly.
Yet, when he guides you through his beautiful, exquisitely detailed bog-oak sculptures currently being exhibited in the Irish Workhouse Centre in Portumna, it’s clear he feels an extraordinary connection with that time.
During the interview, he mentions that his great-grandmother and grandmother, then aged nine, had been inmates here later in the 19th century so the link is strong, although his grandmother, whom he remembers, never spoke of it.
Twenty–three pieces are listed in the catalogue for the show, Dark Shadows, but given that one of these – Line for the Soup – consists of 10 life-size figures of all ages and a giant cauldron, with skeletal arms reaching up the sides to the top and blighted potatoes at the base, there are nearly 40 works on show.
However, while the number of pieces is impressive, it’s the detail of the sculptures and the stories behind each one that makes Dark Shadows special.
This is a temporary exhibition at the Workhouse Centre – its run has already been extended and it will continue until late September as part of the annual Shorelines Arts Festival.
The guides at the Centre feels it’s a special addition and the perfect conclusion for tours of this place that opened in 1852 to house the poorest of the poor around the Portumna area.
The guides bring visitors through the building – to the dormitories, the laundry-rooms, the schoolrooms – explaining how husbands and wives, parents and children were separated on admission and outlining the rigid regime under which they lived. But seeing Kieran’s life-like figures or looking at a sculpture entitled Alexis Soyer’s Six-Minute Soup and reading the story behind it, gives visitors a different and profound engagement with the Great Famine.
Kieran lives in Kilcolgan, but if he happens to be in the Portumna building when people visit, he’s happy to talk to them about the work.
That’s what happens as our interview draws to a close and a Dublin couple on a tour of the Centre come into the exhibition room.
As they leave, 10 minutes later, they’re blown away by Dark Shadows and by his devotion to the topic.
When Kieran isn’t there, information is on hand about each piece in the show, because there’s a story behind all of them. All are inspired by real events and by stories that move him.
One such example is When. It’s about a mother who is trying to save her children from death by starvation. But, by engaging in an epic battle with death, she faces her own demise.
“It’s when you go a bit too deep with thoughts, thinking about your own children,” says this softly-spoken man who has a grown-up son and daughter, about the inspiration behind When.
The sculpture shows the mother reaching down to save her children from the arms of death, which is depicted by potato ridges and rotten Lumper potatoes with death faces on them.
“It’s about the mother’s choice,” he explains. “How do you abandon your children?”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Thousands on waiting list for student accommodation in Galway

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The student housing crisis is ‘the worst it’s ever been’ – with thousands on waiting lists for rooms; hundreds relying on hostels and friends’ sofas; and countless more facing deferral or dropping out altogether.

The President of NUI Galway’s Students’ Union, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, told the Connacht Tribune that students had been left in a desperate situation, as she called for mass protests to have the issue addressed.

According to Ms Nic Lochlainn, 3,000 students were currently on the waiting lists for NUIG’s on-campus accommodation – Corrib Village and Goldcrest Village – with around 500 in line for any bed that might come up in the Westwood.

“Gort na Coiribe and Dunaras have told us their waiting lists are well into the hundreds too. I’ve only got to contact two of the hostels around town, but Kinlay and Snoozles have almost 200 students between them already – and they’re expecting more.

“The first years haven’t even arrived yet, and on top of all that, you have people in B&Bs and staying on their friends’ sofas,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn.

Pressure on the student rental market had been building for years, she said, but it had gone off the cliff edge this year as a perfect storm was created by increased student numbers and reduced bed availability.

“[Minister for Further and Higher Education] Simon Harris created new places on courses this year and talked about maximum access to education . . . I’m not sure how that works for students who are homeless.

“Because there weren’t many students around last year, some private landlords might have moved on. There was no new purpose-built accommodation delivered, and then Simon Harris creates new places with no new beds,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn of the causes of this year’s problems.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Government asked to “do everything” to ensure Intel chooses Oranmore as base

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The Taoiseach and Tánaiste will be asked to do “everything in their power” to ensure technology giant Intel selects Oranmore as the location for its new microchip manufacturing plant – which could create 10,000 jobs and transform the West of Ireland economy.

The 540-acre site is owned by the Defence Forces and was selected by IDA Ireland as the preferred site for the company’s new EU ‘chip’ base.

BY STEPHEN CORRIGAN
AND DARA BRADLEY

Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany and Intel confirmed to Taoiseach Micheál Martin that the site is under consideration.

Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said the development would be “transformative” and would be Intel’s largest microchip manufacturing plant in the world.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week, councillors backed a proposal from Cllr Liam Carroll to write to Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar to urge them to push forward the plan.

“This would be a game-changer, not just for Oranmore but for the whole of Connacht. Imagine 10,000 directly employed at some stage in the future, and the spinoff from that,” he said.

The Oranmore site is reported to have been selected ahead of three other locations in Ireland.

It is on Intel’s short-list for the proposed project, which would involve building eight factory modules on a single campus at the site off the M6 motorway, northeast of Oranmore, the newspaper reported.

The American multinational tech company has whittled down its short-list to 10 finalists; Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that if it proceeds, the new Oranmore ‘mega-fab’ would dwarf Intel’s existing site in Leixlip, which employs almost 5,000.

Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon (FG) said: “It would put Galway on the map internationally as a place for high-tech investment and it would serve to rebalance the economic imbalance that exists in our country where all of the weight is on the east coast.

“The IDA has a formula where every one new job created in that industry creates about eight or nine more jobs downstream in terms of the supply chain and services. They’re saying 10,000 jobs on site – twice the population of Athenry – on one campus and then another 80-90,000 jobs off site. The figures are phenomenal, mind boggling,” said Deputy Cannon.

The demand for the facility arose during Covid-19 when the supply chain between Asia and Europe broke down.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Fraudsters ‘spoof’ Galway Garda Station’s phone number

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Fraudsters replicated the phone number of Galway Garda Station and used it to call a local woman to demand money.

Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that the number ‘091 538000’ was somehow used by criminals who attempted to extract money – in the form of the online currency Bitcoin – from the victim.   Despite the phone call appearing to come from the Garda station at Mill Street, the woman became suspicious and reported it to Gardaí.

Sgt Walsh said it was the latest in a series of ‘spoofing’ phone calls to have occurred this year.

Spoofing is where fraudsters change the caller ID to ring unsuspecting members of the public to try to extract money or personal information off them.

He said that the number of spoofing incidents reported to Galway Gardaí has more than doubled in the past year.

“It is top of my agenda,” he said.

He pointed out that criminals can obtain a ‘ready to go’ phone and SIM card, relatively cheaply, and it was “very difficult” for Gardaí to trace the caller.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more details on fraud figures in Galway, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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