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Connacht Tribune

Stability fund saves Mna Tí after summer schools bite the dust

Stephen Corrigan

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Coláiste Lurgan in Indreabhán: one of the Irish colleges in Galway.

The Government has announced plans to bolster the income of the Irish summer colleges sector – unveiling a €4.7 million stability fund following the cancellation of this year’ courses due to Covid-19.

Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands Seán Kyne said the fund would provide a lifeline to over a dozen coláistí samhraidh in Galway, and the mná tí who provide care for visiting students in the Connemara Gaeltacht.

Under the scheme, €3.1 million has been allocated to colleges to enable them to refund parents who had deposits paid, while €1.6 million will be ring-fenced to offset the loss of income of host families.

Gaeltacht residents had expressed fear that one of their only sources of income would be cut off following the cancellation of courses – compounded by the fact that the April 20 cancellation was not accompanied by an announcement of financial support for those adversely affected.

However, Senator Kyne said the scheme had to get the approval of the Department of An Taoiseach and of Public Expenditure and Reform – with the almost €5 million scheme to be funded from within the Department’s existing budget.

“There was funding there in the Department’s Community and Language Supports Programme, but we had to get permission from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to repurpose that funding.

“There are obviously huge demands on budgets at the moment so I had to get permission before that money could be spent,” explained the former TD for Galway West.

This funding would be crucial, he said, to allow colleges to begin planning for 2021 courses and to ensure the sustainability of the sector which is worth in the region of €50 million to mostly rural Gaeltacht areas.

“It’s a very important sector and what’s most important at the moment is to prepare for 2021. Part of that task is to ensure that we leave the coláistí samhraidh viable for 2021 and that the mná tí would be willing to participate in 2021.

“The major challenge is getting through this year, but ensuring that we have it set-up for 2021, by providing stability for the sector. It’s also important that we provide this stimulus to the local economy,” said Senator Kyne.

While the funding announced was only a small portion of what would normally be generated by over 26,000 students travelling to the Gaeltacht each summer, it would go some way in ensuring that there was money circulating in these areas.

“Obviously, we won’t have the bonanza we normally have with parents coming from Dublin and elsewhere of a Sunday to see their child in the coláistí samhraidh – that won’t be there this year – but there will be some funding for the mná tí to ensure the viability of the sector through 2021 and beyond.

“The summer colleges, from autumn, will be taking bookings again and working on next year’s bookings, preparing brochures and so on. It’s very important that they are able to move ahead and plan for that,” said Senator Kyne.

Meanwhile, Conradh na Gaeilge has welcomed the announcement, with Uachtarán Dr Niall Comer stating that summer colleges were crucial to the survival of Gaeltacht communities.

“The Gaeltacht summer colleges have and will always be an essential part of the very fabric of the Gaeltacht communities and if the Gaeltacht areas are to survive, those colleges must be identified as a central component of their future.

“All of us in the Irish speaking community and further afield have a duty to stand strong for local Gaeltacht communities who have, for decades, provided a haven for the language and its learners. We welcome this decision to support the Gaeltacht colleges and communities in these exceptional times and thank Senator Kyne for his work in ensuring the delivery of this support scheme,” said Dr Comer.

Senator Kyne said application forms for the scheme for both the colleges and mná tí would be available within the next fortnight.

Connacht Tribune

Packed like sardines in Salthill and only 200 allowed gather at a game

John McIntyre

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John McIntyre

Inside Track with John McIntyre – sports@ctribune.ie

IN a moment of madness, I decided to take a cycle out to Salthill last Saturday. By the time I got to the Blackrock Diving Tower, I thought I had just come through Torremolinos or one of those sun hot spots on the Costa Del Sol. There were cars and people everywhere.

The first inkling that Salthill would be heaving came when there was a traffic-jam halfway back the Lough Atalia Road leading to the Docks. Such were the number of cars, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Pearse Stadium was hosting a Connacht football final that afternoon.

If the people of Offaly, Laois and Kildare – all currently under partial Covid-19 lockdown – could see the carefree holiday mood in one of the West’s favourite tourist attractions, they’d be wondering had they stumbled on a parallel universe.

As readers will know from previous columns, I have a jaundiced view of NPHET and the Government’s cautious approach to relaxing the coronavirus restrictions. The scaremongering continues at frightening levels and many people are living in a climate of fear – though few of them were in Salthill.

NPHET must be immune to what’s really happening on the ground. If it thinks that there is widespread compliance, the group is living in cloud cuckoo land. All over Ireland’s favourite tourist attractions, there are thousands of holiday makers with little or no observance of social distancing.

My frustration over this scenario is fuelled by the way sport and its followers have been so badly compromised by the Covid-19 restrictions. My club Lorrha was playing in the Tipperary hurling championship last Friday evening and many of our diehard supporters couldn’t get a ticket to the match.

It’s the same in every GAA parish. So much unnecessary agitation and frustration. On Sunday evening, reporting duties took me to Ballinasloe for an attractive derby clash between Tommy Larkins and Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry. In a nutshell, there was nearly as many people inside as outside the wire. The ‘gathering’ limit of 200 annoyingly remains, especially in the context of the throngs in places like Salthill.

NPHET have justified not increasing crowd limits to beyond 200 over fears that people will congregate afterwards and the assumption that individuals from different families are travelling together in the one car. Frankly, it’s a load of nonsense and just irrational justification for not being prepared to compromise.

Of course, if the Government had any backbone instead of acting like a lapdog, it would never have come to this. I am fed up of hearing the line, in the interests of ‘public health’, as if people are dying from nothing else other than the coronavirus. The reality is that there have only been a handful of fatalities from the disease over the past fortnight. In the same period, how many have passed away from cancer and cardiac issues when their standard of care wasn’t what it should have been due to the fixation with Covid-19 over the past four months?

There’s now a genuine health and safety issue at play as well in relation to sporting fixtures. We have all images of fans hanging off trees and ladders, and others on rust-laden roofs, in their desperation to support their local teams. Furthermore, does NPHET have any idea what their draconian approach is doing to the mental health of some people?

There was no justification for stopping sporting activity in Laois, Offaly and Kildare last Friday. Locking down the affected towns where there was a surge of new infections in local meat processing plants would have made more sense. There have been no clusters spread through sport so why should codes like GAA and soccer be punished?

We all appreciate that the virus hasn’t gone away and there is an obligation on all of us to act responsibly, but only making the use of masks compulsory for most indoor settings from last Monday takes the biscuit altogether. Why has it taken so long? The pandemic has been with us since last March and only now is this measure deemed appropriate.

Over the past few weeks, I have observed individuals wearing masks travelling alone in cars, while cycling, and outdoors where there’s hardly a sinner in sight. What’s that all about? It’s not as if you can pass on the virus to yourself! Horse racing is going to extremes altogether. Now everybody at a meeting has to wear a mask outdoors. Suffice to say, they all look ridiculous walking around in what is the equivalent of big open fields.

I have absolutely no issue with our civil liberties being compromised in the ongoing quest to supress the virus, but logic is being repeatedly thrown out the window. NPHET’s ‘one size fits all’ approach must be urgently reviewed and the Government needs to stand back and make up its own mind about what activity constitutes genuine risk.

Though I believe the horse has long since bolted when it comes to wearing masks in indoor centres, I am willingly obeying the rule while as team manager of Lorrha, all our players have their temperatures checked before each training session; there are hand santisers supplied; and the training props are disinfected.

The primary focus should be on sorting out meat processing plants and the direct provision centres, while travel in and out of the country ought to be restricted to emergencies or on compassionate grounds. House parties also need to be clamped down on. Everything else is hardly worth a hill of beans in tackling this pandemic.

Keeping gatherings at 200 and not allowing pubs to reopen are soft targets. I am not proposing anarchy or anything like that, but the powers that be need to wise up and concentrate their efforts on the places where outbreaks of the virus are occurring. Everything else is just window dressing.

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Connacht Tribune

Old mills set for new life as distillery

Declan Tierney

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An artist's impression of the new distillery.

An old corn mill in East Galway is set to be transformed into a €6 million whiskey and gin manufacturing distillery – once planning permission has been granted for the development.

And if approved, the distillery has the potential to create more than 15 new jobs directly in the village of Ahascragh, providing a huge economic boost to the area – and rescuing the old corn mill which ceased operation in the 1950s.

A planning application for the new brewery has just been submitted by Gareth and Michelle McAllister of McAllister Distillers in North Dublin, with a decision due before the end of the year.

Gareth McAllister told The Connacht Tribune that he intended to renovate the old building while retaining some of the old features such as a mill wheel, and utilise the stream that runs through the property.

The complex, as well as producing various styles of Irish whiskey and gin, will also include a visitor centre, rooms for hospitality events, a retail shop and cafe.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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Connacht Tribune

Wait is over for frontman’s first solo venture

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John Martin Tierney

Multi-instrumentalist John Martin Tierney has been a recognisable face on Galway’s music scene for several years – but up to now, largely as the focal point in a band setting.  Comfortable operating as both energetic frontman and rhythm-setting guitarist, he has featured in an array of impressive local outfits; most notably, his work with Dead Horse Jive has seen the five-piece develop into one of the city’s top live acts.

But with all of that experience in a collaborative setting, John’s solo work has sometimes been put to the side.

That’s about to change – if just temporarily – as John releases his debut single, I Will Wait, this Friday; a three-and-a-half-minute ballad, the song incorporates piano and acoustic guitar more than much of his band work has done.

Though the track has existed in some form for a long time, its subject matter was particularly pertinent over lockdown.

“Around the start of June, I started properly putting energy into something that would have an end product,” John recalls.

“I wanted something I could be proud of, even if I wasn’t going to release it while lockd I Will Waitown was going on. I had an earlier version of it but I was never happy with it. I started rewriting it in about May or June.

“It kind of talks about missing people that you love. It’s from the point of view of not being able to see someone physically because of whatever restrictions are in place. That’s where it came from anyway and I think it translates well… I hope it does.”

For full interview, read the Groove Tube in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in all shops now – or purchase the digital edition; full details on this website.

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