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Students can get free year on Aran with island scheme

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In our native tongue you might call it a ‘bua bua’ situation – there are students who love Irish or just want to improve their grasp of the language and there’re are island schools that needs to keep up pupil numbers . . . so if you marry the two, everyone’s a winner.

Which is why the Island Scholarship Scheme may well be one of the best ideas – as well as one Ireland’s best kept secrets.

Funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, ‘Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge’ offers a once in a lifetime opportunity vis-à-vis full scholarship for an entire academic year on the five offshore post-primary schools in Ireland.

Three of them are on Aran – Coláiste Naomh Éinne on Inis Mór, Coláiste Ghobnait on Inis Oírr and Coláiste Naomh Eoin on Inis Meáin – along with Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada (Óileán Árainn Mhór), agus Coláiste Pobail Cholmcille (Oileán Thoraí) in Donegal.

Recipients of the €5,000 scholarships are awarded the golden opportunity to experience total immersion in Gaeltacht life and culture.

Places are open to students from first to sixth year, and boarding accommodation with a host family is also provided.

“The schools on these islands are the heart and spirit of their respective communities,” says Bríd Ní Dhonnacha, Príomhoide at Coláiste Ghobnait on Inis Oírr.

But depopulation of offshore islands coupled with changing demographics and a modern persuasion towards smaller families, poses a very real threat to the future prosperity of Gaeltacht island communities.

Census figures reveal the five islands shared a collective population of 4,506 in 1901, compared with 1,909 in 2011 – that’s a 42% drop in population.

But this is a two-way street – because while the schools need the students, there’s plenty in this too for the visiting students themselves….the culture, recreational activities, friendliness and sense of community that life on a small island brings

From an academic perspective, the immersive experience offered by their scholarship programme, says Bríd, “could be the difference between your first choice and your second choice” – because, as she says: “when it comes to the CAO, those five or ten points are gold dust”.

These island schools commit themselves to cultivating the inquisitiveness of youth, quenching their thirst for knowledge and instilling confidence in conduct of their teanga dúchais.

But Bríd also admits that these offshore schools also face “unique challenges” not experienced by mainland schools.

It’s hard to find teachers who are willing and able to teach through Irish at second level – and then to convince them to live on a remote and secluded island.

Last year, the €1,658 island allowance for offshore teachers was cut from the budget. Bríd says this supplement needs to be reinstated – immediately.

“It is not attractive for teachers to apply for a job on an island school,” she says.

“With it comes leaving your family on the mainland and relocating to the island. It would not be feasible to commute on a daily basis to the islands and often there are not full teaching hours with the vacancy.

“For teaching on an island to be enticing, we need to have the island allowance reinstated,” she says.

Other crucial proposals also need to be implemented to safeguard the future of island schools.

These include ensuring air services between islands and the mainland, reinstating island allowance, increasing teacher quota from one to 2.5 (to allow for curricular provision), and increasing the schools budget by €10,000 (to offset additional transport and servicing costs), ensuring there are at least two management roles per school.

They also want to increase the number of residential scholarships from ten to twenty per island school.

“These are not wants – they are needs – for island schools to survive,” she insists.

Despite their troubles, island schools also possess distinct advantages like their low pupil to teacher ratio, ‘way above average’ CAO points, wide range of extracurricular activities and sporting facilities, safe environment, independent learning and personal development.

One scholarship student with Coláiste Ghobnait, Inis Oírr, said the experience “opened my eyes to my heritage, nationality and the realisation of how important community and culture is”, adding that both host family and teachers helped to create a “positive learning experience”, bestowing her with “the gift of enriching my Irish”.

At the moment, the schools are struggling to cope with budgetary cuts to financial aid and lack of resources – and it’s a fight they are determined to win.

“If there’s no school, there’ll be no island life – it really is the heart of the community. We want to keep the islands inhabited and keep the culture alive,” says Bríd.

Connacht Tribune

Galway braced for worst of weather

Francis Farragher

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Cllr Noel Thomas attempting to clear blocked gullies on the flooded Moycullen to Barna road at Moycullen after heavy rainfall at the weekend. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

FARMERS and householders in the Shannon Callows area of East Galway and surrounding counties are ‘hoping and praying’ that the heavy rainfall predicted for this weekend won’t come to pass.

Local Shannon Callows farmer and long-time IFA campaigner for flood relief measures to be put in place on the Shannon, Michael Silke, said that the point was fast approaching where houses and farmyards would be under threat.

He told the Connacht Tribune that hundreds of people living in the Shannon Callows area had now seen water levels on the river reaching dangerously high points following the heavy rains of last weekend.

“This takes us back to the early days of January, 2016, when this whole area suffered terribly after a very wet winter.

“Unfortunately, little if anything has been done since to put in place any meaningful flood relief measures – now all we can do is hope and pray that the rains won’t be as bad as predicted in the forecasts,” said Michael Silke.

He added that serious questions had to be asked of bodies like the ESB, the OPW (Office of Public Works) and Waterways Ireland in terms of water management on the Shannon and especially as regards the lakes.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale this Thursday.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Applications now open for fifth Local Ireland Media Awards

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David Ryan, President Local Ireland and Managing Director, Nenagh Guardian, Paul Bradley, Head of Corporate Communications and PR National Lottery and Declan McGuire, General Manager, Connacht Tribune, attending the launch of the fifth Local Ireland Media Awards, sponsored by the National Lottery.

Journalists in local newspapers all over the country are being asked to enter their best scoops and stories into the fifth annual Local Ireland Media Awards.

These awards honour the talents of the hundreds of journalists, photographers, designers and advertising executives involved in producing local weekly titles, both print and digital. The awards are sponsored for the third consecutive year by the National Lottery.

The Local Ireland Media Awards, now in their fifth year, will feature 13 categories spanning all areas and disciplines of modern journalism including news, sport, features, advertising, design and online

Local Ireland is the voice and representative association for 46 local weekly titles – including the Connacht Tribune – across the country, offering local news to approximately 1.5 million readers each week outside Dublin and Cork.

Stories published in Local Ireland titles between February 2019 and January 2020 are eligible for entry and all submissions be accepted via the Local Ireland website until Friday, March 22.

Once again this year there will be a special National Lottery category for the journalist or newspaper that has given the best coverage to a community issue or good cause.

The awards deliberations will be undertaken by a judging panel chaired by noted journalist and academic, Dr. Jane Suiter, Director of the Institute for Future Media (FuJo) and Associate Professor in the School of Communications, DCU.

Other judges include Michael Foley, Professor Emeritus, TU Dublin, journalist and author PJ Cunningham; broadcaster Valerie Cox; Frank Miller, former Irish Times pictures editor and Dr. Dawn Wheatley, School of Communications, DCU.

The Awards ceremony and gala dinner will take place in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Athlone, on Thursday, May 21, when the MC for the event will be Marty Whelan.

National Lottery Head of PR and Corporate Communications Paul Bradley said they saw sponsorship of the awards as a natural fit.

“Just like local newspapers, we are embedded in communities all over Ireland. Buying your local weekly newspaper goes hand-in-hand with buying a Lottery ticket. We are excited to see submissions that demonstrate the incredible local journalism that is happening throughout Ireland,” he said.

Media Awards Categories 2020

News Story;

Feature Story;

Best News Series;

Sports Journalist of the Year;

National Lottery Best Community Story;

Supplement of the Year;

Photographer of the Year;

Best Use of Photography;

Best Designed Front Page;

Best Advertising Campaign (print and digital);

Best Local Advertisement;

Best Digital Content;

Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway is grinding to a halt

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The transport system in Galway City suffers a ‘total breakdown’ on a regular basis which is ‘crippling and stifling city living’ – according to the project director behind plans to build a ring road to serve the city.

Speaking at the opening session of An Bord Pleanála’s oral hearing for the proposed N6 Galway City Ring Road, Mike Evans of ARUP Consulting Engineers, said that this transport breakdown is costing the city millions of euro every year.

Mr Evans said that traffic congestion is preventing Galway from ‘functioning as a city’.

“The traffic congestion in Galway City and its environs is crippling and stifling city living, as well as cutting off access from the wider region to employment and services in the city,” said Mr Evans.

“The total breakdown of the transport network in Galway occurs on a frequent basis as there is no resilience in the network for [coping with] wet afternoons, road maintenance, in the event of a vehicle collision and during signage outage.

“The random, unpredictable shutdown of Galway’s transport network costs millions and has the real potential to prohibit Galway functioning as a city or economic engine for the Western region.”

See full coverage of the Oral Hearing in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale this Thursday.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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