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Students from rural areas are the new poor

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Students from rural areas are the new poor

Students living in some towns and villages in County Galway are considered “the new poor”, with hundreds of families unable to access third level education, according to a representative group for rural areas.

Irish Rural Link said that with a cost of up to €15,000 per year, college education is too expensive for many families.

The group has called on the Minister for Education to introduce a tiered system for education grants.

Chief Executive of IRL, Seamus Boland, told the Connacht Tribune: “Parts of East Galway in particular, and anywhere outside a 50km radius of Galway City are hard hit. Basically, it’s anybody that has to pay accommodation expenses, which can be up to €6,000 per year.

“Parents’ income levels might be just outside qualification for grants, but they are just so indebted in other ways – mortgage, car, other kids at school and household bills.

“It costs between €12,500 and €15,000 per year to send someone to college, that includes €3,000 for administration, up to €6,000 for accommodation and then there are the significant living expenses for food, travel, books etc.

“Students traditionally would have part-time jobs or summer jobs, but those jobs and the hours are gone now.

“Evidence of the increasing costs for third level education can be seen in an Irish League of Credit Unions’ survey which shows that the number of students with loans rose from 11% in 2011 to 25% in 2013.

“This means that one in four students have a loan which leads to a large population of young people heading into the workplace with a high level of debt if they obtain employment directly after finishing third level education.

“Students in rural areas are the new poor, and they qualify for pretty much nothing. And some people have no choice – they cannot get a loan because of lending restrictions. Because of this, students are being forced to drop out of college,” said Mr Boland.

The group has called on Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to introduce a new tiered grants system.

“For equality, you should be entitled to some form of grant, if you are just over the [grant qualification] limit. The Minister needs to study the system for himself,” said Mr Boland.

Connacht Tribune

All out in force to cheer home one of their own

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Fiona Murtagh…back home with her Olympic medal on Sunday. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Sitting on an airplane, mid-air from Japan en route to Dublin, Olympic bronze medallist from Moycullen, Fiona Murtagh was unsure whether anyone would be at the airport to meet her and teammates Aifric Keogh of Na Forbacha, Eimear Lambe and Emily Hegarty when they touched down.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, there was no big welcoming party planned for Dublin Airport. But Fiona need not have worried; as she strode out of airport security and into Arrivals, all her family were there to hug her.

Fiona hadn’t seen her parents Marguerite and Noel since April because of a pre-Olympic training camp in Italy; and her siblings Pádraig, Lorraine and twin Alan all turned up, too.

“Oh my God, I couldn’t believe it. It was actually really emotional, it was so lovely. I didn’t expect the full family to be there. Tears came to my eyes. I hadn’t seen mom and my dad in seven weeks,” said Fiona.

That was just the first leg of what was to be a heart-warming homecoming for a hero.

The family drove back to Galway with Fiona, who had heard “through the grapevine that there was going to be something in Bushypark”.

“But the scale of it, I didn’t expect it at all, it was incredible, it was so lovely to see everyone come out and support and see me”, she said.

Read the full story over eleven pages of coverage on the homecoming of our Olympic heroes in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Rowing heroes reunited for special day to savour

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Hero’s homecoming…Aifric Keogh with her parents Susan and Jim Keogh. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

About halfway through her homecoming on Bank Holiday Monday, Aifric Keogh spotted a very familiar face in the crowd lining the road.

It was her fellow Olympic medallist Fiona Murtagh from Moycullen, whom she’d soldiered with in Tokyo days earlier to win bronze in the Women’s Coxless Fours final.

Fiona was outside Furbo Church with her boyfriend, on the way to Pádraicín’s to meet mates. The plan was to watch Aifric’s open-top bus and cavalcade pass-by. Fiona had no intention of joining in – but she had no choice.

“When I looked down and saw Fiona, she was laughing at me, waving up. So, I made the bus stop and dragged her up there beside me,” laughed Aifric.

It meant that those turning out on the second leg of the journey from Na Forbacha to An Spidéal and back again, got two Olympic legends for the price of one!

“I made her come up with me. And then we were driving through Spiddal and we actually drove passed her aunt’s house, so her aunt and cousins and mom were outside waving up at us. It was really nice for us to be so close together here in Galway,” said Aifric.

That was just one of several special moments from a homecoming the 28-year-old rower will treasure.

Whereas Fiona came back to Conamara straight from Dublin Airport, and had a hero’s welcome in Moycullen on Sunday, Aifric stayed in Dublin on Sunday, driving down the following morning.

As she passed through Barna on the way to her parents’ house in Aill an Phréacháin in Na Forbacha, she could see flags, bunting and bonfires being prepared for her official drive-through later that evening. But what she witnessed on that journey to the home house of her parents, Jim and Susan, didn’t prepare her for the size of turnout.

“It was amazing. I didn’t know what to expect. Obviously, I was expecting some of my friends and family but seeing so many people from Spiddal, Barna and Furbo coming out along the road the whole way was just crazy,” she said.

Read the full story over eleven pages of coverage on the homecoming of our Olympic heroes in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Saw Doctors sell out – to shoot back into the charts!

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Saw Doctors...as they were in the early days (from left) Leo Moran, Pearse Doherty, John 'Turps' Burke, Davy Carton and (front) Johnny Donnelly.

It’s official – the Saw Doctors have finally sold out. Because, as of this week, it’s impossible for fans to get their hands on a copy of the Galway band’s iconic first album, remastered 30 years on from its original incarnation.

The good news is that the band are now going to do a fourth vinyl pressing of ‘If This is Rock And Roll, I Want My Old Job Back’ – but given the global renaissance in vinyl, it will be the beginning of September before they’ll be for sale.

So far, the album has sold all 1,500 copies pressed – and that has increased hopes of the band playing live again, once pandemic restrictions are eased, according to the band’s manager Ollie Jennings.

“A guy called Simon Moran is the biggest music promoter in the UK; he’s based in Manchester and he’s worked with Peter Kay in the past, who got him into the Saw Doctors.

“He has, twice in the last six months, written personal emails begging the band to tour the UK,” he says.

And that’s not some vanity project, because he knows that – the last time the Saw Docs played in the UK in 2017 – they did 20 shows that drew 30,000 fans.

“We sold out the Manchester Apollo with 4,000; we sold out two nights at Glasgow’s Barrowlands with 4,000 each night. He knows we will do the business,” says Ollie.

Up to now, the prospects of another tour seemed remote – but the success of the album has rekindled the Saw Doctors, and something magical happened when the band got together to sign the rereleased LP.

“It was a wonderful afternoon in Leo’s house in Tuam; loads of laughs and old stories; just magic – it was like being back in 1990 or 1991 again,” says Ollie.

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

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