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Connacht Tribune

Taking to the hills for mind and body

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Members of the Moycullen club, overlooking Ballynahinch Lake en route to Benlettery (577m) in the Twelve Bens.

Lifestyle – Excercising in the fresh air while enjoying great scenery and living in the moment while stepping out of your comfort zone are just some of the benefits of hillwalking. In Galway, many of these these hiking trails are on people’s doorsteps. Several in Connemara have now been mapped for a local publication as BERNIE NÍ FHLATHARTA learns.

Haulie Dowd used to hate walking – and he still hates walking on roads or footpaths. But in the past three years, after joining a local walking club, he has climbed the highest peak in Morocco, the second highest in Ethiopia and summited Scotland’s Ben Nevis in the snow.

Haulie has discovered that he’s a hill-walker as opposed to a rambler on the flat. He thrives on the sense of achievement gained by scaling heights, overcoming discomfort and enjoying fresh air and exercise, not to mention the mindfulness aspect.

A psychologist by profession, he especially appreciates the value of mindfulness and now speaks from experience and with conviction when he advises others to “get out and walk”.

As chairman of the Moycullen Walking Club, he laments the group’s diminished activities in 2020, the year when the club should have been celebrating its tenth anniversary.

To be fair, the club did launch a bilingual ‘Walking Guide’, embracing the 15 most scenic walks in the Moycullen and Killannin area, at a function in a local pub just before the first lockdown. However, like many other walking clubs in Galway and countrywide, the organisation couldn’t fulfil its programme of walks, which normally take place every second Sunday.

Members did manage to get a few walks in when Covid-19 restrictions were eased last summer and Haulie looks back on those outings with happiness.

“I’ve never smiled as much as I did on reaching the top of Lackavrea, (a 396-metre hill in Maam in the heart of Connemara). There’s a great sense of achievement and especially for someone like me who never walked and hated walking,” he says.

“I only joined the club three years ago and have since joined a few other walking clubs which have opened up other options, such as giving me the opportunity to go hill-walking abroad. I have reached the highest peak in Morocco, the second highest in Ethiopia and spent nine torturous hours walking up Nevis in the snow.

“By joining my local club, I’ve ‘found’ Connemara which is on our doorstep and provides so many fantastic walking trails with great views. I use maps or apps on my phone, when there’s service. I’ve made new friends locally too, through the club, so it’s a good way of socialising,” adds Haulie, whose regular walking companion is Paul Brown, one of the club founders.

Haulie has his sights on climbing in the Himalayas and/or peaks in South America when the Covid-19 virus is under control.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Unauthorised developments in County Galway go unchecked for months

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The Planning Enforcement Section of Galway County Council is so understaffed that complaints of unauthorised developments are not being investigated for months, the Connacht Tribune has learned.

In one case, a complaint alleging a house was under construction in a picturesque and environmentally sensitive part of Conamara without planning permission was not investigated by the Council for at least six months.

And it can be revealed that there is a ‘large’ backlog of complaints of unauthorised developments in the county, which the Planning Enforcement Section at County Hall has blamed on staff shortages, according to correspondence obtained by the Connacht Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI).

In response to repeated requests by a concerned member of the public to intervene and investigate an allegation of unauthorised development in an environmentally protected area of Conamara, the Council’s Planning Department indicated it was too stretched.

“Unfortunately, the planning enforcement section is experiencing a period of prolonged staff shortages and consequently there are a large number of files awaiting investigation/review,” it said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Access Centre provides pathways to University of Galway for the disadvantaged

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Photo of Imelda Byrne

Great leaps have been made in recent years to make access to tertiary level education a realistic prospect for once marginalised groups in society.

With the deadline for CAO applications approaching next week, the Access Centre at the University of Galway is aiming to reach as many underrepresented groups as possible ahead of next academic term.

Head of the Access Centre, Imelda Byrne (pictured), said research has shown that those who once felt third level ‘wasn’t for them’ are increasing their presence at UG, and bringing a richness to the sector that had for a long time been missing.

In the five years up to 2021, there was a 100% increase in the number of students registering for the Disability Support Service at the university, while those coming from Further Education and Training courses in institutes like GTI had surged by 211% over four years.

“The message that we really need to get out there is that the CAO is not the only route into third level. There are a number of pathways,” says Imelda.

“There are loads of places set aside for students coming from a place of disadvantage,” she continues, whether it’s national schemes such as the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for socio-economic disadvantage; or the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE); or the university’s own programme for mature students.

Those places are there to ensure those from all backgrounds get an opportunity to reach their education potential, tapping into hugely talented groups that once may have missed that opportunity.

“What we have seen is that when they get that opportunity, they do just as well if not better than other students,” continues Imelda.

For HEAR and DARE scheme applicants, and for those hoping to begin higher education as a mature student, next Wednesday’s CAO deadline is critically important.

But beyond the CAO applications, the Access Programme will open up in March to guide prospective students, whatever challenges they are facing, into third level.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway County Council ‘missing out on millions’ in derelict sites levies

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Photo of Cloonabinnia House

Galway County Council is missing out on millions of euro in untapped revenue due to a failure to compile a complete Derelict Sites Register.

That’s according to Galway East Sinn Féin representative, Louis O’Hara, who this week blasted the news that just three properties across the whole county are currently listed on the register.

As a result, Mr O’Hara said the Derelict Sites Levy was not being utilised effectively as countless crumbling properties remained unregistered – the levy amounts to 7% of the market value of the derelict property annually.

The former general election candidate said Galway County Council was ill-equipped to compile a proper list of derelict sites and called on Government to provide the necessary resources to tackle the scourge of dereliction across.

“There are still only three properties listed on Galway County Council’s Derelict Sites Register . . . anyone in Galway knows that this does not reflect the reality on the ground and more must be done to identify properties, and penalise owners who fail to maintain them,” said Mr O’Hara.

The situation was compounded by the fact that the Council failed to collect any of the levies due to them in 2021.

“This is deeply concerning when we know that dereliction is a blight on our communities. Derelict sites attract rats, anti-social behaviour and dumping, and are an eyesore in many of our local towns and villages.”

“The Derelict Sites Levy should be used as a tool by local authorities to raise revenue that can then be utilised to tackle dereliction, but they are not adequately resourced to identify and pursue these property owners,” said Mr O’Hara.

(Photo: The former Cloonabinnia House Hotel is on the Derelict Sites Register).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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