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The former hatchery where art meets science

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Alannah feeding the stove that heats the entire studio building.

Lifestyle – A building on the shoreline of a North Connemara lake, which was designed in the 1980s as a commercial salmon enterprise and was unsuitable for that purpose, has been given new life as a centre for scientific research. It’s also home to Interface, a visionary artists’ studio and residency scheme. Its founder, artist Alannah Robins tells JUDY MURPHY how it evolved.

Driving down the long boreen that leads to the shoreline of Derryclare Lough in north Connemara, even knowing what to expect doesn’t prepare you for the futuristic building that lies beside the lake, or a series of raised green tanks, embedded in concrete.

This massive place was built in the late 1980s by the cigarette company, PJ Carroll’s as a salmon hatchery at a time when cigarettes were going out of fashion and farmed salmon seemed to offer a solution to feeding the world.

They employed leading architects Scott Tallon Walker to design a fully automated, computer-controlled hatchery that would supply juvenile fish (smolt) to offshore salmon farms.

Although the £40 million facility operated for a while, the hatchery was too high up from the lake to be commercially viable, explain Alannah Robins as we walk around the grounds, hopping up on the cement bases to peer into the tanks which once housed smolt at various stages of development. These were ferried by helicopter to fish farms elsewhere on the continent.

The tanks have lain idle for years but next Friday night, storyteller Órla McGovern will take up residence in one, making her contribution to Culture Night at this extraordinary place, which now houses both a science research facility and an artists’ studio, Interface.

The not-for-profit Interface is run by Alannah who has her own studio here as well as running an artists’ residency programme. Originally from Dublin where she studied art at the National College of Art and Design, her family holidayed in the area since she was a child and she has strong bonds with the place.  After a period in Scotland following college, she settled locally. Then, in 2011, she her husband and three children moved to Sweden before returning here in 2015.

In Sweden, Alannah had become involved with artist-led groups where artists created and showed their work, rather than waiting for agents or galleries to represent them.

“I was really happy, having found that dynamic community, and wanted to create a similar artist-led initiative here when I came home,” she explains as we sit in the enormous shared studio space that’s been made cosy by the installation of a large wood-burning stove – it also heats the radiators that provide warmth to individual studio spaces.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Paedophile for sentencing after arrest in Ceannt Station

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A man will be sentenced in December for arranging to meet a child at Ceannt Station for the purpose of sexual assault.

In the meantime, Michael Sheridan, from Cormeelick South, Milltown, must not attempt to use the internet or any other means of communication to contact any child, as set down in conditions attached to his bail.

The 63-year-old pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last Friday week to attempting to communicate with a child by means of information and communication technology within the State, for the purposes of facilitating the sexual exploitation of the child on dates between March 20 and May 26, 2018, contrary to Common Law and Section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) Act 2017.

He also pleaded guilty to attempting to meet the child on May 27, 2018, at Ceannt Railway Station in Eyre Square, having communicated by any means with the child, and did so on at least a previous occasion, and did so for the purpose of doing something that would constitute the sexual exploitation of the child, namely sexual assault of the child, contrary to Common Law.  The sex of the child referred to in the charges was not revealed in court.

In reply to Judge Rory McCabe, prosecuting barrister, Geri Silke said there was no need to order a victim impact statement prior to sentence taking place as there was no victim ‘in the real sense’ in the case.

By consent with Bernard Madden SC, defending, sentence was adjourned to December 15 next, when the prosecution will outline the facts in the case against Sheridan.

His free legal aid certificate was extended to cover the cost of a medical report for mitigation purposes.

Judge McCabe also directed the preparation of a probation report at Mr Madden’s request and remanded Sheridan on continuing bail with the existing conditions attached to appear back before the court in December for sentence.

Bail was initially granted in the District Court on condition Sheridan surrender his passport and not apply for a new one or any other travel documents; sign on twice a week at Tuam Garda Station; provide a mobile phone number to Gardai and answer his phone to Gardaí at all times; undertake to the court not to make any contact with any child by any means, to include social media; and not to access the internet at any stage pending completion of the case.

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Connacht Tribune

Final outing for Your County, Your Colours – to honour an old colleague

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It was a simple idea well executed – to deliver 32 GAA county jerseys to frontline workers in a hospital or care home in thanks for their dedication during Covid – but before the dust settled on Your County, Your Colours, there was one final and very special delivery to be made.

It is now nine years since a completely unprovoked attack left Tuam man Shane Grogan with life-changing injuries that mean he still requires round-the-clock medical care today.

Before that vicious assault, Shane was a popular member of staff with Merit Medical – who just happened to be the sponsors of the Your County, Your Colours project, dreamt up by Galway Bay FM commentator and former Galway footballer, Tommy Devane.

The team at Merit had one final request – to deliver a special, framed Galway jersey to Shane and the staff at Greenpark Nursing Home, where Shane has lived for some time.

Karen Smyth, Communications Leader with Merit Medical, said that the staff at Merit Medical had never forgotten Shane.

“We see Your County, Your Colours as a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the hard work of the frontline workers in Greenpark,” she said.

“This is just a small token of appreciation of their efforts; they do an amazing job – not just during the pandemic but every day,” she added.

Shane’s dad Joe relayed his thanks to Merit Medical for this presentation – with a special word to the Accounts Department, where Shane worked prior to his accident.

“They have always kept Shane foremost in their thoughts and hopefully, the visits will start again soon!” he said.

The original idea, as envisaged by Tommy Devane, was to honour the tireless efforts of frontline workers across the country during the pandemic.

So he has asked all 32 counties to supply one county jersey accompanied by a short message of thanks. The jersey along with their message was then framed and sent to the hospital or care setting of the county’s choice.

Greenpark Nursing Home Director of Nursing Brian McNamara thanked Merit Medical and Tommy Devane for what he called this wonderful gift.

“We are honoured to have been thought of in this manner and it is our privilege to look after Merit’s colleague Shane Grogan,” he said.

“In our caring for Shane, there will always be a special bond between Merit Medical and Greenpark Nursing Home,” he added.

(Photo: Shane Grogan (centre) with his parents Joe and Joan behind him, accepting his signed Galway jersey, joined by (from left) the McNamara family – Jane, Cora, Director of Nursing Brian and Ian – of Greenpark Nursing Home; Shane’s physical therapist Johnathan Gibson, Merit Medical’s Karen Smyth and Mark Butler, and Tommy Devane, organiser of Your County, Your Colours).

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Connacht Tribune

Teacher has sights set on passing ultimate Ironman test

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It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted and it pretty much eats up all of your spare time – but for Claregalway schoolteacher, Rachel Farrell, the Ironman 70.3 world championship test in September is something she just cannot wait for.

Rachel (28) has always been bitten by the sports and fitness bug, being a competitive swimmer and badminton player from her school days, but now she is concentrating on what’s called the Ironman 70.3.

The 70.3 part of the title refers to the total distance in miles that competitors will cover between the swim, cycle and running legs of the event.

It works out at half the distance of the full Ironman Triathlon but that still adds up to one huge challenge for those brave enough to take it on.

The first part of the endurance test is a 1.9-kilometre (1.2 miles) swim followed by a 90km cycle (56 miles) and then a half-marathon run (21.1km or 13.1 miles).

“I did my first Ironman 70.3 in France in 2019 and the Utah event on September 17 next is actually the 2020 world championships which couldn’t be held last year because of the Covid situation.

“The course in Utah is by all accounts a pretty gruelling one and the conditions there will be tough too, but I’ve prepared well for it and am looking forward to the challenge,” said Rachel.

She will be competing in the 25 to 29 age category and in the France event two years ago, Rachel notched a top 49 finish – the target this time around is for a top-20 finishing slot.

The daughter of Josette and Hugh Farrell, Rachel is currently a secondary schoolteacher in Dubai who is hoping to travel to Utah about a week before the event to help her acclimatise to the heat and desert like conditions of the US state.

Even the journey to get there will be a mission itself with Dubai the starting off point followed by stop-offs at Elay and Las Vegas.

Rachel is pretty much committed to an all-year round preparation programme based on a four-week rota system – three weeks of intense training followed by one week of scaled down activity.

“When I was in Oman back in 2018 and the event was held there it just caught my interest. I put in on my bucket list and really enjoyed the one in France in 2019.

“I’m not sure whether I’ll keep doing them or not – I might just concentrate on swimming or cycling events into the future – but for the moment, Utah is the goal and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Rachel.

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