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Connacht Tribune

Top golfer helps out Galway woman’s quest for Lyme Disease cure



One of the world’s top golfers has rallied to the aid of a young Galway woman — because he himself is suffering from the same disease.

Major winner Jimmy Walker has sent an autographed official PGA flag to help support a golf Am Am event to raise funds for Headford woman Nicola Lavin so she can receive potentially life-changing stem cell therapy for Lyme Disease.

Nicola contracted Lyme Disease sixteen years ago in the US and her health has been ravaged by it ever since, including enduring serious heart failure.

Walker, a six-time victor on the PGA Tour, and winner of his first major, the PGA Championship, in 2016, revealed in April that he, too, is suffering from Lyme Disease.

“It feels like you’ve got the flu,” he said. “No strength. Just got nothing. And it comes and goes in waves. You never know when it’s going to pop up.” As a consequence, the Texan’s form has shown a dramatic slump this season.

Lyme disease is a debilitating illness caused by bacteria as a result of a tick bite. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, heart issues, chronic joint pain, and in some cases, paralysis, arthritis and neurological disorders.

Walker’s wife, Erin, became aware on social media of the fundraiser in aid of Nicola to take place at Ballinrobe Golf Club on Thursday, August 31 (tee times from 8am) and volunteered to get her husband to sign some official PGA memorabilia to support the event.

“She was really helpful,” says Nicola’s husband Ronan. “She empathised with all Nicola has been through and recognised many of the symptoms that she shares with Jimmy. In particular, she related to the amount of medication involved — Jimmy is on 30 tablets a day.”

Ronan points out that the Ballinrobe Am Am should have particular resonance for golfers as they are one of the categories of people most at risk from tick-borne Lyme Disease which has become increasingly prevalent in Ireland.

Lyme Disease has a host of symptoms and affects people in different ways. It is easily cured through antibiotics if diagnosed early, but becomes a major problem if not treated.

Common initial symptoms include pain, weakness, or numbness in the arms or legs; not being able to use the muscles of the face; continuing headaches; fainting; and poor memory and reduced ability to concentrate.

Nicola’s condition deteriorated progressively over the years as a series of consultants were baffled by her condition until a German laboratory last year confirmed her diagnosis of Lyme Disease.

Lyme has become so embedded in her system that traditional treatments have proved ineffective. Her only hope now to regain her health and strength, and to lead a normal life, rests with the stem cell therapy which has a high success ratio.

However, the cost of the pioneering treatment and the required stay in Germany is beyond Nicola’s means as she has been unable to work for some considerable time now due to the scale of her illness.

The golf Am Am at Ballinrobe features a host of attractive prizes for the winners, including two nights B&B and a round of golf on each of the two championship links for two people at the luxury 4-star Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort in Donegal; a night’s stay for two in a Courtyard Room in Donald Trump’s Doonbeg resort, a night for two with dinner in the exclusive  Ballyseede Castle, Tralee and an Enniscrone Golf Club fourball worth over €400.

In addition to the Walker-signed PGA flag, a highly-coveted autographed Ireland rugby jersey will be among a series of attractive prizes to be raffled on the day.

Connacht Tribune

Three hospitalised following Mountbellew road crash



Three people were hospitalised – one with serious injuries – following a crash in Mountbellew in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The single vehicle collision occurred at around 2am on the R358, at Treanrevagh.

A man in his 30s was taken to University Hospital Galway to be treated for his injuries which are understood to be serious, but non-life threatening.
Two other men, one in his 30s and the other in his 20s were taken to UHG to be treated for their injuries.

The road had been closed to allow for a technical examination to take place, but it has since reopened.

Gardaí have appealed to anyone who witnessed the collision or may have camera (such as dash-cam) footage to contact them.

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Connacht Tribune

Commissioner asked to account for Garda shortage in Conamara



The Garda Commissioner is to be called on to answer for a shortage of gardaí to serve the South Conamara area.

This comes as residents in the area are reporting having to wait in excess of an hour for gardaí to respond to emergency situations.

A meeting of the County Joint Policing Committee (JPC) was told this week that the Garda Station in An Cheathrú Rua had lost over half of its staff in recent months – leaving locals reliant on Salthill Garda Station when in need of a response.

Cllr Dáithí Ó Cualáin (FF) said he had been told at a previous meeting of the JPC that the Chief Superintendent was satisfied with the service being provided in the area.

“There have been two incidents since then. One was an elderly woman who had the front window of her home broken. She rang 999 and had to wait an hour for gardaí to arrive from Salthill.

“When this was happening, she wasn’t sure if someone was breaking into her house or what was happening . . . it later transpired that a bottle was thrown through the window,” said Cllr Ó Cualáin.

“Another was a road traffic accident on a Friday night at 10.30 – again, the gardaí had to come from Salthill.”

While gardaí were very responsive when they arrived, the waiting time was a ‘scandal’, continued the South Conamara councillor.

Proposing that Garda Commissioner Drew Harris attend a meeting of the Galway JPC, Cllr Ó Cualáin said garda management needed to answer for leaving the area under-resourced. The proposal was seconded by Cllr Mary Hoade (FF).

Superintendent Damien Flanagan said staffing was a matter for the Chief Superintendent who wasn’t present at the meeting but one particular challenge was securing members who were proficient in Irish.

“That poses its own difficulties . . . it is an issue that applies to an Cheathrú Rua more so than other places but the Chief is constantly looking for additional manpower,” said Supt Flanagan.

Inspector Brian Ryan told the meeting that there was a 24/7 garda service in an Cheathrú Rua and the surrounding area, but if that patrol car was occupied, responsibility for the area fell to Salthill.

“We do have a 24-hour provision out there although it is not the numbers I would like to have for the area. It is something that is discussed on a regular basis with the Chief Superintendent.

“I am hopeful that a resolution can be found before the summer period and I am told moves are afoot to have Irish speakers allocated to the area,” said Insp Ryan.

Cllr Ó Cualáin said this was welcome and said blame for the problem lied with Garda Headquarters and not local management.

“All the new recruits are going to Cork, Limerick and Dublin and we need extra resources in Galway City and County,” he said.

Cllr Karey McHugh Farag (Ind) suggested that training should be provided for gardaí in the Irish language to increase numbers available to the area.

“The preservation of the language is of the upmost importance but are there structures in place for members of An Garda Síochána without great proficiency [in the Irish language to gain proficiency],” she said.

Cllr McHugh Farag said teachers had the opportunity to learn the language and pass exams to prove their proficiency and the same should be the case for Gardaí, a matter she said should be raised with the Commissioner.

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Connacht Tribune

Arsonist was trying to impress girl



The threat of a lengthy prison sentence hangs over a young man who set fire to a barn containing 300 bales of hay – at the height of a national fodder crisis – in an effort to impress a girl.

Matthew Morrin (23) was aged 18 when he set fire to his neighbour’s barn at Castlecreevy, Corrandulla, on August 16, 2018, after entering into a pact with the then 16-year-old girl and a group of other youths to take the blame for the blaze.

He pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last July to the offence of arson, while the girl, who was underage at the time and who also admitted setting the fire, was dealt with under the Garda Juvenile Liaison Officer Scheme.

Sentencing in Morrin’s case was adjourned at the time by Judge Rory McCabe who directed the preparation of probation, psychiatric and psychological reports on the accused prior to sentence taking place.  He also directed a victim impact statement be taken from the injured party.

At last week’s sentence hearing, Garda Patricia Sloyan of Monivea Garda Station gave evidence the shed was set alight at 4p.m. and was completely destroyed in the blaze. It had contained 300 bales of hay and an old tractor.

Several youths were seen running from the scene.  Morrin and the girl later admitted starting the fire together.

Morrin told Garda Sloyan at the time he didn’t know why he did it, but she believed the youths were regularly taking ‘substances’ in the barn and he had entered into a pact to take the blame for the fire to impress the girl.

She said Morrin’s family moved to Mayo before this incident to get him away from the youths he had been associating with, but he kept getting the bus back to Corrandulla to see them and it was on one of those trips the offence occurred.

She agreed with prosecuting barrister, Geri Silke, that Morrin was easily led and had a mild mental disability. She described the girl and Morrin as being “a bad mix” when they got together with the others.

The group regularly used the barn as a place to hang out, take alcohol and drugs and listen to music, the court heard.

The owner of the barn, Declan Fahy, who lives in Dubai, said in his victim impact statement to the court that he inherited the farm from his father in 2015 and rented the land and the barn to a local farmer.

Fahy said he had fond memories of helping his father build the barn in the mid-1980’s, when times were tough and money tight.  Everything he and his father proudly achieved went up in smoke in 30 minutes, he said.

He estimated the cost of building a new barn at €20,000 and said he suffered financial loss since 2018 as there was no barn to rent out anymore.

Garda Sloyan confirmed Morrin had four convictions committed since this offence for breaching Covid movement regulations, being drunk in public, breaching the peace and obstructing a Garda.

Referring to the various reports before the court, Judge Brian O’Callaghan said any mental difficulties Morrin had could not excuse him because he knew what he was doing was wrong.

He set the headline sentence at five years before granting a 50% reduction, explaining that he was treating Morrin as having come before his court on a signed plea of guilty from the District Court.

The judge said that having viewed the reports which outlined the positive steps Morrin was now taking with the support of his family and services, he decided to suspend the remaining two-and-a-half year sentence in its entirety, on condition Morrin enter into a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for three years, remain under the supervision of the probation service for two years, abstain from alcohol and illicit drugs, and continue under the care of the intellectual disability and mental health services.

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