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Connacht Tribune

Traders warn retail core of Loughrea is under threat

Declan Tierney

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The business community in Loughrea have expressed concerns about their future after a survey revealed that there are 31 vacant units in and around the town centre.

The number of empty properties has been disclosed in a planning file as town centre businesses come out in opposition to a medical centre being transformed into a sports shop in the shopping centre on the outskirts of the town.

In the submission to the planning application before Galway County Council, it is stated that the retail trade in the centre of Loughrea is coming under pressure and much of this arises from the development of Loughrea Shopping Centre which is not in the heart of the town.

Traders in Loughrea say that they object to the further intensification of development, which was provided in 2008, as it will further impact on the established town centre.

Retailers have told planners that not alone is the shopping centre located outside the town centre, it is also beyond walking distance from the centre and this exacerbates its impact in pulling away activity from the business core.

Last month a planning application was submitted by Greenstream ULC for the change of use of a retail unit at Loughrea Shopping Centre from a medical centre to a sports goods outlet. There are also applications to sub-divide a couple of other units at this location, which are also being opposed by the traders.

Agents on behalf of the traders made a submission to county planners saying that they are greatly concerned about the impact the proposed development, along with the other two applications which have also been submitted, will have on retailing in the heart of Loughrea town.

In fact, references have been made to both Ballinasloe and Athenry, where it is claimed that the core retail areas have “suffered quite catastrophic decline” in business activity.

“The retail centre of Loughrea is coming under pressure and much of that pressure arises from this development (shopping centre) which is not in the heart of the town and not close enough to develop a mutually beneficial synergy with the town centre. It operates an independent and separate shopping area and pulls business away from the town.

“While the centre of Loughrea is still a vibrant area, there is a worrying trend of vacancy. My clients (the traders) have conducted a survey of the town centre. This shows 31 empty units with an estimated floor area of 8,000 square metres. It is not exclusively retail but there is a very considerable retail element in that vacancy figure,” said Stephen Dowds Associates, planning consultants.

They go on to say that the retail planning guidelines recommend ‘town centre or ‘edge of centre’ as being the preferred options, but they state that the shopping centre does not fit either bill. It is claimed that anyone who shops in the centre will stay there and not walk into the town centre.

A decision on the planning application to Galway County Council on this proposed development is due within the next week.

Connacht Tribune

Exploring the merits of moving into the west

Dave O'Connell

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Mary Kennedy with Carol Ho, one of the Galway interviewees for her new TG4 series, Moving West. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Broadcaster Mary Kennedy has an abiding image of those early mornings when she’d set out from Dublin at the crack of dawn to begin work on another day’s filming down the country with Nationwide.

“I always liked to go in the morning rather than stay there the night before – so I’d be on the road early. And from the moment I’d hit Newland’s Cross, all I’d see was a line of traffic of people trying to make it from home to their workplace in Dublin,” she says.

These were people whose day began before dawn to get their bleary-eyed kids ready to drop at a childminder along the way, so they could be on time for work – and then race home to hopefully see those same kids before they went to sleep.

But if the pandemic had a positive, it was the realisation that work was something you did, not a place you went to. As a result, many people finally grasped the nettle, moving out of the city and sometimes even taking their work with them.

Which is why Mary – busier than ever since her supposed retirement from RTÉ – is presenting a new television series called Moving West, focusing on those individuals and families who have, as the title, suggests, relocated to the West.

One of the programmes comes from Galway, where Mary met with Stewart Forrest, who relocated with his family from South Africa to Oughterard, and Carol Ho, a Hong Kong native who has also settled in Galway.

The TG4 series also stops off in Sligo, Mayo, Kerry, Clare, Roscommon and Leitrim.

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

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Connacht Tribune

Community’s tribute to one of their own – saving final cut of turf after his passing

Dave O'Connell

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Well saved...members of St Brendan's GAA Club honour their departed stalwart, John Geraghty, after a record-breaking evening saving his turf.

A local community responded in force to the death of one of their own – a man who had given so much of his life for the good of the parish – by paying one last practical tribute to him last week.

They lifted and footed his turf.

John Geraghty – or Gero as he was known – lived for Gaelic football and he’d filled every role imaginable with the St Brendan’s GAA Club since he came to live in Newbridge in 1983.

He’d cut the turf before he died last Tuesday week, but there it lay, until his old GAA friends organised a bunch of guys – made up of the football team, friends and neighbours – to meet in the bog last Wednesday evening to lift and foot/clamp John’s turf.

“Upwards of 50 fellas from the community showed up,” said St Brendan’s chairman Gerry Kilcommins.

Which was just as well, because, as Gerry acknowledged, John – himself a two-time chairman of the club in the past – had a lot of turf cut!

“It took up an area around three-quarters of the size of a standard football pitch,” he said.

Not that this proved a problem, given the enthusiasm with which they rolled up their sleeves for their old friend.

They started at 7.30pm and had it done at 7.55pm – that’s just 25 minutes from start to finish.

Read the full, heartwarming story – and the St Brendan’s GAA Club appreciation for John Geraghty – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Liver donor dad would do it all again in a heartbeat

Denise McNamara

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Daddy’s girl…Sadhbh Browne with her very special message on organ donations. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

It is nearly two years since Paddy Browne gave his daughter Sadhbh part of his liver to save her life. And just ahead of Father’s Day, he reflects on how he would do it all over again in a heartbeat, without a single moment’s hesitation.

After an initial testing time in the first six weeks when they beat a path to the intensive care unit after the operation in St King’s Hospital in London, Sadhbh has never looked back.

“She’s thrived and thrived and thrived. She skips out to school every day. She loves the normal fun and devilment in the yard. She’s now six and started football with Mountbellew Moylough GAA, she loves baking, she’s a voracious reader – she’ll read the whole time out loud while we drive up to Crumlin [Children’s Hospital].”

But it could have all been so different.

Sadhbh from Mountbellew was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia shortly after she was born. She quickly underwent major surgery to drain bile from her liver. It worked well until she reached three years old when an infection caused severe liver damage and she was placed on the liver transplant list.

She was on a long list of medication to manage the consequences of advanced liver disease. While she lived a full life, she would tire very easily.

Paddy was undergoing the rigorous process to be accepted as a living donor when one of the tests ruled him unsuitable. His brother Michael stepped forward and was deemed a good match.

Then, further tests revealed that Paddy was in fact eligible for the operation and the previous result disregarded as a false positive.

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

Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.

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