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Connacht Tribune

Tubridy heads West to the Aran Islands!

Dave O'Connell

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He already has the freedom of Connemara – but when it comes to the west coast, Ryan Tubridy wants it all. Which partly explains why he is taking his radio show to Inis Mór next week – and broadcasting for the first time from the Aran Islands.

“I’m hugely looking forward to it – not that I ever need an excuse to head to the West. But the Late Late season finishes on Friday . . . and my ‘working holiday’ then sees me head straight for the Wild Atlantic Way,” he laughs.

Thus, his RTÉ Radio 1 show next Thursday will see Ryan pitch up at the Tourist Office in Kilronan, facing out onto the beach.

“When you put it like that, it doesn’t sound like work, does it?” he admits.

But this is no flying visit or fleeting love affair; his radio show is also coming close to its summer break – which means Ryan is straight back to Galway for his annual holiday just a week later.

His affinity with the county goes back to his childhood.

“From as early as I can remember, we headed off for the summer out to Baile na hAbhann; my mother’s father had a little house there and that is deeply associated with the happiest days of my childhood.

“It’s the sort of ‘sand in the sandwiches’ summer that we so remember; trips to Tí Johnny Sean’s pub; snooker tables with rips in them – happy days,” he says.

But it really wasn’t until about a decade ago that Galway – and Connemara in particular – began to form such a part in Ryan’s own story.

“Ten years ago, when I did Who Do You Think You Are?, I really discovered how deep this goes,” he says about his experience of the TV genealogy documentary series.

“My dad’s dad was from Beal a’ Daingean and indeed his parents had come here to work as joint principals in the national school, Scoil Mhic Dara in Carraroe.”

Ryan’s great-grandparents, Patrick and Jane – from Kilmurry Ibrickane in Clare and Kilkelly in Mayo respectively – shared a vision; that education held the key to progress.

At a time of great poverty along the west coast, they actually worked with the great patriot, Roger Casement, and helped to set up a fund for free school dinners there.

Their son – Ryan’s grandfather – Seán, shared their passion for progress and served the area too, both as the local GP and then as a TD for Galway. But it could all have ended before it really began.

“Granddad was taking over as the local GP from a man who was retiring after a long and distinguished career in the post,” reveals Ryan.

Such was Seán’s enthusiasm that he presented himself for duty the day before he was supposed to start and offered to begin work immediately – the night before his posting officially began.

“The serving GP told him to wait until the morning as planned because he had one particular patient who was living on one of the islands; this man was dying and as his GP he wanted to see him one last night,” says Ryan.

But tragedy struck on the return journey; the boat went down, taking the lives of the small crew and the retiring GP – a death toll that would have included Seán Tubridy, if his predecessor hadn’t insisted on him taking the evening off before starting work the next morning.

“I often think about that – if my grandfather had gone on that boat, the story would be a very different one,” says Ryan.

He knew little of this when, as a teenager, he was dispatched to Irish college in the Gaeltacht back in the 1980s – a summer he remembers fondly in Carraroe.

“Last summer, I was driving around the West and I went on a day trip to Carraroe. Nothing would do me but to find the house I’d stayed in all those years ago – and when I arrived my old Bean an Tí was outside.

“I walked over to her and said: “You don’t know me, but I know you”, and she nearly died. We went in and I had a look at the bunk bed I’d slept in that summer,” he says.

So his Galway connections – and his family roots – are beyond reproach, although he readily admits that he’s not quite as familiar with the Aran islands.

“I don’t know Aran as well as I should. I’ve always gravitated towards Inishbofin and this summer when I’m there, once again I’ll be spending time in a little cottage that my cousin owns on Inis Turbot.

“We’ve taken the show the most parts of the Wild Atlantic Way over the last few years and I love it; what we try and do is create an aural postcard, where we bring the listeners with us on the journey.

“We want to make it feel like they’re there too,” he says.

While the purpose is to promote all that is good about the Wild Atlantic Way, he doesn’t want it to feel like a hard sell. “I’m just in my element, being where I love to be,” he says.

Part of his experience on Inis Mór will be immersive – quite literally because he will be the Bláth na Mara seaweed bath, as well as taking in a visit to Dún Aengus.

But he wants most of all to meet the local people and therefore he’s issued an open invite to all to turn up at the Tourist Office in Kilronan next Thursday morning to take part in the show.

“My only regret in life,” he says, “is that I’m not a Galwayman. I’m half-Galway by blood – but I want to make it full-Galway by legal documentation. I wonder if that can be sorted?,” asks the man who is already an official Freeman of Connemara.

Connacht Tribune

Sinéad is smashing through the barriers!

Denise McNamara

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Sinead O'Donnell after she was presented with her PhD at NUIG.

She has a PhD, a Masters, a degree in law as well as a basic degree. Yet despite her phenomenal academic achievements, Sinead O’Donnell is struggling to find work.

Because – so far – employers have been unable to look beyond her severe physical disabilities.

“If they only focus on what I can’t do, I’ll never get a break. But if they see past it, the skies are the limit,” she reflects.

Sinead has Cerebral Palsy which is complicated by thoracic scoliosis, profound spasticity and constant pain due to multiple surgeries over the past decade.

She requires assistance to do everything – from getting out of bed in the morning to eating, dressing and getting into her wheelchair. Which makes her educational feats even more remarkable.

She is likely to be the most decorated student with high dependency needs in the country.

But that fact has only served to whet her appetite to achieve more in life.

“I’m not where I want to be,” she confides.

“I feel a burden to my parents – I always feel that way. That’s why I work. I want to be completely self-sufficient.”

Her mother Patricia O’Donnell – a retired special needs assistant who lives in Gort – is quick to interject, insisting that she has been far from a burden.

“Sinead wanted to leave home at 18 – she wanted to be gone, she wanted to be away. She had to come home very weekend for a long time but would be away for the week.

“She didn’t like that because at home you have to go to be when your parents go to bed because she wouldn’t be able to go to bed on her own. And it’s not that we were strict or anything, she just liked the freedom of being independent.”

From the age of two, Sinead demonstrated a particularly intense interest in life and people, recalls her proud mom.

“She was always listening to what was going on, listening to people having a conversation. I was quite busy when she was in school but she could always tell me what was going on in the world.”

Born in the Netherlands eleven weeks premature in 1984, Sinead was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy Quadriplegia (CPQ) when she was nine months old.

Cerebral Palsy is caused by brain injury before, during, or shortly after birth. It is a complex neurological condition that affects a person’s posture, co-ordination and ability to move arms and legs.

As she recalls in her thesis, which is an examination of independent living for people with disabilities and high dependency needs:

“The outlook for me given to my parents about my future was bleak but from the outset they saw potential in me that others missed.

“They enrolled me in a course of Conductive Education run by the Peto Institute, renowned for its positive approach to children with CPQ, wishing to give me every chance to live as normal and independent a life as possible.

“They quickly passed on this determination to me – a wish to strive in every respect to live a full and fulfilling life.”

As a young child, she was placed with other disabled children in schools in Rotterdam and Southampton in the UK where there was no academic focus.

“After a long struggle, my parents were successful in their quest to enroll me in a mainstream school and so I woke up, started to learn, had numerous friends and went from strength to strength in my new environment.

“These early experiences of both segregation and integration tell us that unless a human being is accepted for who they are through complete integration, they will not develop and grow to their full potential.”

One she found a suitable place to live and secured personal assistance hours and social housing supports, she embarked on her third level education.

For the last decade she has lived in a supported housing estate managed by the Irish Wheelchair Association on the Headford Road.

Patricia says that, at NUI Galway, her daughter has also proved to be a ground-breaker.

“When she started in 2003, NUIG was very inaccessible. She had to go to the back of the university to the delivery area to get into the lecture hall and then have to sit on the podium away from all the other students. She was very unhappy with that situation and she was instrumental in changing the access for all students – she couldn’t even get into the library”

Sinead remembers it as a form of segregation.

“They were surprised I was speaking up.”

The challenges she faced in completing her studies were formidable. Sinead gets tired quickly particularly if she speaks or sits for too long, which can set off the severe pain.

During her six years of doctorate study, she has undergone three major operations, nearly dying from infections on a number of occasions.

Crucial to her independent living and studying regime is ‘simultaneous and consistent’ access to a personal assistant to help with day-to-day living as well as an education support worker to assist with college work. This has not always been so, she laments.

It has also proved difficult conducting research outside of the allocated support worker hours.

“Starting from the very basic task of setting up IT equipment through to locating, browsing and finding relevant reading to extracting chosen appropriate material has been a mammoth task and at times almost impossible,” she writes in her thesis.

“The disruptions by my physical support and basic needs to the day-to-day research process were constant, very time-consuming, and curtailed momentum.

“Using the bathroom, which entails hoisting, can take up to 30 minutes or more and feeding, hydration and repositioning because of pain at pressure points and postural problems all impeded the smooth flow of the necessary academic research, causing me huge frustration and loss of focus.”

In her thesis, she argues the Government should go a step further by taking the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – adopted in Ireland in 2006 – and make them legally binding in the form of a Personal Assistance Act, which would make access to personal assistance services a basic human right enshrined in law.

We are sitting in Sinead’s cosy sitting room beside a picture of her donning a cap and gown during the graduation ceremony last month.

“Half of the people who do PhDs drop out, so considering all that and my level of disability on top, I’m glad I finished it. Now it’s about finding a new purpose.”

She would like to work in an organisation like the Irish Wheelchair Association or the HSE.

“Somewhere I could use my experiences to help young people with disabilities reach their full potential and give then the courage to pursue their aspirations.”

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Connacht Tribune

Councils clash over future of Galway Airport

Stephen Corrigan

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Galway City Councillors have demanded that a long-term strategy be drawn up for the County and City Council-owned Galway Airport – accusing both Council Executives of giving councillors contradictory information.

This comes as the City Council gave its stamp of approval to a further one year lease of the facility to the Galway Flying Club.

However, councillors on the city authority expressed concerns that their county counterparts were being given different information on the terms of the lease.

According to Cllr Donal Lyons (Ind), he had been made aware of differences in the wording of a letter informing councillors on both authorities of the application to extend the flying club’s licence.

In the letter to City Councillors, it stated that the extension was up to 2020, said Cllr Lyons, adding “in the one to Galway County Councillors, the wording said it will not be renewed after 2020”.

Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) said he wanted clarity for the members of Galway Flying Club – which had been in Carnmore for over 40 years – that it would still be able to operate there after next year.

“We need to keep aviation alive in Galway. The IDA market Galway as having an airport and while it may not be operating as an airport, flights can still land there,” he said.

Independent councillor Noel Larkin queried if some future aviation use could be maintained for the 115 acre site, given its strategic position for the multinational companies in Parkmore.

“Maybe not as a commercial airport, but to assist our multinationals. We have nine out of ten of the top medical companies in the world here in Galway,” said Cllr Larkin.

Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF) accused the County Council of going on a “solo run” with its future planning for the airport.

“There doesn’t seem to be any joined-up thinking with the City Council and County Council. One of the proposals for the site is a Park and Ride facility – this site is a very valuable asset for the city,” said Cllr Cheevers. “We need to see a plan.”

The Mayor, Mike Cubbard, sought clarity on whether or not Galway Fire Station was being lined up for a move to the airport site.

Negotiations to find a site for a new fire station have been ongoing for years and Carnmore had recently been suggested as a suitable location.

However, Director of Services Dermot Mahon said he had been liaising with colleagues in Galway County Council – who run fire services in both city and county – to find a site for a new station.

“I had a meeting with them last May and a number of sites were proposed. They were all within the city boundary,” he said, seemingly ruling out Carnmore as it’s in the county.

“The location in Carnmore wasn’t mentioned. I am not aware of any suggestion for Carnmore Airport,” added Mr Mahon.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway county councillors declare business and property interests

Dara Bradley

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Galway’s newest county councillors have filed ethics returns with the local authority, giving details of their business and property interests.

All county councillors, who were newly elected in May’s Local Elections, filed their ethics declarations with County Hall, listing land and property they own, and shares or directorships of companies they possess.

Cllr Liam Carroll (FG), in his ethics returns, lists that he sold his shares in Anchor Safety Limited, Briarhill Business Park, in November 2018. His directorship of the company, a supplier of personal protective equipment, and safety products, ceased in November 2018, he said.

The company, he said, has contracts with a total of 18 local authorities across Ireland, including Galway City and County Councils, Mayo County Council and South Dublin County Council. Cllr Carroll declared that he was also a voluntary director of Oranmore Community Development Association.

Cllr David Collins (FG) declared his home in Turloughmore and 15 acres of land for “hay and grazing”. He said he is a director of HPS Vision, a telecommunications company at Parkmore. “We currently have a contract with the Galway County Council Local Enterprise Office for 2019,” he said.

Cllr Shelly Herterich Quinn (FF) declared a rental property on the Cappagh Road in the city, and lists two voluntary directorships of Athenry Community Council and Athenry and District Community Employment Scheme.

Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) holds shares in eight businesses, according to his returns. The companies relate to property management, concrete, building, oil, retail and manufacturing. One of the businesses – DG Roofing Ltd – has supplied goods to Galway and Roscommon County Councils, according to the documents.

Cllr Geraghty owns a storage yard on the Old Bog Road in Williamstown and a business on the main street, as well as office and retail units at Racecourse Road in Roscommon, his declaration said.

Cllr Peter Keaveney (FG), a farmer and agri contractor, lists a voluntary directorship of Glenamaddy and District Development Company. Cllr Pádraig Mac An Iomaire (FG), a funeral director, lists ownership of two properties – a house and a bar – that are leased or rented out. Cllr Gerry King (FF), a fish farmer, owns farmland in Clifden, according to his returns. He is also a director of West Connemara Leisure Centre, Clifden.

Cllr PJ Murphy (Ind) in Ardrahan lists four separate occupations and professions – carpentry, honey production, teaching and suckler cow farming. He owns agricultural land in Kilchreest, and lists that he is a benefactor of farm land and buildings at Kilchreest and Ardrahan.

Headford-based Cllr Andrew Reddington (FG), a teacher, lists part-time farming, a site and a rented house in Castlebar among his interests.

Cllr Joe Sheridan (FF), a manager of a pub in Dunmore, and food science engineer, lists his home in Milltown and business in Dunmore. Cllr Alastair McKinstry (Green), an NUIG employee, listed his family home in Moycullen.

Cllr Dáithí Ó Cualáin (FF), a nurse at UHG, lists a family home in Indreabhán. Cllr Geraldine Donohue (Ind), a part-time farmer and secretarial assistant to Senator Victor Boylan, lists a family home in Kylebrack.

Cllr Colm Keaveney (FF) lists a “dwelling” in Tuam.  Cllr Albert Dolan (FF), an accountant, and Cllr Aisling Dolan (FG), a project manager at NUIG, have declared no interests.

All councillors’ completed ethics declaration forms can be inspected online.

Property tops the list for established local reps

A county councillor owns a company that does business with all local authorities in the country, according to annual declarations of interests filed with County Hall.

Cllr Seamus Walsh (FF), an engineer and planning consultant, lists farmland in Westmeath and Oughterard in his interests. He is a director of Ashford Building Services Ireland Limited, Oughterard, which is “not trading at present”, and of Esperanza Enterprises, which is involved in engineering and education, also in Oughterard. In his declaration, Cllr Walsh said that Esperanza Enterprises has contracts with “all” local authorities.

Cllr Joe Byrne (FG) lists ownership or part-ownership of residential properties in Kinvara, as well as owning shares in Greengross Development, a “non-trading” property development company in Kinvara, of which he is also a director. He is a director of Kinvara Heritage Trust, Burren Enterprise Ltd, Gort Golf Club and Yeat’s Thoor Ballylee Society.

Cllr Jimmy McClearn (FG) listed rental properties in Ballinasloe, Athlone, Galway and Portumna among his interests, as well as his family home and directorships of two not for profit organisations, Killimor Recreation and Fitness Ltd and Killimor Development Ltd.

Cllr Tom Welby (Ind), lists land he owns in Oughterard, and directorships of several not-for-profit organisations including Oughterard Courthouse Conservation and Heritage; Oughterard Community Centre; Oughterard Community Enterprise; and Corribdale Ground.

Cllr Gerry Finnerty (FF), a publican, farmer, and marts admin officer, owns faming land in Peterswell and Tubber, according to his returns.

Cllr Martina Kinnane (FF) declared a family home in Clarinbridge, as well as shares in St Mary’s funeral home in Menlough. She is a board member of Galway Rural Development in Athenry, Athenry Heritage Centre and Bridge That Gap, a community development group.

Cllr Mary Hoade (FF) lists ownership of three properties, including two rental houses, as well as directorships of Williams Motor Warehouse, Corrandulla Community Childcare and Headford Eco Park Enterprise Centre.

Cllr Donagh Killilea (FF), a farmer, and manager of City Bin Company, declared his home on 95 acres of land at Belclare in his returns.

Cllr James Charity (Ind), a barrister, lists agricultural land and shares in Greencore among his interests. He is a director of Annaghdown Parish Council, a community development company, and the Parish Office in Corrandulla, which is also voluntary.

Cllr Gabe Cronnelly (Ind), under “any other additional interests”, lists Galway Game Hunting Association, Cregmore/Athenry Anglers, Monivea Boxing Club and Athenry Tidy Towns.

Cllr Jim Cuddy (Ind) declared a quarter ownership of 35 acres of forestry in Swinford, County Mayo.

Cllr Tim Broderick (Ind), a publican in Kilconnell, had no interests to declare. Cllr Dermot Connolly (SF) declared a farm in Aughrim.

Cllr Michael Connolly (FF), a sheep farmer in Moylough, declared a directorship of Ballinasloe Enterprise Centre. He said he was the County Council’s representative on the committee and he receives “no expenses” for his membership. Cllr Eileen Mannion (FG) declared a family home and share in a rental property in Clifden.

Cllr Tomas Ó Curraoin (RSF) declared a family home in Barna; Cllr Ivan Canning, director of Canning Hurleys, declared a family home in Portumna; Cllr Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher (FG) declared a family home in Loughrea; Cllr Pete Roche (FG) listed a family home on six acres; and Cllr Karey McHugh (Ind) listed her own home.

There was nothing declared in the forms returned by Cllr Pat Hynes (Ind), Cllr Noel Thomas (FF), or Cllr Shane Curley (FF), a teacher.

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