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.
Just five fines in County Galway for dog fouling in past two years
Just five fines have been issued by Galway County Council for dog fouling in the past two years.
Yet responsible citizens who had brought their bottles to be recycled at a bring bank were fined when they were unable to deposit them in the bins provided because they were too full.
The number of dog fouling fines was “a joke” and would do nothing to deter irresponsible dog owners from cleaning up after their pets, exclaimed Cllr Ivan Canning (FG).
He insisted at this month’s Loughrea Municipal District meeting that the proposed Litter Management Plan 2019-2021 could not be enforced properly when only 18 Council workers were employed to police the regulations it contained.
“Until we pay a private company to go after people who litter or dog owners who don’t pick up it’s not going to change. Before the private clamping companies came in, people didn’t mind where they parked. These companies come in and make money and we make a percentage too,” he stressed.
Cllr Martina Kinane (FF) said bring banks needed clear signage that fines would be levied if bottles or boxes were left at the site. She knew of one constituent who was fined in Clarinbridge for leaving bottles beside the bins when they were full.
“We’re trying to encourage recycling,” she reflected.
County Cathaoirleach Jimmy McClearn said he was convinced that the best people to enforce litter regulations were district court judges.
“But they’re not doing it. When occasionally they are prosecuted, these people get the Probation Act or get a small fine. I’ve seen people who are fined, refuse to pay it, are brought to Castlereagh [Prison] and they’re home in the evening and they feel vindicated,” he stated.
“The problem is not with Galway County Council, it’s with national legislation and with the district court justices – they are the best to educate the public about litter management – we can’t cover the county in CCTV.”
Signs threatening fines for littering were useless, believes Cllr PJ Murphy. People were stacking black bags of rubbish against them “just for the craic”.
Bring banks should be located on private land and maintained by petrol stations or GAA clubs for a fee. The bring bank at Labane never had an issue with illegal dumping as it was maintained meticulously by the owners of the petrol station.
Senior Executive Engineer Mike Melody said the Council always had problems locating a bring bank and always consulted with community groups. Galway County Council had no money to pay out to private landowners to look after one.
Flood relief delays leave South Galway high and far from dry
A powerful lobby group has lashed out at the State over delays to flood prevention programmes in South Galway – which they say leave the entire area exposed once again to the threat of further damage this winter.
The South Galway Flood Relief Committee has expressed outrage over the fact that the scheme has been delayed by a further six months – and even a number of local TDs have been lambasted for their lack of action over the situation.
At the same time, the engineer in charge of the same South Galway Flood Relief Scheme has promised that the feasibility study, which is almost complete, will contain design options that best meet environmental challenges and cost-benefit criteria – two factors crucial to securing Government funding.
Galway County Council’s Enda Gallagher explained at this month’s Loughrea Municipal District meeting that the project is over a year behind its original timetable because the design team had ‘hit environmental snags’ and had struggled to devise computer models of the topology and underground channels.
Scientists in Trinity College Dublin were employed to work on the modelling until the end of November when they would produce their report.
Various design options are currently being assessed which take into account the Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and the Annex 1 limestone paving, both of which have to be protected in any scheme.
“They are making progress. I expect to see the results in the next number of weeks and hope to produce the results to yourselves and the public,” he stated.
Fine Gael’s Joe Byrne said there was a perception in the public that the feasibility study was yet another report instead of a definitive design solution, which would then have to be sent for funding approval to the Office of Public Works (OPW).
He said there had been very many minor works schemes completed in the last three years which would help alleviate flooding. But there was uncertainty in the community that this major project would ever go ahead.
“I don’t agree with that, but I think there needs to be a public consultation process as soon as the feasibility [report] is done and not for the OPW to sit on it for months and months.”
Party colleague, Cllr PJ Murphy, asked if ground would be moved in 2020 on the scheme.
“Talk of yet another delay in the progression of the South Galway Flood Relief Programme is a source of great concern and frustration to many local people,” he said this week.
“I am told that a more accurate picture of the timelines involved will become clear after the completion of the final feasibility report in the first quarter of 2020,” Cllr Murphy added.
Mr Gallagher said he was unable to give a clear timetable but all would become clearer after the feasibility study was published which would contain “a robust solution that will tick all the boxes”.
From the start he had stated that the scheme had to be “cost beneficial” and complied with the environmental legislation.
The cost benefit analysis had been completed on a separate scheme at Rinrush, where residents in 13 houses had previously been stranded for 58 days. Workers would get in early next year to clear vegetation from the area and build a 1km road to ensure access over the summer.
Chair of the South Galway Flood Relief Committee David Murray recently pointed out that following heavy rain in August and September when over two times the average rainfall was recorded turloughs across the region are full.
“With the reduction in the turlough buffer capacity, we now have a very high potential for flooding this upcoming winter,” he warned on the committee blog.
He said the committee had been informed that a further delay of up to six months was likely in order to complete the feasibility study.
“Credibility is rapidly diminishing on this project – If we remember – ‘diggers on the ground in 2020’ was the mantra at the start of this scheme and now it’s looking more likely that the only thing delivered in 2020 will be yet another report. This is disastrous for South Galway which will more than likely suffer yet another flooding crisis this winter.”
Former Councillor Bridie Willers complained that with the project already a year behind schedule, it appeared that the consultants could keep extending it.
“No explanation as to why the project is delayed once more. To be honest I am convinced they simply do not have the expertise to do the job they agreed to do because, if they did, a solution would have been forthcoming before now,” she wrote on the blog.
“The frustrating part is we can do absolutely nothing about it only sit and wait for our homes, our farms, our roads to be flooded and our community to be isolated again.”
In other schemes across the region, Mr Gallagher said the Dunkellin Bridge should be open to traffic in the first week of November at the latest – and the end of October if the contractors hit no snags.
An application to fund individual flood barriers on homes previously flooded on Kinvara quay had been submitted to the OPW, which had replied asking for substantial details on each building.
Surveys would have to be carried out on 40 homes and a decision made to protect against a one in 1,000-year flood or a one in 200-year flood.
Cllr Byrne said there were 20 homes not 40 that needed the flood gates and four of those had installed them at their own expense after becoming frustrated at how long it was taking for the OPW to fulfil their promise to homeowners.
Cllr PJ Murphy said he raised the matter at a recent meeting of Loughrea Municipal Council only to be told that there would be no diggers on the ground this winter.
“I very much welcome the completion of all pipe laying and drainage works in the Kiltiernan Flood relief scheme.
“This scheme is now fully functional and all that remains to be completed is some of the ground levelling and reseeding works as well as the restoration of walls and fences,” he said.
Separately, Galway County Council are advancing proposals with the Office of Public Works to resolve the access problems caused in recent years by high flood levels at Rinrush, Gort.
These proposals involve the improvement of access routes only and do not include any flood alleviation measures. The plans for this project are at an advanced stage and it is hoped that these works can begin as soon as early 2020.
Black Gate provides perfect stage for Ultan’s new songs
Groove Tube with Cian O’Connell
It’s been a busy eighteen months for Loughrea singer-songwriter Ultan Conlon. Since releasing his third full-length LP in April of last year, he has written and performed extensively both at home and abroad, culminating in a recent, fruitful trip to LA.
But it’s all back home shortly, as Ultan plays the Black Gate on Sunday, November 10, in his final Galway show of 2019.
Among some carefully chosen older songs, he will be premiering a selection of new material set for release on his upcoming album, entitled There’s a Waltz.
Recorded in LA with esteemed bluegrass musician Sean Watkins, Ultan’s fourth release was born out of connections he has held on the other side of the Atlantic for several years.
“I’ve been to LA a few times,” he notes. “About four years ago, the second or third time I’d been there, I hired a PR lady and she sent a couple of my videos to a venue there called Largo.
“I’d never heard of it because I don’t know the LA scene but the day I arrived, he had asked her if I’d do a gig that night. It was really nice – a 300 plus seated theatre.
“On the walls there were photos of massive stand-up comics and musicians… Zach Galifianakis and Aimee Mann… I was thinking ‘Maybe this is just LA and this just happens here’ but it turns out Largo is a go-to spot for a lot of them and it’s hard enough to get into but I was lucky enough to get in.”
Largo has proved to be a valuable stage for Ultan. From that initial gig four years ago, he has forged relationships with a variety of talented musicians and producers in the US.
“I met people through doing the gigs,” he recalls. “The guy who produced this album, Sean Watkins, originally played in Nickle Creek, a very big bluegrass band with Grammies and multi-million selling albums.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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