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Connacht Tribune

Unused airstrips still cost State €125,000 a year

Declan Tierney

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The unused airstrip on Inishbofin.

A plan to provide an air service between the mainland and Inishbofin remains grounded – and costing the state €125,000 annually to maintain the disused and overgrown runways.

The airstrips in both Cleggan and Inishbofin were built almost a decade ago at a cost of €10 million, and the intention was that 20-seater planes would fly between the two destinations.

Back in 2010 the airstrips were provided under a Fianna Fáil-led government in which Deputy Eamon Ó Cuív was the Gaeltacht Minister.

A year later progress on the air service ground to an immediate halt when Fine Gael took power.

Since then, the government has forked out €1.2 million in maintenance fees to a private company – money that would have been sufficient to provide two terminal buildings along with emergency services on both ‘Bofin and Cleggan.

There is no permanent security at either airstrip although it has been confirmed that perimeter fencing is replaced when it is removed during high winds.

But the fact that the airstrips have remained redundant almost ten years later is a source of annoyance for islanders who had built up hopes of getting access to the mainland on a five minute flight.

The airstrips have become overgrown with weeds and ragwort and it would take a major effort to bring them back into use. At one point, the Fine Gael-led government put them up for sale but there were no offers.

Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív now believes that it will take a change of government before the airstrips will be utilised.

He is advocating that the current Aer Arainn service from Inverin to the Aran Islands be expanded to take in Inishbofin and Cleggan if there was government will in this regard.

“Inishbofin and the Aran Islands are hugely important when it comes to attracting visitors to this island and the provision of an air service is vital. To see the two airstrips not being used is tragic.

“There are three operational hotels on Inishbofin which is unique in itself but it is hugely important that we maintain a young population on the island so that it can survive into the future,” he said.

The Fianna Fail TD said that €500,000 would be sufficient to build two terminal buildings on both ‘Bofin and in Cleggan. “This is the cost of two domestic dwelling houses,” Deputy Ó Cuív observed.

When it came to the cost of staffing the two airstrips, the construction of two terminal buildings and the provision of emergency services, the Department of the Gaeltacht baulked and would not fund this and consequently they have remained overgrown and unused.

Deputy Ó Cuív also believed that there would be huge interest in Inishbofin from private air clubs based in Britain and other parts of Europe if the airstrip was opened.

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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