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US universities use Connemara for tourism programmes

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Four American universities are now using a Connemara setting for an educational based tourism exchange programme and one of them completes its 41st year next Tuesday.

For the past four months 20 American students and two college professors have studied, worked and enjoyed life in Tullycross and its environs.

The students, aged from 19 to 22, are from the Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan and this summer sees students from two more colleges, Maine Maritime College and Kirkwood in Iowa coming for a similar programme. And in September of next year, a fourth college, Lourdes, also in Michigan, will come to take part in a four month stint.

Organised by Connemara West Plc, which is the longest and most successful local development company in Ireland with over 30 years experience, it is dedicated to improving the economic, social and cultural quality of life of the local community of Letterfrack, Tullycross and the Renvyle peninsula.

Dr Kevin Heanue of Teagasc and chairman of Connemara West Plc explains that tourism has always been an important part of the Connemara economy.

The student exchange started before the formal establishment of Connemara West when in 1973, thanks to the connection between Letterfrack Furniture College and Grand Rapids, which was then the biggest furniture producer in the world. As efforts were made to get the local college recognised by the GMIT, a student exchange between it and Aquinas College came about.

The students initially stayed with host families but then stayed in the newly built Tullycross Cottages and each student was ‘adopted’ by a host family who had them to dinner once a week.

The demand for the programme increased and its success sees requests from other US colleges to take part in similar programmes.

Dr Heanue explained that the students study Irish literature, history and culture but also intern in a number of local employers like Connemara West PLC, the Connemara Local Radio, GMIT and Letterfrack Furniture College, Connemara National Park, Connemara Forum Development organisation and the local VEC.

“There are formal classes and they intern about one day a week and this is their forum to develop good relations with the local community and they also get credits in their colleges for taking part in this overseas study programme as well las their intern work,” he said.

Of course some of them have interacted better than others over the years and there have been about six or seven marriages out of this exchange programme!

“Majority of the US students who come on this programme are women and some of them did fall in love and indeed have settled down in the locality but a few have also returned to their US homes with a Connemara spouse!” he explained.

The Tullycross Holiday Homes are now occupied a good part of the year with these American students but in the height of the summer season they are available to holidaymakers.

Such is the success of this particular study programme that they held their own Gathering event at County Hall in Galway City last October, when some of the students returned for a visit.

Dr Heanue said that Connemara West would continue to pursue education based tourism strategies to complement its traditional tourism.

“In this way, the economic base of the region is being strengthened, the social and cultural life of residents improved, and the objectives of Connemara West Plc are being achieved,” he added.


‘Daredevil’ swimmers are a fatality waiting to happen

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – ‘Daredevil’ winter sea swimmers who dive or jump into the water in places like Blackrock during adverse weather are putting their own lives at risk – and possibly those of rescuers – by their actions, it was warned this week.

Water Safety Ireland have cautioned that the biggest single contributor to drownings in Ireland is what is known as ‘cold water shock’ – a condition caused by the sudden entry into a cold body of water.

There is now growing concern that a copycat trend is emerging with young people – without wet suits – diving or jumping into the sea in stormy or icy-cold weather.

Several people have been filmed on social media in the sea at Salthill during storms – with a number of them taking ‘running jumps’ off the diving tower at Blackrock.

Roger Sweeney, Deputy CEO of Water Safety Ireland, told the Galway City Tribune that people jumping into the sea during storms showed at best a reckless disregard for their own safety and in a worst-case scenario represented ‘a fatality waiting to happen’ for the jumpers – or the persons trying to rescue them.

“Jumping into cold water puts you at risk of cold shock which can result in immediate incapacitation and doing so in storm conditions can make it difficult to get back out of the water safely and promptly before hypothermia sets in.

“Hypothermia leads to the cooling of the muscles needed in the arms and legs to stay afloat. Drownings typically happen when someone over-estimates their ability and under-estimates the risks,” said Mr Sweeney.

Galway Lifeboat Operations Manager, Mike Swan, told the Galway City Tribune, that the key thing for all people who enjoyed the water and the sea was to carefully plan their exercise or hobby.

“Cold water shock is a real danger at this time of year for all swimmers. Be prepared – have your cap, ear plugs, mats, woolly cap [after leaving the water] and towels all in place. Check the weather forecast and check the tides – and never, ever just jump straight into the water during the colder season.”

(Photo: Diving into the water at Blackrock during Storm Bella in December)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Developer banks on boom in rental property market

Enda Cunningham



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The backer of the Crown Square scheme in Mervue is planning an increase in the number of apartments in the development following a review of the economic viability of the project.

The 345 apartments will specifically target the rental market.

Crown Square Developments Ltd, which is operated by developer Padraic Rhatigan, has told Galway City Council that the amended plans will form part of a new planning application to be made directly to An Bord Pleanála under ‘Strategic Housing Development’ legislation.

According to the company, the property market has changed since it was granted permission in November 2019 for 288 apartments in three blocks ranging from five to eight storeys in height.

Mr Rhatigan has now sought planning permission for an 18% reduction in the overall size of basement levels and a reduction in car parking from 1,377 to 1,012 spaces. Cycle parking spaces will increase from 1,110 to 1,200.

The plan also involves the relocation of the vehicular and pedestrian access to the development on the Monivea Road, which will now be closer to McDonagh Avenue. The existing planned access is at the south-easternmost point of the site, but is now planned to move further west.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Former hurler has words of wisdom to help through absence of sport

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The sports psychology advice dispensed by performance and wellbeing coach, Tony Óg Regan, is not just geared towards elite and non-elite athletes – it is relevant to a virus-weary general public, too.

Take, for example, the former Galway hurler’s thoughts on the need to be proactive during this global pandemic.

“We have to be proactive around our own health and wellbeing, rather than waiting for a vaccination to drop on your lap or for things to change really quickly around the economy or whatever,” he says.

And his thoughts on consumption of news on social media will be familiar with anyone who has wasted hours down virtual rabbit holes scrolling through threads on Twitter or Facebook or videos on TikTok during lockdown.

“It’s okay to be aware of the news and the case numbers and vaccinations but we can’t be putting 90% or 95% of our energy and focus on that every day, because depending on how we are interpreting that information it could be driving stress and anxiety levels,” he says.

The advice is to be aware of the requirements around restrictions but ‘just don’t let it take up every waking hour and every waking thought’.

“Consciously and subconsciously we could be taking in a lot of news sources. When we scroll online, they reckon we take in 174 newspapers’ worth of information every day. Some of that could trigger anxiety and stress levels so it’s important we’re aware of that, and maybe don’t do things unconsciously.

“So recognise that you’re going on the phone now for 20 minutes, and you’re not on it for two hours and you’ve forgotten what you’re doing and it’s triggered anxiety.

“Focusing on things that we can control and influence and being proactive around health and movement and our conversations, what we’re listening to, what we’re reading. Those elements are so important to regulate stress and anxiety at this time,” says Tony Óg.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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