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Connacht Tribune

Virus-free islanders still face reality of economic impact

Stephen Corrigan

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Panoramic landscape of Inis Oírr . Photo: Shutterstock)

Residents on Galway’s offshore islands are braced for ongoing economic turmoil as a result of the Covid-19 crisis – but there’s a sense of relief that an early lockdown has thus far prevented the virus from reaching islanders.

At a time when ferries full of tourists would normally be making several daily trips to the Aran Islands and Inishbofin, restrictions on travel introduced in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak are set to continue until at least August 10.

Chair of the Inis Oírr Co-op, Enda Ó Conghaile said while there would unquestionably be significant financial implications for the islands as this crisis moves to the next stage, there would always be another tourist season and it was crucial at the moment that islanders’ health and wellbeing was the priority.

The Aran Islands and Bofin sought to get ahead of the virus in early March, ahead of the introduction of the national lockdown, by asking that visitors stay away and that travel to and from the islands be restricted.

That decision had paid dividends, said Mr Conghaile, with no known cases on Inis Oírr or in any of the island communities.

“Everyone is suffering [financially] but it’d be significantly worse if we had an outbreak of coronavirus. An outbreak of the virus on any of the islands would be very serious because of the situation on the islands with vulnerable members of the community,” he continued, adding that accessing medical treatment is a different challenge for those living off the mainland.

There was widespread support for shutting off the islands to tourists among residents, and while the initial closure was due for review on March 29, it has continued and will continue for months to come.

Residents had also limited their travel to mainland for the past couple of months, said Mr Conghaile, with most journeys being made for medical reasons.

“The cargo boat is operating as best it can and we can keep the Co-op running with most of the stuff it needs,” he said.

Much like everyone at the moment, islanders were taking a ‘wait and see approach’ and following the medical advice nationally.

“We have to wait and see what happens in June. We’re following the guidelines and the medical advice and we’re glad that we don’t have any cases of the virus yet.

“There will undoubtedly be major problems down the line in terms of finance, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” said Mr Conghaile.

Connacht Tribune

Homemade Wimbledon is a different bale game!

Francis Farragher

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James Craughwell about to serve over the tape – and the sheep gates – to brother Christopher with mum, Anne, in the background. The family dog Prince is showing a keen interest in taking up the role of ‘ball boy’. The brollies on the deck chairs were actually purchased at the Wimbledon tournament that the Craughwells attended in 2017.

WIMBLEDON mightn’t be happening for the tennis professionals this year due to COVID-19 – but one North Galway family are planning their own version of the tournament.

The younger members of the Craughwell family in Menlough village have had a tradition over the years of lining out their own court on the silage slab that’s available for recreation purposes during the early weeks of the Summer.

The three sons of Jarlath and Anne Craughwell – Christopher, Shane and James – rarely missed the opportunity through the years to ‘get the silage slab ready’ for their own Wimbledon tournament.

“The dimensions of the silage slab are almost exactly the same as a tennis court [78 feet X 36 feet} so back the years we always organised our own games. When the silage was made, then that was always it for another year,” Christopher Craughwell told the Connacht Tribune.

As the lads grew older the summer tennis court hadn’t been used for a few years but in 2020 with the introduction of the coronavirus restrictions, it seemed like a perfect time to bring it back.

“This year we took it a stage further. We used the sheep gates for the net with a line of white electric fence tape along the top so this is probably the best job we’ve ever made of it.

“The silage won’t be made for at least another month so were planning to stage our own family tournament over the coming weeks. With the weather so good, it’s been a great way to pass the time,” said Christopher.

See the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops or available for delivery with your groceries. You can also order the paper from An Post at no additional charge – or purchase a digital edition on this website.

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Connacht Tribune

City Council houses Travellers in county

Declan Tierney

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Cllr Donagh Killilea.

Galway City Council will spend close to half a million euro to house a Traveller family – in a property well outside its own local authority boundary.

Instead the family of four, who previously lived on the Carrabrowne halting site, will be accommodated in the house at Kiltulla near Carnmore, which is deep in Galway County Council’s local government area.

The City Council is understood to have paid €388,000 for the property which will require another €50,000 to refurbish – leaving little change out of half a million euro.

Angry residents, who were unaware of the plan, have now organised a petition to City Council CEO Brendan McGrath to voice their objection to the move.

But Cllr Donagh Killilea believes that there is a bigger issue at stake – with Galway City Council acquiring property wherever they like.

And Senator Ollie Crowe said that he believed the City Council – of which he was a member up to his Seanad election – should be acquiring property within their own area and that this acquisition was ‘unprecedented’.

He said that it was his view that there would be nothing bought outside the city boundary and that the money spent on this property would refurbish a lot of the City Council’s housing stock that had fallen into a state of dilapidation.

See the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops or available for delivery with your groceries. You can also order the paper from An Post at no additional charge – or purchase a digital edition on this website.

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Connacht Tribune

Long drives still out of bounds for golfers

Declan Tierney

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Teeing off from the 12th tee at Galway Bay Golf Resort in Oranmore this week on the re-opening of golf courses around the country. There is nothing to suggest that any golfers travelled more than 5km to play in Oranmore. Photo: Keith Kelly.

This week’s relaxation of travel restrictions saw an exodus to the garden centres and the golf courses – but Gardaí have this week reiterated their warning to those planning to excede their five kilometre limit that they may find themselves in the heavy rough.

The first phase of a return to ‘normality’ went to plan, despite the early rush to newly reopened facilities. Even the rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of furloughed golfers, who were on the first tee from daylight.

Time sheets for golf clubs across the county were choc-a-bloc as they opened their doors to members for the first time since the end of March – but many clubs privately admitted that more than half of those who played had travelled way beyond the 5k restriction.

That led Gardaí to warn that they will be mounting checkpoints and turning people back home – adding that the golf clubs themselves have a responsibility to advise members on the travel rules.

Tuam Sergeant Pat Hastings confirmed that Gardaí had the power under the Health Preservation and Protection Act 2020 to turn back individuals travelling more than 5k from their homes.

He warned that a file will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions to deal with anyone who continually breached the regulations.

See the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops or available for delivery with your groceries. You can also order the paper from An Post at no additional charge – or purchase a digital edition on this website.

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