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CITY TRIBUNE

Well-known Galwayman becomes charity ambassador

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One of Galway’s true characters has become an ambassador for the homeless charity which helped him turn his life around.

Dennis Connolly spent more than three decades on the streets of Galway battling alcoholism, which led to countless spells behind bars.

He was a regular in Judge John Garavan’s court, often for abusing passersby and breaking into shops. He previously told the Galway City Tribune he must have smashed the window at McCambridge’s around 10 times.

“There were times there that I used to have to break it to get locked up, because it was too cold. I would go in, and get the winter over.”

Dennis had known very little comfort in his younger life. Originally from Fursey Road, Shantalla, his mother died in 1959, when he was six.

Two weeks after he made his First Holy Communion, Dennis was sent to St Joseph’s Industrial School in Salthill because his father could not care for him. He remained there for nine years.

He then went to live with his aunt in the city in 1966 but was unable to settle. Despite short spells in work, he ran away to England where he first slept on the streets while still only a teenager.

He was returned home when UK authorities realised he had been reported missing. At one point he ended up being sent to St Brigid’s Psychiatric Hospital in Ballinasloe because there was nowhere else for him to go.

A brief spell with his brother Gerald in Dublin was soon followed by a pattern that would haunt his life – living rough on park benches and in doorways, in and out of hostels, while drinking himself to oblivion.

It was only after near death that he got to grips with his addiction.

On January 5, 1991, he was one of five homeless men sleeping in an abandoned van on Merchant’s Road near the Spanish Arch when a nearby 10ft wall collapsed during a storm. Minutes before he had scrambled out, pulling two of the men out behind him.

He was unable to arouse two others, Patrick “Pa” Dodd (27) and John Mongan (20), and they were crushed to death by the falling stone.

During the tragedy he had sustained broken toes which were left untreated. Eventually he was unable to get out of bed with threatened gangrene. Doctors told Dennis he would need several operations to save his legs and they would not operate unless he quit alcohol.

Faced with the prospect of losing both legs, Dennis gave up drinking on the anniversary of his mother’s death in 2004. He moved into supported accommodation run by the Galway Simon Community. Apart from some brief lapses, he has stayed sober since.

He first came into contact with Galway Simon in 1979 when some of the charity’s original volunteers visited him on their soup run.

“They were my only friends at that time. I’ll never forget how it felt to be treated like a human being, like I was worth something. At the beginning they used to come three nights a week to talk to us and bring us soup and sandwiches. Only for them I would be dead a long time ago,” he reflects.

“Back then people ignored you if you were homeless, you were kept down, you had nothing at all. I never had any possessions, only what I wore. If the shoes went, sometimes I would put cardboard in them. Christmas was the loneliest part of the year. You had nothing. You had no Christmas dinner. You never mix with anyone when you’re homeless. You’re a lonely person.”

In 2015 Dennis moved into a Council flat while still receiving support from Galway Simon.

“I’m in my own little paradise now,” he exclaims.

Dennis, who is fronting Galway Simon’s Christmas appeal, insists there are no hopeless cases.

“Look at me years ago, I changed my life and I don’t drink today. I’m years off the drink and I did it for myself. I can’t stop thinking about the people, including friends of mine, who weren’t as lucky as me. Galway Simon didn’t give up on me.”

■ Visit galwaysimon.ie to make a donation.

CITY TRIBUNE

GAA supporters advised to use Quincentenary Bridge

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Salthill Gardaí have asked GAA supporters travelling to the double-header Galway football championship games in Pearse Stadium today (Saturday) to use the Quincentenary Bridge route to and from the fixtures.

The matches are coinciding with the Streets of Galway 8k road race which starts at 7pm from Grattan Road near South Park via the Spanish Arch, Eyre Square, Galway Cathedral, NUI Galway, Salthill past Pearse Stadium and then back along the Prom before a Claddagh finish roughly between 7.30pm and 8.15pm.

A Salthill Garda spokesperson said that GAA supporters going to Salthill – possibly 1,000 plus – should stay away from the city centre route on Saturday to avoid traffic congestion and delays.

The two games in Pearse Stadium on Saturday are Corofin v. Oughterard at 5.45pm, followed by Salthill-Knocknacarra v. Barna at 7.30pm

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council abuzz with rumours of workers’ €5.5m Lottery win

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From the Galway City Tribune – City Hall was abuzz from early Thursday morning after rumours circulated that a Galway City Council syndicate had won €5.5 million in the midweek National Lottery draw.

Lotto chiefs arrive in Galway later today (Friday) for a publicity event at Newspoint in Galway Shopping Centre (pictured) which sold Wednesday’s jackpot winning ticket.

A National Lottery spokesperson said the city player or syndicate has not yet come forward to claim their prize of €5,541,001.

Hours prior to Lotto confirming the winning player was based in Galway, speculation was rife locally that a syndicate of workers at Galway City Council had hit the jackpot.

The suggestion was that the prize was scooped by a group of ten Council outdoor staff in the syndicate, including five retired staff.

Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, joked that he probably had not won it because he was not a regular player.

“A really lovely story and I very much hope it’s true. If it is true it’s well deserved. These guys give wonderful public service and their good fortune, if true, will be well deserved.

“There’s nothing but a feelgood factor about the rumour and everyone hoping it’s true and sending good wishes to those who may have had success.”

Asked about the rumours, the National Lottery spokesperson told Galway City Tribune: “The winner has not made contact yet.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see the August 5 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

JD Wetherspoon unveils plan for ‘superpub’ in Galway City

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – British pub chain JD Wetherspoon has drawn up plans for a €2.5 million overhaul of the former Carbon nightclub on Eglinton Street in Galway – creating up to 70 jobs,

Plans for the ‘The Three Red Sails’ – a bar and restaurant over two floors – were submitted to City Hall last week – and the company said NUI Galway will provide a market for it.

“It is a short 500 metres from NUIG. It’s significant to note that there are 18,605 students in the college as well, which provides a market for the proposed development,” the planning application reads.

Wetherspoon has moved to reassure local residents that its ‘no music’ policy will be in force and “large groups in fancy dress” will not be permitted if it is given the go ahead by Galway City Council.

The company operates more than 860 pubs – including eight in Dublin, Cork and Carlow – and said it will seek “to create long-term relationships with local suppliers” for its all-day food menu.

The plans for the former nightclub premises – which Wetherspoon purchased in 2019 – involve demolition and refurbishment works on the ground floor and an extension at first floor level to provide a roof terrace and beer garden. A ground floor terrace already exists and will be slightly extended.

Drawings indicate seating for around 220 people on the ground floor and 100 people on the first floor (including 50 in the roof garden).

The proposed trading hours are 8am-11.30pm Monday to Thursday; 8am-12.30am Friday and Saturday and 8am to 11pm Sunday and the company said these reduced hours would be a “far less intense use” than the previous nightclub.

(Image: how the new pub would look)

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see the August 5 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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