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Connacht Tribune

Women in spotlight in Marina Carr’s ‘The Mai’

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Joan Sheehy, Rachel O'Byrne, Stella McCusker, Marion O'Dwyer, Derbhle Crotty and Lesley Conroy who appear in Decadent Theatre Company’s production of Marina Carr’s The Mai. Stella, Derbhle and Joan, who were in the original 1994 production at the Abbey Theatre, return in new roles. PHOTO: DARRAGH KEANE.

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

“It’s an intense play, but it’s enjoyable because of that,” says actress Rachel O’Byrne of Marina Carr’s drama The Mai.  Rachel plays Millie in this moving work, set in the midlands that centres on four generations of one family of ‘proud mad women’ and how events from the past leave an indelible legacy on the future.

The Mai of the title is a formidable 40-year old woman who has always aimed to live an exceptional life, but is devastated when husband Robert, a musician, abandoned her and their family after 17 years of marriage. She builds a dream house in the hope that he will return and, as the play opens, that’s what happens. But this is not a happy-ever-after scenario.

Mai’s and Robert’s troubled reunion is observed and influenced by memorable family characters who span the generations. Towering over them is the acidic, irreverent matriarch, Grandma Fraochlán whose “ancient and fantastical memory”, is a reminder of how the past looms over the present.

The Mai premiered on the Peacock stage of the Abbey Theatre in 1994 and this revival by Galway company Decadent is being directed by Andrew Flynn. It’s being performed at the City’s Town Hall Theatre from this Thursday, October 4, to Saturday, October 6, as part of an Irish tour.

Millie, the Mai’s daughter and the narrator of the piece, is onstage throughout, “watching and listening to all of them”, Rachel explains.

“All of them” include Grandma (Stella McCusker), physically frail but with a savagely acerbic tongue, as well as her daughters, Agnes and Julie, played by Joan Sheehy and Marion O’Dwyer. And there’s the Mai, played by Derbhle Crotty. This strong woman, a mother and schoolteacher schoolteacher, is left humiliated by her husband’s infidelity.

Director Andrew Flynn and the cast decided early in the rehearsal process that Rachel would be onstage all through and, from the start, she attended all the rehearsals so that the other actors – six women and one man – would get used to her presence.

“And it was also for me,” Dublin-born Rachel explains, “so I could learn, as a company, how we were presenting this play and telling the story.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Unauthorised developments in County Galway go unchecked for months

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The Planning Enforcement Section of Galway County Council is so understaffed that complaints of unauthorised developments are not being investigated for months, the Connacht Tribune has learned.

In one case, a complaint alleging a house was under construction in a picturesque and environmentally sensitive part of Conamara without planning permission was not investigated by the Council for at least six months.

And it can be revealed that there is a ‘large’ backlog of complaints of unauthorised developments in the county, which the Planning Enforcement Section at County Hall has blamed on staff shortages, according to correspondence obtained by the Connacht Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI).

In response to repeated requests by a concerned member of the public to intervene and investigate an allegation of unauthorised development in an environmentally protected area of Conamara, the Council’s Planning Department indicated it was too stretched.

“Unfortunately, the planning enforcement section is experiencing a period of prolonged staff shortages and consequently there are a large number of files awaiting investigation/review,” it said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Access Centre provides pathways to University of Galway for the disadvantaged

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Photo of Imelda Byrne

Great leaps have been made in recent years to make access to tertiary level education a realistic prospect for once marginalised groups in society.

With the deadline for CAO applications approaching next week, the Access Centre at the University of Galway is aiming to reach as many underrepresented groups as possible ahead of next academic term.

Head of the Access Centre, Imelda Byrne (pictured), said research has shown that those who once felt third level ‘wasn’t for them’ are increasing their presence at UG, and bringing a richness to the sector that had for a long time been missing.

In the five years up to 2021, there was a 100% increase in the number of students registering for the Disability Support Service at the university, while those coming from Further Education and Training courses in institutes like GTI had surged by 211% over four years.

“The message that we really need to get out there is that the CAO is not the only route into third level. There are a number of pathways,” says Imelda.

“There are loads of places set aside for students coming from a place of disadvantage,” she continues, whether it’s national schemes such as the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for socio-economic disadvantage; or the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE); or the university’s own programme for mature students.

Those places are there to ensure those from all backgrounds get an opportunity to reach their education potential, tapping into hugely talented groups that once may have missed that opportunity.

“What we have seen is that when they get that opportunity, they do just as well if not better than other students,” continues Imelda.

For HEAR and DARE scheme applicants, and for those hoping to begin higher education as a mature student, next Wednesday’s CAO deadline is critically important.

But beyond the CAO applications, the Access Programme will open up in March to guide prospective students, whatever challenges they are facing, into third level.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway County Council ‘missing out on millions’ in derelict sites levies

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Photo of Cloonabinnia House

Galway County Council is missing out on millions of euro in untapped revenue due to a failure to compile a complete Derelict Sites Register.

That’s according to Galway East Sinn Féin representative, Louis O’Hara, who this week blasted the news that just three properties across the whole county are currently listed on the register.

As a result, Mr O’Hara said the Derelict Sites Levy was not being utilised effectively as countless crumbling properties remained unregistered – the levy amounts to 7% of the market value of the derelict property annually.

The former general election candidate said Galway County Council was ill-equipped to compile a proper list of derelict sites and called on Government to provide the necessary resources to tackle the scourge of dereliction across.

“There are still only three properties listed on Galway County Council’s Derelict Sites Register . . . anyone in Galway knows that this does not reflect the reality on the ground and more must be done to identify properties, and penalise owners who fail to maintain them,” said Mr O’Hara.

The situation was compounded by the fact that the Council failed to collect any of the levies due to them in 2021.

“This is deeply concerning when we know that dereliction is a blight on our communities. Derelict sites attract rats, anti-social behaviour and dumping, and are an eyesore in many of our local towns and villages.”

“The Derelict Sites Levy should be used as a tool by local authorities to raise revenue that can then be utilised to tackle dereliction, but they are not adequately resourced to identify and pursue these property owners,” said Mr O’Hara.

(Photo: The former Cloonabinnia House Hotel is on the Derelict Sites Register).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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