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Women on crest of a wave with daily swim for 35 years

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The Blackrock Lady Swimmers pictured recently (front, from left) Mary Wade, Muriel Silke, Pauline Henry, Alice Parsons and Pamela O’Donovan, with (back) Monica Sweeney, Patsy Callinan, Maureen Farrell, Anne Grete Gormley, Frances Daly and Mary Nee. PHOTOS: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.

Lifestyle – A group of women who began taking a daily dip in the Atlantic more than three decades ago have formed firm friendships as a result of year-round swimming, sharing each other’s joys and sorrows and being there for each other through thick and thin. They tell DARA BRADLEY about its benefits and how they welcome the new people who’ve taken to the beaches during Covid-19.

When a series of swimming lessons given by Sr Noelle, a Mercy Sister, finished at Leisureland one summer many moons ago, a group of women on the course decided they’d go sea swimming the following week at Ladies’ Beach.

That was 35 years ago this year – and the group is still going strong, swimming daily in Galway Bay at Salthill.

In the beginning there were about 15 of them, who swam every Wednesday. Then they upped it to three times a week, and now it’s a daily endeavour for a hard-core group of a dozen women who are affectionately known as the Blackrock Lady Swimmers or BLS for short.

The twelve are Alice Naughton, Alice Parsons, Francis Daly, Mary Nee, Mary Wade, Muriel Silke, Monica Sweeney, Pauline Henry, Anne Grete Gormley, Maureen Farrell, Patsy Callanan and Pamela O’Donovan.

“Some of us had never been to the beach and certainly never swam at the beach,” recalled Pamela O’Donovan, who hails originally from landlocked Boyle in County Roscommon but has lived in Maunsell’s Road for 50 years.

“It was an off-shoot of swimming classes we were doing with Sister Noelle. From there we got a love of the sea. Some of us were only beginner swimmers and some were quite good swimmers. Some of our group have gone on to get teaching certificates in swimming; they’re qualified and teach swimming in Leisureland,” she said.

Initially, the women used to stop sea swimming for the year in October. But one year, possibly 1990, a ‘brave heart’ among them suggested a Christmas swim – and 2020 marks their 30th dip on December 25.

“I remember the first Christmas we were down there, we had our hats on, and musician Benny O’Connor, who plays melodeon, serenaded us down to the tower!

“We were only one of a few groups there on Christmas Day that time and now you can hardly make your way down to the tower, it’s become so popular,” Pamela said.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Thousands on waiting list for student accommodation in Galway

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The student housing crisis is ‘the worst it’s ever been’ – with thousands on waiting lists for rooms; hundreds relying on hostels and friends’ sofas; and countless more facing deferral or dropping out altogether.

The President of NUI Galway’s Students’ Union, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, told the Connacht Tribune that students had been left in a desperate situation, as she called for mass protests to have the issue addressed.

According to Ms Nic Lochlainn, 3,000 students were currently on the waiting lists for NUIG’s on-campus accommodation – Corrib Village and Goldcrest Village – with around 500 in line for any bed that might come up in the Westwood.

“Gort na Coiribe and Dunaras have told us their waiting lists are well into the hundreds too. I’ve only got to contact two of the hostels around town, but Kinlay and Snoozles have almost 200 students between them already – and they’re expecting more.

“The first years haven’t even arrived yet, and on top of all that, you have people in B&Bs and staying on their friends’ sofas,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn.

Pressure on the student rental market had been building for years, she said, but it had gone off the cliff edge this year as a perfect storm was created by increased student numbers and reduced bed availability.

“[Minister for Further and Higher Education] Simon Harris created new places on courses this year and talked about maximum access to education . . . I’m not sure how that works for students who are homeless.

“Because there weren’t many students around last year, some private landlords might have moved on. There was no new purpose-built accommodation delivered, and then Simon Harris creates new places with no new beds,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn of the causes of this year’s problems.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Government asked to “do everything” to ensure Intel chooses Oranmore as base

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The Taoiseach and Tánaiste will be asked to do “everything in their power” to ensure technology giant Intel selects Oranmore as the location for its new microchip manufacturing plant – which could create 10,000 jobs and transform the West of Ireland economy.

The 540-acre site is owned by the Defence Forces and was selected by IDA Ireland as the preferred site for the company’s new EU ‘chip’ base.

BY STEPHEN CORRIGAN
AND DARA BRADLEY

Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany and Intel confirmed to Taoiseach Micheál Martin that the site is under consideration.

Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said the development would be “transformative” and would be Intel’s largest microchip manufacturing plant in the world.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week, councillors backed a proposal from Cllr Liam Carroll to write to Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar to urge them to push forward the plan.

“This would be a game-changer, not just for Oranmore but for the whole of Connacht. Imagine 10,000 directly employed at some stage in the future, and the spinoff from that,” he said.

The Oranmore site is reported to have been selected ahead of three other locations in Ireland.

It is on Intel’s short-list for the proposed project, which would involve building eight factory modules on a single campus at the site off the M6 motorway, northeast of Oranmore, the newspaper reported.

The American multinational tech company has whittled down its short-list to 10 finalists; Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that if it proceeds, the new Oranmore ‘mega-fab’ would dwarf Intel’s existing site in Leixlip, which employs almost 5,000.

Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon (FG) said: “It would put Galway on the map internationally as a place for high-tech investment and it would serve to rebalance the economic imbalance that exists in our country where all of the weight is on the east coast.

“The IDA has a formula where every one new job created in that industry creates about eight or nine more jobs downstream in terms of the supply chain and services. They’re saying 10,000 jobs on site – twice the population of Athenry – on one campus and then another 80-90,000 jobs off site. The figures are phenomenal, mind boggling,” said Deputy Cannon.

The demand for the facility arose during Covid-19 when the supply chain between Asia and Europe broke down.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Fraudsters ‘spoof’ Galway Garda Station’s phone number

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Fraudsters replicated the phone number of Galway Garda Station and used it to call a local woman to demand money.

Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that the number ‘091 538000’ was somehow used by criminals who attempted to extract money – in the form of the online currency Bitcoin – from the victim.   Despite the phone call appearing to come from the Garda station at Mill Street, the woman became suspicious and reported it to Gardaí.

Sgt Walsh said it was the latest in a series of ‘spoofing’ phone calls to have occurred this year.

Spoofing is where fraudsters change the caller ID to ring unsuspecting members of the public to try to extract money or personal information off them.

He said that the number of spoofing incidents reported to Galway Gardaí has more than doubled in the past year.

“It is top of my agenda,” he said.

He pointed out that criminals can obtain a ‘ready to go’ phone and SIM card, relatively cheaply, and it was “very difficult” for Gardaí to trace the caller.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more details on fraud figures in Galway, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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