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Work begins on Portumna hotel four years on from fire

Declan Tierney

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Work has commenced on the site of the Shannon Oaks Hotel in Portumna, which burned down four and a half years ago – and there are hopes that it could be reopened in April of next year.

The loss of the hotel is estimated to have cost the town around €2.5 million in lost tourism revenue – and that is why the entire business community will be delighted to see it reopening.

Local TD Anne Rabbitte said that it was a credit to the businesses for surviving through this difficult period and she hoped that when the hotel is reopened, it would be well supported.

This week saw machinery removing rubble from inside the burnt-out shell of the Shannon Oaks, now owned by the Comer brothers, Luke and Brian, the well-known property developers originally from Glenamaddy.

Deputy Rabbitte said that work on the hotel coincides with a €380,000 development at the marina which is nearing completion.

“There is a lot happening in Portumna at the moment and it is all very positive for the town and surrounding area”, she added.

There are cottages attached to the hotel and when these were vacated last November, it became apparent that there was some movement on the sale of the property.

The fact that Portumna is on the shores of Lough Derg means that it attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually but the fact that there hasn’t been hotel facilities in the town for such a lengthy period has impacted on tourist spend.

Since the sale of the hotel was completed in January, the new owners have visited Portumna and now Deputy Rabbitte is anxious to meet up with them and offer them any support that she can. She said that it was a huge boost for the town that the new owners have decided to rebuild the hotel.

Connacht Tribune

Portumna seeks slice of Downton Abbey action!

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Portumna connection…Princess Mary (actress Kate Phillips) in Downton Abbey.

The release of its first silver screen drama has seen the spread of Downton Abbey fever all over again – and one local Junior Minister wants to see Galway cash in on its new connection.

Because, according to Ciaran Cannon, the appearance in the movie of Princess Mary – a visitor to the fictional Crawley family seat – creates a direct Downton link to Portumna Castle.

And the Minister for the Diaspora and International Development is urging the tourism sector in Portumna to make use of the town`s connection to boost visitor numbers.

“Fans of ‘Downton Abbey’ will be flocking to movie theatres in droves to see the hit drama revived for the big-screen and interestingly, from the point of view of East Galway`s history, the movie version features the real-life character of Princess Mary,” he said.

Because the real-life character of Princess Mary visited Portumna in 1928; her husband was the last owner of Portumna Castle prior to it being acquired by the State.

The new cinematic outing for Downton Abbey sees the servants and aristocrats of the famous house receive a visit from King George V and his wife Queen Mary, prompting much panic and excitement.

One of the most prominent royals featured in the film is that of Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood – played by Peaky Blinders actress Kate Phillips.

The real Princess Mary was the only daughter of King George V and his wife Queen Mary. She had two older brothers – the future kings Edward VIII and George VI, the latter being the father of Queen Elizabeth II.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway mum on signs of heart valve disease – and how to get back to full life

Denise McNamara

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Una Fahey at home in Kilbeacanty. Photo:Andrew Downes

Una Fahey had spent two days in bed floored by a vicious ‘flu – or so she thought. Her youngest son Enda was to play in the Galway County Minor Hurling Quarter-Final that day in 2017 but she was unable to focus on the match, she so ill with a high temperature and sore bones.

“I wouldn’t be one to go to the doctor with the ‘flu because you could spread germs – I don’t know what made me go but I didn’t want to be in bed anymore and wanted to get better quicker,” she reflects from her home in Kilbeacanty, outside Gort.

She attended her local GP clinic which was staffed by a doctor on call that Saturday. Her condition was so serious that an ambulance was called and she was dispatched to University Hospital Galway.

Tests revealed she had bacterial endocarditis – or heart valve disease. Within 48 hours she had both her mitral and aortic valves replaced with mechanical valves.

Her illness came as a complete shock. She was 57, healthy, and looking forward to some free time as the last of her five boys was leaving home to go to college.

“I had no warning really. I’m still not 100%. I get very tired – tiredness is actually the worst thing about it,” Una reveals.

Croí, the Heart Disease and Stroke Charity, is urging people aged 65 and over not to mistake the symptoms of Heart Valve Disease for old age during European Heart Valve Disease Awareness week.

Read full interview and advice in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Taoiseach backs full disclosure on numbers earmarked for Oughterard centre

Francis Farragher

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Marchers on last Saturday's silent protest in Oughterard. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has made a Dáil response to the ongoing controversy over the possible location of a Direct Provision Centre for asylum seekers close to the town of Oughterard at the now closed-down Connemara Gateway Hotel.

In response to a question on Tuesday evening from Labour Party TD, Joan Burton – who asked why there had been no communication with local people on the issue – the Taoiseach said he agreed with her on the need for consultation with local residents.

“Briefly, regarding Oughterard, I agree with Deputy Burton that there should be communication between the Department of Justice and Equality and residents on what plans, if any, there are to accommodate asylum seekers there,” said Deputy Varadkar.

The Taoiseach said that there were good examples of where good communications had occurred in relation to the provision of such facilities in Lisdoonvarna in Clare and in Wicklow town where ‘some fears had been allayed and some scare stories corrected’.

“I am told that has not happened yet in Oughterard because any plans or proposals to accommodate asylum seekers in that particular town are only at the initial stages and are not developed to the point where the Department is in a position to consult residents.

“If the plans get to that point, I am sure it [communication] will happen. Wicklow town and Lisdoonvarna are very good examples of where there may have been an initial reaction which was negative but now people have come around and welcomed people from other countries into their towns,” said the Taoiseach.

See full story and further coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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