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“You don’t know how strong you are until you need to be”

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BOOK: Local freelance photographer Marie Carroll-O'Sullivan has been working with Diane Collins on her charity book 'Behind the Mask'.

HAPPIER TIMES: Gardaí Paudie Twohig and Diane Collins preforming at Tops of the Town at the INEC Killarney in 2015. Photo: Marie Carroll-O’Sullivan

By Michelle Crean

The community is rallying to help one local couple who told of their heart-breaking story on the national airwaves of how life has dramatically changed in the last few weeks after a shock diagnosis.

Diane Collins (37) and her husband Paudie Twohig (44), both Gardai in Killarney, were left devastated when they learned he was diagnosed with a stage 4 melanoma.

Diane, who has a 22-month-old daughter called Tara Grace and is expecting their second child, has been helping well-known freelance photographer Marie Carroll-O’Sullivan with her new charity book 'Behind the Mask' which tells the story of the people in the community during COVID-19.

Diane went on air last week on RTÉ's Ryan Tubridy radio show to raise awareness about the book and to tell their story.

She described Paudie as "a fit active man" who ran regularly and is a "social butterfly", who doesn't drink or smoke.

"This is completely out of the blue for us," she said. "Our lives have been turned up side down on an unknown road in the last four weeks. It's been heart-breaking, we've been shell shocked. Cancer has never really touched our lives before."

However, she said that there is hope but that "the biggest obstacle is for the immunotherapy to work" and that he is "only one of 16 in Ireland who is having or has had this treatment".

She praised Marie's project which will see donations given to the Irish Cancer Society and Pieta House (Nathan's Walk), and as a thank you to the COVID-19 staff at UHK - a treatment at the Killarney Plaza Hotel Spa.

"If anything good was to come out of this it's to give back and to highlight this fantastic project," Diane said.

"We've gone from being one of the supporters of the charity to potentially becoming one of the beneficiaries," she added.

[caption id="attachment_37453" align="alignleft" width="220"] BOOK: Local freelance photographer Marie Carroll-O'Sullivan has been working with Diane Collins on her charity book 'Behind the Mask'.[/caption]

"Diane and Paudie are exceptional community Gardaí in Killarney," Marie told the Killarney Advertiser.

"Diane spoke so well with Ryan, so articulate, warm and composed. Even off duty with so much going on, she is still serving the community of Killarney and I am very grateful to her and Paudie for raising awareness for 'Behind the Mask' through their story."

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Musician Liam O’Connor back and busier than ever

By Sean Moriarty Local musician Liam O’Connor has gone from zero to hero following the lifting on the ban on live music as a result of pandemic restrictions. On Saturday he played his first gig in over 18 months, next Friday he will release a new single, and before that he will play a special gig […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Local musician Liam O’Connor has gone from zero to hero following the lifting on the ban on live music as a result of pandemic restrictions.

On Saturday he played his first gig in over 18 months, next Friday he will release a new single, and before that he will play a special gig in London.

Liam and his family played at the Kerry County Council organised ‘ANSEO’ concert in North Kerry that was run to coincide with the Listowel Harvest Festival last weekend.

It was his first live show since he played at St Brendan’s College, Killarney when he shared the stage with special guest, former Irish rugby coach, Joe Schmidt. That event took place on March 11, 2020, the night before the country entered its first COVID-19 lockdown.

The ‘ANSEO’ series of concerts signalled the return of live music in Kerry and the O’Connor family shared the stage with other local musicians like Tim O’Shea and his Afro Trad Ireland group.

“People were delighted, they were mad for it, they were obviously missing it,” Liam told the Killarney Advertiser. “But they are not letting go just yet, they are still a bit hesitant.”

This Sunday Liam heads to London were he will help Dan Tim O’Sullivan steer sheep over Southwark Bridge (see page 36 for more on this story).

To cap an exceptionally busy period for the local accordion player, he has joined forces with Moya Brennan of Clannad fame. Brennan and O’Connor will release a new single – ‘Strong in Numbers’ on Friday next, October 1.

They previously performed together at a concert in the Friary in 2017.

“It was such a positive experience for all of us we just had to repeat it,” he added. “So not only have we done this recording of ‘Strong in Numbers’ but we are planning to do the Friary again later this year. After that, I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

Meanwhile, the ‘ANSEO’ series visits Killarney on Sunday night.

The Fair Hill car park will host two shows featuring: The Gleneagle Concert Band; Pauline Scanlon with Mick Galvin; The Small Hours; The Rising; Cathal Flaherty and Truly Diverse.

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Coach operators plead for Government aid in budget

By Sean Moriarty   A Killarney tour operator has called for the Government to provide further financial aid for the industry in light of an uncertain 2022 season. He described to an Oireachtas Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sports and Media on Wednesday how a coach with just two American tourists and two staff […]

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By Sean Moriarty
 

A Killarney tour operator has called for the Government to provide further financial aid for the industry in light of an uncertain 2022 season.

He described to an Oireachtas Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sports and Media on Wednesday how a coach with just two American tourists and two staff is currently touring Ireland.

Representatives from the Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC) including Mike Buckley of Kerry Coaches, were invited to outline the detrimental impact COVID-19 has had on the coach tour industry.

Mr Buckley said he and his industry colleagues were desperate to highlight that Ireland was open for business and that the empty coach was an attempt by tour operators to prove how far they are willing to go to get this message out there.

“There is a reticence by people who travel in large numbers, people are not buying,” he told the meeting.

“There is anecdotal evidence that one coach operator is touring Ireland with two passengers, a driver and a tour guide.”

Mr Buckley said he was grateful for the previous support the industry had received but that funding stems back to the summer of 2020 and they were not included in the July 2021 round of funding.

That money was put towards existing loans on buses and coaches and has now dried up.

“It was like putting a bandage over a major bleed or haemorrhage,” he added.

The CTTC said that the coach industry contributed €215 million to the economy in 2019, the last year full figures are available for.

“Shops, cafes, hotels, attractions are hugely dependent on coach tours,” he added.

Kerry Coaches, in peak times, employ up to 114 drivers and tour guides.

“We are down to a skeleton staff,” he added.

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