Meet Declan from Ballinrobe, Mayo.
On Declan's 49th birthday he fell ill. For a man who has been writing since he was seven years old, when he penned a book centred around two pigeons, his colleagues quickly noticed there was something wrong. Declan wasn't aware of the change himself but he was diagnosed with a serious viral illness. Declan spent the next five months firstly in HDU, and then at home recovering from several near death experiences and hallucinogenic dreams. It was at the same time Felix Baumgartner was in the news for free falling from the edge of the stratosphere to Earth. Declan had a reoccurring dream that he was doing a similar fall from a balloon made entirely of sellotape, and his fall to Earth was accompanied by lift music. Unsure whether he was actually dying, he quickly figured that if he was, this groundhog day experience was proof he had expired and was in a sort of hell. There is a quiet irony in the fact that a man as satirical as Declan could create his own hell, where the music was anodyne and the event dramatic, even while his brain was being attacked by a viral infection.
Growing up in Ballinrobe Declan didn't particularly enjoy school at the local Christian Brothers’ School. He spent most of his days being 'bored' and allowing his mind to day dream, creating worlds which he could transform with words he formed by using his mother's Remington typewriter. Learning to type the alphabet at speed became a game and writing stories a hobby. After school he left Mayo to study marketing in the RTC Galway (now GMIT) and he self published "Footprints In The Water", a tale of growing up in Ballinrobe. In quick succession he also published "Kittyland", the story of college life in Galway in the late 1980s which, still sells copies today. His use of parochial content and vernacular voice gives him a very distinctive Irish voice and his prose gathers the same speed as his speech, a common Mayo trait he assures me!
After a brief stint in marketing Declan found a career as a journalist and editor. When he started working as a senior journalist for the Tuam Herald he learnt how to quickly approach many areas of news and cater for all the readers. This has stood to him in his present role as group editor of the Galway Advertiser and news publications in Mayo and Athlone. Declan has been awarded numerous writing and journalism awards during his career. Most notably in 1998, he won the European Regional Journalist Award for humorous articles he had written in the Tuam Herald, explaining the possible implications on local life with the impending arrival of the euro. He is also a three-time winner of the Golden Dozen award, for the top newspaper editorials published worldwide in weekly newspapers.
Declan recovered from his serious illness with the only side effects being positive ones. In his rehabilitation to walk, he started running and now runs 30km a week. He feels like he also has a clearer head for writing and describes the traumatic experience as making him more empathetic towards people who are sometimes living in the margins. He highlights this through his work and hopes that the Galway of our future is built with everyone in mind and becomes more inclusive. The next few years are important in how we shape our city and we hope that people like Declan are involved in that shaping.