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November 14th 2001

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Official - Donegal Bangers are Best

Community Chamber President, Ernan McGettigan, swaps his chain of office for a chain of award winning sausages.
Photo: Conor Sinclair

To mark the great achievement of McGettigan Butchers in lifting the All Ireland Award for speciality sausages, we sent along our reporter Margaret Gallagher to talk to the firm’s principal, Ernan McGettigan.

It all began in early September when the entry forms arrived through the post and Ernan decided to put forward the butcher sausage and his speciality – hickory and maple. In the initial rounds of the award programme, organised by Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland, with support from An Bord Bia and Devro, retail butchers and manufacturers producing sausages, black & white puddings and drisheen, were assessed through anonymous purchases. This was followed by cooking and sampling of produce by members of the Food Writers Guild of Ireland and the Teachers of Home Economics. Said Biddy White Lennon, on behalf of the National Judges panel “Superb sausages are most of all judged by their taste, but true champions will be assessed for texture, appearance, linkage and how they cook”.

So the road to the final began for the McGettigan sausage when an anonymous customer came into the Diamond shop and purchased the ordinary butcher sausage and the speciality sausage, hickory and maple, which has a smoky barbecue flavour. These sausages then went to the regional finals which were judged in Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan. McGettigan Butchers were runners-up in the speciality category which was announced two weeks ago. This put them through to the national final in Dublin.

“I was undecided about the final, but due to the interest generated and the congratulations forthcoming from our customers, we decided to go for it” said Ernan. “On Saturday night before the big day, my wife Mary and myself experimented with the cooking, as the sausage had to be judged cold cooked. After two hours of trial and error we perfected the cooked sausage.”

Next morning, Ernan and Mary headed off and arrived at Jurys Green Isle Hotel, Dublin at 10.30am. “We entered our sausages, at the same time sneaking a look at the other entries”, confided Ernan.

Two hundred butchers had originally entered the competition in the speciality section. This had been judged back to 12 finalists – six regional winners and six runners-up.

Ernan became down-hearted - “the judges were walking around taking samples and they were not even looking sideways at our sausages, so I thought this is it and said to Mary - ‘let’s go home, there is no point staying here’. But Pat Brady, Chief executive of the Association of Craft Butchers of Ireland, forced us to hang on. I left the room as I could take no more of the judging and went to an exhibition in the other room which was part of the Butchershow 2001. Then the awards for the Butcher sausage were presented – no luck - so I thought we were going back to Donegal empty handed.”

Ernan continued “Soon after came the speciality sausage award and when my name was announced as winner I was so shocked. At the presentation of the exclusive crystal trophy and plaque, Pat Brady spoke and mentioned that, when he and I were on Highland Radio last week, I said if I won the regional award, there would be sausages sizzling all over the county, ‘now that he has won The All Ireland Supreme Award, I wonder what are his intentions’ he joked.

When asked if he was going to develop the sausage business and go national, Ernan replied “I would have to go into manufacturing and build a separate unit which would have complications, so I am taking it one step at a time.”

Ernan’s recipe is a secret but he assured me that all ingredients are natural, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, hickory and maple. “The speciality sausage is not for the traditional Irish breakfast but more for the barbacue or evening snack,” Ernan commented. “The speciality sausage gives the butcher a chance to show the personal touch.” When asked about the price, Ernan said that the speciality sausage has a higher pork ingredient, making it more expensive than the butcher sausage “you pay for quality.”

Ernan’s father, Michael, trained in Lucan and opened his butcher shop in 1952 where Begley’s Chemist is now. He then purchased his present shop in 1954 from butcher McNeilly. Local man Sean Dunnion started with Michael in 1959 and on occasions still gives a hand out. Ernan is full of praise for his staff. “They are our best critics - we work like a family and our firm could not operate without each and every one of them.” He continued “On a more personal note, my inspiration to become a butcher came from my dad and also my mum, but my everyday inspiration and solace comes from my wife Mary and I want to take this opportunity to thank her for that.”

Ernan, eldest son of seven and Diarmuid second eldest, who at present is on holiday in the U.S.A., showed interest in butchery at an early age. When both sons entered the business, the name over the shop became Michael McGettigan and Sons. Michael is semi-retired but still has a keen interest in the operation and was 100% behind Ernan in his venture. When contacted on Sunday night with the news, he was up at Murvagh Golf Club and drinks were on him.

In closing, Ernan said it was a great achievement for a small butcher - and for Donegal Town - he hopes it will encourage more entries next year.

Charlie Breslin, Declan Gallagher, John Kerrigan, William Bustard, Ernan.
Missing from this award winning team is Diarmuid McGettigan, Sean Dunnion and Breda Cannon Photo: Conor Sinclair

Weekend Disorder
From A Garda Perspective

Incidents of public disorder are on the increase around the country and it would appear that Donegal is not escaping the trend in this regard. Over the Halloween period, the Gardai had to contend with significant public order problems, which resulted in a number of arrests. The events of Saturday and Sunday the 27th and 28th October in particular were a cause for concern to the Gardai. On the Saturday night, eight persons were injured as a result of disturbances at a disco in town. The injuries ranged from broken noses to a variety of cuts and bruises. There may be a perception that these disturbances are caused by people from outside the area, but on this occasion the youths involved came from Donegal Town. Gardai are currently carrying out investigations in relation to these matters.

On the Sunday night, Donegal saw one of its biggest crowds for some time. A conservative figure would put the number in town that night at 3000 persons. The area around the Diamond was so congested with people that it was almost impossible to manoeuvre about in a vehicle. At one stage Gardai were forced to draw batons to restore order in the Quay Street area, when up to fifty youths became embroiled in a street fight. On this occasion most of those involved were from Northern Ireland.

While it must be said that this particular week-end was an exception in terms of disorderly behaviour, there is no doubt that policing Donegal Town after weekend discos is making increased demands on Garda resources. Donegal has traditionally been a town known for a good social life, and discos in Donegal have always been very popular with young people, but the Gardai have seen a huge change in the attitude of a significant number of young people attending discos in the last five years or so. These young people seem very aggressive and show scant respect for the Gardai or I suspect, any other persons in positions of authority. Why this should be is not entirely clear, but the extension of drinking hours to 2.30am. must surely be a factor. Changed drinking habits have resulted in young persons drinking much younger and in greater quantities than ever before.

Disco owners show little concern for, or understanding of, the problems which result from serving drink to persons who are already drunk or under the legal age. Disco owners deliberately flout the law and, while making protestations of co-operation with the Gardai, they make little or no effort to comply with the law. Their view seems to be that what happens on the streets at night after discos in none of their concern. In view of the increased public order problems countrywide, there must be a case for reviewing late night extensions.

On Monday the 5th October two men, one juvenile, appeared before a special sitting of Donegal District Court on a number of charges relating to break-ins at Ardaghey, Mountcharles and Donegal Town. They had addresses in Derry and Fatima Mansions, Dublin. They are currently on remand in custody pending determination of their cases. This incident serves as a timely reminder that travelling criminals sometimes see the countryside as easy pickings as far as the commission of crime is concerned and we must avoid complacency and take all reasonable steps to ensure that our property is secure.

The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

Tel: +353-73-22860 Fax: +353-73-22937