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April 9th 2003

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Credit Where Due

On her appointment to office, one of the first tasks our Town Enterprise Officer set for herself was to bring together traders from the North Diamond and Lower Main Street to initiate discussions that could lead to locked-in-land behind their respective premises being opened up for parking. Has there been any progress in those deliberations? Even now, well before the season proper has started, parking spaces are impossible to find. Taking the amount of space lying behind O’Donnells Bar, the Book Shop, Magees, the Old Paul’s Palace, George Irwins and Mulreanys, it would seem foolish if energetic efforts were not in motion to free up this potentially invaluable land. Opening up this area would have a beneficial effect on the businesses mentioned, by enabling them to develop the rear of their premises, as has happened on the other side. To have the Diamond and Main Street surrounded by easily accessible parking would be of tremendous benefit to the town. And to counter fears of late night noise as expressed by the residents of Castle Street, opening could be confined to daytime 8am.-7pm. hours. In time, at least some of the proposed developments at Revlin and Drumlonagher are going to happen and the town must have its infrastructure in place to counter these.
The two major projects presently going ahead at the Abbey Hotel and Cinema will, when completed, bring a lot of extra business to town but neither has provided much additional space for parking. However, it is ironic that the two men behind these developments, men who have committed massive investment monies to this area have, over the past months, been subjected to a series of potentially damaging stories and press accusations without much evidence to support.
The article on the front page of the Donegal Democrat last week headed ‘Hotel Manager to Take Dismissal Case’ was a series of cheap shots aimed at Jim White, built on quotations from unnamed persons. Hearsay evidence such as this is not what you would expect from a lead story in what is supposed to be our foremost south county paper. Managing a business in this day and age is not easy - and running a story with anonymous quotes and accusations can in no way be helpful to the business, its workers or the town in general.
The other subject of recent press innuendo is developer Michael Kelly who, among other things, has been accused of planning irregularities on Malin Head, ignoring site safety at the cinema and being a threat to the Ring Fort on Tullycullion. When questioned about these, Mr. Kelly told Donegal Times, a. re planning - he would welcome an enquiry which, he is convinced, would show that he adhered to planning guidelines in all instances; b. On site safety - the officers who inspected found no breaches and c. as regards the archaeological site, this has not been touched or damaged in any way.
These two men, Jim White and Michael Kelly are easy targets. They are prominent businessmen who have put their money where their mouths are and taken risks to advance this town and the welfare of its inhabitants. They deserve better than the unrelenting stories that snipe away at them, eroding confidence and doing nothing constructive to back the necessary and valuable investment in our infrastructure being undertaken by these men and entrepreneurs like them.

End of an Era in Letterbarrow
O’Neill’s Post Office and Grocery Closes

On the last day - Mrs Breedie O’Neill with family members Brendan, Roisin, Mena, Joseph. Missing are Mary and Rory.

As the Angelus bell rang out from the Holy Redeemer Church at 6p.m. last Saturday, Breedie O’Neill turned the key for the last time in the door of the local shop and post office that had served the Drimarone Community so well for fifty years. To mark the occasion, locals and family had gathered to wish both herself and husband Joseph all the best on their retirement.
Breedie was presented with flowers and Rose Clarke spoke on behalf on the Drimarone community, saying how much O’Neills shop would be missed and thanking them for their service over the years. Breedie made a brief speech, in the course of which she recounted delivering good and bad news to homes over the years in her role of local postmistress. “I will miss the shop as I have stood behind this counter for fifty years, but the day of the small local shop has been taken over by the supermarket. I would like to thank all my customers over the years and a huge thanks to all the staff, especially Isobel McGready, who was with me for ten years and has made a special effort to be with us this evening.”

Joseph O’Neill jnr. spoke and said how sorry the family were that his father could not be present. He remembered how Joe and Breedie had both worked very hard over the years and recalled his mother in the shop late at night measuring out tea and sugar to have them bagged and ready for the morning.
Daughter Mena, who arrived from Westport for the occasion, said that, having travelled a lot, she had never met people like those of the Drimarone Community. “They are the salt of the earth”. She recalled that they were not allowed to take anything from the shop and, on one occasion, how her teeth watered as she watched a new bar of chocolate go on sale. Having suffered from longing for weeks, she finally took one and ran across the road to the garden so she could hide and eat it. Margaret and Kathleen Meehan came upon her and asked for some, but it was so good she said “no way” there was just enough for herself - and how the two girls went straight in and told her mother – there was no more chocolate after that!
Later everyone adjourned to the bar, where a fire burned brightly, champagne flowed and Breedie cut the cake – there was a long night ahead.
But don’t worry - the O’Neill tradition will live on in Drimarone. Son Brendan has taken over the bar and it will continue in operation, providing craic and refreshment for the people of Letterbarrow and further afield for many years to come.
Breedie remembers: ‘I started working the shop and Post Office in 1953, it was then under the Department of Post and Telegraphs. Joe and I married in 1956.
The shop was the focal centre of the community, a meeting place from 9am. - midnight. It contained the only phone in the area and many’s a call we had to make for services such as AI, doctors and ambulances. There was a lot of emigration in the old days - we weighed suitcases for people going abroad - this also generated a lot of mail, especially registered letters, with people sending money home. Christmas was a very busy time with large parcels - you handled a lot of things, including poultry. I remember being handed a ‘Rhode Island Red’ with feathers and all on, and I had to pack, label and send it off.
The shop and post office worked on a very personal level, we gave lots of credit and customers settled when they could - everybody trusted your confidentiality.
But the Post Office has changed - everybody has their own means of communication, credit cards etc. - and everybody is better off. Young people working in town, with their own transport, are doing their shopping there and the country shop cannot compete with the larger supermarket.
I have developed many long and lasting friendships over the years - to each and everyone our grateful thanks. We sincerely appreciate all the good and loyal people of Drimarone who have supported us over the 50 years in shop and post office. And finally a big thank you to all the wonderful staff who worked with us over the years and without whom we could not have coped.’

Lest We Forget .....

As we go to press on Tuesday morning, the Yanks are in the middle of Baghdad and the Brits have entered Basra. Most media outlets are forecasting a swift conclusion to the invasion of Iraq by the Anglo/U.S. forces. Let us hope this is so, if it is to save lives in the innocent population of that ravaged country. But let us not forget the premise on which this unlawful act took place - to rid Iraq of the weapons of mass destruction which the allied leaders claimed it possessed. However, so far, none of these weapons have been found. Maybe they will be - but what if not? It means that a sovereign country has been razed, irreplacable buildings, monuments and artefacts destroyed, in what is the cradle of civilisation - and scores of thousands Iraqis massacred under a false pretext. Let us not be in any doubt - when the Yanks start hauling Iraqi officers and government ministers before courts to answer for the terrible crime of defending their own country - the real criminals are the two boys, Blair and Bush, who started this war for one reason only - OIL. And it is humiliating and hurtful to the sensibilities of many of our people that these two boyos are, at the moment, sitting in our country, reviewing their great achievements, helped and abetted in this by our own government.

The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

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