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January 28th 2004

Rival Consortia bid for Mart/Bosco

Bennett and Keeney vie for inner town location
Valuable development site prize for winner

By Margaret Gallagher

At a meeting of Donegal Co-operative Livestock Mart Executive Committee held in the Mill Park Hotel on January 19th, two competing developers presented proposals to move the Mart to new locations at Tullyearl, in order to develop the existing site into a shopping complex, with Dunnes Stores or Tesco as anchor tenant.
Keeney Construction and Christopher Bennett and Sons each gave a detailed presentation of their proposals to the 15 members present, after which a vote was taken. The outcome - 6 votes for Keeney, 7 for Bennett - 2 spoiled. The decision now rests with the 250 Mart shareholders to whom the recommendation will be presented in the Mill Park Hotel on 3rd February at 8 p.m They will be briefed on both presentations and asked to vote their preference. “The final decision lies with the shareholders, the result will only be known when the votes are counted on the night. Each shareholder, regardless of amount of shares, will have just one vote.” a Mart spoksperson said.

Later, speaking to Donegal Times, John White, project development manager of Bennett Construction, said that he was happy with their presentation to the committee. “There were very few questions, people seemed clear on what we were offering. Christopher Bennett hails from a farming background himself. To him, farmers needs are paramount. We have employed the leading mart architects in the country who have designed similar such facilities in places like Clifden, Blessington, Gort, Maynooth, to mention but a few. We looked at quite a number of sites and felt the most suitable was that of Thomas McGarrigle at Tullyearl. We have submitted a pre-planning enquiry on this, in conjunction with the NRA. There have been requirements laid down by the Mart committee, such as access, distance from town, etc. - to which this site complies - and we have entered into an agreement with the land owner.” John affirmed.
On being queried as to whether Dunnes Stores were part of the development, John replied “Dunnes Stores are committed to Donegal but twice before developments have been turned down, one at Drumlonagher, the other at Revlin - technically there is no problem but it is time the community got behind us - a lot of people are by-passing Donegal Town and travelling to Letterkenny and Sligo to shop. The new development will have a Dunnes Store and additional retail units. We have been in talks with the Bosco committee for some considerable time - actually we spoke to them before meeting the Mart Committee. If we do acquire the mart site, we will still have to negotiate with the Bosco committee. Plans in this area will include a new community centre and indoor recreational/child-care facilities.”
John went on to say “The new office block at Drumlonagher is an example of our work and this project was completed two months early and on budget - if Bennett Construction is chosen as developer, I would be disappointed if the project was not up and running within three years.”
Keeney Construction Limited – The Rival Bid

The Times then spoke with Danny Keeney in relation to his offer for the mart site. It is very evident when speaking to Danny that he has the best interests of Donegal Town at heart and, despite the difficulties he has encountered with objections to the Revlin Park proposals, he remains committed to the area.
Given his and his family’s farming background and his association with the area, he was both surprised and disappointed that the Mart Committee decided, albeit by a narrow margin, to support the proposals being put forward by Christopher Bennett. Danny believes that the bid submitted by his company for the mart site was substantially higher than the one offered by his rival and finds it difficult to understand why the mart committee favoured the lower bid.
Danny expressed surprise at reports that he is not prepared to include the St John Bosco Club site within his plans for the area. He said that if he is successful in acquiring the mart site, he would be more than happy to enter into negotiations with the Bosco Club. He totally refutes allegations made by the Secretary of the Mart, Seamus Carbin, that he has not spoken to the St John Bosco Club for over three years. Danny says that he met with the Bosco Committee in the Mill Park Hotel on 2nd January 2003, to discuss the possible development of their site. He also told the Times that he has spoken to a number of Bosco Committee members in the past few weeks and advised them that he is still interested in their site, but only if he could successfully acquire the Mart site.
Despite these difficulties, Danny said he is delighted to be in the position of having an anchor tenant for the mart site, in the form of Tesco Ireland, who are committed to working in partnership with his company to locate a new supermarket in the town.
Danny also advised that he had expressed an interest in acquiring the mart site about eighteen months ago when his solicitor wrote to the Mart Secretary to enquire if it was for sale. Unfortunately this letter, although received by the mart, was never responded to or brought to the attention of the shareholders.
On the subject of the new mart facility, Danny advised that he has acquired a 6.5 acre site in the Tullyearl area and had already appointed the firm of architects who had designed the much credited mart in Omagh to draw up plans for a new turnkey mart facility for Donegal, in accordance with the brief issued by the mart committee. Whilst Danny is aware that any proposals for the new mart are likely to be met with strong resistance from local residents, he is confident that the site he has acquired is not only the most likely to gain planning permission but it is also the most economical to develop.

Bosco Chairman denies Keeney contact
Contacted by Donegal Times, John Durcan, Chairman of the Bosco executive, said that the club’s buildings were part and parcel of any mart deal with Christopher Bennett. “We have been in close discussion with Mr Bennett who has kept us informed of developments at all stages.” asserted John. Queried on the Keeney statement that he, Danny Keeney, had met with the Bosco committee in January 2003, Mr Durcan categorically refuted this “The Bosco committee has had no contact or discussion with Keeney Construction with regard to any development over the past three years.”

Down to the shareholders
So the stage is set for the big showdown! Next Tuesday, February 3rd, a potential 250 Mart shareholders will file into the ballroom of The Mill Park Hotel to cast their vote. Will it favour the local man, Danny Keeney - or the developer who has given us the new Council offices at Drumlonagher, Christopher Bennett?

The mart committee have come down narrowly in favour of Bennett, but, on the night, it is up to the shareholders to decide. Whoever wins will still face logistical and planning obstacles, but we will be one step closer to the major retail and commercial development that is essential if Donegal Town is to survive and prosper as a vibrant economic entity in the south of the county.

Donegal Times Person of the Year
Martina Kennedy nominated for her work
with Chernobyl Children’s project

Martina receives her award from Times girl Margaret Gallagher Photo by Jason McGarrige

The Donegal Times ‘Person of the year Award’ for 2003 goes to Martina Kennedy for her work with the Chernobyl Children’s Project in South Donegal. A huge vote for the Inver girl saw her surge ahead of other worthy nominees to claim this prestigious honour.
For more than ten years, Martina has been group leader in the Donegal Town area, responsible for bringing groups of children from the Chernobyl region to South Donegal for rest and recuperation. Her tireless work for this cause has now been recognized and appreciated. Indeed, in nominating Martina, many families have written of the enormous contribution to their own lives, hosting these children has made.

Martina was born at Port, Inver, daughter of Patrick and Kathleen Kennedy. She went to National School in Dunkineely and secondary in Abbey Vocational. She first worked for Kathleen Alcorn in The Sweater Shop - then went to London for some years, before returning to open The Video Shop in Donegal Town. Martina is married to Pauric Gallagher and now lives in Mountcharles.
Expressing her delight at this award, Martina filled Donegal Times into the background.
“It all started 11 years ago when Francis and Sadie Davitt brought two waif-like kids into my shop. They proceeded to tell me as to how these children were from the Chernobyl Region and that they were looking after them for a month to rest, recuperate and boost their immune system.
For those not in the know - on April 1986 an explosion occurred at a nuclear plant in this part of The Soviet Union, releasing radiation over most of Belarus and neighbouring countries. This resulted in death, deformities and cancers to children born then, and subsequently. The two children with the Davitts had been brought to Ireland by the Chernobyl Children’s Project, along with others staying in the surrounding area. I asked if there was anything I could do to help and, to cut a long story short, I’ve been group-leader of the Donegal Town branch since.
The children we take over each year range from 7 to 11 years and, to date, we have brought more than 140 kids to the Donegal Town area. When they arrive in Donegal they are pale, tired and listless, but after a couple of days in good old Donegal, with plenty of fresh air and good food, the transformation is amazing.
In 1996, Francis Davitt and myself went to Chernobyl with an ambulance donated by the North Western Health Board, carrying aid donated by the people and school-children of Donegal. When we got there, nothing could have prepared us for what we were to see in the orphanages. Children with deformities lying in cot-beds, ‘wrapped in swaddling clothing’ – all hope gone from their eyes. Any bug going round went through the wards like wild-fire. Two days after we had visited a certain orphanage, we were informed that two of the children had died from the flu. Sad though we were, it made us all the more determined to do as much as we could.To this day 2-3 convoys from Ireland go out to each year filled with food, clothes and medical supplies.
But not all is doom and gloom – the children we bring over year after year benefit greatly from what we have to offer and they are a very healthy and happy bunch when they go back home.
This is all down to the people who give up their free time to fund-raise and take these children into their home, sharing loads of love, care, and attention. If it wasn’t for these families, this project would not be going for as long as it has. So a big thank you to all of them.”

Martina’s account, and, one would suspect, a certain underplaying of her own part in the effort - an idea of which can be gathered from citations on the nominations forms - some of which read;
“Martina has been the leader of the Chernobyl children’s project for over 10 years, bringing hundreds of kids over to stay with families in the area. It has given the kids and their host families long term love and friendship - without her we would not experience the life they have, making us grateful for our own. Without her fundraising and support of local business, this would not be possible.” - “For bringing the children over to stay in the Summer. They are lovely kids and without her this wouldn’t be possible” – “This might be her last year, and what a way to go if she gets this award” - “She has fundraised constantly for this cause and is a remarkable person” - “She has brought so many kids to Donegal for love and support.” – “For all her hard work for the Chernobyl kids and for her lovely manner”
On receiving the beautiful Waterford Cut Glass award Martina thanked all who voted for her and said “I take this as a tribute to all who have worked to make a difference to the lives of these children. I’m delighted that this work has been recognised. I would like to thank many of the businesses around the area whose sponsorship and help has made this project possible.”
Congratulations to Martina – a well deserved honour.

Other nominees for Donegal Times ‘Person of the Year’ included Paula Ryle “for leading one of the most successful groups that ever undertook a major project in this area, the Special Olympics host town programme. Its legacy will live in town and surrounds for a very long time’
Another nomination tied to the above cited “The Special Olympic Volunteers” – and said ‘they should get recognition – they were fantastic’.
And not forgetting our own minister Mary Coughlan who was nominated for her work ‘in getting 230 jobs for the town’.
Another man well appreciated in our area is Collie McCrea “A wonderful man who had dedicated his life to raising monies for charity and helping the homeless, needy, handicapped, sick and whole community around Donegal Town. A very deserving individual who should be honoured for all his hard work – an inspiration to all!”
And the sporting arena was not forgotten, Michael Kelly (Jnr) was nominated ‘For his hard work and dedication to the Four Masters Club and in bringing the County Championship to Donegal Town and the great enjoyment the whole town and indeed county got from the team’s performance in Ulster.”
Finally, and running a close second to Martina, Patrick Mc Brearty received numerous nominations for his work in organising the Bluestack Challenge, which raised an enormous amount of money in 2003 for Special Needs. Among the citations for Patrick ‘his work for special needs and Downs Syndrome people raised €175,000 – he got this appeal going’ –“ Patrick made a massive contribution towards this worthy cause and in doing so raised a huge amount of money for Special Needs” – “He inspired 230 walkers to collect money for those with Special Needs thus increasing the success of the 2nd Magee Bluestack Challenge which he and his wife Bernadine initiated in 2002. This event will continue!”
All very worthy nominees
But winner of the fourth ‘Donegal Times Person of The Year Award” - is Martina Kennedy - our first female recipient. Congratulations to her and to all who received nominations and thanks to those of our readers who took time to vote.


Arial view of the Bosco and Mart outlined by red border

The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

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