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May 26th 2004

Killybegs celebrates

On visiting Killybegs to view the exhibition mounted for the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, the advances made in both the fishing industry and its infrastructure were brought forcefully home. The exhibition, in a marquee in front of the impressive newly refurbished headquarters, Bruach na Mara, consisting of models, old photos and a video covering the quarter-century of the organisation, brought a question to mind. Why doesn’t Killybegs make more of its situation and maritime traditions to attract more ancillary business and tourist related activity to the area?
At present, we hear a lot about the decline in the fishing and processing industry – maybe this is so – you wouldn’t think it looking at the mass of high tech vessels at the piers. But the town is strategically placed to avail of tourists who, at present, seem only to visit the port on a day trip basis, before heading for other destinations.
Within a fifteen mile radius of the town is some of the most breathtaking coastal, cliff and mountain scenery in Europe. Close neighbours Ardara and the towns ‘in thro’ are noted for their traditional music and crafts. The tweed and woollen industries flourish in the area and in the pubs can still be found ‘characters’ whose stories, local knowledge, and way of imparting it, is becoming a thing of the past.
Killybegs itself should do more to copperfasten its title of Ireland’s ‘Premier Fishing Port’. It needs focal points in town that become attractions in themselves. It might not occur to residents for whom fishing is an everyday enterprise, that to people from outside it is a mysterious and intriguing occupation. A maritime interpretive centre would be a good start – perhaps part of the new building could be designated for that purpose. More deep sea angling trips from the jetty would attract many punters. The new marina, mooted for the harbour, will open up a new market, creating opportunities for complementary services and back-up technology. The ‘Sea Life’ project, designated for the north-west, would be ideal in a Killybegs location.
The one way system should be brought in pronto – the old town is a nightmare - especially for the tourist.
With a new hotel about to open, atmospheric pubs, good restaurants, and Melly’s excellent fish and chipper, the town already has a hospitality infrastructure in place. The St Catherine’s Well area seems ideal for a town park. What is the old disused building between the secondary school and the new hospital – it seems this could be converted to productive use. Part of the old carpet factory could be brought in as a craft centre.
Indeed it would be no harm if at certain times, a tour of the pier areas could be conducted – with maybe a trawler opened up every so often to assuage punter curiosity as to how these vessels operate eg. the ‘Veronica’ is lying in port for months – would it not be possible to allow strictly controlled tours, on payment of a fee, to survey the interior and technology of this boat. Possibly there is insurance implications but, carefully supervised, these could be overcome.
Killybegs people have always been great supporters of Donegal Town, particularly its retail and hospitality sectors - this is very much appreciated, and we send congratulations to the KFO on its silver anniversary and express admiration at the development of the new pier. Whether for industrial, commercial or fishing activity, we wish it the success it deserves. Killybegs will always be primarily a fishing port – its people, a seafaring race – but, with careful planning, it is capable of being much more.

Bluestack Charity Ride in aid of ‘People in Need’, organised by Harvey’s Point Country Hotel, at which €1000 was raised. Over 40 riders participated in a 10 mile trek in the Bluestacks followed by a barbeque at Harvey’s Point. From front: Raymond Nolan, Martin McGowan & Dawn O’Donnell

Cllr Kennedy announces sale

of Council site to Bennett’s

A story by Daniel Browne in a recent Democrat has revived speculation that Bennett Construction Limited has completed a deal with local developer Mick Kelly and Donegal County Council for the acquisition of land at the back of the car park, behind the Diamond, for the erection of a new shopping centre and multi-storey car park, which will have Dunnes Stores as its main tenant.
Donegal Times first revealed the Council’s purported intentions to erect a new shopping centre and associated 500 space multi-storey car park on this site in the 24th Sept 2003 edition of the paper, when local councillor Peter Kennedy announced that he had been involved in extensive discussions with an unnamed Dublin based developer (now believed to be Bennett Construction). At the time Cllr Kennedy indicated that he had hoped to reveal all in the near future. Indeed in his present election manifesto, he states “I am negotiating with a major retail unit for the centre of Donegal Town, which is at a very advanced stage.”
It is believed that the submission of an application for the car park could have been sidelined by Christopher Bennett’s attempts to take control of the mart site.
It is rumoured that an application for planning permission could be submitted to the Council within the next few weeks, giving a much needed and welcome jobs boost to Donegal Town before the elections on June 11th. In view of Bennett Construction’s relationship with the Council and the fact that a significant cash payment will inevitably be received by them for the acquisition of their lands, it would be surprising if the application is not dealt with quickly and favourably.
With most in the town accepting that there is capacity for only one new large supermarket, it will be interesting to see if it will be Dunnes in the car park or Tesco at the Mart who will get the nod for bringing much needed shopping facilities to the town.
While Donegal Times was unable to get a reaction from the Council, when we contacted Glebe man Michael Kelly, he categorically denied that he has had any contact with Bennett Construction in relation to any development.
In a further twist to the on-going saga of future development on the periphery of town, Cllr Kennedy announced on North West Radio last week that Bennett Construction has purchased five acres at Drumlonagher from Donegal County Council, adjoining the new Services Centre. Mr Kennedy espoused the hope that an Taisce or An Bord Pleanala would not be coming back to object to any development that would take place there, which he claimed would include the proposed decentralized government offices, plus retail units.
Mr Kennedy said that Bennett’s had purchased all the remaining land around the new council offices and planned to spend up to €25 million in developing it. This, according to Kennedy, would include accommodation for the decentralized civil servants, plus other retail units. However, he said, the company would not be building a Dunnes or Tesco on this site. When completed, Mr Kennedy claimed Bennetts could provide 300 jobs plus 320 more when decentralization takes place – this over a two year time scale. He said that the decision to sell to Bennett came before the Donegal Electoral meeting last week and will be presented to full Council in session on May 31st. Mr Kennedy finished “I hope that an Taisce and Bord Pleanala will not be coming back objecting again. The grey crow and the magpie should not come before the creation of 600 jobs.”
Again in his election manifesto, Cllr Kennedy claims “New office accommodation at Drumlonagher for 320 staff when decentralisation takes place”
But it seems that the decision to take the decentralized offices to Drumlonagher is not as cut and dried as Cllr Kennedy claims. While this site is probably the front-runner, a spokesperson for the Office of Public Works in Dublin told other developers that have been shortlisted, that a location for the new offices has not yet been chosen. The spokesperson advised that all the sites (reportedly five) are currently being evaluated and an announcement on the preferred location is not expected until the first week in June.
We have no reason to disbelieve Cllr Kennedy, and fair play to him for revealing the detail to us, but is there information out there on a deal already done between the OPW, Donegal County Council, and Bennett Construction, that is not presently in the public domain?

The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

Tel: +353-74-9722860 Fax: +353-74-9722937