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October 27th 2004

We want development

And we want it special

The revised plan for Donegal Town and environs is, once again, on display in the Public Services Centre, resplendent in its new colours and shadings, testimony to decisions made in the council chamber last month. Let us hope this is the final draft and that we can now get on with progressing the developments these new designations allow.
It is now approaching 5 years since first intimation of Keeney’s interest in Revlin and Bennett’s in Drumlonagher. The subsequent twists and turns of planning proposals for these areas have been well documented. Suffice to say that objections and refusals have meant the sites were unable to be progressed as their promoters desired.
Both developers went on to acquire further sites, closer to town, at the Mart and Mullans – and it is these that now form the basis for new applications currently being prepared for council planners.
But, on perspective, the delay could prove beneficial for our town. A rush into development on the original sites, both over a kilometre out, would not, in hindsight, have been best for the town and its core businesses. The new sites at the Mart and Mullans have moved the game plan much closer to the urban centre, ensuring, if planning is granted, a greater chance of trade spreading inwards from the proposed retail parks, to benefit the town as a whole.
But a word of caution. We might have avoided the mistake of creating shopping multiples distant from town. But we must make use of time gained. We do want development – but we want development that will enhance the area and be pleasing to the eye.
All we need do is look up the road to Letterkenny to see what reckless planning can create. Our main commercial town is, quite frankly, a mess, both infastructurally and aesthetically. It has no beginning, no end, no centre - and whoever planned the traffic flow from the new roundabout along the Railway and Pearse road should go back to drawing matchstick men.
Donegal Town should learn from Letterkenny and avoid the mistakes that, once made, are almost impossible to rectify. The two sites, designated retail, at the Mart and Mullans, are on the edge of a planned historic town, a town adorned with magnificent natural assets of bay, islands and river, backdropped by the imposing peaks of the Blue Stacks.
In this gateway town, blessed with God-given resources, we would appeal to developers and planners to work diligently on giving us something special. This is not the territory for barn-like retail structures built into the middle of a concrete jungle of supporting units. Let these developments break the mould. As an instance, the mature trees and natural undulations on the Browne site should be left in place and structures designed to follow the lines and shapes of the surrounding terrain.
Donegal Town houses some very fine architectural and design business practices. We would go so far as to ask the principals of these to form a watch committee to monitor the plans when they appear and submit suggestions, if necessary, as to how these could be amended or changed to improve infrastructural or aesthetic features. Whenever these developments happen, they will set in stone the overall layout of the urban landscape, possibly for ever. They have got to be right. We sincerely ask developers, planners, and anyone else involved – give it time, thought, and application – Donegal Town deserves as much!

Farmers’ Market for the Diamond

Listening recently to the Robert Walsh radio program, North West Today, I was struck by his description of the Farmers’ Market that operates in his native Middleton, Co. Cork. This was something I had often thought about as eminently suitable for the Diamond. Every week or fortnight, what better platform for native country produce than our town centre. Maybe Robert could expand on the theme – the economics, the health guide-lines, perhaps furnish contacts in the southern town. Surely there must be a host of agricultural producers and manufacturers of things like cheeses and jams who would be interested. And it would certainly help the town – what with the buzz generated and the crowds attracted by the display of all that is best from our poultry, dairy, tillage, fruit and value added sectors - and not forgetting organic.

The Hospira Syndicate that recently scooped €200,000 in the Lotto. Each participant received €13,000 and were featured in the Irish Times, Independent, The Star and The Sun, with a story about two employees who joined the syndicate too late for the big win. The lucky ticket was bought in Quinlan’s Newsagents, The Diamond. The group had been playing the Lotto for 14 years, contributing €12 each per month. Back: Tom Lyons, Regina Kileen, Bobby Willis, Laura McConnell, Marian Cox, Gordon Coen, Ray Byrne, Seamus Reynolds, Joan Potter. Front: Tommy Gerraghty, Ann Kelly, Tereasa McGonigle, Paul Hegarty, Eileen Griffin, Karen Vaughan. Photo: Michael Devaney

Dark cloud over Killybegs

‘It seems we are guilty

until proven innocent’

Two weeks ago, Killybegs boat owner Pat Cannon shocked the fishing industry with his claims of widespread fraud in checking and recording procedures within that sector. The entire episode has sent shock waves through the European fishing industry and has been described as ‘the worst thing ever to hit Killybegs’. Detectives from the Fraud Squad came to Pat Cannon’s house in Killybegs after Marine Minister Dempsey’s call for an enquiry. However, they left empty-handed after Mr Cannon told them that all the evidence, including logbooks and other material, were in the hands of his solicitor in Dublin.
So far the investigation seems to be taking place in the capital - and the town of Killybegs ‘holds its breath’ for the next step. Chief Executive, Sean O’Donoghue, told Donegal Times that since the initial contact two weeks ago, they have heard nothing more and don’t know at what stage the enquiry is “We presume if there are individual companies concerned they will be specifically contacted” he ventured.
While repeating that the KFO has nothing to hide, Mr. O’Donoghue went on to say that there is obviously an air of depression in Killybegs and, contrary to one of the more enduring legal tenets in Irish jurisprudence, the port seems to be ‘guilty until proven innocent’.
Mr O’Donoghue pointed out the importance of Killybegs to the economic wellbeing of South Donegal ‘Revenue circulating from the fishing industry in Killybegs is up to 75% of the total income in the south-west of the county and its disruption will affect shops, hotels, restaurants, bars - and all commercial business. A lot of the fishing boats are tied up for a number of reasons – the sudden closure of the horse-mackerel fisheries – the new weighing procedure which is seen as weighing water as well as fish and is not acceptable - and, of course, this veil of uncertainty that hangs over the boat owners. Boats are landing in Scotland, Norway and Denmark instead of Killybegs because of the stigma attached to the port.’ continued O’Donoghue

Factory lay-offs

The fish processors and factories in Killybegs, which employ part-time workers from September to December from all over south and west Donegal, have laid off most of these within the last week. Charlie McAleavey of Donegal Fish has gone from 40 to 10 employees and says it is dark days for the fishing industry and the workers who depend on the income from the port for the period coming up to Christmas. Mr McAleavey pointed out that the knock-on effect of these layoffs will have repercussions on a much larger area than Killybegs itself, “the income generated out of Killybegs sustains much of the south of the county” he asserted.
Sean Ward of Sean Ward (Fish Exports) Ltd, who up till last week had two factories in operation with 110 employees, has now closed one and is operating with a skeleton staff of 10. “This time last year, the fish industry was booming and, early in 2004, we purchased Donegal Co-op. Myself and partner Michael Callaghan saw good prospects for the industry, but now it is all doom and gloom, with lots of the boats landing in Scotland, Denmark and Norway because of the veil of untruth that hangs over our port. I set up in Killybegs in 1990, and formed a company with Michael Callaghan in 1998, and our business went from strength to strength. Last year we invested a large sum in purchasing the premises formerly owned by Donegal Co-op, with the view to extending our business, but if the ‘tide’ doesn’t turn soon we will all go to the wall”.

Our government officials and ministers need to fight in Brussels for extra quotas and uninterrupted supplies to the factories. The fishing industry is not a 9 to 5 job and the ban on night landing since last February has to be overturned. It’s time our new minister got this sorted out” Sean declared.
Lots of dark thoughts swirl through the minds of the fishing community in Killybegs and questions arise:
•If Pat Cannon’s complaint has been with the Department since last July, why did nothing come to light until just two weeks ago - shortly after Pat the Cope was appointed to Marine?
•Is it acceptable everyone being kept in the dark? - two weeks have passed and there is no indication as to what way the enquiry is proceeding.
•What happens next?
While the department prevaricates, the ordinary workers of south Donegal are losing their jobs. With a justifiable paranoia setting in, the people in the port ask ‘Is it because we live in the far north-west, out of radar scope of those in the capital, that this is allowed to happen?’
Whatever the answers, the KFO executive is confident that it can pick up the pieces and move on “Killybegs has endured tough times in the past and got through and I have no doubt we will do so again” said Mr O’Donoghue.
When contacted by Donegal Times, Pat the Cope commented ‘It would be highly improper of me to say anything in light of the Garda involvement. However I would hope the investigation will be carried out as speedily as possible’.
Statement from Dept of Marine Office in Dublin
‘Noel Dempsey, Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, briefed the Government at a recent meeting about allegations of serious illegal commercial sea fishing activity by the Irish fishing fleet, which have been circulated by a private individual to twelve European Fisheries Ministers, the European Commission, and the European Court of Justice. As the allegations also appear to implicate his Department, the Minister has had the file referred immediately to the Garda Commissioner. The complainant in the matter has met with the Department in recent weeks in relation to the allegations and related matters’.

The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

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


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