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November 24th 2004

Donegal developments resemble ‘Lanigan’s Ball’ with everyone stepping in and then stepping out again

The statement by John White, project manager of Bennett Construction, that the property group’s plans for the Mullans would ‘break the mould’ is to be welcomed. For a start, a proper traffic plan is called for. The Doonan roundabout leading to this site is extremely tight, and already carrying four roads. The extra vehicle movement generated by a busy retail location within 50 metres is going to further compound the traffic problem. It will be interesting to see how the Bennett plan deals with this dilemma. Already trying to exit the Mullans Road is a problem. With a retail development right next to it, this difficulty would be increased many-fold. We should take warning from the two major towns to our north and south, Letterkenny and Sligo, in which traffic problems have reached epic proportions. In the western town an Inner Relief Road is being built but it’s hard to see it bring much comfort to a town that is grinding to a halt, and where there is not a parking space to be found. The less said about Letterkenny’s new traffic-flow system the better. Let us not make these mistakes. Planning granted to Bennett must contain clauses that ensure that traffic runs smoothly and efficiently. The same goes for the Bennett site at Drumlonagher, also within 50 metres of a roundabout, albeit much bigger

and better one.
Over at the Mart, the situation seems to be getting more complex. The shareholders of this organisation voted in February for Keeney Construction as the preferred developer of this site, on the stipulation that they be provided with a new premises. A planning request for permission to build at Ardlenagh/Lurganboy was duly printed in local papers but objected to by the mart executive among others. Although permission was granted by the council, this has now been appealed to An Bord Pleanala and this scheme now seems to be in limbo.
Furthermore, Keeney’s objective of creating a major retail site at the Mart is not helped by the fact that the Bosco committee next door seem to be sitting on their hands and doing nothing. Keeney’s best bet would be to bypass both the Bosco and Mart and begin negotiations with the businesses alongside. If he could come to a deal with diverse neighbouring interests ranging from CIE, Cleary’s School, George Irwin’s, McGinty’s Fruit, Timony’s estate at Milltown and Magee’s Factory, he would have a major site, even without the Mart and Bosco. And this would be a site on which retail development would be much more beneficial to the town centre than anything planned for Revlin, Mullans or Drumlonagher. If a development was created stretching right to the River Eske, what’s to stop a pedestrian bridge connecting to a boardwalk along Castle Street to lead into the little park at the back of the Castle, and then into the town proper - a challenging but possible project. If the Mart saga is going to run forever, Keeney should direct his considerable energies to these properties adjacent. If he did manage to acquire a large proportion of these, he would have access to land behind that would allow him possible entry from the Ballybofey road. It’s a gamble that the owners of these properties would want to sell, but one worth taking – maybe some of them would become involved in any development that ensued.
An interesting piece appeared in last Friday’s Derry People and Donegal News. In the midst of a story on the rapid development of Letterkenny was a paragraph that should cause some comment in Donegal Town. It read ‘well placed sources have indicated that Tesco Ireland have purchased a six acre site on the Donegal Road outside Ballybofey. The site, opposite Mulrine’s Bottling Store, is worth €3.5 million, according to local property valuers’
If Tesco have purchased a site in Ballybofey, it seems to put paid to any chance of them establishing a presence in Donegal Town (despite confirmation from them in our last issue of commitment to this town) and if this is so, where does Keeney Construction look now for an anchor tenant. Could it be that the potential tenants on board for the much objected-to developments at Revlin, Mart and Drumlonagher are getting tired waiting. Reports in town suggest that another large multiple earmarked for one of these sites has purchased a centre-of-town premises. Possibly a good move - especially if there is any credence to reports that negotiations to create another car-park behind the Diamond north are at an advanced stage.

Killybegs Casino Night: Marie McGarvey tries to cash in her chips while husband Michael considers his options; beside them Joe Britton looks to experienced Blackjack player, wife Gada, for advice

By Margaret Gallagher

On Saturday night, the 13th November, the port of Killybegs became Las Vegas with the help of ‘Casino Enterprises’. Organised by the KFO, there was a packed ballroom in the Bayview Hotel, the ‘glitzy’ evening kicking off with a delicious buffet. MC for the night was Dublin-based Mark Staunton who welcomed Mary B and her band on stage. After he outlined the rules of Blackjack and Roulette to the crowd, he introduced the eleven croupiers, ten of them attractive, bubbly ladies dressed all in black, and one a suave ponytailed gent, carrying a tray of chips shoulder high.
Everybody was presented their chips for the night and the gambling began in earnest, with punters flocking to the Roulette and Blackjack tables. The atmosphere created was electric with music, spot prizes, dance, all aided by the wine flowing aplenty. The gambling was interrupted frequently when all those around the tables competed to win prizes for their brave attempts at boogieing. The John Travolta of the night was none other than Shane Melly, who took to ‘great heights’ the art of rock and roll. In close proximity was the man from the ‘Gaza Strip’, TV3 presenter, Noel Cunningham, who, balancing a flower pot on his head, just pipped Joey Murrin - the ‘oldest swinger in town’.
For the Times girl who started out as a spectator grasping her chips tightly in sweaty palms, the gambling lure proved too strong, and before I knew it chips and Blackjack were the order of the night.
At the finale, everybody was handed a non-cashable cheque in exchange for their chips and I held a piece of paper worth €1.5 million - a sizable sum for this impecunious gambler - along with a bottle of vino for success at Blackjack.
MC Mark took the mic and handed out the prizes for different category gamblers. It turned out that not only was the local chip shop owner the best dancer, but he was also the top gambler, winning a cheque for €4.5 million.
In contrast, Michael Callaghan was revealed to be the unluckiest gambler, with only a meagre total of €7,000 for his efforts. Top punter, Shane, generously auctioned his prize of a weekend in Harvey’s Point, with all money raised going to the community hospital in Killybegs.
Sean O’Donoghue, CEO of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, and Martin Howley, Chairman, thanked everybody and presented cheques from the KFO’s fundraisers this year: €30,000 going to the RNLI and €20,000 to the Killybegs Community Hospital. These presentations mark the culmination of celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the organisation.
So clutching a bottle of wine and a novelty cheque, this reporter headed off into the sunset eagerly awaiting the next offering from the KFO.

Positive reaction to pay-and-display

By Margaret Gallagher

Pay-and-display on our streets and carparks seems to have proven a big success. Parking in these areas has been freed up considerably, with a new level of fitness apparent in the many workers who are now walking to their jobs in town.
Council Engineer, Peader Thomas, told Donegal Times that there has been a very positive response to the new system, with no adverse reaction. “While the first few weeks have been a learning process for all, we have not experienced any big problems but, as with all projects, there are some queries that have to be addressed. For the first three weeks we have collected approx.€5,000 from the machines. There has been a big uptake of the residents and the car park permits. Unfortunately, on a negative note, one pay-and-display machine has been vandalised. The machine, at the bottom of Drumcliff road, costing €4,000, needed extensive repairs” Peader said.
There are forty machines in town and Mr Thomas assured that all money collected in them will be put back into town projects.

Possibility of banquets in Donegal Castle

by Paddy Meehan

The Office of Public Works are currently researching the possibility of carrying out further minor improvements to sections of Donegal Castle. Speaking recently, a representative of OPW confirmed to me the chance of staging a series of medieval banquet-style nights in the Tower House. Tom Parlon, the current Minister for State at the Dept of Finance, with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, is understood to be in favour of this type of development and is keen to see these historic buildings open to the public. The feasibility of roofing the Tower House in order to cater for these banquets is at present being investigated.

The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

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


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