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February 23rd 2005

Sinn Fein must decide

In an editorial immediately after the council elections last June, Donegal Times, while commenting on the successful performance of Sinn Fein’s Pringle and Doherty, had this to say. ‘If Sinn Fein want the full acceptance of the Irish people, it must take the final steps to convince the doubters that it has forever turned its back on violence and will accept the legitimate authority and policing of the two states the party straddles. Its members have proved in these elections that they can progress using only the ballot box - and the electorate seemingly accept this - but opinion will quickly change if the people find they have been duped.... If Sinn Fein is to prove more than just a blip on the electoral radar it must demonstrate its willingness to participate fully in the democratic process - a process that recognises the ballot paper - and rejects the concept of violence in any form’
However events over the past weeks seem to suggest that Sinn Fein is not prepared to turn its back on illegal activities. Adams and McGuinness may storm and bluster, but the plain truth is that the people of Ireland do not believe them. The conviction of Taoiseach Ahern and Justice Minister McDowell is damning - that Sinn Fein and the IRA are one and the same, inextricably linked and equally responsible for robbery, money-laundering, smuggling and punishment beatings. Add to this mix, the recent murder of Robert McCartney, almost certainly by the IRA godfathers - along with the duplicity of Sinn Fein in its aftermath - and you have a party with a lot of questions to answer.
In Donegal South West we have two Sinn Fein Councillors. Donegal Times now calls on Messrs. Pringle and Doherty to condemn in the most forthright and unambiguous terms all acts of violence and criminality. And if it is a fact that the Sinn Fein leadership do sit on the army council of the IRA and it is proven the latter were responsible for the robbery at the Northern Bank and the murder of Robert McCartney, then we call on these two representatives, if they wish to hold the trust of our people, to consider their positions within the Sinn Fein party.
In the same editorial we said ‘Pringle and Doherty have come across as excellent advocates - young, hard-working, intelligent - with a clear and definitive vision for the future.’ But this vision has to be brought to fruition by legitimate means. The people will no longer be fooled and it is time that the entire republican leadership realised this.

Donegal Town at a crossroads

Having listened to the complaints of many traders since the end of the Christmas festivities, it seems only too obvious that Donegal Town did not have a universally successful yuletide period, and since then it has got dismally worse. All the usual reasons are given for this, but in the end it all boils down to one – the lack of necessary retail infrastructure to attract the customers who are passing us in droves to make their purchases in the large centres of Letterkenny, Derry and Enniskillen. Donegal has become primarily a tourist service town and, if the county wasn’t a natural hinterland for our friends from the North, God knows where we would be.
However, there could be light at the end of the tunnel.The report in a recent issue of Donegal Times that Bennett Construction has held a pre-planning meeting with various agencies concerning their site at the Mullans is good news. On page 21 we print an application for full planning on this site.
Also, another planning application from Bennett Construction is seeking permission for multiple retail units at Drumlonagher, along with a restaurant, car parking and petrol-filling station.
Also positive is the announcement by the International Fund for Ireland of a grant of €477,500 to build a new water-bus to replace the existent ‘Harp of Erne’ which has served us well for many years. With a passenger capacity of 110, practically twice that of its predecessor, this should prove a positive, and profitable development for the Enterprise Group and an important ingredient in the mix of tourism attractions in town. If the pier-side back-up necessary to fully support this important attraction could now be financed, it would be a beginning to fully utilising our most important asset – the bay area.
A major boost to Keeney Construction could be contained in a notice from Donegal County Council, printed on page 14 of this issue. Seeking a material contravention of County Donegal Development Plan 2000, it considers granting permission for erection of a livestock mart at Tullyearl and Tullymorning townlands, Donegal Town.
This could open the way for Keeney to proceed his plans for the old mart site and make feasible his project to extend this development all the way to the river. Also in yesterday’s local papers, Keeney puts further detail to his plans at Revlin, and seeks permission for same.
Of course, if things pan out as usual, objections and observations will be lodged and development in town will be further stymied. Let us hope this will not be the case - Donegal Town is in recession and needs the like of Bennett and Keeney to get it back on its feet.

Lazy Bush launched under new management

Jim Brennan, Mountcharles, and Minister Mary Coughlan cut the ribbon to officially launch the Lazy Bush Bar, Mountcharles. Pictured are new proprietors Michael Gallagher and Mark Dorrian. Also in photo are Michael’s parents, Anna and Michael Snr, and sister Denise, and Mark’s parents, Philomena and Sean. Photo: Jason McGarrigle

Cork businessman, implicated in Garda raids, main sponsor of Ballintra Races

When the Northern Bank in Belfast was relieved of €38 million in a robbery just before Christmas, allegedly planned and executed by the IRA with the knowlege of the Sinn Fein executive, little did we suspect that the crime would have repercussions that could involve some of the richest and most powerful people in this state, and beyond.
Already, Phil Flynn, a household name in republican, trades union and business circles, has had to step down from a series of high profile private and public positions, including his chairmanship of Bank of Scotland (Ireland), because of a recently acquired directorship in a company called Chesterton Finance, the principal of which is a Cork businessman called Ted Cunningham.
Mr Cunningham has a web of at least ten companies, with interests in property management, finance, retirement homes, golf courses, and even film production based in Ballincollig, Tullamore, Birr and Ashford.
But what propels him into the limelight at the moment is a raid by Gardai on his home at Farran, ten miles from Cork city, which unearthed £2.3 million sterling, hidden in a green compost bin in the back garden. Cunningham was taken into custody by Gardai and brought to Bridewell Garda Station in Cork city.
His partner, Cathy Armstrong (44), was also arrested. Both were released without charge after questioning. At the time, it was reported that files were being sent to the DPP.
The relevance of the county Cork businessman to the Donegal area is his involvement with the Ballintra Races, of which he was the main sponsor. Indeed last year, 2004, Mr Cunningham brought a party of around 30 to the Ballintra/Mullinasole area, staying for some days and taking in the meeting. Another sponsor of the races, hotelier Sean McEniff said he did not know much about Cunningham. “I met him socially through our involvement with the Ballintra races. I know nothing more about him than that.”
Popular with those who knew him in the area, Mr Cunningham was known to enjoy socialising, often breaking into song, earning himself the nick-name Pavarotti.

Talking to Donegal Times at the races last August bank holiday, Mr Cunningham told us that he loves the Mullinasole area, its people, the food, and the craic. He said he looked forward to the race meeting each year and was very happy to be its main sponsor. Indeed Mr Cunningham was given the VIP treatment by the race committee and flown to the course by helicopter, piloted by racing driver, Andrew Nesbitt.
But Mr Cunningham’s home was not the only location from which money was recovered in the past week, and each garda raid has thrown up more names to be examined, “Every time someone’s name shows up on a document or computer, they have to be checked out” said a garda source.
However gardai were remaining cautious about linking the cash recovered in the raids with the money stolen from the Northern Bank in Belfast on December 20th, stressing that notes would have to be forensically examined before any such link could be made.
Indeed the ‘wee Times’ became the focus of media-wise attention over the weekend, with, among others, ‘The Thunderer’ itself - The London Times - calling from its UK base. Seemingly if the name Ted Cunningham was typed into the the search engine, the connection with the Ballintra races was made with a Donegal Times reference.
Speaking to locals, all expressed surprise and shock at recent developments - not one had anything but good to say about the man. And if Mr Cunningham is not available, where does Ballintra look now for a sponsor of such munificence?

The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

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