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July 13th 2005

Why is Donegal County Council selling off the Crown Jewels?

Has Donegal Co Council lost the run of itself? Today it is auctioning off 2.9 acres of its land alongside the Diamond/Main St car park which includes 30 carparking spaces on the upper tier. A few weeks ago it sold a property at Rossylongan for around €600,000. Similar sales are happening around the county.
Why is the local authority getting rid of these assets? Simple, it needs the money. The whole set-up in Lifford seems to be suffocating itself with expensive bureaucracy. It has directors for this, managers for that, co-ordinators for the other. And then there are the consultants. If any new project rears its head, and sometimes even if it doesn’t, a team of consultants is hired - and they don’t come cheap. The cost of running the whole shebang is running out of control.
There is only so much you can take in from rates and charges. The small percentage of the county’s population paying rates is already in rebellion - to try to further top-up coffers from this source will meet with much resistance.
So the selling of assets is next in line. But one of the basic tenets even a first year economic student is taught is that you never use monies from capital disposals to fund day-to-day expenses. So why is the council doing this? And what happens when the money is spent - the asset stripping complete - and the council is still operating in the red?
Talking of capital disposals - one of the mysteries that has never been adequately explained is why a nine acre site adjoining the new Services Centre was sold by the council for €1million, when, at prevailing Donegal Town prices, it was worth many times that. Doubtless there is an explanation - it’s just we would like to hear it.
One of the reasons the local authority is in such a financial state is that the council chamber itself is mainly populated by docile ‘Yes’ men - reluctant to take on the top officials. The checks and balances that are the responsibility of our elected representatives are not being implemented - to the detriment of our county’s finances. Motions are being rubberstamped too easily, without robust questioning or meaningful debate on the floor.
If we are not to go further into fiscal deficit, the council needs to start exercising budgetary restraint. Over the past five years or so, its wage bill must have gone through the roof. One of the first steps it should take is to review its management hierarchy - then get rid of all the consultants. After that Ballybofey should be told that it doesn’t need a Public Services Centre - there are already three within 20 minutes drive. Finally, it should lobby central government to expand the rate paying base to make it more equitable.
But certainly one thing it doesn’t need to be doing is selling off the crown jewels - its asset reserves - to fund current expenditure.

Road to nowhere

So now a majority of Americans believe that the Iraq war was not worth fighting. At last, after tens of thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands wounded and maimed, the great Yankee public has come to realise what the rest of the world always knew - that this was totally unjust invasion of a sovereign nation, carried out under false pretences. Finally, the US media (except Fox News) has woken up to the fact that evidence to support the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was greatly manipulated.
Today Iraq is a bloody no-man’s land beset by ruthless insurgents, savage bandit gangs, trigger-happy US patrols and marauding government forces. Since the Shi’ite dominated authority of prime minister Ibrahim al-Gaabazi took office a couple of months ago, more than 2,000 people have been killed, and the country is rapidly degenerating into a bloodbath.
Let us spell it out here and now - US forces can not win the war in Iraq. They will depart that country in humiliation - just as happened in Vietnam - only President Bush (and Bill O’Reilly) pretends to think otherwise.
George Dubya has been a disaster for America - his legacy of running a great nation into the ground morally, constitutionally and financially, will be well detailed and recorded when the history of these sorry times is written.

Miss Donegal contenders pictured with winner Laura Kennedy, Inver, of Michelles (4th from front left), and judges Amanda McGrory and Lisa McKelvey (Mary from Dungloe). Front: Ciara Boyle,Deyna Duncan, Niamh Britton, Laura Kennedy, Lisa McKelvey, Amanda McGroary, Leona Brown. Back: Siobhan McGlynn, Michelle Sweeney, Alice Kane, Megan McGinley and Rachel Barr. Photo Jason McGarrigle


Margaret Gallagher

One of the region’s best known reporters, Daniel Browne, has resigned from the Donegal Democrat. When contacted by Donegal Times, Daniel was reluctant to comment on his reason for leaving but said the parting was on an amicable basis.
“Yes, I have resigned from the Democrat as of Monday, July 4th. I would have a lot of time and respect for the paper - but you don’t move forward by standing still.” Daniel asserted.
Daniel (31) resides in Bundoran with partner Lisa Deery and six year old son, Joshua. He started with the Democrat in January ’99. Prior to this, Daniel had completed a print journalism course in Derry. He began his reporting career in Ballyshannon in the midst of what he described as “one big happy family”.
When the office moved to Donegal Town, some of his colleagues were not happy. However, said Daniel, he himself did not have an issue with the move as he liked this town which he sees as a vibrant centre on the brink of exciting times.
Daniel then spoke of changes at the Democrat over the six years. When he started it was one “quality” newspaper per week - this has now become three publications weekly. He saw a lot of staff come and go over this period and worked with three different editors – John Bromley, for whom he had great time and utmost respect – Martin McGinley, and presently, Michael Daly. The ownership of the paper changed hands three times in his term, being in turn under the control of The Derry Journal Company, The Mirror Group and 3i/Local Press. Daniel also did freelance work for a number of national papers including The Irish Times, Independent, and broadcasting work for RTE, BBC, and not forgetting his Ocean FM programme on Saturday mornings. The Burdoran man has no plans to leave his native town but is going to continue working for various media from his base in the North West.
While he was reluctant to comment on the reason for his resignation I have learned that the Democrat was unhappy with Daniel’s freelance activities and was threatening to suspend the Bundoran man pending the outcome of an inquiry into his consultancy work. However, despite repeated efforts, I was unable to contact Democrat editor, Michael Daly, to verify this.
While Daniel may have terminated his employment with the Democrat, he is fortunate to have other job offers on hand. He intends to continue freelance work and his programme with Ocean FM. There is also a whisper about something in the pipeline but the Bundoran man said he was not in a position to disclose any information at the moment.

The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

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