Picking up where we left off in our last Opinion piece people are asking who are these leaders to whom we have the audacity to offer advice - and what groupings do they head. I think there are four and, in no particular order, they are:
Donegal Town Enterprise Group, chaired by Sean McEniff and led by Sean Quinn. In my memory, this group was formed with a wider agenda than just operating the Waterbus. With probably the strongest and most able board of directors in town, the Group, in conjunction with the Eske Anglers, should also be looking out for the whole river and its banks, both sides, from Lough Eske to the islands. Its members are on the spot, manning the booking office most days of the week. They can easily hold a watching brief and make suggestions. The desecration that has so far occurred on the Eske should never have happened. Patsy Kelly did make a protest at pipe encroachment on the channel, but from everyone else - a deafening silence. Why was the monstrosity of a pumping station allowed to start where it is, when 50 yards further on, it could have been out of sight? Did the Enterprise committee study the plans for this on display at the Donegal Services Centre and did they make any observations? The new ESB sub-station - what are its dimensions and will it be another obstruction in this sensitive area? Is the Enterprise chairman, CEO, and members, in contact with Roci Allan to make an input into the new shape of pier, hospitality centre and Abbey walk? Is the concept of a marina dead in the water? Certainly, the Group is deserving of great credit for the operation of the Waterbus but the whole infastructure around the pier is changing and its executive should be making suggestions as to the shape and content of the final product.
The second group is the Community Chamber led, until last week, by Ernan McGettigan. If waffling on the Gerry Farry show was a measure of success the Chamber would be the most flourishing organisation in town. Unfortunately, this is not how it is perceived. It has had its successes including the childrens playground and Christmas lights. However, the previous chairman was seen by some as too political, taking sides on issues on which he should have stayed neutral. Most of the list of things that need doing in town, many of which featured in our last issue, are within the remit of the Chamber. When its committee is seen tackling them, more potential members, especially from the business community, will note progress being made, and join the organisation. With just 20% of the 300 companies in town listed as members, visible action is a necessity if the Chamber is to have any relevance to the future of the area. The very fact that there were no submissions for directorships is itself worrying. I say worrying because a strong chamber is vital to this town - particularly at a time when its future is looking bright with decentralisation and new developments in the pipeline.
Our third leader is the Mayor, an office that changed hands last week. The previous incumbent, Ciaran Twomey, performed well in this office. While operating in an honorary position, Ciaran tried to make a difference and certainly put himself about in promoting Donegal Town to the best of his ability. His frustration at the restrictions placed on him by the Chamber have been well publicised and can be read in an article that starts alongside. Ernan McGettigan has now re-taken the position of the towns first citizen and let us hope the reforms he mentioned on, where else, The Gerry Farry Show, will come to fruition.
Last, but not least, our fourth leader is County Councillor, Jonathan Kennedy. This, in my opinion, is a full-time position. Paying in the region of €50,000 a year, any person hoping to adequately represent an area such as Donegal Town and environs would need to be spending the bulk of his/her time in constituency work. As of yet, Cllr Kennedy has made little impact, either in the council chamber, or locally. Maybe its still a little early. But, after the guts of two years, the St Josephs Avenue man should be starting to get his head above the parapet, and making a difference. Certainly, there is enough to be done. One of the first things Jonathan must learn is to stop taking constructive criticism personally. If he cant handle opposition, politics is not the game to be in. The amount of emotional and physical energy lost in dwelling on perceived sleights would be better directed in sorting out the many problems evident around town. Mr Kennedy could yet make an imaginative and forceful representative but he would need to be starting soon!
So there folks - these are the people who lead the fight for the future of our town. Each has a part to play - the biggest of which are preview and overview eg; there is no point in now objecting to the pumping station at the pier it should have been done before work started. Plannings have never been so transparent - and it is up to those who are at the top of town organisations to get sight of every development proposed for the area that could affect its infastructure or landscape. Only by doing so can we be informed on what is about to happen and, if we think it is not suitable, be able to voice objections.
Our councillor, Chamber head, mayor and Enterprise boss all have important parts to play in the future development of this town. They are our links to higher authorities and strategic lobbying forces. But they must be prepared to work in a forward thinking progressive manner.
And therein lies the chief problem our main organisations spend so much time looking backwards, trying to rectify problems that have already occurred, that they are not anticipating the many pitfalls that lie ahead in individual, council and development plans for the future of the town. I repeat, it is too late to get into dialogue when a structure is nearly complete, plannings need to be watched, blueprints studied, and discussions initiated at the embryonic stage. The disasters on the river and the monstrosity that is the pumping station should have taught us that.