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July 25th 2007

Give us an open space and we will always stick something unsuitable on it!


The house where I live has a terrific view of Donegal Bay, taking in the islands, the old coastguard station, St. Ernans, Murvagh Golf Club, stretching on to Mullaghmore where Classiebawn is plain to be seen. In the other direction Mountcharles stands proudly on high - Binbane and Carnaween rise majestically towards the sky - and the stunning Bluestacks, changing colour with the seasons, soar north and east. Indeed many of our citizens live with a view of bay, river or mountains.
We inhabit a town surrounded by spectacular scenery. Our hills, river, trees, islands, historical castle and abbey all join to create a special beauty and ambience. Visitors from abroad and home grown love this area, not just the town itself but stretching west to Killybegs, Carrick and Glencolmcille. The beauty of nature is a god-given gift, one that should be protected and accentuated. But are we doing this?
Our town has the benefit of being planned by a British planter, creating a fine centre with streets radiating therefrom. But where you create room, you will always get someone who wants to drop something unsuitable on it ......
In this case the ESB saw the Diamond as the perfect base for their ugly transformers “Jeez, lads, look at this big space - let’s stick them here”.
Our inner bay is wide and spacious, why not build a sewage pumping station on its most aesthetically vulnerable point, below the graveyard and old Abbey - and beside the spot where tourists promenade and queues form to board the waterbus. Why not indeed!
Our hills are irreplaceable but they are also the prime targets of developers who see not beauty but a tract of land whose only value lies in how many sites can be placed on it.
And not ever our river runs free. Consultants and planners saw a beautiful flow of water and decided to impede and disfigure it by building large manhole structure along its length - an act that should make those responsible hang their heads in shame.
Even our religious sites are violated. I met a man on the pier early last Sunday week and he invited me to view the old Abbey. The debris of weekend parties lay everywhere among its ruins. Up the town gangs of youths roamed the streets or lay asleep on the Diamond stupored from excesses of the night before. This, around 6.30am, when early rising tourists were already starting to wander around a town they had probably heard much about.
By the way, fair play to Gerry Crawford and two councilmen who already, at this hour, had the town well cleaned of the mountains of litter spread there overnight. The man I met had a remedy for all the anti-social behaviour that despoiled the town and the Abbey/Bank walks “let the guards catch a few of these carrying out these acts - bring them to court and request the judge to fix as their punishment the clean up of the areas affected on an ongoing basis.”
“That” he continued “would soon deter others from perpetrating the same acts.”
So here we are - we watch as sites of religion, history and natural beauty are destroyed. We shout for more development, but we can’t take care of what is already in place. The pedestrianisation of our town centre was a good idea, but carried out in a cold colourless way. The Chamber, of which I was a member, should have watched that project more closely. But all is not lost there - it can be given a makeover.
Our sewage scheme is essential - but more recent town leaders took their eye of the ball when the plans were shown some years ago. The desceration of the old Abbey is a policing matter. Does a Garda youth co-ordinator still exist in town? There are yet funerals of old town families going to this sacred place. There should be random patrols checking out the hallowed site.
We must look forward and plan for the future - but equally we must look at the present - are we happy with what is happening on many fronts in town - and, if not, what are we doing about it? The fact that Town Development Officer, Catherine Monahan, has resigned (see story alongside) will not make the job of monitoring unsuitable projects or, indeed, implementing Chamber policy, any easier.


Town Development Officer resigns from position in Community Chamber
‘I am saddened the job is left undone’ Ms Monahan

Margaret Gallagher
Catherine Monahan, who was appointed last November 14th to the job of Development Officer in Donegal Town, resigned on Tuesday, 17th July. After eight months in the job, Catherine was saddened to hand in her resignation as she enjoyed the job and felt she could contribute a lot to progressing Donegal Town. “There was no money in the account to pay my wages and the Chamber asked me to go out and get funding. I felt it was not physically possible to carry out the job in 16 hours and look after funding at the same time - so knowing I couldn’t do the job justice, I handed in my notice last Tuesday.” Catherine did this reluctantly as she recognises that Donegal Town has fabulous potential.
Catherine, who has a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management and degrees in both Business Studies and Human Resources Management, previously worked as Senior Human Resources Officer in Our Lady’s Hospice in Dublin, before returning to Donegal. Last November she was appointed as Donegal Town Development Officer. During her eight months in the position, she set up a number of sub-committees and was very much involved in business watch, the new Enterprise Centre which should be completed by early 2009, funding for the CCTV, and the Pan-Celtic Festival which will take place in 2008 and 2009. Catherine will continue to be involved in the latter on a voluntary basis. She sees the international celebrations as having a massive benefit for the town, attracting between 5,000 - 10,000 people.
“I am not bitter, but saddened, to have resigned. I feel my job is left undone” Catherine concluded.
Chairperson of the Community Chamber, Bernie Mulhern, told the Times that the Chamber are very saddened to see Ms Monahan leave “Catherine was a very efficient, pleasant, hard-working, development officer and is a big loss. However, there is no dedicated funding for this position. Due to the summer recess, our next meeting is not until September when we will have to discuss options and possibly try to increase membership to get in some money”. The chairperson was unable to confirm if Donegal Town will have a Development Officer again. “It all depends on funding” she said.
Ernan McGettigan paid tribute to Catherine. As previous Chairperson of the Community Chamber, he was in charge when Catherine was appointed “we were delighted with Catherine but did realise employing her was going to be a gamble as we hadn’t the funding. We had hoped that we would be able to employ her part-time until the Enterprise Centre was built. It was intended that the Development Officer would also manage this.
Speaking as Mayor of Donegal Town, Ernan said that he was saddened that Catherine had made the decision to resign, as the town needs a Development Officer. He went on to say “as Mayor I wish that the businesses would look at the bigger picture and support the Chamber and not be always asking what the Chamber is doing for them but instead what they could do to help the Chamber. The Chamber is working on a lot of projects and one of them is the Enterprise Centre which is a €1.1m project. The Chamber is in the process of purchasing a site from the IDA at Lurganboy, adjacent to the Craft Village. Hopefully this will be up running in early 2009. There are over 200 business in the town and only 60 of them are members. If the membership increased then funding for a Development Officer would be available.”


Laura Farrell and Declan Barr sail around the Diamond in the Sub Aqua rib after their wedding
in St. Mary’s Church, Killymard last Saturday.

The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

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


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