A candidate in tomorrow’s Mayoral election in Donegal Town has appealed to the local community to set aside sectoral interests and work together for the betterment of the town.
Former All Ireland Under-21 manager Tom Conaghan said that in the past sectoral interests had hindered the development of the town and that it was now time to move forward and unite behind what he says is a great product and community.
This will not be Conaghan’s first brush with politics. Back in 2009 he was narrowly defeated by a mere 18 votes in the local elections by one of the most respected and experienced politicians in the county - Cllr. Sean McEniff.
The cut and thrust of that election gave Conaghan an insatiable appetite for politics and over the last number of years he has been constantly working away in trying to better the community.
“I had been approached to run in the recent General Election but to be honest I am more a community man and feel that today’s TD’s are now highly focused on national issues at the expense of local affairs.
“Secondly, I did not want to be seen as a spoiler - Thomas Pringle had put in a lot of work in the by - election and I did not see any point in splitting the vote. We saw where that got us in the local elections!”
What does Conaghan see for the future of Donegal Town particularly in a climate of major recession?
“Over the last few days we have been reading that from a tourism perspective, Ireland is one of the cheapest destinations in Western Europe - we are offering superb facilities at the very best value. It is now up to us in this area to maximise the potential.
“We should not be isolationist - we are surrounded by some of the best golf courses in the country, have world class surfing and watersports on our doorstep - Donegal Town with its top class hotels and restaurants can be the tourism hub for the county,
“There is no point in being parochial - if Bundoran is full, then we can benefit from the overflow and vice versa. It’s all about working together.
“There are issues we have to address however - we have one of the nicest walks in Ireland along Donegal Bay yet it is falling into disrepair - this is something that as a town we should rectify.
“The Old Abbey and the Castle are two treasures that are the envy of many’s a town but can still be improved on.
“There is presently a major investment in one of the most iconic attractions in the country - Slieve League. All these facilities are on our doorsteps and we should be out there pushing them.”
Throughout the years Conaghan has been involved in the community and was one of the founder members of the St. John Bosco Club along with the late Mickey Cooney.
“I suppose you could say we set the seed for the development of athletics in the town many years ago and we can now all see the fruits of it with the success of Tirconaill AC which provides state of the art facilities in the area. They are an absolute credit.
“I would now like to see the Bosco Centre being developed further and getting a lot more use.
“It can be a centre for both young and old - it has now been renovated and is ideal for many social and sporting events.
“All we have to do is look at the success of the Community Centres in Inver, Drimarone and Leghowney - we can learn from their community spirit and bring the Bosco Centre to the same level.
“It would be ideal as a venue for teenage discos away from the drink culture, perfect for both squash/badminton, drama, fashion shows - its potential has yet to be fully realised.
“The more it is used the more chance we have of raising funds.
“At the moment its large car park is full practically every day of the week - this could be generating funds for its further development. This is not unprecedented - the cathedral in Sligo has a similar sized car park and offers a full day’s secure parking for €3. What is to stop us doing the same ?
“The position of Mayor in Donegal Town is an honorary position and has no legislative powers but it can help to influence decisions and promote the town and its people - I would be privelleged to be chosen to represent the people of this area.
“On a final note I would like to wish my fellow candidates Paul and Patricia well tomorrow - it has been a clean and well fought campaign.”