A Donegal Town girl who from an early age spent a lot of her time both looking after and being involved with people, Sinead McGowan, talks about her career in the hospitality business and her life in politics.
The Sales Manager at Lough Eske Castle recalled, “We were a family of 9 and, as one of the elder children, I suppose I was always minding some one. It was one of those houses where the door was never locked -it was in every essence a home. There was always people calling for one reason or another and it was through this activity that I became a people person.
“We were always a political family. My uncle was a Senator, and my mother and father came from slightly different strains of Fianna Fail but when it came to community, party affiliations disappeared.”
Speaking of her childhood, Sinead said, “It was a happy time but sprinkled with sadness in that my father passed away at quite an early age. That tragic event really showed me the strength of family and neighbourly support. Our friends and neighbours carried us through.
“Dad passed away just a few days before Christmas and was buried on the December 23rd.
“I remember my mother coming back to me and saying: ‘We have young children in this house and I don’t want them to associate Christmas with sadness. Let’s get all these decorations, the Christmas tree and the presents out again. Your father would have wanted it.
“My mother and all the neighbours ensured that it was as happy for all the children as it could possibly be given the circumstances.”
Sinead also spoke fondly of her early memories in Donegal town. “I know we all have great memories of our childhood when the sun always shone. It’s like a cliche, but that’s how I remember it. We lived near the river, swam in it, made rafts, robbed orchards and enjoyed the open spaces. I honestly believe that we had a better quality of life in those days.
“Holidays were spent in Bundoran and in our mobile home in Rossnowlagh. A trip to the Zoo would have been a major excursion.
“My mother had a great work ethos and from mid school years, most of us had some form of a job. I worked washing dishes with my uncle in the Salmon Inn and that was my first taste of the hospitality industry.
“Like all my class in the late ‘80’s, I had to emigrate to London. There simply was no work at home. I continued and developed my career in hospitality. “Eventually I returned to Bundoran where I worked with Brian McEniff and later with Jim White in Donegal. I will always be indebted to both men for providing me with a true insight into the business.”
A sudden change in direction was in the offing when Pat ‘the Cope” was elected to Europe.
“I ended up in Brussels working in the European Parliament and this really opened up my mind to a whole new life as did my time with him as Minister of State.
“Politics can be harsh and when Pat lost his ministerial role, I lost my job. It was like a bereavement, all so instant and you still have to go through the mourning process.”
Sinead sought new challenges and secured the demanding position of Sales Manager in Donegal’s first five star hotel - Lough Eske Castle.
“It was challenging but when you have a property of the standard of the Castle, it is that much easier to sell. It’s wonderful to be part of such a great team but still we all have to work that much harder to maintain these high standards.
“For us all in Lough Eske, the day we don’t learn something new is a bad day.”
Is there any political ambition in the future?
“No not now. I am happy in my work. Also, Johnny and I have a beautiful daughter Miah. Having a family puts a lot of things into perspective.
“Now, way into the future, if Miah shows some political acumen, I won’t be standing in her way!”