Betty Holmes is one of the most prominent health campaigners in the north west and this year her unshakable focus remains unchanged with her attention firmly fixed on retaining cancer services in this county and preventing services at Letterkenny General Hospital (LGH) from being down graded. The mother of five is as well respected throughout the county for her genuinely warm and affectionate personality as she is for her many years of campaigning towards a better end for health services in this region.
“I am the eldest of four of a family. I have two younger brothers and a sister, Liam, Angela and Kevin. I am from a lovely place called Faughan which is located between Burnfoot and Buncrana originally. I lived there until I was ten years of age, my father died when I was seven and my mother died just after I had turned ten. I turned ten in August and she died at the beginning of September. Their names were Kathleen and James Doherty, two great, wonderful people and I have many great memories of them,” she said.
Betty and her wonderful husband Con are parents to five children, Emma, Carina, Naomi, Laura and Mark. Betty enjoys being an integral part of the community as well as being a full-time mother and grandmother to her growing family.
“I have a strange take on life. I think that life throws things at you and you then have to decide what is for you and what is not for you. I think I made choices for myself and perhaps, at times, they were not always the right ones but on the most side, I think that I have done well. I am a very positive person. I believe the glass to always be near full and that is not half empty. I believe that life throws things at us to test us and I think that one of the biggest problems that other people have is that they let other people judge them and this affects their decisions and this brings them down. I always try to do what is best for me and my family because they are very, very important to me,” she said.
Betty met Con at the summer festival in Letterkenny 1973. Betty realised that both she and her future husband had very different outlooks on life while he relished knowledge about international and foreign affairs, Betty preferred to focus on the practicality of getting from day to the next.
“When we met originally, I realised that he was so tuned into the world and an expert on so many things. He is so knowledgable about world affairs. I am a practical down to earth person and I am more concerned with getting from one end of the day to the next. We were probably the most unlikely couple to get married but we have a great relationship. We argue but we never fall out because the two of us have such a great sense of humour,” she said.
Con and Betty have both enjoyed such a happy marriage that they readily hand out advice to their growing family. “I think that sometimes, parents or people who are together try and show the children that they never fall out. I also observed people who grow and get married and they eventually fall out with eachother because it’s hard to be with somebody all the time. They have never seen this happen with their own parents and they think that there is something wrong with them. We have always told our children that in order to live together, you don’t always have to agree, you have your wee discussion and then you just get on with it, that’s life. Things don’t always run smoothly but that is half the joy of it,” she said.
Last year, Betty ran in the Donegal North East elections. It came as no surprise to many that she fared so well having had a mere nine days to campaign. On the day that Betty decided to run a leading doctor had given her bad news asking her to come back to the capital for crucial procedures.
“That decision was made on impulse. The day that I made that announcement, I went to St. James for a check-up and my cardiologist told me things were not great and that I would have to come back for more treatment. I made the announcement and I don’t regret it,” she said.
She added that despite the fact that she has a great relationship with all the elected representatives in Donegal she believes that an issue, such as, health “deserves an undiluted voice in the Dáil.”
“I felt that we need to focus on specifics because from the moment you are born til you die, health affects everything in life. I think that health is a specific area that needs to be targeted and with the greatest respect to all the elected representatives, I think that when you are dealing with so many issues, serving so many people that you cannot give health the time that it deserves and needs. There needs to be a candidate who deals only with health. I still think that the next time around that there is an election that there is an opportunity there for someone, I am not sitting who that is, I am just throwing it out there, to sit down and look at where to take health,” she said.