Ardara's McCahill joins the election fray
by Matt Britton
One of South Donegal's most respected community activists and well known businessman has declared himself a candidate in the upcoming General election as a result of what he describes as "sheer frustration and both worry and sadness for the future of the region."
Stephen McCahill is a well known community activist and has long been associated with the many festivals that the town hosts each year and is also Chairman of the local GAA club.
Speaking to the Donegal Democrat after declaring his candidature McCahill said, "I suppose politics has always been in my blood and in the past I have often considered running in local elections.
"Over a month ago when the General Election was looming I was approached by a lot of people who tried to persuade me to put my name in the hat. I gave it a lot of consideration but at the time decided against it.
"Recent events have changed all this - last weekend I listened to the frustration, the fear, the hopelessness expressed by many people at a public meeting here in the town; just yesterday I said my goodbyes to two more talented young men who are now gone to Australia.
"I felt that I have given as good as I can give as a community activist but that if I were to be able to instigate even the smallest bit of change or improvement to the greater community I needed more clout.
"I am saddened and frustrated by the blunders of the Government over the last number of years and feel that it is now time to stand up and be counted.
"I see our best young people emigrating and sense a fear in those that remain at home. They are afraid to take a chance and start a small business because if they fail, they lose their social welfare entitlements.
"We should be encouraging these young people, creating the right environment and ensuring that they have access to credit - they are our future.
"I feel strongly that four of our main candidates in Donegal SW have never been in the real commercial world.
"They have never had to go to banks ‘cap in hand' just to be refused, they have never experienced the effects of success or failure - these are the realities of what the voters in this constituency are facing every day."
Given that he is an independent candidate and not aligned to any party, this newspaper asked McCahill what were his main policies?
"One of the most burning issues in my mind is the exorbitant rates that are charged to small businesses in what is a peripheral and remote area. Donegal is not Dundrum or Donnybrook - but we have a ridiculous situation where rates are levied on the size of the premises not the turnover. This must be changed.
"I am not jumping on the bandwagon but I see some of the main parties are already reneging on promises before they are elected particularly on the restoration if the Cancer Services to Sligo General Hospital.
"I feel that the best legacy Mary Coughlan, who is still Tanaiste and Minister of Health could leave with the people of her home constituency is to restore what was an invaluable and essential service,
"I am fully aware the Europe has been good to us but I can also see the evidence of how so much bureaucracy has been a deterrent to business. If some one wants to sell a loaf of bread on the Diamond in Donegal Town, they are met by an army of health officers yet in France or Germany you can buy anything from fresh meats to ice cream in the local market in less stringent conditions.
"We just apply the letter of the law to it's highest level".
"I feel that the recent by - election became a national referendum and there was very little emphasis on local issues and the problems that this area is facing on a daily basis.
"I think it is vital to get back to basis and listen to the concerns of the people who are entrusting us with their vote,
"We are looking at unprecedented emigration, a brain drain, job losses almost on a daily basis, people in serious financial difficulty, a total breakdown in our health service - the list is endless.
"We have to instill hope into our people again.
"I am not promising that I can change things overnight; in fact I am promising nothing. The only pledge that I can give the people of Donegal is that I will work unstintingly on their behalf."