Sally Murphy - Reaching out to the Donegal Diaspora

Michelle Nic Phaidin

Reporter:

Michelle Nic Phaidin

A Letterkenny woman is concentrating much of her energy on creating a brand for Donegal and using it to enthuse people at home and abroad to visit and remember this region. Sally Murphy moved back to Letterkenny around nine years ago and became central to many of the main events that were taking place in this county due to her vast experience in project management.

A Letterkenny woman is concentrating much of her energy on creating a brand for Donegal and using it to enthuse people at home and abroad to visit and remember this region. Sally Murphy moved back to Letterkenny around nine years ago and became central to many of the main events that were taking place in this county due to her vast experience in project management.

“I worked for the Belfast Festival when I was at Queen’s University. I also worked for another project called “Young at Art” which was a children’s festival during my time there. I later moved to Galway, where I worked for the Galway Film Fleadh. I moved back to Donegal around nine years ago and I began working at the old Letterkenny Art’s Centre which later became the Regional Cultural Centre. I took on the role of project manager for the “Flight of the Earls” project in 2005,” she said.

She later returned to the cultural centre and obtained a position as education outreach manager. After 2009, she began to freelance and since then she has worked on to a great many projects. Presently she is managing the Donegal Diaspora Project for Donegal County Council.

The Queen’s graduate said: “I love the work that I am doing. Project management is what I do, and the Donegal Diaspora Project has particular resonance particularly because of where we are at the moment, as a county and as a community. The Donegal Diaspora Project is about Donegal as a county and as a people reaching out to those people who are from Donegal or who have an interest in Donegal.”

She said that during the course of her work with the project she hopes to involve as many people and organisations as she can. “We need to take everything into account, it’s the people who are leaving at the moment and it is also the people who may have never have been here and those who are associated with the county by being second or third generation. There is an ocean of diaspora out there. It is my job, for Donegal County Council, to pull together all the different sections that might have relevance to the diaspora. I want to use the website as a tool for me to organise the information that I have about the county and to display it. The website will act as a hub for all of that information,” she said.

During the course of her work she will study the prospects of bringing together the green economy, the business sector, tour operators, arts and crafts and energising them and focusing on how to reach out to the global diaspora.

Donegal County Council have been working on the concept for many years and Sally has the benefit of garnering information from previous research programmes.

“At the moment, I am working on front-loading my work into the creation of a website which will be ready around February. Once we have the website up and running we can launch the project. I am focusing on highlighting what the county has to offer to both its residents and visitors. I suppose you may describe it as displaying what we have, For example, if you would like to come to Donegal and experience art and culture you can visit the Glebe Gallery, or you can go to the Errigal Arts Festival, you can go to Artlink in Buncrana or you can go to the Bluestacks Festival, we just have so much to offer,” she said.

The mother of two, also appreciates all that Donegal can offer a family and will be utilising the new website as best she can to display this.

“If you have a family and you want to do outdoors stuff than you can go to Ards or you can go to Slieve League. Families can go to Rathmullan either and enjoy all it has to offer or you can go to Portsalon. Again, we just have so much to offer people. It is about pulling all that together and displaying it and figuring out who the markets are and focusing on that, it might be through the GAA globally or the Donegal Association, it might be through the Irish art’s centre or it might be through business people,” she said.

Another interesting aspect to the project is to consider how to best display our county to the families of those who have settled here over the past decades. “Think about all the new people who have to Donegal in the last decade from Africa, Poland. Chile and other countries. How do we inform their families in their homelands about the place that they are living in?” she said.

Her brother who has moved to Australia still likes to stay very much in touch with home. “My brother is in Australia and he is going to stay there. He checks all the Donegal newspapers online everyday. That sense of home, kinship and identity is so important to people,” she said.

A workshop “Diaspora an economic resource for Donegal” will take place on Wednesday, February 8 between 9.30am and 12.30am at the Radisson Hotel in Letterkenny.

The workshop will be given by Kinsley Aikins, former CEO of the Ireland Funds Worldwide. The Workshop will examine benefits and good practice with regard to harnessing diaspora as a resource and will focus on the potential of this sector for this region.