One town in south Donegal well-known for controlling its own destiny and maximising its opportunities has set up a new focus group to examine all avenues in a concerted to both sustain and create employment in the town in these challenging times.
The Ardara Focus Group was established subsequent to two public meetings held in the town specifically to address the issue of unemployment in the area after the sudden closure of Gallagher’s Bakery in the town.
After negotiations, the bakery re-opened under the ownership of the Gallagher family and up on 30 jobs have been saved.
All public representatives were invited to both meetings and a lively discussion took place but what was becoming increasingly obvious was the energy and enthusiasm of many of the local people attending.
Ardara boasts a proud history of getting things done principally by people who take the initiative themselves and provide employment.
For many years the Weaving Industry was the indigenous industry of the town and provided direct and indirect employment but in more recent times local entrepreneurial spirit provided much needed employment in a diverse range of small enterprises. Ann Moy, Chairperson of the Focus Group told the Donegal Democrat, “There is no public service employer based in the town unlike the majority of other towns where there is often a secondary school, hospital, council offices, fire service or some other significant permanent employer. Ardara has none of these.
“However, the entrepreneurial spirit was never lacking and many small employers have kept the community alive over the years.
“Now the challenge is a major one and so initial anger has been channelled into a proactive energy and a knowledge that we have to raise the bar higher. It is imperative that enough income is generated in the area to prevent a mass exodus of our young people.”
Meetings have already taken place with Marie Aine Gardiner, Failte Ireland and Frank Kelly, Donegal Local Development Committee and the focus now is on implementing an immediate short term plan regarding tourism promotion.
There is also a medium term plan for the establishment of an accredited Weaving School which could become a feature of inward tourism as well as providing training in a dying craft to a new generation of young people who may subsequently pursue a career in design.
Adventure sports and leisure activity initiatives are also being developed.
Ann added, “Strategic planning for town development will be dependent to some degree on funding, however, this newly formed Ardara Focus Group intends to leave no stone unturned in our endeavours to generate much needed employment now and into the future.
“Ardara people have decided to channel all their energies into a proactive plan for the future of the town and its environs.” she concluded
The Ardara Focus Group was set up after people put their names forward to work on this committee. The inaugural meeting took place on 12th April, 2011. An officer board was selected as follows: Anne Moy, Chairperson; Brian Forrest, Secretary; Patrick O’Donnell, Treasurer; John McConnell, PRO; Vice Chairperson, John Kelly; Asst Secretary, Hugh Campbell, Asst. Treasurer, Mabel McHugh.