Spending over twenty years in community work, working on the national executive of the Fine Gael party and a lifetime of love and passion for sports makes John G. Campbell a man that is very much respected and known from one end of the county to the other. Born and raised in his native Kilcar, John Campbell has worked on local initiatives, carried out selfless community work and became involved in politics at a higher level in efforts to secure the best for the people of his area.
At the moment, he is happier at his work than he has ever been with the Finn Harps schools’ programme, which involves primary schools from across the county. The schools sign up to a programme with the football club which involves coaching, healthy eating and social inclusion programmes as well as mutual co-operation on a large number of matters.
Last Friday, John was undertaking another exam to ensure that he and all of his colleagues have every single piece of itinerary needed to run the excellent programme which has grown extremely popular in recent times. Demand for the programme is increasing on an annual basis, the children, staff and the team that carry out the course all love and enjoy the work that they do.
“It was an eye-opener of a day today. There were nine of us getting our coaching badges in order to be able to coach children with disabilities. We covered every single aspect of the coaching from working with children who are hard-of-hearing to children that are wheelchair bound. We all enjoyed it and those that taught us were of the highest calibre,” he said.
The Finn Harps programme now coaches and helps 5,360 pupils in 29 schools. “It is important to understand every aspect of the coaching. Today, I did an exam under the Sports Partnership programme in coaching children with disabilities, it is very important and adds to the multitude of certificates and exams that we have obtained during the course of this programme. We all take it very seriously and cover absolutely everything we can so as to make the programme the success that it has become,” he said.
A number of the coaches on the team are studying sport at third level. “We all have our coaching badges, first aid, child protection and we are all happy with the programme and enjoy it. There is nothing more enjoyable than to oversee a project like this and see how the children enjoy every aspect of it- from the sport to the social inclusion and taking part in discussions. If you take satisfaction in what you are doing it is going to be a success,” he said.
Everyone who works alongside John take the same level of satisfaction from it as he does and he stresses that everyone on the team have no qualms about putting the added hours in or going that extra mile in order to see that the job is done right.
“One of the pluses with this programme is that you meet people who are very committed to sport from across the county. The best thing about sport is that when you meet people who have an interest in sport, there is an immediate bond and familiarity. People who enjoy sports in this county are genuinely lovely people. I have sat up talking about sport to people from Malin Head, Lifford, Bundoran and Gaoth Dobhair. People in this county have a great sporting spirit and a true appreciation of sport and you can see this through the children, the parents and the staff in schools. In this job, you have really like people and like meeting them and I have to say I love it,” he said.
Born and raised in Kilcar, John attended national school there before attending the Carrick Vocational School. When he finished his schooling at 17 years of age he went to work in Cill Cartha Yarns.
“I was always very lucky to have worked with great people and this makes the job so much more enjoyable,” he said.
Following the period in which he worked in the factory John went on to supervise FÁS schemes under the auspices of Údaras na Gaeltachta before managing a slate factory in his native home.
It was later his true vocation came after he spent a year on the board of the Finn Harps F.C. he went to work for the club in 2007. “I went to work as club promotions officer. At that stage there were fourteen of us working for clubs in the county,” he recalled.
John went onto become chairperson of Finn Harps F.C. where he still remains secretary and he works tirelessly for the betterment of the club. John encompasses a true understanding of how boards and communities work having spent twenty years working on the parish council in his native home.
“I deeply enjoyed working on Kilcar Parish Council for twenty odd years. I really enjoyed working in the community and I was very fortunate to have worked with some of the best community activists that ever worked in Donegal, among them, the late Dan Gillespie, Michael O’Donnell and James McBrearty. I learnt so much about the community and what the community means. They taught me that community things have to be done at a certain level and in a certain manner. What I learnt about community I learnt from them. I was 20 odd years there and I loved it. I stepped down this year because it was time. There are many, many great people in community that have made huge contributions and they are never acknowledged,” he said.
As a natural extension to his community work, John naturally progressed into politics. “My late father John Campbell was deeply involved in politics. It was like sport to me, I enjoyed it. I was constituency chairman in Donegal and went onto the national executive of the Fine Gael party,” he said.
Despite the fact that John enjoyed politics so much he also realises that it can, at times, be exceptionally cruel. “When you get involved, you contribute and influence things sometimes. The downside is that it can be very cruel. When you stand beside a sitting TD or councillor and they lose their seat, it is devastating. You see the true reaction after the cameras and the media have gone. It is hard for them, it is not only that they are losing a job they are being told by their people that they don’t want them anymore. Despite the fact that you try and walk that fine line and prepare them, it is still very hard,” he said.
John truly believes that anyone who has an interest in politics should get involved and make their voice heard. “Irrespective of what party it is - you should get involved if you feel strongly about something. I also feel very strongly that people who don’t vote should be fined like they do in Australia. You really do not have any right to open your mouth afterwards if you haven’t voted. It is so important. You need to allign yourself with a party that have similar politics to you, there are so many parties and independents out there that you have to find one. I never have respect for people who criticise things that are being done and when you ask them what they would do, they shrug their shoulders not knowing,” he said.