Donegal man Stephen McCahill says his award is a symbol for people who work in their communities

"The greatest award you could ever get"

Michael Daly

Reporter:

Michael Daly

Email:

michael.daly@donegaldemocrat.com

Donegal man Stephen McCahill says his award is a symbol for people who work in their communities

Stephen and Marietta McCahill tonight in Dublin

Echoing the sentiments of former winner of the Donegal Person of the Year, Daniel O'Donnell, the most recent winner, Stephen McCahill said the greatest award you could ever get is an award from your own county.

"To be honoured by your own is very special," he told more than 520 guests at the Regency Hotel in Dublin moments ago.

Stephen, speaking  at the Donegal Association in Dublin banquet tonight, said he was honoured, humbled and proud to be selected as Donegal Person of the Year.

He praised the young committee and they were lucky to have a guiding light like Kathleen Sheerin keeping an eye on them, he said.

"I have been overwhelmed by the numbers of letters and messages I have received, many of them on Facebook and others in the more traditional way. I tried to analyse the messages and I can only conclude with Brexit and the issues in the USA and elsewhere the world is very frustrated at the moment, with the corruption and tribunals and much more there is a lot of frustration in the world and then you have ordinary people just wanting people to work with and for their communities and that's where people like myself come in," he said.

"The Association have picked so many high profile people, and they were wonderful choices, but this time they opted for a community-based person and I am just a symbol of those people in the community, the ordinary people who do great work for their community and that is worth appreciating."

Employment

He praised those who created employment in the area. He singled out Gallagher's Bakery which now employs 330 people. He mentioned other businesses in the south and west of the county who have created employment and he celebrated the fact that a new whiskey distillery would soon be up and running.

He also praised those who give it a go and may not be successful: "Never forget the great people in Donegal who have tried and it hasn't worked out for them, but I am equally as proud of them as everyone else."

He said that there were many people in various communities who make a huge contribution and when they pass on, their loss is felt by all: "In any community the loss of a person in your community is important - we had the biggest wee man I ever knew in our community, Gerard Slowey - who I salute. I cherish the memory of this wonderful man."

He went back tot he first ever winner of the Donegal Person of the Year award, Canon James McDyre.

"I am from Glenties, born and reared. My neighbour was the first recipient of this award in 1978, Fr James McDyer.

"I was very influenced by the thinking of Fr James who had a great passion for keeping communities alive. He led by example and the seed for businesses like Errigal Eisc was set by Fr James and he has influenced so many people.

"We need to keep our communities alive, if we don't we won't survive.

He acknowledged his mother, who is 87, who he said was proud of him and his winning of the award. He thanked his wife and family for their support.

He remembered the late Charlie Bennett, a former Person of the Year, who he said he wanted to mention. "He was a great person and we remember him fondly."

Profile in brief - who is Stephen McCahill?

Stephen McCahill,  58, the 2016 Donegal Person of the Year, is essentially a community activist and volunteer.

An accomplished businessman, he has involved himself at various levels, very often as the chairperson, in a variety of community and voluntary organisations in Ardara where he lives.

Stephen is very passionate about the promotion of our county and is very passionate about community involvement and the importance of keeping the community alive and vibrant.

Married to Marietta, they have two children, Steven and Gemma. At 58 years of age he has led an incredibly busy and varied life and clearly his passion is ‘people’.

His early working years saw him with Lyons Tea as a national sales representative and later became a quality control officer with Moracrete in Clondalkin.

In 1981 he moved back to Donegal where he took up a position as quality control manager with Campbell Seafoods in Killybegs and spent six years with the company, he later worked with Joey Murrin as a marketing manager.

In 1991 Stephen set up his own company Glenard Fish which organised the sales of fresh fish and he is still involved in the fishing industry in Killybegs.

His involvement in local groups is remarkable - founder and now chairman of the Cup O’Tae Festival; chairman Ardara Traders Association; a former chairman (4 years) of Ardara GAA club, he served 12 years also as club treasurer;  he is on the editorial committee for local magazine Duchas; Chairman of the Ardara Heritage Centre and the Ardara Community Centre; a former chairperson, secretary and PRO of the Ardara Parish Council.

It is evident from Stephen’s involvement in so many groups and committees that he has spent much of his adult life giving freely of his personal time to keeping his local area alive and vibrant. He has helped develop and sustain tourism, heritage, culture and rural life through numerous projects, festivals, initiatives and enterprises.