It certainly was a red-letter day from incoming Donegal Cathaoirleach, Rena Donaghey.
On what was her 36th Wedding Anniversary, the proud Buncrana councillor became the first Inishowen woman and the first woman from Fianna Fáil to be elected Donegal Cathaoirleach.
Speaking to Donegal Live, Cllr Donaghey said she could not believe the “happy coincidence” when the date for the mayoral election was announced at Lifford.
Mindful of ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, Cllr Donaghey enjoyed a “small” family celebration at home on Wednesday evening and then it was straight down to work.
Cllr Donaghey said: “The A5 project is crucial to Inishowen and wider Donegal.
“It is an extremely important and ambitious route linking Donegal to Dublin through Northern Ireland. The connection of Donegal to Dublin, via a new dual carriageway from Derry to Aughnacloy, would attract much needed investment to our county. A connection we have been denied for years.
“I intend to vigorously pursue this issue, with the support of my colleagues and Donegal County Council and keep it high on the agenda of both Governments. Unfortunately, the A5 has been stalled for decades by public enquiries and legal challenges. However, it has now been included in the ‘Programme for Government.’ We need to keep the A5 high on our agenda if we want to survive in this county, especially post-Brexit.
“Together with the implementation and completion of the three Trans-European Network for Transport (TEN-T) projects: the bypass for Ballybofey; the Bonagee Link; and the road from Letterkenny to Lifford, the A5 would leave our county in very good stead indeed,” said Cllr Donaghey.
Rena Donaghey also recognised the importance of “igniting” the Inishowen and wider Donegal hospitality and tourism sector post-Covid-19.
She said: “I know Donegal County Council will not be found wanting in this area. I want to see the Council putting together a strong campaign for ‘staycations’ where we spend a holiday in our own county, rather than abroad.
“Staycations would put some money back into our indigenous businesses, which would help job creation. It is a great opportunity to visit places we have never been. We could explore the many beauty spots along the Wild Atlantic Way, admire the breath-taking scenery or enjoy our fantastic beaches.
“Many of our beaches have Blue Flag Status, thanks to the endeavours of Donegal County Council. It takes €25,000 for each one, which is a good investment in terms of attracting tourists. Donegal is now the county with the most Blue Flag beaches, which is great.
“Inishowen and wider Donegal has stunning walks and a fabulous food offering. You can relax and unwind in any one of our many luxurious hotels and enjoy a game of golf on fine golf courses. There is so much to discover in this beautiful corner of the World. I could go on and on. So, we must harness this and drive the agenda of attracting people to the Hills of Donegal,” smiled Cllr Rena Donaghey.
Cllr Donaghey acknowledged the work done by Donegal County Council to bring the Buncrana Leisure Centre project to fruition.
She said: “Buncrana Leisure Centre is progressing to the building stage and we must ensure we meet all of the time frames and keep it moving.
“Fort Dunree, the fort of the heather, is a place very close to my heart. This is a site steeped in history. Its stunning natural beauty and abundant wildlife are drawing increased numbers of visitors to what is one of Inishowen’s most beautiful and peaceful locations. Absolutely gorgeous, Fort Dunree is a ‘Must-See’ attraction for every visitor coming to Donegal.
“The site is owned by Donegal County Council and we could do so much with this area if we were lucky enough to secure grant aid or funding. It is amazing out there. We really could do so much with it. I intend to do everything in my power to lobby for funding and assist with the development of this very historic site.
“I have no doubt Dunree Fort could become not only a county attraction but a national tourism attraction. The numbers have increased in the last while because we have the walking trails out there now. The Coffee Shop is a great draw,” said Cllr Donaghey.
Greencastle Harbour was another area Cllr Donaghey wanted to see progressed.
She said: “With the proper funding, Greencastle Harbour could become another Killybegs, which would bring considerable employment to Inishowen. We would also be able to bring the Tall Ships there.
“Thankfully, the work on Swan Park in Buncrana has started, thanks to engineer Eamonn Mahon, Donegal County Council and all the other Inishowen politicians who have worked so hard to get appropriate funding after the ‘paradise’ being washed away in the awful August 2017 floods.
“I am also delighted to welcome the building of a Primary Health Care Centre in Buncrana. I feel the Primary Care Centre will facilitate top-class health care delivery, with a team-based approach to the town of Buncrana and the wider area of Inishowen. It is a modern, state-of-the-art facility. The primary Care Centre will accommodate a range of services that are currently housed at different locations throughout the area. The wide range of services at one location will ensure and inclusive and integrated approach to service delivery in Buncrana and a much wider area.
“I am delighted tenders have been sought and got and a local company won the tender, which will support local businesses and will provide much needed jobs for the area. Appointments that are now taking place in Letterkenny will be able to come back to Inishowen, said Cllr Donaghey.
Thanks to the Primary Health Care Centre, children, in particular, will no longer have to travel to Letterkenny for appointments.
Cllr Donaghey said young people were having to take time off school to travel to important appointments.
She added: “I will also continue my campaign for a 24 Hour ambulance service in Buncrana. This would greatly complement and enhance this Primary Care Service. I will continue lobbying for such an ambulance service with energy and vigour.
“In addition, I will do everything I can to progress the ‘Three School Campus’ project in Buncrana.
“I would also like to see iCARE receive proper, core, statutory funding. These are just some of the many projects I am hoping to Champion in my year as Cathaoirleach. I would like to thank former Cathaoirleach, Nicholas Crossan. Unfortunately, his year in office was impacted by Covid-19.
“I must also acknowledge the dedication of our frontline staff. I would like to pay tribute to our doctors, clergy, nurses, care assistants, cleaners, home carers, members of the defence and emergency services, delivery people, community groups and their volunteers,” said Cllr Rena Donaghey.
Praising those who had been volunteering as part of Donegal County Council’s Covid-19 Helpline, Rena Donaghey said we were living through “the most difficult times that we have seen in our lifetimes.”
With clear pride Cathaoirleach Donaghey added: “We have seen the very best of communities in Inishowen and Donegal in the last few months.
“I would like to think all of this will come to an end and we would like to return to the old normal soon.
“My Deputy Chair is Noel Jordan from the South County and I look forward to working closely with him in the next year,” concluded Rena Donaghey.
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