Letterkenny OpenCoffee Club

Just saw a mention on Twitter to the inaugural meeting of the Letterkenny OpenCoffee Club – an informal gathering for the tech / IT / social media related community. I’m not sure who has organised the meeting, but fair played to them for doing it.

The meeting takes place at 6:30pm tonight at CoLAB @ LYIT – attached to the Business Development Centre. More details are on the website. I won’t be able to make it this evening, but I hope to make one in the near future.

Something weird’s happened here…

For some reason, I’ve lost about two years worth of posts to the blog here. It coincides with my finishing the council, and trying to figure out what to do with this blog.

So, while I figure out what has happened, and where everything has gone, I’d like to say two things:

Firstly, a major thank you to everyone who helped me out on the council over the last five years. Personally, politically and professionally. Getting elected wasn’t easy in the first place; it took a great team of people to do that, and I hope I lived up to what you wanted to see in a councillor. Letterkenny Town Council has a great team of highly professional staff, who work closely with the Councillors to get things done. That’s why the Town has done so well in the last decade or so, and it’s why we have so much to show for the good years we saw here.

Secondly, I want to wish the councillors – re-elected councillors, new members Cllr Tom Crossan and Cllr Jimmy Kavanagh, and returning councillor Tadhg Culbert – the very best for the next five years. If the Council does well, Letterkenny does well. It’s hard to overstate the importance of a local authority in creating the right environment for a town as somewhere to live, work and grow up, and the input of the nine councillors will be key to achieving that.

I’ll post more of my thoughts on my time on the council, and my hopes for the next council, as soon as I can figure out what’s going on with the site here.

Update: through a combination of Google Cache and a few backups, I should be able to restore all the content. It will take a while, but I’ll get it sorted.

Joe Rospars Dublin Event, New FF Online Strategy

I’m just back at a computer after an event in Dublin that I was able to organise through work. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working with Fianna Fáil and Blue State Digital on a new website and a new web strategy for the party.

It’s been a busy few weeks, but a great experience. The team in Blue State are fantastic; they really know there stuff about online campaigning. In particular, they focus more on strategy than on technology, and that’s something Fianna Fáil will hopefully benefit from greatly.

Joe Rospars, one of the founding partners of the company, was in Dublin today as part of a wider trip to Europe. I pushed Fianna Fáil to organise a public event rather than a private, party only event. I put out the invite through Strawberry Media, and organised the event.  We were delighted with the turnout, about a hundred people showed up and we were able to get a good Q&A going with Joe himself afterwards.

I spoke to a number of people afterwards, the majority of whom were very positive about it. One person did mention that a few people were unhappy about the way it had been advertised, and that it hadn’t been publicised as a Fianna Fáil event, and I see messages on Twitter about it as well.

The idea to have the public event, rather than a private one, was mine, and the decision to push it from Strawberry Media was mine as well. Why? I wanted as wide an audience as possible to hear Joe’s talk, and to get the opportunity to question him directly. I felt that some people would have not wanted to attend a Fianna Fáil event, but would love to hear Joe Rospars. This wasn’t the launch of the Fianna Fáil website.

So rather than organise a glitzy launch with banners, posters, videos or the like, we had an open, free event, with a short introduction to say why Joe was in town.  Sean Dorgan, party General Secretary spoke to introduce the fact that Joe was in town in connection with his work for Fianna Fáil, and that the party wanted to have his expertise out in the open rather than tied in for the party only.

The event was 10:1 Joe Rospars to Fianna Fail; we’ll have the video online in a few days. Joe’s content wasn’t affected by us, we didn’t discuss it with him before hand, and he spoke for over 40 minutes as opposed to less than 5 from people from the party.

I’m genuinely sorry that anyone is upset about the way I handled the run up to the event; I hope that the quality of Joe’s talk, and the ability to hear first hand his impressions of Irish and European politics, in some way makes up for it.

I’m thankfully for everyone who turned up, and for all the great feedback I received on the night.

Update: (26/2/09) Here’s the text of the Press Invite (PDF) sent to members of the tech press. It features an FF logo and details of why Joe was in town. He also discussed this on RTE Radio 1 with Mary Wilson around 5pm on the day.

This post is one of a few that have been mangled recently; I’m working to restore all the comments that I possibly can. They will return here in the coming days.

Closure of Rockhill Barracks

This week saw the last parade of Troops from Rockhill House army barracks in Letterkenny. The barracks at Rockhill and Lifford were victims of the October budget, which saw a total of five military facilities ordered closed in a decision which owes little to financial concerns (as I’ve discussed here before).

This is a massive blow to Letterkenny and Lifford, and the surroundings communities. All local representatives have come out against this, and a number of meetings have taken place between local reps and senior officials and ministers. This is a terrible decision, which will impact in a number of ways, both for the people involved and their families and for the wider community of the town.

People employed at Rockhill have made a massive contribution to Letterkenny over the years. The base will be sorely missed, for economic and social reasons.


Thanks to Amy Rose Harte in the Donegal News and Donna Deeney in the Letterkenny Post for the write-ups this week, on my decision not to seek election to Donegal County Council and to step down from Letterkenny Town Council at the election on June 4th.

I made the decision not to seek a nomination for the County Council in December, when the candidate selection interviews took place. After considering my position for a long time, and consulting with family, friends and supporters, I’ve also decided not to seek re-election for the Town Council.

The articles talk about “personal and professional reasons”, which boils down to the limited number of hours in any given day. The merging of the Letterkenny and Milford electoral areas gave me a fantastic opportunity to take a seat on Donegal County Council, which would mean spending much more time on politics and less time for work, study and a personal life.  Since starting work at Strawberry Media in March, things have been great, and there is a number of things I want to do there which will require commitments of time at work, and time working with clients up an down the country.

The decision came down to figuring out how to strike the right balance, and give each element the commitment they deserve. Where I to remain on the Town Council, and do the personal, professional and academic things I intend to, something would definitely suffer. By not seeking re-election to the Town Council, I hope someone with the ability to commit full-time to the role will get the seat and continue to work for the people of the Town.

Is this the end for me and politics? Certainly not. I will be active during the campaign for Fianna Fail, both in Letterkenny and wherever else I can help. I take my position as a Councillor very seriously, and will be working on local issues right up until the end of my term. I also intend to continue supporting a number of the groups I have worked with over the last five years. I won’t rule anything in or out for the future, as circumstances will certainly change, but the decision at this stage is made. I love politics, and public service, and I hope I can be of help in the future, in whatever way.

Being a Councillor has given me an awful lot, I’ve really enjoyed the role and the interaction with people in Letterkenny, across the Country and around the world. It has even helped me professionally, particularly through this website. I’ve learned a huge amount in the last five years, from the first day of campaigning right up to today as I write this.

I have a list of people to thank as long as my arm, so I can’t really get in to it here for fear of leaving someone out. Family and friends have been key, particularly Mary who has had the key role of settling me whenever I get worked up about an issue (and stopping me saying something/doing stupid!). The Fianna Fail party, and all those who supported my campaign, made it all happen. The local media here gives great coverage to the issues, much more so than in many other towns around the country. The online community, bloggers and readers, who have contributed here and elsewhere. My fellow councillors, and the staff at Letterkenny Town Council, have  a great working relationship that moves beyond party politics and delivers for the people of the town. And certainly, the people of Letterkenny who gave me their trust and have made everything over these busy years worth it.

So, back to work, still five months to go!

Urgent- Postal Votes

I lifted most of this post from Daithi at Lex Ferenda. I do so with apologies- this is an important, urgent topic.

If you are unlikely to be able to vote in person on Thursday 24th May (and you are already registered to vote), it is not too late to apply for a postal vote. If you are accepted as a postal voter (due to being resident in a different place to where you’re registered – i.e. a student from Cork living in Dublin during term-time for college), you must vote by post – you can’t then turn up at your polling booth in Cork.

Your application for a postal vote goes to the local authority area in which you’re already registered – Donegal County Council in this area.

This must be done by Tuesday. (An application by an elector to have his name entered in the supplement to the postal voters list received by the registration authority on or after the third day after the dissolution of the Dáil at a general election … shall not have effect in relation to that election or referendum).

If you, or anyone you know, will require a postal vote, my advice is to ring Sheila in Dr McDaid’s office on 074 916 8642. Registrations have to be in by 4pm tomorrow (Tuesday)

Thursday Voting? No Thanks.

It’s widely expected that the Taoiseach is going to call the election some time over the next two weeks. There is much speculation as to the date, and importantly the day. Over at IrishElection.com they’ve launched a petition calling for the Government to not hold the election on a Thursday, favouring either Friday with late opening polls or preferably a Saturday.

I’ve just signed the petition (#815). The Local Elections in 2004 took place on a Friday, with polls open from 7am until 9pm if (I remember correctly). I went to great effort to ensure as many people as possible made it back from College and work in Dublin to get their votes in, but this wasn’t possible in all cases. Thankfully, I got enough votes to see me elected, but I definitely felt that there was a large amount of younger voters who lost out on voting in their local elections; even a 10pm close of polls would have been an improvement.

I’m delighted to support the campaign for a weekend poll; part of me thinks a Sunday may even be a good option, as happens in many European countries.

We should know fairly soon what day the election will be called on. I hope Bertie will see sense and go for a suitable date.