Mayor of Kerry vs Pat Kenny

A quick post in relation to the Mayor of Kerry, Toireasa Ferris, and her appearance on the Late Late Show on Friday night. No, I’m not discussing her wardrobe; that was only a minor issue compared to the bulk of what happened, and I support Toireasa’s points on the matter in today’s press. Any paper that attacks her on her wardrobe shows a lack of ability to deal with the real issues of the interview and is simply going for cheap headlines.

A bit of background: Toireasa is the 26-year-old Mayor of Kerry, and daughter of Sinn Fein TD (and convicted IRA terrorist) Martin Ferris. She was on the Late Late show on Friday to discuss her position as a young person in politics.

Toireasa is one of the people often mentioned when people talk about the number of young people in Sinn Fein. That’s a myth we can dispell immediately. Fianna Fail has more young members, runs more young candidates, and has more young elected representatives than any other party in Ireland, north or south.

The interview was fairly gentle, until Pat pushed Toireasa on her views on the murder of Garda Jerry McCabe. In a shocking piece of political-speak, straight from SF headquarters, Toireasa said she was “not authorised” to condemn the attack.

I couldn’t believe it. Yes, we need more young people in politics. Of course I’m going to support young people getting involved, particularly at a local council level. It is a credit to Toireasa that she has reached such a high position at such a young age. But, as young people, we should be there to stand up for what we believe in. I regularly speak out against Government policy, in public and in private. To say she was “not authorised” shows a shocking level of contempt for personal thought. Pat wasn’t asking for a SF line, he was looking for a personal opinion.

Either have some idealism and stand up for what you beleve in, or get out of politics. It’s that simple. If you cannot speak your mind as a young person, relatively new to politics, then you’re not going to be able to speak your mind in 5, 10 or more years time. Toireasa Ferris has all the hallmarks of the “new breed” of SF candidate- young, presentable, no previous convictions- but also shares the inability for independent thought.

No Councillor in Fianna Fail requires “authorisation” to say anything. That’s how democratic parties work. SF is (slowly) moving towards democratic politics (and performs well on councils across the country, including Letterkenny Town Council) but, as the saying goes, old habits die hard. One need only consider the case of Francie Molloy, Mayor of Dungannon, who was suspended from the party for straying from official policy.

So I’ll put my money where my mouth is. Here’s some things the Government have done that I think are wrong. The current situation at Letterkenny General Hospital is shocking, as is the failure to deal effectively with the needs of Cancer Patients in the North West. I’ve actively campaigned against Fianna Fail’s failure to organise in Northern Ireland. Funding for many schools still falls behind their needs, an example being St Eunan’s College. At tonight’s council meeting, I’ll be calling for Letterkenny to be included in the RAPID programme, which governemnt policy has excluded it from. There’s more than that, and I’m sure there will be more in the future.

Was I authorised to criticise the Government on any of those issues? Of course not. And I shouldn’t need to be. If Toiressa Ferris didn’t want to discuss those issues, that’s one point. But to say she “wasn’t authorised” shows how little individual thought is tolerated in SF.

This issue is being discussed robustly online here, here and here. The clip from the show should be available soon, I’ll update here when it is. Comments are open, if you have something to say.

Update: RTE have updated their Late Late Show archive, but have not included the interview with Toireasa Ferris. Thanks to everyone who has linked to this site; traffic has gone through the roof. I welcome all comments below.

o2 Ends Roaming Charges in Ireland

Just read this article on

O2 to abolish roaming charges in the North

O2 will abolish roaming charges between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland for its 1.6 million customers from April. The company has also abolished roaming charges across the UK and Ireland for its business customers.

From April, roaming between here and the North will be scrapped on O2’s network for all its pre-pay and post-pay customers. These means that these customers will not be charged for calls they receive while roaming in Northern Ireland.

This is great news for people in Donegal, particularly those who live near the border and any of us who travel frequently. When I was studying in UU Magee in Derry roaming charges put my bill up hugely, and much the same happens whenever I travel near the border or into the North.

It is quite ironic that the strongest networks available in Donegal County Council’s HQ in Lifford are those coming from the North, leading to people sitting in the council chamber receiving “Welcome to the UK” texts. I have even received these texts while in Ballybofey, and on one occasion in Letterkenny.

This move is long overdue. It should have come when the Networks first merged. But, as the saying goes, better late than never. I only hope Vodafone will follow suit!

Update: Vodafone have now joined o2 in ending roaming charges for bill-pay users, from April 14th. It’s part of their Vodafone Passport programme

New Site Feature- Comments

I’ve just added a new feature to this website.

Now, you can comment on the posts I put here, and the comments will be appended to the end of the post. This is a great way of developing a debate. Examples can be seen on many of the sites I visit, including and iePolitics.

There’s a few important things to note. If you want to comment, click the link at the bottom of each post which says “Comment on this post”. There, you can leave your name, email and comment. Your email address won’t be displayed on the site. As this is new, I won’t be moderating the comments. This means that whatever you say will be added to the site immediately. I hope the system works- if it’s abused I’ll have to change it, but my experience so far has been that responses to this site have been well intentioned and well argued.

I’ve enabled comments for all the recent posts on the front of the site (including my post about the Council trip to the USA) and will enable it for posts from now on.

Update – Feb 6th 2006

A quick update on a number of issues from the last few weeks here on the site:

  • The Fleadh Cheoil Programme on RTE continues this week on Friday at 7:30 on RTE1. The first two weeks have been excellent, and the town comes across really well. I’m sure that this year’s Fleadh Cheoil will be an even bigger success
  • Brian McDaid has returned successfully from Monte Carlo. He’s raised a huge sum for the Donegal Hospice, and his fundraising continues. You can read more about his trip on or donate to the hospice through their website on
  • The public consultation period on the proposed variation to the Letterkenny development plan for the area of Town Centre Extenstion has ended. All submissions will now be assessed, and brought to the members at a forthcoming meeting of the council.
  • Following November’s visit of the New Zealand All Blacks to Letterkenny and Rathmullan, interest in Dave Gallaher remains high. There’s still a good bit of traffic coming into this website for the pages I’ve written about the trip, most of which comes from outside Ireland
  • This site has been nominated for two awards at the Irish Blog Awards. See this post for more info.
  • I recently met Brian Cowen, Minister for Finance, when he visited the North West. I raised a number of topics with him, including:
    • Letterkenny General Hospital
    • Cancer Services for the North West
    • St Eunan’s College
    • Infrastructure to the North West
    • Cross Border Co-Operation

    On a similar note, Minister Michael Martin is in Derry today dealing with similar issues of North-South Co-Operation, with particular regard to business and enterprise. These developments will be vital for the future growth of Letterkenny, Buncrana and indeed the rest of Donegal.

  • Applications for the Affordable Housing programme close on the 10th of February. More info here. I have a number of application forms, if you are seeking to apply then get in contact with me. Interest has been extremely strong in this programme.
  • Congratulations to Fr Eamonn Kelly, who has been appointed Administrator of St Eunan’s Cathedral in Letterkenny. Fr Frances McLoone, who has served the Cathedral for many years, is moving parish. I’d like to wish Fr Kelly good luck in his new position; I’m sure he’ll get on great.
L-R Brian Cowen TD, Cllr Damien Blake
With Brian Cowen, TD, in Buncrana on Saturday January 28th, 2006

Irish Blog Awards

Irish Blog Awards

It seems my website been nominated/shortlisted for two awards in the 2006 Irish Blog Awards- Best Political Blog and Best Personal Blog (a blog is a techie term for a website with entries ordered by date).

So, ever the politician, I’m canvassing again. If you like what I’m trying to do here with this website, visit this page and give me a vote. There’s many, many great websites listed there, so any help you give would be greatly appreciated.

Just scroll down to “Best Political” and “Best Personal” and you’ll see my name (either as Damien Blake or Cllr Damien Blake). Voting closes in two weeks time. They ask for your email address; this is just to ensure you only vote once, they won’t start sending you spam emails or sell/pass your details onwards.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Sorry for the interruption. Normal service will resume shortly!

Vote in the Irish Blog Awards

Mayor’s Ball 2006

Just a quick note, and a piece of advance notice.

The 2006 Letterkenny Mayor’s Ball will take place on Friday, May 5th in the Mount Errigal Hotel, Letterkenny. The charity has been chosen, and will be announced soon. There are a few more details to follow, such as the band, and they will be revealed soon.

I’ll be adding more information here as we announce it. I’m very excited by the event, and honoured to be able to do my bit for the charity that will be benefitting. Sorry to be so vague, but there’s a few small details to be worked out.

The Mayor’s Ball was established by Cllr Ciaran Brogan in 2002. The event usually raises between E20,000 and E30,000 for a local charity, chosen each year by the Mayor. Last year, Cllr Dessie Larkin raised E31,000 for the Donegal Youth Services, and hosted a fantastic evening. This year’s ball has alot to live up to, but I am very hopeful we will be able to have a very memorable evening.

Update: The charity for this year’s ball is the Donegal Hospice. Thanks to everyone who has supported this event so far, by buying tables, giving sponsorship or offering their help.

Brian Gets On The Road

Brian gets Started

Brian McDaid has just taken off on his “Mini To Monte Carlo” trip in aid of the Donegal Hospice. I had the honour of seeing him off from the Market Square, along with a sizable crowd. Brian will be accompanied on the trip by his brother Neil, who I recently met in Boston.

Brian hopes to be in Monte Carlo by the weekend, and the home in Letterkenny by next Thursday. Over the last six weeks, Brian has run a fantastic fund raising (and indeed awareness-raising) campaign for the Hospice, and should raise a large amount of money for this fantastic cause.

You can keep up to date with Brian’s trip on, and you can make a donation to the hospice on

Good luck Brian!

Update: Thanks to Neilus McDaid for the photo at top