Martin looking forward to a busy year as cathaoirleach

The Donegal News visited the Twin Towns last week where we sat down with the newly elected Cathaoirleach of the Donegal County Council, Martin Harley, to talk about settling into his new role and his aspirations for the year ahead.

Cllr Harley is a business man based at the heart of Ballybofey. Through the stain glass window of his premises we watched as a constant stream of traffic rumbled by. So it didn’t come as any surprise when he said the town’s by-pass was at the top of his list of priorities for his upcoming year in office.

The by-pass of the Twin Towns was first mentioned over 60 years ago. Yet there has been very little progress in the years since. Cllr Harley offered a stark example, he said, “If you leave Buncrana and you are driving to Limerick, the only two towns you go through are Ballybofey and Tubercurry”.


From 2026 there will be a significant investment of over €30 billion in our national roads, and at the minute Ballybofey/Stranorlar is amongst the top two towns on the list.

“We just hope other projects don’t bypass us,” he added.

Amongst the hurdles he will face in his year as Cathaoirleach are the upcoming local election and an extremely challenging budget.

Following his appointment Cllr Harley met with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister of Finance, Pascal Donahue in Leinster House. He explained how he shared with them the concerns he has regarding local government and how it needs to be better funded.

“We are doing all the work on the ground but you need to be giving us more back from the Local Property Tax, to invest back into the county,” he told the members of cabinet.

When asked how the government responded, he said:

“Well it’s a bit like The Shawshank Redemption and the boy looking for the library, you just have to keep sending them letters.


“That’s what it’s all about. You just keep the pressure on them and keep sending letters. I suppose that’s the postman in me,” he laughed.

Cllr Harley then reminisced on his past life with the postal service that started in Dublin in 1983. He explained how before becoming a postman he always aspired to be a chef.

“I loved cooking. I used to bake with my mum in the house when she was making scones,” he said.

He even got offered a position at the Killybegs catering college where the weekly wage at the time was only £16. A week later he got a letter from the Civil Service with a job offer for a post office in Dublin where the weekly wage was £85, so his decision was made for him.

In later life he got to pursue his culinary dream when they started serving food in his pub, Cheers, after stumbling upon a newspaper advertisement for a one day a week course in Killybegs. He went on to successfully complete the three year course.

They have since stopped serving food, but his experience in an apron offered him a unique insight into the challenging world of hospitality.

He compared working in a kitchen to the council chamber. Both are hot and high pressured.

When asked about the challenges currently facing the sector such as the contentious reintroduction of the higher VAT rate, he said:

“Unfortunately the 13.5 VAT rate is probably going to come back again, unfortunately it is the big cities that have destroyed that for the small man.

“The idea of bringing in the 9 per cent VAT rate was that businesses could give it back to the customers, but unfortunately that didn’t happen in the larger urban areas where they were taking extra profits.”

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