Buncrana and Inishowen have a unique tourism opportunity, according to one local historian.
Leonard Roarty from Manorcunningham told the members of Buncrana Town Council how with the help of Irish American Thomas Philip O’Neill, - better known as Tip O’Neill - Buncrana can cash in on the famous American’s birthday.
100 years ago, the famous politician, whose grandmother Eunice Fullerton resided in Buncrana in the 19th century, was born.
And now the historian believes by launching a marketing initiative honouring the American statesman and using his name then the rewards for Inishowen could be endless.
“We had the third most powerful man in America here in Buncrana and so if we were to launch a campaign entitled “The Tip O’Neill Overseas Donegal Personality of the Year” the benefits could be huge.
“With the power of the internet nowadays just by using Tip’s name the amount of hits it would receive would be massive in promoting Buncrana and Inishowen.
“It would be easy them to build on that and give the town a lot of exposure from Donegal people overseas.”
Despite being born into a Irish working class family in Cambridge Massachusetts, Tip’s ancestry was hugely important to him, before he passed away in 1994, Tip visited his ancestral home in the town land of Bairn, Buncrana – the walls of which can still be seen today. The owner of the farm today is Tommy O’Neill – Tip’s son.
“I think Tip’s house can become a tourist attraction and there is a lot of memorabilia which can come out of that as well. The opportunities are endless, in fact why not have a Tip O’Neill week?” said Leonard.
Tip also played a vital role in the peace process in Northern Ireland. During his time as Speaker in the House of Representatives he worked with his fellow Irish-American politicians to craft a peace accord in the country, Mr. Roarty believes Tip’s role in the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 was pivotal.
“Without his involvement in the deal I don’t think it world have been taken seriously by the Americans.
“Not only that, but through his involvement in the International Fund for Ireland, we got millions.
“What Tip did for the Irish in the USA was the same as what Michael Davitt did for the landless tenants in Ireland, that’s how important he was.”
All of the town councillors praised the historian for his exciting presentation and applauded his enthusiasm.
Buncrana mayor Nicholas Crossan claimed Mr Roarty was the person to drive the project forward.
“You certainly know what you’re talking about and you’re passion is really refreshing.
“I think we have a fantastic opportunity here with his centenary coming up. You’ve certainly hit the nail on the head.”
Former Mayor Michael Grant who had been in contact with the Manorcunningham man several times said the potential for Buncrana could be huge and their group would get behind him.
Councillor Joseph Doherty believes it is important to honour the politician and do something to honour him especially with what would have been his 100th birthday coming up next year.
Colr Michelle Bradley urged everyone to get behind the project immediately.
“We need to get on top of this straight away we can’t let this opportunity slip through our fingers. This can only be beneficial to the town and open us up to people abroad.”
All of the town councillors thanked Mr Roarty for his presentation.