Dr Tom - the Donegal man who has been given the Freedom of Derry

Dr. Tom McGinley pictured at the Guildhall on Tuesday when he was awarded the Freedom of the City.
Dr. Tom McGinley pictured at the Guildhall on Tuesday when he was awarded the Freedom of the City.

There’s a story told that as a freeman of Derry, Dr Tom McGinley now has the power to herd sheep up Shipquay Street.

Would you ever do it I ask him?

“Maybe,” he tells me, “it could make an interesting fundraising event.

“The problem is, I don’t have any sheep.”

After being awarded with the Freedom of the City earlier this week, there has been wide spread praise for the founder of the Foyle Hospice, Dr. Tom McGinley.

Indeed, it’s quite an accolade given that the honour was last awarded to John Hume in 2000.

“It is an honour,” said Dr. McGinley, “especially given that I am from West Donegal.”

But he’s quick to point out that much of the credit for the success of the Foyle Hospice goes to the people of Derry.

“I remember that night in 1983 during training for the first female walk.

“My wife Deirdre came running after me telling me that money was being collected for a hospice for Northern Ireland.

“I stood up that night and said we had to block that money and raise money for the North West.

“I knew the North West needed its own Hospice. It was a spur of the moment action which laid the foundations of the Foyle Hospice.

“After that came the search for the perfect site which to me could only be in one place, where the hospice stands now facing the perfect symbol of the bridge.

“I get a lot of credit for the Hospice but it should go to Hannah Healy and Rosemary Peoples because they were the ones out in the community. And the many people who have worked for the Hospice from the beginning and continue to do so.

Indeed Dr. Tom also speaks tenderly of the immense support his late wife Deirdre gave him.

“My wife gave me the time and space I needed to pursue this challenge. It was very sad when she then was diagnosed with cancer.

“The support of the people of Derry has been unbelievable.”

Hospice chaplain and friend Bishop Edward Daly said: “Tom McGinley is a visionary who saw a great need in our society thirty or forty years ago and set about providing it. He brought the Foyle Hospice into being and it has served the North West community with great distinction in recent decades. The North West community has, on its part, supported the Hospice with great generosity, enthusiasm and imagination.

“I offer Tom my sincere congratulations. I am confident that his honour will be universally welcomed and respected.”

Dr. Keith Munro, CEO, Foyle Hospice, said: “I am absolutely delighted for Tom. I’ve worked with him since the early 1980s. He’s a man who I highly respect and have the utmost regard for. Not only was he the founder and driving force behind the Foyle Hospice, but over the years he has been its medical director, chief executive and chairman - all wrapped into one. He’s a remarkable person.

“He richly deserves all the accolades he has received over the years. The legacy he has left us is one which both he and the entire community can be immensely proud of.”

Derry’s Mayor Martin Reilly said: “Dr Tom McGinley has over the years made a huge contribution to the lives of many people in this city across the wider North West area. It is a fitting tribute to him that he has been honoured in this way.”

Colr. Gerard Diver who proposed the motion to council described Dr McGinley as a “truly remarkable individual” and “esteemed citizen.”

Sinn Féin councillor Paul Fleming said; “Dr Tom McGinley is a worthy recipient of this award.

“There isn’t a family in Derry and Donegal that has not been touched with cancer. The work that Tom and his team do is immeasurable. “

The Council intends to host a civic reception and dinner for Dr. McGinley at a future date.