Women in Politics: Mary Kelly

Colr. Mary Kelly. (0603PG09)
Colr. Mary Kelly. (0603PG09)
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Meenagory mother-of-ten, Mary Kelly, definitely has ‘green’ credentials.

She represents Sinn Féin on Buncrana Town Council and her company ‘Pedal Right’ delivers cycling proficiency training throughout Ireland.

Describing herself as a “life-long community activist”, Mary Kelly outlined the background to her council co-option in June 2010:

“When my children were wee, I was involved in the ‘Meenagory Clean Water Campaign’. My father-in-law, Jimmy Quinn fought for nearly 30 years to get potable water to the Desertegney / Meenagory area. At that time we got ‘raw’ water, straight from Doo Lough, up on Beam Hill. Our water was not filtered and we had no pressure. We had permanent ‘boil’ notices. In fact, the water was condemned for animals!

“The Fullerton Dam was nearing completion, when we discovered that the authorities intended to build an inter-connector, to take the water directly to Letterkenny, effectively bypassing local homes and farms. After a sustained protest here in Inishowen, we eventually got our clean water.”

As a young mum, Councillor Kelly was involved in the fund-raising drive to build the new Cockhill National School and community hall.

She said: “Our then parish priest, the late Fr Joseph Carolan was a man of great vision. Without his drive and energy Cockhill National School and the adjoining community hall might never have been completed.

“The Church remains an important part of my life. My faith has sustained me quite a bit over the years. I have relied on it many times.”

Illies born Mary Kelly has also obtained her Community Radio Level Four qualification.

She explained: “When I was made redundant from Fruit of the Loom, I decided to do some voluntary work with Inishowen Community Radio. I loved it and I am now the producer on ‘Divine Sunday’, which is hosted by Liam Grant.

“My other passion is cycling. When my children were small I had them all out on bicycles. I set up ‘Pedal Right’ five years ago to teach cycling proficiency, through An Taisce’s Green Schools programme. The course covers the rules of the road; positioning on the road; bicycle checks and the importance of wearing a correctly fitting helmet. With the price of petrol and diesel climbing ever higher, cycling is an enjoyable, healthy, environmentally-friendly, family activity.”

Councillor Kelly believes the promotion of cycling and walking could enhance Inishowen’s tourism potential.

She said: “The development of walking and cycling routes around the Inishowen Peninsula would be a fantastic way of attracting tourists to Donegal. It would boost the hospitality industry and visitors would have a chance to enjoy Irish culture, our music, singing and dancing, up close.

“In County Mayo, the Great Western Greenway runs between Westport and Achill. It is a 43.5km cycling and walking facility, which follows the line of the famous Great Western Midlands Railway. It brought euro seven million revenue into the area in its first year. I would love to see that replicated in and around Buncrana.”

Two years ago, Sinn Féin approached Mary Kelly and asked if she would consider representing the party on Buncrana Town Council.

She said: “I agreed and was co-opted on to replace Councillor Darren Lawlor. I felt that the timing was right. My family were grown up, so I could make a proper commitment to the people I would be representing. My husband Laurence and my family were delighted. They all came to my election convention.

“As a Buncrana Town Councillor, I am acutely aware that families here are suffering as a result the austerity measures.

“There is a climate of fear in the country. People are worried about losing their jobs and homes, having their wages cut, paying bills, the loss of medical and care facilities, as well as the closure of rural schools.

“The list is endless. Emigration is soaring and, on top of all that, people are being asked to pay these unfair household charges, which will not be used to provide local services but will go to pay the bankers and the speculators who have destroyed the country.

“This is wrong.”