Donegal loses much-admired community leader

Since arriving in Donegal to live, I have met many friendly, generous people – and one whose personality shines brightly is that of Anne (Bheag) Gallagher whose tireless energy and devotion on behalf of her community through the years is well known. 

Passionate about social justice. Helpful to those in need. Committed to the ideal of a united Ireland.

These were just some of the comments used to describe Anne, 62, a much admired, long-time resident of Gaoth Dobhair in the Donegal Gaeltacht and chairperson of the local Sinn Fein Phádraig Mhicheail Airt Cumann, who sadly passed away last week and was buried in Bun na Leaca where I now live.

Born in Glassagh, Anne moved with her family to Glasgow but returned as a teenager in the mid-1970s and quickly became involved in a wide range of local charity and community projects including the ‘Over 50s Club,’ which organised various activities and excursions for its members throughout the area and Gweedore United Football team, for which she played in her younger years and also coached.

“Anne was a great part of the club, she was always involved in some way, either playing for the woman’s team or helping her Dad Micí, who founded the club with my father, Pádrag,” said club secretary Pól Mac Aodha, one of more than 100 people from the club to form a guard of honour at her funeral. “Anne will be sadly missed. We will always remember her strong support down the years.”

A fervent supporter of Celtic Football Club, Anne was also deeply involved with ‘Huddle Up Errigal,’ a non-profit initiative by local supporters of the club who raised thousands of euro for important causes such as the Donegal Cancer Flights, the autism unit in Bunbeg school, the Celtic FC Foundation and the Donegal MS Society while sharing their dedication to the club and promoting the Gweedore area. Hundreds of people from Ireland, Scotland and elsewhere took part in various events including a climb up the mountain. Anne worked closely with chairperson John Joe McGinley and other volunteers to make the project a success.

“Anne was a selfless and invaluable member of the community, devoted to many key causes, an extremely reliable and sincere person,” said local Sinn Fein councillor, John Sheamais Ó Fearraigh, a neighbour who knew Anne for many decades. “There was nothing Anne wouldn’t do to help someone out. Over the years, she organised and hosted many quizzes in places like Teac Jack, Foreland Heights and Teach Mhicí to raise money for various worthy causes. I myself owe Anne a tremendous debt in terms of my own election as she worked tirelessly on my behalf. She was very loyal to Sinn Fein and a wonderful strategic forward thinker.” 

Pearse Doherty TD said, “It’s not often in life that we have the honour to come to know and love a great character such as Anne Bheag. I had the pleasure of first coming to know Anne in the early days when I started out in public life and republican politics in Gaoth Dobhair. Many a meeting, canvass and conversation I shared with Anne. To say that we’ll miss her feels inadequate. There’s a void left which can’t be replaced. She brightened up every day with her smile and wit.  She was passionate and she was proud. And I was beyond proud to call her a friend. A trusted confident and a constant rock. She truly was the personification of goodness and kindness. She was selfless in every way.” 

Anne is survived by her sister Sandra (McGivney) and brothers John and Brian.


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