A fitting legacy to “the people’s champion”

October 6, 2014

The passing of Eugene Donaghy will be keenly felt for many years to come in his hometown and beyond.  Seldom can one man be credited with such sterling work for his community, yet Eugene, in his humble modesty, is worthy of every accolade bestowed upon him.

Following his retirement from Crossmaglen Community Association in 2010, he was guest of honour at a special ‘This Is Your Life’ function held in Crossmaglen Rangers Hall.  The event afforded his many colleagues, associates and friends with the opportunity to recount how he touched their lives.  The night was a mix of emotion and humour as Eugene sought to dismiss the tales of his generous deeds and selfless attitude.

Eugene’s tireless efforts campaigning for better facilities in Crossmaglen has meant its citizens today are able to reap the benefits of many amenities that may not have existed if it hadn’t been for his persistence and resolute determination.

His attitude that ‘whatever was good enough for another town, was good enough for Crossmaglen’, directly led to the provision of a Fire Station, Community Centre, Youth Club, Community Bus, the regeneration of The Square and an Enterprise Centre, along with the setting up of countless voluntary committees and community groups.

The feather in the cap of Eugene’s legacy is without doubt the provision of the town’s Fire and Rescue Service.  It was under his guardianship that the first Volunteer Fire Service in the town was established in 1974.  Despite undertaking weekly training with the Newry brigade and even building their own station, the Fire Authority of Northern Ireland continually refused to grant retained status to Crossmaglen.

Eugene’s “long and bitter battle” with the Fire Authority was to last for 13 years before the Crossmaglen Volunteer Fire Service was at last granted retained status, thus paving the way for modern equipment, premises and official recognition.

Speaking on the matter at the time, Eugene was quoted in the Slieve Gullion View as saying: “We are well used to battling with the statutory bodies for everything we require but this has been the longest and hardest one to date.”

Having fought his last battle, Eugene has earned his eternal rest, his moving funeral service a fitting legacy to this “people’s champion”.