Derry Journal


Friday 18th June 2004
Daniel Browne

Born under the shadow of Ibrox Stadium the home of Rangers Football Club, Sinn Fein's PEARSE DOHERTY went within a whisker of winning a seat to the European Parliament.

Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty may just be 26-years-old but his life has already been surrounded by lay offs, emigration and unemployment.

These first hand experiences pushed him to become politically aware and hungry for change from an early age.

Last Friday 65,500 people across the north West decided Pearse Doherty was the man they wanted to represent them in Europe.

He may have missed out on that, but he won a seat on Donegal County Council in the Glenties area, and believes it is the start of a new era of politics in Donegal.

Pearse was born under the shadow of Ibrox stadium in Glasgow in a working class area his parents had been driven to by unemployment at home in Derrybeg.

His father, Michael had been a player on the Gweedore team that won the 1961 championships before tough times forced him and his wife, Grainne, (nee McFadden) to emigrate to Scotland.

When he was just four years old the family of six returned to Donegal. He went to Bunbeg national School where Deputy Dinney McGinley was headmaster at the time.

At his parents' request he went from there to the Irish speaking Pobail Scoil Gweedore. It was during his secondary schooling that Pearse began to "politicise" himself.

By his own admission his first thoughts of Republicanism were from listening to the words of Wolfe Tones songs.

"I began to be more aware of the world around me, I was working in different jobs each summer and I managed to get a student from Dublin to bring down An Phoblacht to me", he remembers.

The Gweedore youth's eyes were opened. "The first article I remember reading was about some youths coming out of a night club in the six counties somewhere and getting badly beaten up by the RUC, just because they were nationalists.

"This was the early 90's. I thought that sort of stuff was over 20 years ago," he said.

The stories about Republican resistance in his own area, and family in the times of the Black and tans began to make their way back to him and by the time he was 14 he applied to join Sinn Fein.

"They wrote back and said that I was too young but they told me that my nearest branch was in Letterkenny.

"Sure, we never had a car in the house until I got one a few years ago so there was no way I could have got to meetings," he said. Instead he contented himself with fundraising locally for the relief of prisoners' families.

But Pearse was nothing if not determined. In about 1993 while still at school and working in the local butchers he heard that the luminaries of the Sinn Fein galaxy were to speak in Derry at the Bloody Sunday commemoration.

"I heard Adams and McGuinness were going to be at the Bloody Sunday rally, so I left the house and hitched to Derry and went to rally with my Tricolour with me.

"There were TV cameras all over and everyone had a Tricolour. At the end I went up and spoke to Gerry Adams, he was taken away for an interview and I was left talking to Martin McGuinness and we started to talk about getting the party off the ground in Donegal.

"I had no idea but when I went home my parents had seen me talking to Martin McGuinness on the 6pm news. That's how they found out about my political involvement," he said.

Living in west Donegal however, Pearse has had all the evidence and motivation he needed to become politically active.

His mother and brother who were working in Comer Yarns have recently lost jobs in west Donegal and another brother has been forced to go to America to find work.

After leaving school he went to College in Bolton Street where he qualified as a civil engineer. Prohibited from starting a branch of Sinn Fein he and (now a fellow Sinn FÈin Clr) Matt Carthy along with others, set up a "Political Awareness Society". Both he and Matt went on to set up Ogra Sinn Fein.

After leaving college and working in Dublin on various projects from the Four Seasons Hotel to Wheatfield prison he was approached by Pat Doherty of Sinn Fein to see if he would contest the council elections in 1999.

He agreed to move home and help organise the party locally but declined to run at that stage and he now notes with some sadness that it was the Glenties area was the only one not contested by the party that year.

Pearse meanwhile worked on setting up the party and eventually allowed his name to go forward in 2002 for the general elections. He polled an impressive 2,800 or so first preferences and while it was not enough, it was a significant shot across the bow of the establishment.

Pearse is engaged to Roisin Boyle of Monaghan, a nurse in Letterkenny General Hospital. The couple are to marry in Derrybeg Chapel in 10 weeks or so and are presently living in his family home in Magheraclogher.

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