The outgoing director of the 44 year long festival, Tricia Gallagher, has resigned after suffering what she described as a tirade of abuse.
Just over 20 people, eight local traders, attended a general meeting of the festival to hear the festival is struggling to be staged this year.
Ms Gallagher said the town is lacking the involvement of local people and needs a new injection of local life and fresh blood.
She said she found it disgraceful that the street stewards were threatened by some local people for simply carrying out the instructions of the festival committee and Gardaí in relation to street and road closures.
She revealed that one steward was threatened with being run over if he didn’t remove a barrier.
“I find it embarrassing that 99% of those helping me the week of the festival were not from Dungloe town itself but the surrounding areas.
“I feel that the lack of local support is an embarrassment to funding bodies, sponsors and visitors, and I cannot believe that businesses who benefit most from the festival won’t even make the effort to sell €2 draw cards in their premises,” she said.
Ms Gallagher said she is personally insulted that a former festival committee member (who was not identified at the meeting) attempted twice to sneak into a fundraising event and when stopped by security insulted her publicly in front of numerous witnesses by shouting “tell her she can shove her €10 up her a**e.”
“That very same person was on a committee that handed over €38,000 of debt to me three years ago, so I don’t think the insult over €10 is fair game,” she said.
The festival accounts show that the 2010 event cost over €81,900 to host, some €63,000 less than 2009.
The income for last year was €79,990, down nearly €64,000 on the previous year. Contributions from traders dropped by over €3,600, with contributions ranging from €2,500 to €50.
The festival currently has debts of over €23,800, some dating back to before 2008. Singer Daniel O’Donnell is listed as being owed €9,000 pre 2008, while unnamed traders are owed over €2,500 for 1996. Funding and sponsorship was also down €4,789 on 2009.
It emerged that the final weekend of the 10-day festival was on the verge of being cancelled due to the non receipt of funding from traders.
The meeting heard that a small number of local business people then offered to provide emergency personal funding if required to get the organisers through the final weekend.
Much concern was raised at the meeting about what seems to be a lack of interest from within the town itself with one person at the meeting suggesting that some of the contributions were less than what you’d give as a wedding gift.
“When we are calling to collect the subscriptions there is a attitude that we are begging for money. Some businesses that are making little from the festival contribute greatly but some making a fortune are giving little or nothing. It traders don’t want the festival then wind it up,” remarked one committee member.
Sean Bonner from the finance committee paid tribute to Tricia Gallagher and her team for their work in the last three years and this was echoed from the floor.
The committee spoke of what they described as “the attitude” towards them when collecting subscriptions and questioned if the town really wants the festival.
Visitor numbers to Dungloe were said to be up on previous years and the 10-day event provides a huge economic boost to the general area.
Tricia Gallagher went on to express gratitude to the many people who helped her over the few years including the finance committee, Carol Kiernan who works with the Marys, Kate Ferguson, the 2009 winner, Aisling Mc Monagle, the media, Enda Mc Carry and his team, the parochial hall committee, Ionad Teampall Cróine, the Dungloe GAA, the Rosses Community and St Crona’s National Schools.
She also paid tribute to the many sponsors and to the funding bodies Donegal County Council and Fáilte Ireland, and to the main sponsor Randox Laboratories.
Pat the Cope Gallagher was also thanked for his help in securing funding and sponsorship, as was Daniel O’Donnell who, she said, makes a conscious effort to promote the festival worldwide and encourage attendance despite being owed his fee for a number of years now.
Ms Gallagher also commended both the Cope and Supervalu on their efforts in getting involved with the festival in terms of contributing financially and with the programme of events itself.
“The Cope Day provides a great opening to the festival and the effort and expense the management and staff go to is greatly acknowledged and appreciated by the festival committee. Supervalu once again sponsored the opening reception and organise the mid week fun day. It’s great to know that you can pick up the phone and call on them for help for anything no matter how big or small,” she said.
“I would also like to thank my own family and friends for their help and guidance, and in particular to Michael for his help and support over the past three years despite the sheer abuse that he had to take from local people for helping out in their town,” she added.
In concluding her report, the outgoing director said: “while I enjoyed my time working on the festival and made some great friends and associates, it is with sadness that I announce my resignation and feel that its time the traders within Dungloe get active in supporting the one event that keeps their businesses trading for the remainder of the year.”
What the future holds for the Mary from Dungloe festival is expected to be decided at a further meeting scheduled for Monday night next, January 31st at 8 p.m. in Ionad Teampall Cróine. Traders in the town are to be approached this week and asked to come to the meeting.