Posted by: fermoyweir | January 1, 2011


By Brian Moore

In a shock announcement this week The Avondhu has learned of the resignation of Donal O’Keeffe as secretary at Fermoy Rowing Club. Mr O’Keeffe, who has worked tirelessly in an effort to save the Fermoy town weir and in doing so to secure the future of the rowing club, would not comment as to the reason for his resignation from the club.

However, a senior Fermoy Rowing Club member told The Avondhu that Mr O’Keeffe felt that he had not received support, especially from club president, Cllr John Murphy, who, Mr O’Keeffe said, had undermined his efforts to ensure that the weir was repaired by Fermoy Town Council.


Mr O’Keeffe said that he “wishes the club every success for the future” then declined to comment further. Fermoy Rowing Club chairman, Pa Granville said when asked to comment on Mr O’Keeffe’s resignation said that he was “sorry to see Donal go.”

When asked for the reasons why Mr. O’Keeffe had decided to resign Mr Granville said, “Donal sent a letter of resignation to the club and cited personal reasons for his decision.”

However, The Avondhu understands that it was a comment made by Fermoy Rowing Club president, Cllr John Murphy at a recent Fermoy Town Council meeting that led to Mr. O’Keeffe’s resignation.


The Avondhu received a copy of Mr. O’Keeffe’s resignation letter from a member of Fermoy Rowing Club in which Mr O’Keeffe states that ‘At the October meeting of Fermoy Town Council, the club president, Cllr John Murphy, disowned publically my criticisms and stated that the rowing club is very happy with the town council.

‘I felt this undermined completely my position, so, at the last committee meeting, I asked the members of the committee to decide which one of us spoke for the club. Not receiving the support of the committee, I was left with no choice but to resign’.


Asked to comment on this statement club president, Cllr John Murphy said, “Donal did great work for the club and I am sorry to see him go. I would like to see him reconsider his resignation and would like to see him back in Fermoy Rowing Club once again.”

Another club member, Ken Barry also spoke about Donal O’Keeffe’s resignation: “I am very sorry to see Donal go. His commitment and drive towards saving the weir and promoting the club will be sadly missed. Without Donal’s hard work the town would not have achieved what it has but it is Fermoy Rowing Club that will be at a loss for Donal’s departure. His unsupported and unrecognised work for the club and its members must be remembered,” Mr Barry said.

The Avondhu 22/12/2010.



  1. I was sorry to hear of Donal O’Keeffe’s resignation, I’m not connected to the Rowing Club or the UDC in any way but I’m very fond of the weir in Fermoy and the aesthetic it lends the town. I would like to thank Donal for the time and commitment he put into preventing the sacrilege of tearing down the weir, also travelling to Europe to get to the heart of the matter. All good sense tells me this resignation should not have been allowed to happen, but live by Jurassic process and die by….
    Et tu Brute comes to mind.

  2. Hi Johanna.

    Thanks for the kind words. There was a group of us working together on this.

    My frustration was that at the end of a ridiculous amount of lobbying and pullin’ and draggin’, Minister Conor Lenihan wrote to Fermoy Town Council on December 16th 2009 giving them a year to repair the damaged fish pass at the centre of the weir. He received a standard “A Chara, I am in receipt of…” place-holder acknowledgement from the Town Clerk… on the 14th of September 2010.

    All the while, I was receiving phonecalls from Conor Lenihan asking what the hell (I paraphrase) was going on. Lenihan has stated repeatedly on the Dáil record that if Fermoy Town Council cared as much about Fermoy Weir and the River Blackwater as its members claim, then they would repair the damaged fish pass, as he ordered, within the twelve months he sanctioned.

    With the 2010 deadline now blown and a change of government imminent, all it would take is a further anonymous complaint to the EU and the matter would be taken out of Fermoy Town Council’s hands, potentially resulting in the removal of the weir. Given their lacklustre handling of the matter thus-far, it is hard not to suspect that this would suit everyone in the Town Hall down to the ground.

    The Rowing Club president, thirty-year Councillor John Murphy, told the October meeting of the Tallow Road Waffle Factory that I didn’t speak for the Rowing Club when I critcized the Town Clerk for taking nine months to reply to the Minister. Cllr Murphy said that he is president of the Rowing Club and the Club is very happy with the Town Council.

    My fellow officers in the Rowing Club, for whatever reason, felt that it would be unseemly for them to back me over Johnny and I felt left with no alternative but to resign.

    I’ve gone over and back on whether to publish my letter of resignation. I genuinely wish the Rowing Club the very best – I was a member for almost two decades – and I’m personally embarrassed about the story in the Avondhu. That said, the letter is already out there and the Club Chairman is factually incorrect when he says that I cited personal reasons for resigning.

    Town Clerk Ray Owens told the Avondhu this week that “work on the weir in Fermoy could begin sometime in 2011 or 2012”. Conor Lenihan is packing his bag and we all saw the difficulties experienced by migrating salmon last autumn. The fish pass is visibly falling apart and the Town Council, which has owned and neglected the weir for a quarter of a century, continues to squander the opportunity the people of the town demanded.

    When the Town Councillors come rolling up to your door to ask for your vote for their Dáil candidates, or in one case for himself, in the next few months, ask them why they presided over an Executive which needs the gestation period of a human being to reply to a ministerial order. Ask them why the weir is still not fixed a year later and probably won’t be repaired this year either. Ask them why utter uselessness is deemed a reason to send someone to Leinster House. (Actually, no need to answer that last one…)

    Best regards,

    Donal O’Keeffe.

    • All I can say to you Donal regarding your resignation is that it is the Rowing Clubs loss I’m sure. I’m also aware that you didn’t travel to Brussels alone etc. I have directed my thanks to you as you seemed to have been one of the main contributors of information available to the towns people re ‘the weir issue’, partly because of your position as Rowing Club Secretary I’m sure, but you also seem like a man of integrity and passion for what’s best to preserve of the town you belong to. I also think that your fellow officers in the RC have backed the wrong horse and lost a good man in the ‘process’. But that’s politics for ya!
      I hope that the experience urges you on to better things, though it must have left a very bad taste in your mouth. I believe people like you make a difference. Good Luck to you.

      • Thanks Johanna.

        In defence of my former colleagues, they only did what they felt was the right thing and they did so in very difficult circumstances. As did I. Part of me knew, as things got more and more political over the year, that it would create difficulties for a non-political body to be drawn into an increasingly bitter public spat.

        Johnny was a friend of mine for almost a quarter of a century and even though I think he’s as wrong as Moll Bell in this case I still like and respect him.

        Walking away from my club on a point of principle (or stubborness) was the most difficult thing I’ve had to do. But look, nobody died.

        Hopefully this embarrassing episode will serve to focus attention on the Town Council’s ongoing incompetence and their clear desire to wait this problem out until central government has to reclaim it.

        Your (presumably) metaphorical ancestor built a very beautiful town and sculpted the Blackwater into its current shape. One thing this campaign has highlighted is that the people of Fermoy are smarter, stronger and far better than their representatives.

        That can only give cause for hope.

        Thanks again,


  3. 11th December 2010

    Dear Chairman,

    I wish to clarify my reasons for resigning as secretary.

    A year ago, as a result of our trip to Brussels, we were able to persuade Minister Conor Lenihan that a simple repair of the weir’s central fish pass would satisfy Ireland’s obligations under the EU Habitats Directive. This unraveled the arguments of officials from Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. It seemed also to put an end to their plans to remove Fermoy’s 210 year old Weir.

    Minister Lenihan then wrote to Fermoy Town Council and gave them, as the owners of the weir, a year to repair the damaged fish pass.

    This development was the culmination of a long campaign; one which members of the Club should remember cost a huge effort from many people. Unlike others, I won’t bore you with a litany of my own contributions. In truth, like every other success we’ve had, anything we achieved was the result of individuals working together for the greater good.

    Since 2006, when Councillor Seán Sherlock first tackled Minister John Browne in the Clubhouse, we have dealt with politicians of every stripe, some of them better than others. We met five different ministers and we protested and marched until they listened to us. We got our story into the national media and Paul Kavanagh onto Radio One twice. Most importantly, the people of Fermoy rallied to our cause and for that we are deeply indebted.

    In Christmas 2008 Kathy Sinnott MEP produced evidence that Europe had never specified the need for a rock ramp pass in Fermoy. Six months later Kathy rang me to invite us to Brussels. We went, and we won our case, or so we thought. Through all of that we kept the Club on the water and went from strength to strength. We even managed two Presidential visits.

    Following pressure from Conor Lenihan throughout the year, I tried to use the local media to influence Fermoy Town Council into addressing its responsibilities. Exasperated, I eventually criticized the Council for taking nine months to even acknowledge the Minister’s directive.

    At the October meeting of Fermoy Town Council, the Club president, Councillor John Murphy, disowned publically my criticisms and stated that the Rowing Club is very happy with the Town Council.

    I felt this undermined completely my position, so at the last committee meeting I asked the members of the committee to decide which one of us spoke for the Club. Not receiving the support of the committee, I was left with no choice but to resign.

    I was amazed by John Murphy’s claim that I had only acted out of a desire to see my name in the papers. I am sorry if John feels perhaps that my efforts to save our Club stole some of his own limelight. John is fond of saying the Club is bigger than any one man. He’s right. It’s also bigger than any one man’s political career.

    I really hope the opportunity to save the weir has not been wasted but I am very troubled by the fact that Fermoy Town Council has not consulted the Rowing Club about the design of the proposed weir refurbishment. If Phase II of the Flood Plan goes ahead, apparently the weir repair will be bundled in with it, exactly as we fought previously to prevent.

    A simple repair of the damaged fish pass is all that the EU and Minister asked, so I am bothered that the Town Council, the OPW and Inland Fisheries Ireland propose raising the weir by the Garda Station, tipping the attractive flow of the river toward the west of the bridge.

    News of an intention to lower the fish pass by six inches increases my suspicion that effectively they are giving us a re-packaged rock ramp pass.

    I would beg the members of the Club not to trust a word coming from the Town Hall. We worked too hard and too long to squander our achievement. Accepting a rock ramp pass by any other name would be a betrayal of the trust of the people of Fermoy.

    Conor Lenihan has been very honourable in all of this but he will be gone from office soon and we will be right back where we started. Inland Fisheries Ireland still remains committed to the removal of Fermoy Weir. Please don’t let them ruin our river.

    I wish Fermoy Rowing Club every success for the future. I was deeply honoured to serve as secretary and am saddened to be forced to leave.

    Yours sincerely,

    Donal O’Keeffe.

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