Donegal public urged to ‘climb Errigal together’ as charity event launches
A Chúirt hotel in Gaoth Dobhair hosted the Tuesday evening launch of ‘Climb Errigal Together’, which takes place on Saturday 2 April.
Led by Donegal County Councilor Ciaran Brogan, the event is part of the fundraising campaign launched by former RTÉ journalist Charlie Bird, who was diagnosed with motor neuron disease four years ago month.
During an interview with Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late Show in January, Mr Bird said he would be climbing Croagh Patrick in Mayo on April 2 with his family and close friends in aid of the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and from Pieta House.
Local launch MC Damien Ó Dónaill said Mr. Bird’s appearance was probably one of the hardest things to watch.
“But I think when he spoke on the second night of The Late Late Show, it gave people a little bit more courage and a little bit of hope,” he added.
Damien explained that after that the couple had been in regular contact and that Charlie was keen to attend the launch of “Climb Errigal Together”.
Neil Murray and Kevin Holian at the Tuesday night launch of “Climb Errigal Together”
“Charlie wanted to be here, but because of circumstances he couldn’t come. The phone rang at ten to six this morning and it was Charlie who asked me what I wanted him to say,” he added, before playing the video message on the big screen.
In the video, Charlie said: “Hi my friends in Donegal. I would like to wish you all the best in this beautiful part of the country.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support. Many people are hurting, and I hope this event, along with the many other events of the day, will give people a boost and some hope.
“Good luck to all of you for the climb of Errigal on April 2 and thank you for the efforts to make it happen. Thank you for extending this hand of friendship.
Garda Sergeant John Gallagher, Garda Sergeant John Joe McClafferty, Eamonn McGee and Garda Inspector Seamus McGonagle during Tuesday’s event at An Chúirt Hotel, Gaoth Dobhair
The MC said he had often spoken at similar events in the past, due to his work with Raidió Na Gaeltachta.
“Unfortunately tonight is very different for me and us as a family. Our own father, Stephen, was diagnosed with motor neuron disease as we approached the summer season last year.
“To be very honest, it was a blow. I think when we left Beaumont Hospital that day after Dad’s consultation with Professor Orla Hardiman, we probably knew our lives had changed forever.
He continued: “At the time, a very good family friend, Vincent O’Donnell, was living and battling this terrible disease. Sadly, Vincent passed away on June 20, 2021 from motor neurone disease.
“Many of us in the room know who Vincent is and I’m glad Vincent’s son, Rory, is here tonight.
“Rory had been on this trip and he knows better than all of us what it is. Before his father’s diagnosis, we knew very little about motor neuron disease. Since last May when we attended Beaumont Hospital , we heard so many stories from everywhere.
John O’Donnell and Eugene McGettigan at the Tuesday launch
“Sean Diver, a former colleague of RTÉ Raidió Na Gaeltachta, is traveling from Beaumont Hospital to Gaoth Dobhair tonight with his wife, Sarah, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease four months before our father.
“I met Sean for coffee on Friday and he wanted to send his best wishes for tonight. Himself, Sarah and their family are delighted that such an event is happening, and he said Sarah had promised that she would be at the base of the mountain on April 2.
Event organizer Cllr Ciaran Brogan thanked everyone who has contributed to the event so far.
“I knew the logistics were going to be huge and I want to thank Eamonn McGee for taking on the role of lead coordinator.
“He is very experienced in racing rallies all over the country. He’s done a tremendous amount of work and it’s about everyone coming together and playing their part.
Cllr Brogan also thanked the gardaí, civil defence, Donegal Sports Partnership, local sports clubs and bus companies for their support.
“I think Donegal unity will be very strong on that day and it will be a great community event,” he said.
“We are all here as part of a team and hopefully we can get more people together to be part of this team and involve as many people as possible.
“Hopefully by the evening of April 2, a lot of money will have been raised for charities and there will be a real feel-good factor after putting on a very successful event,” he added.
Maria and Emmet Rush
Event coordinator Eamonn McGee said at the launch that the whole day will be run from the Dunlewey Centre. No parking will be permitted along the road for one kilometer either side of the Errigal car park, and climb participants will be transported by bus to and from the base of the mountain.
Flagger teams will also be positioned along the climb.
“It’s going to take a big effort and if we can get a few bodies from each club it will make it easier to manage,” he added.
Civil Defense’s Edel Flynn said one of his fire service volunteers, John Cunningham, developed motor neurone disease several years ago.
“For John, he thought it was the end. It certainly changed his life. It changed his family’s life and it changed his community around him.
“We were part of this community. We felt that John still had something to give and he continues to give to Civil Defense and the community of Donegal, because when we are in operation John is able to do our X-rays.
“We hope the day he can do it for us.”
Cllr Ciaran Brogan, Stephen Ó Dónaill and Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher
Emmet Rushe, owner of Rushe Fitness in Letterkenny, spoke about the importance of properly preparing for the Errigal rock climbing challenge.
“By the time you go up and down Errigal it’s about 4km and it takes on average about two hours to do that climb,” he said.
“So what people need to do now is get out and walk. Start with a few short walks during the week, then use Saturday and Sunday to achieve that 4-5 km distance.
For those planning to bring a backpack with them on the day of the climb, Emmet advised doing the same on their long training treks. He also stressed the importance of wearing proper footwear and attire.
Danny Devlin and Margaret Whyte spoke on behalf of Pieta North West, while Regional Nurse Eithne Cawley spoke about the ongoing work of the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association.
Neil Murray of The Leader, who created the website Climberrigaltogether.com, explained how people can register for the climb and donate to the cause.
“The site is now live and I encourage everyone to share on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – the more we spread it the better,” he said.
“Social media identifiers are the same as the website address.”
To register to participate in ‘Climb Errigal Together’, follow the link