Hotelier behind alcohol-free bar throws hat in poll ring
SHE opened Ireland's first booze-free hotel, but within weeks admitted defeat and was selling beer to her guests.
Now the woman behind the unlikely venture has decided to throw her name in the ring for the Donegal South West by-election.
Ann Sweeney (53) decided to run as an independent candidate after seeing the performance of the four party candidates in a TV debate.
"That was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I had to turn it off," said the hotelier and mother of three.
"To my mind none of them knew what they were talking about. I feel it is my responsibility to run to make a difference."
Ms Sweeney hit the headlines two years ago when she opened Ireland's first alcohol-free bar in the Carrig Rua Hotel in Dunfanaghy after gardai seized the alcohol as a result of a complication over the transfer of the alcohol licence.
However, it lasted just 10 weeks before she reverted to selling alcohol again.
Since then, she has nurtured a dream of setting up Ireland's first 'New Island Party', which she describes as a collective of "free thinkers and decision makers for the common good".
"This grouping is issue-based rather than linked to a political party and the idea is that we would ensure the voice of the common man gets through," Ms Sweeney said.
Her main campaigning issues will be for electoral reform; a working, state-run health service with medical cards for all; and a more locally accountable education model.
As the first representative to go forward as an independent candidate, she confesses that in the absence of any funding, her campaign will take place in cyber space.
"There will be no posters or flyers stuck up about the countryside, because not only are they obscene but we are tired looking at them and I can't afford them. I am just waiting for my video to be uploaded on to YouTube," she said.
With the deadline for close of registration looming on Friday, there are six candidates in the running for the seat that was made vacant by the departure of Fianna Fail's Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher to Europe.
Campaigning in the sprawling constituency, which stretches from Tory Island off the north-western coast to Bundoran in the south, is well under way.
Two party leaders, Fine Gael's Enda Kenny and Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, are due in the county today to canvass with their candidates, Barry O'Neill (FG) and Pearse Doherty (SF). Senior party figures with Fianna Fail and Labour are expected in the county in the coming days.
Voting on the islands of Arranmore, Tory, Inishbofin, Inishfree and Gola will take place on Monday, November 22, with the remainder of the electorate of about 62,000 voters due to go to the polls on Thursday, November 25.