Farming & Fisheries

Neilie has a long history of community effort – and it’s not just with the IFA

November 17th, 2022 11:55 AM

By Southern Star Team

West Cork IFA chair Donal O’Donovan; FBD chairman Liam Herlihy; EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness; Neilie O’Leary; IFA president Tim Cullinan; IFA national treasurer; Martin Stapleton and FBD trust chairman, Michael Berkery.

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They have become recognised as one of the most prestigious accolades for voluntary effort amongst the rural community in the Munster region, and last week a Bantry man was awarded one of them

NORMALLY held every two years in Adare, Co Limerick, Paddy Fitzgerald Awards recognise the community efforts of those in the farming sector.

The nomination put forward by West Cork IFA for this year’s awards was Neilie O’Leary, a man who has devoted a lifetime to serving, not only the interests of farmers, but that of the entire community. 

Presented with his award in Co Limerick last week, Neilie’s first involvement with the IFA took place in the late seventies when he attended a meeting of his local branch in Coomhola and was elected as branch secretary. 

He became a delegate to the next level in the organisation, where his ability was soon recognised and he became more and more involved in representing farmers at every level. 

After much effort by Neilie and others, West Cork got its own status as a county executive in 1987 and the ensuing election resulted in Neilie becoming the first chairman of the new West Cork executive.   He later went on to represent West Cork on the national council, and the national sheep committee before he became national chairman of the hill farming committee. 

In this position, he made an outstanding achievement, and played a leading role in the IFA’s efforts to convince the government to introduce the walks scheme, whereby farmers and landowners are rewarded for allowing a recognised walking trail to pass their land.                                                           But IFA is far from being the only organisation to benefit from Neilie’s voluntary efforts. He was the first chairman of Bantry Show when it was revived in 1996, and he has been involved in the show ever since. 

He has been involved in his local St Colum’s GAA Club since it was founded in 1970, first as a player and later he mentored underage teams to county success in both hurling and football. 

He was chairman of the club for nine years when he spearheaded a fundraising drive which produced almost €400,000 to develop the club. 

He has been chairman of his local community council since 1996 and has been responsible for many laudable projects. 

Since 2009 he has been chair of the rural transport committee, now known as Local Link. 

This group was responsible for a most praiseworthy initiative when they went on to set up Cancer Connect, which provides transport for patients from West Cork to hospitals in Cork city.                     Neilie’s volunteering spirit has previously been recognised when he won the 2019 Hall of Fame accolade at the West Cork Farming Awards, organised by The Southern Star and the Celtic Ross Hotel.

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