New charity shop playing vital role in Beara

May 2nd, 2023 7:05 AM

By Emma Connolly

Attending the official opening of the St Vincent de Paul shop in Castletownbere were Yvonne O’Sullivan, Mairead Murphy, Alana Hegarty, Viktorija Gecaite, Mary Harrington, Monica Lynch, Rosemarie O’Driscoll, Mary Black, JJ McLaughlin, Donal Kelly, Carmel Kelly, Johanna Caughlan, Eileen Irwin, Julie O’Shea and John Joe Sullivan. (Photo: Anne Marie Cronin)

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Last year St Vincent de Paul spent €50,000 helping people on the Beara peninsula. Already this year, that amount has nearly been reached, as more and more people seek help locally from the charity during the cost-of-living crisis.

THE president of St Vincent de Paul in Castletownbere said he often lies awake at night thinking about people who are going through awful times because of the rising cost of living. 

Donal Kelly said they are now being contacted by people looking for help, who were once helping them. 

‘There’s been a complete turnaround,’ said Donal. ‘It’s devastating and for many there’s little light at the end of the tunnel.’

‘Many families are facing impossible choices and are struggling with the decision of heating the house, school fees, electricity bills or food on the table.’

He was speaking after the recent opening of a new St Vincent de Paul Shop at West End in the town. They previously operated out of a unit at a commercial park on the Glengarriff Rd, but the new premises is in a more prominent location (beside the post office) and is far more spacious. 

The new premises is in a prominent location beside the post office, and footfall is noticeably up since the move. (Photo: Anne Marie Cronin)


Donal was the driving force behind the charity setting up in the area in 2006. He became aware of the work it did when he was the Munster IFA vice-president. 

‘I would have been travelling around a lot to outside counties, and often times I’d find people would share their problems with a stranger like myself, and not their local officer. 

‘I remember being at an IFA  meeting in Dungarvan and a man who was very down approached me at the end of the night. It was around 1.30am and I told him I’d call to him in the morning, and when I did, he told me how he just couldn’t make ends meet,’ recalled Donal. 

Donal said he couldn’t go back home to Allihies, knowing a family was hungry, and after some research he was put in touch with Vincent de Paul, and he got the family linked in with them. 

‘I remember the man in St Vincent de Paul telling me that he passed that particular house morning and evening without ever realising what was going on, which is often the case,’ he said. 

Back in West Cork he set the wheels in motion to set up a conference in Castletownbere, which is in fact, the largest conference in the country taking in Glengarriff, Dursey Sound, parts of Kerry, and includes 11 churches and 10 schools. 

Fr Noel Spring blessing the building, as treasurer JJ McLaughlin does the honours of cutting the ribbon, along with chairman Donal Kelly. (Photos: Anne Marie Cronin)


Not surprisingly, the biggest challenge facing many families now is soaring energy bills. 

‘They’re frightening and they are one of the reasons we’re now seeing an escalation in requests for help,’ said Donal. 

He also recalled recently meeting a lady who needed help to buy her husband oxygen. 

‘She gets six containers covered in a month, which he had used, and she just hadn’t the price of another one. 

‘The tears were streaming down her face, and then the relief when I said that of course we’d help,’ he said. 

Last year the charity spent €50,000 on the peninsula. Even though it’s only April, Donal said they are almost at that amount already. 

‘Things are really critical,’ he said. 

Treasurer of the charity is retired schoolteacher JJ McLaughlin, who is also a former president and secretary. He pointed out that all the money raised in Beara for St Vincent de Paul, stays in Beara. 

The new shop, he said, is a great example of a community working together and is run entirely by volunteers. 

Donal thanked everyone who has supported it so far. ‘The shop would not survive without the generous donations from the public. 

‘The extraordinary generosity of all those people who donate furniture, lovely clothes of which many still have tags on them, shoes, pictures, paintings, ware, beds etc. Each donation is hugely valued and appreciated.’

JJ and Donal both said their wish was that the shop, currently open for three-and-a-half days a week, could open six days a week, and they pointed out that volunteers could give as little as three hours a week. 

‘There are places available on CE schemes and anyone who is eligible for these positions should apply immediately,’ urged Donal. 

On behalf of St Vincent de Paul Beara, he thanked everyone who had a part in getting the shop open, including building contractor Sean Sullivan from Cromane, Ardgroom and his crew, and the owner of the premises, Noel Harrington for all his help.

• Anyone in need of help from St Vincent de Paul can contact them in confidence at 083 3561132 

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