Sweeneys from all over the world converged on Donegal in September 1997 to hold their 3rd bi-annual rally. On Sunday the 7th the local committee under the chairmanship of Cathal Mac Suibhne held an official reception at Ostan Gaoth Dobhair to welcome Sweeneys from as far afield as the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Wales, France, Germany, and Ireland. A presentation was made to Mr Clement Sweeney of Ballyliffin to mark his Presidency of Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Eireann. A boquet of flowers was presented to his wife Josephine. Aoife Ní Fhearraigh, Noleen Ní Cholla, Tony and Ann Croke entertained the audience with the very best in traditional Irish singing, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
John Sweeney outlined the weeks programme which lay ahead, and it was clear that the visitors were eagerly awaiting their tours having heard Ben Sweeney outline the visit to Derry where an official Civic Reception by Mayor Bradley was organised. Tom Sweeney, Chieftain of Doe, outlined their tour of Glenveigh National Park, Castle, and Eviction Sites at Derryveigh and Doe Castle, while Loughlin Sweeney, Chieftain of Fanad, described their planned tour to Rathmullan and Fanad, and many other places of interest.
The planned itenary proved a great success, with packed coaches for every tour and many locals joining in to accompany the visitors and and help add to the welcoming atmosphere.
On Friday the 12th The Clan Gathering was officially launched at Ostan na Rossan, Dungloe by Minister for Tourism, Dr. James McDaid who congratulated the local committee for their third successful Clan Gathering since1992. He said that it was obvious that Clan Gatherings such as the Sweeney Clan Gatherings were of great importance to tourism in the County and stated that he believed that it was something which should be developed by other clans not justin Donegal, but nationally. "If the Clann tSuibhne can draw so many visitors from abroad, imagine what this would do for Irish Tourism if other clans were to emulate their example. Every County in Ireland would benefit as a result" he stated. He pledged that as Minister for Tourism he would do everything in his power to help bring about this situation. Other speakers include Clr. Noel McGinley, Donegal Tourism who congratulated Clann tSuibhne for their preassure on the relevant authorities to have Doe Castle restored and put on a similar statis as the O’Donnell Castle at Donegal Town. Clr. Maureen Doohan, Chairperson of Donegal County Council, congratulated the committee for their trojan work in organising the event which was now firmly fixed as one of the major events in the tourism calander in County Donegal, and agreed with the Minister that more should be done to nurture such clan gatherings, especially for the Millenium. Other speakers included Pat the Cope Gallagher M.E.P., Dinny McGinley T.D., Thomas Gildea T.D., David Alcorn Chairman of the local Údarás committee. Clr Fred Coll, Clr. Seamus Rodgers, Patsy Dan Mac Ruaraí, Rí Thorraigh, Loughlin Sweeney, Chieftain of Fanad, Tom Sweeney, Chieftain of Doe and Mary Alice Upton, Mayor of Townsend, Montana who represented the large American contingent at the Rally and was given the task of launching the specially packaged Sweeney Clan Gathering Tyrconnell Whiskey which was in great demand as a souvenir of the occasion. Also on the platform was the local committee, Ben Sweeney, Jim Sweeney, Mairín Ní Fhearraigh, Nellie Nic Giolla Bhride, Seamus Mac Suibhne (Thorr) Fr. Michael Sweeney S.P. Na Doirí Beaga and Cathal Mac Suibhne who was M.C.
John Sweeney who edited the latest Clan tSuibhne publication "The Sweeneys Fanad, Doe, Banagh, International" thanked the contributors to the book including His Lordship Bishop Philip Boyce of Raphoe, Fr. John Silke, May McClintock, The Clan Chieftains, Mac Suibhne Fanad, Mac Suibhne na dTuath, and Mac Suibhne Banagh, Ben Sweeney, Mairín Ní Fhearraigh, Jack Sweeney and several others for their very fine articles. He said that in editing the book, he was faced with a difficult task in selecting from some very fine articles but due to pressure of space, he had to omit articles which he would have liked to include. He tried to make the book as interesting as possible so as to have a broad interest to everyone, especially the young "who without their interest we are lost" he stated. He said it was gratifing to see so many Sweeneys present from every part of the world which made all the preparations and meetings over the past two years worthwhile. He invited the Minister, Dr. McDaid to officially launch the book, and presented the first copy to the Minister. The evening concluded with a buffet and Patsy Dan Mac Ruaraí, the King of Tory entertained the large audience with the best in Irish traditional music.
Saturday the venue was Ostan Gaoth Dobhair once more, for what proved to be a largely attended seminar on clan geneology. The main speaker was Mr Fergus Mac Giolla Easpaig, Assistant Chief Herald at the Irish Genealogical Office, Dublin who gave a superb talk on the Clans of Donegal, adding greatly to the clan athmosphere of the occasion. Other speakers included Joan Patton and Kathleen Gallagher of the Family History and Research Centre, Ramelton and Tom Sweeney Mac Suibhne na dTuath who gave a very interesting lecture on Tarlach Mac Suibhne, An Pióbaire Mór. Loughlin Sweeney Mac Suibhne Fanad spoke on Sweeney Origins, Fergus Sweeney did a fine job in introducing the speakers.
The highlight of the week was the now famous Clan Banquet with a packed house, in Ostan Gaoth Dobhair, with Sweeneys from all over the world joined by friends from at home and abroad enjoy an evening of fine food and entertainment. During the banquet certificates of life membership of Clann tSuibhne were presented to Mrs Ethna Brugha, Dublin Sr. Mary Delores (Sweeney’s Hotel Dungloe). Padraig MacSuibhne Limerick and Mary Ann Slattery, Toronto. Dr Peter Sweeney of Dungloe was the winner of the first bottle of ‘Sweeney Clan Gathering’ Tyrconnell Whiskey specially packed for the occasion.
After the banquet, Tom Sweeney of Omagh, cabaret artist (and nephew of Tommy Makem) entertained the gathering with fine singing, while the Eilish Boyle School of Irish Dance presented a display of the best in Irish dancing. Eight year old Eoghan MacSuibhne of Loch na nDeoran, Rann na Feirste recited his Oireachtas winning "Inish Ionnaigh" by Padráig O’Baoill to tumultous applause. The music and dance continued, and by the end of the night, the rally was hailed to have been the best to date. Cathal Mac Suibhne Chairman of the committee announced that the next Clan Rally would be held from the 5th to 12th of September 1999 to rapturous applause.
The new book will be available throughout the country in the near future at £5.00 or direct from Clann tSuibhne Gaoth Dobhair, Tir Chonaill by post at £6.00 inc. post and pack. It is available to the U.S. at $15 post paid by air mail. and is proving to be in great demand.
At a meeting of the local committee recently to discuss the event it was hailed as the biggest and best so far. We were truly pleased to see so many new faces from Ireland, Britain, the U.S. Canada and Australia. People like Mary Ann Slattery from Canada, Tom Sweeney from Seattle, Charles and Bill from Australia, Mary Alice Upton and her friends from Texas, Montana, and Canada. Padraig from Limerick (Ireland) and the Brugha Family from Cork, Ted and Patricia Pearson (U.S) not to mention our old friends from the last Gatherings and I immediately think of Lawerence Kent from Nova Scotia and so many more. It was truly a wonderful occasion and we are gratefull to see so many e-mails from those who were here stating their enjoyment of the event.