Long serving Independent county councillor, Joe Bonner, has a way with words, something that is perhaps peculiar to Donegal folk.
The gift of the gab would be one way of putting it, having an answer to everything would be a good back up option
For instance when asked why Donegal people pronounce his name Boner and the rest of the nation sticks to Bonner, the response is immediate.’ Us Donegal people are far too mannerly to tell the rest of you that you are saying it wrong!’
Its a common name in the Ulster county, and Joe reveals, ‘There’s some distant connection to Packie right enough, but it must be fairly distant as I don’t know him.’
Home may have been in Ashbourne for many years now but the deciding factor in choosing a location when work took him to Dublin was the immigrant’s need to stay in touch.
‘Ashbourne is on the road to Donegal and yeah that was definitely a determining factor in deciding where to live, I’ll tell you a strange one, I was canvassing in this years general election down around Gbbstown when a fella told me I was on the Donegal Road.
‘I’d often heard of but was never sure where it was until then, all the roads down that way are named after where people originally came from.’
Never backward in coming forward, something that served him well when he lined out for Donegal at underage, he has two nephews, Ciaran and Anthony Thompson on the county senior squad at the moment, Bonner realised a few years back that him having an opinion and standing by it doesn’t appeal to everyone.
In 2015 the name Joe Bonner came close to joining that of JFK, Gandhi, Abe Lincoln and others in the list of assassinated politicians.
He recalled at the time, ‘I was driving my car when another car, travelling at speed, pulled over in front of me, blocking my path,” he said. “The driver got out leaving his door open and I could see others in the car.
‘He was cool and collected and as he slowly pushed aside his clothing, his right hand went to pull something from the small of his back. He then slowly extended his arm in a manner like he was pointing a gun and said: ‘You’re dead.
‘Becoming very agitated, he then ordered me to get out of the car and began roaring and swearing at me. He then returned something to the small of his back and took a phone from his pocket.
‘Moving to the front of my car he took photographs of my number plate and then proceeded to take photos of my face. He said to me, ‘smile now Joe’ when taking the picture.
‘I’d be lying if I said it didn’t rattle me. My family were worried sick. My friends and colleagues are horrified and shocked to learn that this had happened.
‘We shouldn’t have to live in a world where ‘neart is ceart’ or might is right,’
Five years later he’s parked the incident, and simply says, ‘It wasn’t nice, not pleasant but I’ve moved on.’
There’s a funny side to the political game as well, and Bonner remembers one incident that still brings a smile to his face.
‘I was canvassing a house in Ashbourne one night and when I got back to my car there were three women sitting in it that I had never seen before in my life.
‘It turned out they had ordered a taxi and assumed I was it, so what could I do but bring them where they wanted to go, the taxi man may have lost a fare but Bonner probably won three more votes!’
Coming from near the Gaeltacht area of his home county it is a source of regret that he is less fluent as Gaeilge than was once the case.
‘Unfortunately I’m not, but it’s on my bucket list to go to Gweedore or Glencolmcille to learn some Irish it’s something I’d have an interest in.’
A councillor for sixteen years Bonner has remained steadfastly independent despite many approaches from the big players in the political game.
‘At one time or another all of the major political parties have asked me to join but I prefer to be my own boss.’
That’s not the only offer he’s been made
‘ I have had several offers of money, not bribes as such, but due to the political culture here over the years I presume they thought that was a requirement. Everybody has access to me and I will help them in any way I can in my capacity as a councillor. They don’t have to pay me for that.
I have been an Independent Cllr. since 2004. I have never been involved in a political party, I was always a community volunteer, ever since I was a boy in Glenties in Donegal and now that I have lived in Ashbourne for over thirty years I have always been involved in the community.
‘I have led many campaigns for proper community facilities, water, sewage, roads infrastructure. I brokered an agreement with Meath County Council for a million euro for a community centre, a community house in the town centre, a playground and a state of the art library facility.’
Politically Bonner drives a hard bargain, but when asked to reveal something about him that nobody knows, he claims, ‘I’m really a softie behind it all.’