Quality contracting, Donegal style

9 Nov , 2022  

Over the past four decades, Donegal based building contractor Cathal Doherty has earned himself a wonderful reputation within the construction industry by completing a wide range of exceptional commercial and residential projects locally. Building Ireland caught up with Cathal to discuss the history of his business and look at some of the most recent projects delivered along the Wild Atlantic Way.

A member of The National Guild of Master Craftsmen, Cathal Doherty is widely regarded as one of Donegal’s premier building contractors. Since setting up his own general contracting business almost 40 years ago, Cathal has completed a large volume of high-quality projects in the west of the county and he has a proven track record for invariably delivering construction excellence in both the commercial and residential sectors.

A vastly-experienced and knowledgeable builder with a strong carpentry background, Cathal served his time working in Dublin before returning home to Donegal and going out on his own as a main contractor in 1984. “I started off doing renovations and one-off new builds,” he reflects. “I gradually started to take on commercial projects as well and today it’s a mix of commercial and domestic, although most of the work is commercial at the moment.”

Cathal had the distinction of building Oideas Gael, the Irish language centre in Gaelcolmcille, in 1990, while Meananeary Community Centre is another notable close-to-home commercial project delivered early on. Remaining within close proximity, he has also carried out extension and refurbishment works at SeaQuest Systems’s engineering factory in Killybegs and was the main contractor on Sliabh Liag Distillers’ spectacular and sustainable new Ardara Distillery overlooking Loughrosmore Bay, which opened this year.

Cathal Doherty Building Contractor began work on site at the distillery in October, 2020 and Sliabh Liag Distillers completed their first distillation of whiskey at the new facility within a year. “The industry went into lockdown from October 2020 until the following April, but the distillery has been in production since last October and we completely finished the first phase earlier this year,” Cathal notes.

Phase Two of the Ardara Distillery development is due to commence soon, incorporating a dedicated gin still-house and increased visitor centre capacity.

Errigal Bay – Ireland’s largest processor of wild Atlantic shellfish – is another company Cathal has worked frequently for down through the years, completing a series of extension and refurbishment works on their state-of-the-art processing facility in Carrick, where over 200 people are employed.

The versatile Donegal builder has delivered a number of striking, high-spec homes overlooking the Atlantic in the past and is open to doing more if the right opportunities come along. “There’s plenty of work here locally at the moment and I can’t complain,” he says. “We’re very busy and you can’t do it all, so I’ve had to turn down some work, unfortunately, but generally we’ll take on any project that appeals to us.

“I do like the commercial stuff as it is very nice work and also very interesting work. That’s been keeping us going and things have been very busy for the last few years. There was the odd spell here or there where things got a little quiet but they always picked up again fairly quickly.”

Apart from one direct full-time employee, Cathal enlists the services of tried-and-trusted local subcontracting crews, with whom he enjoys strong long-term working relationships. “I’m lucky to have very good lads available to me and I’d bring in the same lads all the time. They know what I expect and we have a good understanding built up at this stage.”

The order book looks particularly healthy at present, with the second phase of Ardara Distillery coming up next year and a few other nice commercial projects in the pipeline. As for the secret to his success as a main contractor for 38 years and counting, Cathal relates:

“If you do a good job and are approachable, then that’s a good start. It’s about looking after people, really, and having good relationships with your customers. It’s important to always keep your word, to be reliable, complete the work on time and within budget, wherever possible. Of course, with the fluctuations in the price of materials, that hasn’t been easy recently.

“There was a stage there where prices were increasing so much that suppliers would only give you a quote for that day. Things like that are out of our control. We had Brexit and then Covid and then the war and it felt like we were going from one crisis to another but hopefully things will start to settle down again now.”

How challenging is it to keep meeting exacting standards year on year, without compromising on quality or letting standards drop? “You have to do it – there’s no other choice,” Cathal concludes, cognisant of the reality that every builder is only as good as his last job. “I would be very hands-on myself and you have to keep on top of things. We kept it steady during the boom and didn’t get carried away. That worked in our favour and the goal now is to keep things going and to continue focussing on quality.”

Cathal Doherty Building Contractor,



County Donegal.

Tel: 074 9739061

Mobile: 087 2469660

Email: [email protected]

This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, October 2022, Vol 8 No 10