FERMANAGH and Omagh District Council (FODC) has officially become a Nuclear Free Local Authority (NFLA).
Thanks to a proposal brought forward by Sinn Fein’s John Feely during April’s Policy and Resources committee meeting, the local council is now publicly demonstrating its “opposition to nuclear power and nuclear weapons”.
The suggestion for FODC to consider becoming a member of the NFLA All-Ireland Forum was initially mooted during March’s full council meeting.
A report was then prepared for April’s Policy and Resources committee meeting.
According to the report, the NFLA was set up in 1980 by Manchester City Council who continue to provide the Secretariat for the organisation.
It describes itself as the primary voice in local government in the UK and Ireland by interacting with and influencing across the national and international nuclear policy agenda.
In 2005, a NFLA All-Ireland Forum was established.
Current local authority members within Ireland include Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Louth County Council and Meath County Council.
Other councils, including Derry and Strabane have requested further information on membership.
The NFLA is made up of four national forums: England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, which all formally report to the NFLA Steering Committee.
This steering committee received reports five times a year from the Secretary of NFLA.
Members of the Policy and Resources committee were told that annual membership for FODC based on the area’s population, would cost £1,246 but that a special introductory discounted rate was currently available of £797.
Members were told this does not include their travel costs for attending meetings and the fee is not specifically provided for in the 2017/18 budget.
During the committee meeting the Director of Corporate Services and Governance said Members could be kept informed of events and issues and attend as a non-member, which was the current practice.
While Mr. Feely proposed that the council become a fully signed up member, the UUP’s Alex Baird said he had reservations, based on the fact that 450 Councils could potentially be members, but only 50 had joined and seven from the island of Ireland.
Mr. Baird proposed that the Council did not become a full member of the organisation. His proposal fell by 10 votes to 14, with one abstention.
Mr. Feely’s proposal to join the Forum was passed by 14 votes to 10, again with one abstention.
Afterwards, Mr. Feely said he had been “disappointed” that SDLP members had voted against his proposal.
“I believe that by becoming a member of the NFLA our council are publicly demonstrating opposition to nuclear power and nuclear weapons.
“With the Tories planning on spending between five and a half billion to seven billion pounds a year on Trident, Britain’s so-called nuclear deterrent, I think it only right to oppose this madness.
“This money should be spent on education and health instead of being spent on a British vanity project to try and make them relevant as a ‘Nuclear Power.’
“As the UUP and DUP are both in favour of wasting Fermanagh tax payer’s money on Trident, I wasn’t surprised to see them oppose FODC becoming members of the Nuclear Free Local Authorities.
“However, I was disappointed to see the SDLP vote against it.
“By being a member of the NFLA our council will now be supporting their research and policy development work. Work such as highlighting the real price of nuclear energy, identifying the impact of Westminster’s nuclear policy on local communities and hopefully minimising nuclear hazards and increasing public safety.”
The proposal to become a member of the NFLA All-Ireland Forum was ratified and passed at the latest full council meeting.