Councillors must get best deal for Fermanagh says ratepayers

Published: 23 Aug 2012 13:000 comments

THE chair of Fermanagh Ratepayers Association, an anti-Council merger group, says the buck for implementing Local Government Reform now stops with our local Council representatives.

Sammy Wilson, Minister for Finance, enjoying a light hearted moment in Molloy's Fish Market in Enniskillen. Also included are Shane and Conal Molloy and Arlene Foster, Minister Enterprise Trade and Investment.

Patricia Donald says her group wants to know how Fermanagh District Councillors are going to handle the finer details of the Review of Public Administration after Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson made it clear last week that the responsibility lay firmly at their door.

Set up in opposition to the 2015 Council merger, Fermanagh Ratepayers Association set out their stall clearly last Wednesday as Mr. Wilson visited Enniskillen.

They staged a protest outside Townhall as he arrived to meet with Councillors and also erected a large anti-merge poster at Belmore Street, just metres away from the Clinton Centre, where the Finance Minister met with local business representatives.

Accepting that the 'arranged marriage' between the two border Councils was going ahead, Ms Donald said the protest group was now determined to put pressure on local representatives to "get some sort of intervention for Fermanagh".

"Sammy put it all down to the local politicians. It doesn't matter whether I think that's fair or not, that's fact. And we want to know now how are they going to handle this. Are they going to rise above party politics and have Fermanagh people's interests at heart? We voted them in to look after our interests.

"The gap in the debt between Omagh and Fermanagh has got to somehow be serviced or paid off," she said, "Fermanagh's debt should be paid off by 2015/16 -- Omagh's debt will take a lot longer."

Ms Donald attended the meeting at the Clinton Centre last week, facilitated by the Fermanagh Economic Development Organisation.

"What Sammy was saying is that Central Government is basically not willing to do very much and that it would be up to the local councillors to deal with if the rates go up," she concluded.

Ms Donald said the action group believed there was no question that the headquarters for the new Council body should be in Fermanagh.

"Sammy Wilson said the responsibility for that decision is also very much with the local councillors, so what are they going to do for the people of Fermanagh?

"We have the higher number of Councillors and the higher population," she submitted, "Are the local councillors going to support us and Keep it in Fermanagh?"

The action group chair added her belief that Omagh was just as unenthusiastic about the merge as Fermanagh was.

"Historically people have always looked up the railway line -- Omagh people looked towards Strabane and Derry and Fermanagh looked towards Dungannon and Belfast. Fermanagh and Omagh were never natural partners before."

Ms Donald said Fermanagh Ratepayers Association would meet again soon to discuss their next course of action.

"We will be looking for meetings with people and organisations who have the interests of the Fermanagh people at heart," she added.

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