On Saint Patrick's Day, I took a walk around Enniskillen to take in the activities at the Forum and the Parade itself.

My impression was of a lot of diverse groups working very hard to make sure the Parade was a success.

Enniskillen, with its unique geography, can do things a little differently, but the whole occasion was a credit to those involved.

It must have been one of the best parades outside of the big cities, and the crowds flocked to show their appreciation.

I saw three floats in succession, which perhaps reflected the changes in our society and a more tolerant and caring community.

The first was reflective of the Indian or Asian Community, with many ladies beautifully turned out and performing graceful dances.

Next came a float for the LGBT+ members locally, who displayed a lot of courage and good humour to have their day out too.

Finally, there was a float from Enniskillen Rugby Club and its very active section, helping those children with disabilities enjoy the great game of rugby.

It reminded me of the advice of another of your columnists, Mark Gallagher, that maybe we should sometimes walk in the shoes of others to feel what it is like.

One person who never stops giving to others is Nathan Carter, and we are lucky he has chosen to live among us.

Last Friday, I attended his sold-out show in the Forum. It was a brilliant night, totally organised by Nathan and involving many musicians who were giving their time for free.

Because of his efforts, the children who attend Willowbridge will have a little bit more joy in their lives.


I have written before about the lack of investment in the west or the Border areas by either the British government or the Stormont Assembly.

This is the major battleground for our politicians and residents in the years to come.

We must stop and reverse the tendency for the central government to acquiesce in the removal of services from Fermanagh and the West and relocate them to the East, Belfast, or Derry.

This does not happen by accident and needs to be called out.

The reason it happens is that all the senior decision-makers in the higher civil service reside in and around Belfast, and sure why would you not locate a service in Belfast, if you are mad enough to live in the West, well, you will just have to travel!

The present system is incapable of reform and needs change. Starting with the power sharing Assembly, it is well past its sell-by date, and we need to move to grown-up politics.

There is an element of tokenism in the O'Neill/Pengelly roadshow, which is replete with photo opportunities.

Politics is the art of the possible, and a true democracy is where the electorate can vote a party in and out of office.

Parties cannot mature until they experience the real difficulties of government and the unpopularity of hard and unpopular decisions.

Sinn Féin and the DUP will not give up lightly the absolute veto on change handed to them by the St. Andrews agreement, but the governments will have to insist.

In the current climate, there are increasingly more studies relating to models of different forms of government on the island of Ireland in the future.

Not surprisingly, a lot of comment by contributors focuses on the economic cost.

There is a lot of conjecture, but a recent study by economist John Fitzgerald, son of the late Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald, focuses on the stark difference between the economies of North and South.

From state benefits to educational achievement to average industrial earnings, there is a substantial gap between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The fact that employees in Foreign Direct Investment in Northern Ireland are paid lower wages than the public sector is a damning indictment of the Industrial Development Board and means that in reality, most FDI is in call centres.

Investment in Education and Infrastructure is key to reversing this. We must stop the drain of our young people emigrating and never returning with all that energy, skill, and dynamism lost to another place.

Every year in Fermanagh schools, there must be 5-600 highly educated children heading off to college no more to return except for social or family visits.

In any society, some emigration is healthy because it opens up a wider world and combats parochialism.

Ireland, I believe, is unique in the sustained level of emigration over many years; the average percentage of the population is three per cent, whereas in Ireland it is 10 per cent.

This has resulted in large pockets of emigrants in every country in the world.

Last September, I experienced firsthand the power of the diaspora when tens of thousands of Irish fans descended on Paris to show their support for our Rugby team having travelled from Ireland, the UK, and all parts of Europe and further afield.

It set me thinking about turning a negative into a positive. How could the Fermanagh emigrants be galvanised into positive and meaningful support for their former homeland?

Would they make a financial contribution on a regular basis to a project that would serve to benefit an educational or economic sector of our youth?

Could this be a sponsorship for educational training or travel to develop skills which could be used here?

Just the type of exciting development which our Council could take on board!

Reggie Ferguson is an Enniskillen-based solicitor, and Chairman of the Save Our Acute Services health campaign group.