Fermanagh's rich heritage of unusual, personal and quirky vehicle registration numbers are set to continue, despite a threat to introduce the English-style system used by the DVLA in Great Britain.

What started as IL prefixes in Fermanagh, has now progressed to the LIG prefix which is proving as popular as others it replaced. The first 1,000 numbers are held back by the government for re-sale as cherished numbers.

A conference for those involved in the transfer of licensed registration plates in Coventry last week was told that the Northern Ireland system administrated by the Driver and Vehicle Agency in Coleraine is to continue.

Dessie Elton, who runs Speedy Registrations at Lisbellaw, employing a staff of 12, says he is delighted to hear the news as motorists throughout the British Isles covet the Fermanagh plates.

He said the Northern Ireland system had a rich heritage and plans to introduce the GB system here would have cost a lot of jobs and money to the Northern Ireland economy.

Dessie, who attended the conference, said, "We have been fighting hard to retain the Northern Ireland numbering system but we got good news that the DVA can retain the NI series of numbers." Mr. Elton said he could foresee the Coleraine office of DVA as a holding centre as many regional offices will be axed. He believed there had been an attempt to harmonise all UK registration plates from Swansea, headquarters of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.

"We are employing people here and they should see that," said Mr. Elton who is delighted with the news.

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment stated, "The current Northern Ireland vehicle registration number format, which consists of three letters, a space and up to four numbers, is quite distinct from that used in GB. There are no plans to change the current NI format."