Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Chairman, Howard Thornton, was accused of abusing his position with a speech he made at the October sitting of the Council on Tuesday.

The claim was made by SDLP councillor for West Tyrone, Mary Garrity in response to a speech Chairman Thornton had read out expressing his disappointment at the neglect shown to this district.

Chairman Thornton outlined in his speech the uncertainty of Brexit and impact in may have on Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, but he also spoke of the further fears expressed to him by constituents.

Education, roads, health care, broadband, the lack of investment by Stormont and the stagnation of tourism in the area were also mentioned in his speech.

In summarising he said: “We are the most neglected district in Northern Ireland.

“We are starved of capital investment and jobs from past local executives.

“How can we get young people to remain in the district, what future can you offer them? When Stormont was functioning at least we could send our party reps to lobby on our constituents’ behalf.”

With no functioning government and the refusal of the Secretary of State Karen Bradley to meet with a council delegation he proposed the “unusual” step of writing a letter to the Secretary of State demanding a meeting with her by an all-party group to discuss the concerns and neglect towards the council area.

Sinn Fein’s Marty McColgan, who asked midway through Thornton’s speech if there was a point to it all said he was surprised by the nature of the speech and while he was not objecting to it did not like to be pushed in things and asked for the proposal to be put back to Policy and Resources for consideration next month.

Councillor Garrity seconded this saying: “In theory no one has any problems with what you said but it must be noted that that frustration is held by everyone here it’s something we talk about every month on different items. I do think you may have abused your position tonight and I don’t mean that with any disrespect to you but some of us are working very hard.

She continued by saying letters to such people were pointless as “these people don’t care”.

Before leaving she spoke of the suicide motion from earlier on in the night [see page 11]: “Could I ask every member here you might not know who is suffering with mental health but know somebody that is unfortunately affected by it.

“Get off your ‘A55’ everybody and speak to them because you will do far more than a motion.”

Councillor Sheamus Greene, along with several other councillors asked for a copy of the speech and he said: “I wouldn’t mind seeing a copy of it myself because it is the best advert for a United Ireland for this area that I have heard in this long time.”

Councillor Debbie Coyle said she felt the speech was party political broadcast when asking for a copy of the speech.

Councillor Deehan did offer support of the content as she believed it is his role as chairman to bring these matters to Council for discussion and action.

Chairman Thornton said that he was not trying to abuse his power and was just trying to reflect his frustrations towards the neglect of the district and would make his speech available for councillors.

It was agreed that the proposal would be heard again at the next Policy and Resources meeting.