A motion was passed at the December 4 meeting of the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council meeting held at Enniskillen Town Hall.

The motion was in support of the “On the Ball” campaign, which aims to provide free sanitary products in sporting grounds and public buildings.

The motion, which also aims to combat the growing issue of “period poverty”, was proposed by Sinn Féin Councillor Debbie Coyle and was passed with cross party support, although there was concern raised that the scheme could be abused.

As an initial step, it was proposed that the Council look at the feasibility of the introduction of free sanitary products at all council offices and in keeping with the “On the Ball” campaign, they are to also look at the feasibility of providing free sanitary products in all of the council sports facilities.

During discussions at the meeting, Councillor Coyle stated that “women have no choice” in having periods and that this motion will “tackle the stigma of menstruation” which is often a “taboo subject, even though it is a normal bodily function.”

She also highlighted the issue of period poverty, commenting that women who can’t afford sanitary products are having to go without, “using toilet roll or rags” as an alternative.

The motion was seconded by Sinn Féin Councillor Anne Marie Fitzgerald who said:

“Access to period care is a basic human right,” before adding:

“Toilet roll is freely accessible, but nobody seems to take on board females and their monthly period.”

UUP Councillor Diana Armstrong was happy to support the motion. She said:

“I think an effort to place sanitary products in public buildings and sports grounds would be a small, inexpensive but important step to help address a problem that for far too long has not been talked about.“

She added:

“However, one difficulty in introducing this service will be ensuring that those for whom it is intended, those in real financial difficulty, can avail of the service and that it is not abused by those not in real need.”

Following this, Councillor Armstrong proposed an amendment to the motion calling for a sub-committee of Council members be set up to establish the “practical out-workings” of the scheme.

DUP Councillor Raymond Farrell gave his support to the motion saying that he had seen the success of the model “first-hand” whilst coaching in Scotland, where the campaign has already been rolled out.

However, he noted that he is “quite keen on the feasibility issue” as he was concerned that people may “abuse the system.”

Councillor Fitzgerald commented that she found the insinuation that people would abuse the system “offensive.” She added: “People don’t take toilet roll.”

Councillor Coyle was happy to add the amendment of implementing a Council sub-committee for the feasibility study to her proposed motion although she also said that she took exception to the idea that people would abuse the initiative.