Within an hour of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council's announcement last Tuesday (October 25) that the fireworks display in Enniskillen had been cancelled, Terry McCartney had received two booking cancellations at his business the Belmore Court and Motel for Hallowe'en night.

The trend continued, with the local hotelier reporting a total of six booking cancellations as a direct result of the event's cancellation.

"There's no doubt that [the cancellation of the fireworks display] has affected the business. Not only is it a community event, it's an attractor to get people to come to Enniskillen," Terry told The Impartial Reporter this week.

"To be fair to the Council, for the last 10 or 15 years, however long they have been doing it, it's been pretty impressive. Obviously with Covid it hasn't been going ahead, and a lot of people were looking forward to getting out and about and coming to Enniskillen to spend a bit of money and stay with us, to see what was happening.

"Within about an hour of the announcement, we had two cancellations from two families who said that they were just going to try and get somewhere else. After Covid they wanted to get back into the festivities with Hallowe'en so they left and we had another four cancellations as a direct result of [the fireworks display cancellation] unfortunately," he added.

Commenting on the last minute nature of the Council's decision to cancel the fireworks display, which was taken by the Council Chief Executive Alison McCullagh without councillors being given an opportunity to discuss the matter, Terry said: "I think the most frustrating thing is the fact that the cost living crisis has been going on for six months. The Council, like businesses, like myself, have to budget [and] not so much [has] changed in the three weeks since they launched [the event]. In fact, maybe things got a wee bit more stable with the new prime minister who seems to have steadied the ship. It was definitely the late notice which was the frustrating thing for me.

He continued: "I think [the Council] need to talk to local businesses, to communicate better. I know that the councillors that I spoke to didn't even know it was going to happen which is strange.

"My concern now would be, what's going to happen with Christmas?" he added.

When asked by The Impartial Reporter if the Council had considered the impact that the cancellation of the fireworks display would have on local businesses, a Council spokesperson responded: "The decision to cancel the fireworks displays was not taken lightly and the Council acknowledges the disappointment that this decision caused. The Council did consider the impact the cancellation of the fireworks events would have on local businesses, as well as residents of and visitors to the District.

"The Council explored the possibility of smaller scale events in both towns, however, this was not feasible."

The cost of Hallowe’en events organised by the Council is £40,000. However, the Council confirmed there was no cancellation fee incurred with the company that provides the fireworks. When asked to give a breakdown of how the £40,000 would have been spent on the event, the Council spokesperson outlined: "The quoted £40,000 is a budget with the following estimated costs against budget headings: Fireworks; £20,000, entertainment including PA, stage and lights; £5,500, operational costs including stewarding and first aid: £12,000 and marketing and communications; £2,500."

The spokesperson confirmed that no advertising expenditure had been incurred for the fireworks display as the only promotional activity which had bene undertaken was a press release and social media.

Prior to the cancellation of the Council organised Hallowe'en events in Enniskillen, the spokesperson told this newspaper that 135 tickets had been sold or reserved for the Castle Lookout event.

When asked to outline how the £40,000 that was saved following the cancellation of the events will now be spent in the Fermanagh and Omagh district, the Council spokesperson said: "The Council is currently reviewing all its budgets in light of the immediate financial pressures including additional unbudgeted costs and the cost of living crisis. The £40,000 budget for the Hallowe'en fireworks events will be reallocated towards additional, unbudgeted costs within the revised budget.

"Following the Special Council meeting on October 17, officers are also considering additional unfunded initiatives to provide support for both individuals and families impacted by the increased cost of living, and importantly, the Community and Voluntary Sector organisations that deliver essential services to the residents of the district."