A Motion brought before Fermanagh and Omagh District Council calling for sanctions against a mining company, following prosecution for health and safety failings, has been defeated.

Omagh-based Flintridge Resources Limited initially denied failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees but later accepted all, resulting in a £120,000 fine at Dungannon Crown Court.

Judge Brian Sherrard noted the company used too many explosives in excavations, and while attended by police who had limited time, “that does not excuse the action taken”.

He held the company: “Failed to put measures in place ... and failed to take appropriate action, allowing breaches to subsist over a number of days. Corners were cut.”

Motion proposer, Councillor Emmet McAleer, Independent, demanded immediate cancellation of all mining operations at the site and the withdrawal of all permits, planning, and other operating permissions.

In addition, the Council was urged to write to the Chief Constable seeking cancellation of the explosives permit.

He told members: “The judgement was damning and forms the basis of the Motion.

“If Flintridge disagree with the judgement which is a permanent record, they can appeal. The presiding judge said corners were cut – that’s the end of the story.

“If the company are taking this seriously, have they referred any previous management for investigation or were they just allowed to slink off quietly? Flintridge exceeded the proper use of explosives with five blasts when they had permission for no more than two.”

He also referenced a judgment from April, 2020, when Mr. Justice Humphries, in an unrelated matter, remarked: “It should be a matter of grave public concern that mining works were characterised by repeated breaches of planning control which resulted in no enforcement action being taken by the relevant authorities.”

The Public Ombudsman later found the lack of action: “Had completely failed to protect the public interest,” said Councillor McAleer.

Seconding, Councillor Stephen Donnelly, Alliance, argued: “Where economic regeneration was advertised, people have been deceived. Where environmental safeguarding was pledged, we have been failed. Where professionalism was guaranteed, we have had downright carelessness and incompetence.

“Nowhere has this been more ably demonstrated than the £120,000 fine for health and safety breaches.

“Members should reflect on the words, ‘corners were cut’.  The company has in the past struggled to protect their workforce, never mind the environment ... I believe in accountability, which is why I urge [the] Council to hold this company to account.”

Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh, CCLA, claimed: “The failures were shocking, and risk to lives, intolerable.”

He continued: “This Council has repeatedly raised the issue of explosives misuse and the subsidies at the cost of frontline policing, so I support the cancelling of the explosives permit.”

However, Ulster Unionist Councillor Victor Warrington disagreed with the Motion, and while noting the judgment found serious failings, said: “We must respect that investigation. There was no recommendation to revoke planning permission.

“This could lead us down a very dangerous legal cul-de-sac. If permission is revoked, the recourse the operator has would make this council financially liable.”

He concluded his party: “Will not support this Motion in any shape or form. It’s a dangerous precedent.

“We respect the judgement and it’s unfortunate Councillors McAleer and Donnelly don’t share that.”

Independent Councillor Eamonn Keenan contended: “Workers and the environment are being put at risk, and all for profits. Surely, it’s within our remit to make our own decisions to protect our community? That must be paramount.”

Councillor Mary Garrity, SDLP, was concerned about legal ramifications, although: “We are absolutely and completely not in support of what has happened and the failings which went on.

“But I believe it’s for other departments to take the lead. The Motion is in good faith, but there are parts which put the Council in a precarious position.”

The matter went to a vote, which came in 16-14 against, and the Motion was defeated.