Sinn Féin has made history in becoming the majority party on Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. The council had a Nationalist majority during the last mandate.

Some 21 of the 40 councillors who were elected to serve on the Council following the local elections on May 18 were elected on a SF ticket.

The Impartial Reporter requested comment from all the parties represented on the Council about what this SF majority will mean for conducting Council business.

Fermanagh South Tyrone SF MLA Jemma Dolan emphasised a message that SF want to work for all.

She said: “We will respect and value that mandate given to us by the people, and we remain committed to continuing to work with others to deliver for all.

“Local government works most effectively when local parties work together on the basis of power-sharing, not only in the Executive, but in local councils too.

“That is why Sinn Féin wants to see the proportionate and fair allocation of Council positions such as Mayor, Chair, [leading] committees and other positions elected through the D’Hondt system in all local councils."

A spokesperson for the Council UUP group – the next largest grouping on the Council – said: “We have had to deal with a Sinn Féin dominance in the Council for some years.

"While not having an overall majority, up to now they have often cajoled [elected members] with others to impose their will in many aspects, including the imposition of [policies and Motions regarding] the Irish language against the majority responses on issues.

"There has also been great concern at the distribution of Council-managed funding,” they claimed, continuing: "It will not be helpful for wider community relations if decisions will be continually biased against the Unionist community."

When asked by this newspaper if a SF majority makes politics more challenging in the future within the Council Chamber, DUP Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Deborah Erskine said: “Ultimately it will be for Sinn Féin to decide if they want to make politics more challenging across Fermanagh and Omagh, or whether they will set a different course than in the past."

Addressing the issue of concerns from within the Unionist community regarding the SF majority, Mrs. Erskine said: "It has been difficult for Unionists within the Council to ensure their voice is heard on matters relating to British identity and culture.

"Some within the Sinn Féin leadership have attempted to portray a different image recently, with Michelle O’Neill attending The King’s Coronation, for instance.

"Many will want to see whether Sinn Féin councillors will take a more positive approach to British identity and culture."

Other parties called on Sinn Féin to honour the commitment of their election campaign and to "work for all".

Councillor Adam Gannon, SDLP, said: “The SDLP will work to represent everyone in Fermanagh and Omagh during the next Council term.

"We have always worked in partnership with our Unionist neighbours, and will do everything we can to ensure that they do not feel marginalised, or that their views or feelings are ignored.

“The new SDLP team will work with every party on the Council to achieve the best results for the people we represent.

"We would urge other councillors to do the same and challenge Sinn Féin to live up to their commitment to working for all.

"It is only natural that disagreements and different points of view will arise at points, but we all want the best for local communities in this area.”

Addressing how smaller parties will operate on the Council with a Sinn Féin majority, Councillor Eddie Roofe, Alliance, said: “A Sinn Féin majority certainly makes it more challenging for smaller parties to have a say in the new Council.

"I expect very few of their councillors to break ranks over policy, so our ability as a party to negotiate and compromise will be somewhat limited.

"However, this is equally a blessing and a curse for Sinn Féin, as the buck now stops with them, and failures in Council policy will lie at their door."

The Council’s annual meeting will take place on June 5, when positions of responsibility including Chair and Vice-Chair of the Council, and Chair of the various Council committees, based on the D’Hondt system, will be decided.

Councillor Barry McElduff, Sinn Féin, will continue to act as Chair of the Council until then.