DCSIMG

Fermanagh and Omagh: A little and large act

Omagh District Council

Omagh District Council

The only Northern Irish county which is also a council is set to be dissolved under the new arrangements.

Fermanagh District Council will soon become part of a vast council entity called Fermanagh and Omagh District, taking in much of the entire west of the Province.

It will be remarkable for being both the smallest, and the biggest, of all the new supercouncils.

Geographically it will be 3,015 km sq in size, but with a population of just over 113,000 it will be the most thinly-inhabited area of all.

For comparison, the second biggest area is Causeway Coast and Glens – at only around 69 per cent of its geographic area.

What is more, the merger risks undermining not only the whole-county identity of Fermanagh’s current council, but also the relatively balanced political complexion that the council enjoys.

At present Fermanagh has six UUP and four DUP councillors to nine Sinn Fein and three SDLP ones, with one independent.

Omagh, meanwhile, has three UUP and three DUP councillors to 10 Sinn Fein and three SDLP, with two independents.

Speaking about the sheer area it will cover, Tom Elliott, UUP MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, said: “Obviously there’s a concern about how ‘local’ the government would be in it.”

And when it comes to the make-up of the new body, he said the main objective must be blocking Sinn Fein dominance of the authority’s political agenda.

“There’s no question about it. Unionism will be in the minority in it,” he told the News Letter.

“But we’re going to work on that process, and not allow republicans to completely dominate. We can’t allow that to happen.”

One thing that may work in their favour is the relative paucity of smaller unionist challengers to split the vote, when compared with some areas in the east of Northern Ireland.

A smattering of independents and Greens are standing, but only three candidates from strongly-union, non-mainstream unionist parties (one UKIP and two TUV) are vying for seats .

For Bert Johnston, DUP group leader of Fermanagh District Council, the change will be the biggest one in his 38 years on the council.

The alterations of district electoral areas mean the district electoral area of Enniskillen will now take in the relatively far-flung villages of Clabby and Tempo.

And, echoing Mr Elliott, he said that – with the new devolved planning powers councils are to be given – they could end up with a situation where decisions on building a house in his home village of Ballinamallard are being taken by an official in Omagh.

In addition, he warned there is the risk of lower attendance at council meetings given the sheer size of the new authority.

He said that meetings are now to be held bi-monthly in Omagh and Enniskillen, more than 21 miles apart – but travel will be far harder if the councillors in question live in Pettigo, Garrison, or any of the small rural settlements with mere B-road access which dot the region.

“You have to take into consideration the weather conditions, especially in winter time,” he said.

“You might just say: ‘ach, look at what’s happening outside – it’s a long way and the roads aren’t very good’.

“Whereas I’ve only to go up the road six or seven miles – it’s a different thing. You could have lower attendance.”

One of the recently emerged issues in Fermanagh is that of fracking – breaking rocks to release trapped gas deposits.

There is a candidate who has been particularly vocal on the issue – Donal O’Cofaigh – who is standing in Enniskillen solely on an anti-fracking platform.

Whatever the result, it will not affect Mr Johnston; he is now standing aside after 38 years, aged 77.

“I’m suffering from TMB,” he said. “Too Many Birthdays. I want to get out while I can still see the door”.

Your candidates:

ENNISKILLEN:

Pat Cox (Independent)

Debbie Coyle (SF)

Donald Crawford (TUV)

Shirley Elaine Donaldson (DUP)

Keith Alan Elliott (DUP)

Ann Gormley (Alliance)

Robert Irvine (UUP)

Basil Richard Johnston (UUP)

Tommy Maguire (SF)

Donal O’Cofaigh (Fermanagh Against Fracking)

Patricia Rogers (SDLP)

Laurence Speight (Green)

Howard Thornton (UUP)

ERNE EAST:

Sheamus Greene (SF)

Brian McCaffrey (SF)

Richie McPhillips (SDLP)

Kate Mulligan (SF)

Thomas O’Reilly (SF)

Fred Parkinson (UKIP)

Paul Robinson (DUP)

Victor Warrington (UUP)

ERNE NORTH:

Rosemary Barton (UUP)

Paul Patrick Blake (SDLP)

John James Coyle (SDLP)

Alex Elliott (TUV)

Raymond Farrell (UUP)

John Feely (SF)

James Alexander Fleming (DUP)

Peter Jones (SF)

David Robert Mahon (DUP)

ERNE WEST:

Alex Baird (UUP)

Jeremy Campbell (DUP)

Barry Vincent Doherty (SF)

Anthony Feely (SF)

Brendan Thomas Gallagher (SDLP)

Leanne Maguire (SF)

Bernice Swift (Independent)

MID TYRONE:

Andrew Bullick (Alliance)

Charlie Chittick (DUP)

Sean Clarke (SF)

Sean Donnelly (SF)

Anne Marie Fitzgerald (SF)

Ciaran McClean (Green)

Bernard Edwards McGrath (SDLP)

Barry Kevin McNally (SF)

Rosemarie Shields (SDLP)

Bert Wilson (UUP)

OMAGH:

Eric Bullick (Alliance)

Adele Crawford (DUP)

Josephine Anne Deehan (SDLP)

Joanne Donnelly (SDLP)

Catherine Kelly (SF)

Gabrielle Bridget McAleer (Independent)

Sorcha McAnespy (SF)

Marty McColgan (SF)

Chris Smyth (UUP)

Errol Ivan Thompson (DUP)

WEST TYRONE:

Mark Thomas Buchanan (DUP)

Glen Gerard Campbell (SF)

Frankie Jerome Donnelly (SF)

Stephen Donnelly (Alliance)

Mary Therese Garrity (SDLP)

Cathal Lynch (SDLP)

Stephen McCann (SF)

Allan Rainey (UUP)

Elaine Thompson (DUP)

Susan Anne White (no party given)

 

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