Newry SDLP and Sinn Fein at loggerheads over local Civic Centre

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Monday, November 10th, 2014
Community, News, Politics
In the first disagreement on the new super council the SDLP has accused Sinn Fein and the DUP of combining to block an SDLP proposal for a new civic centre in Newry. With the decision already taken to hold meetings of the new council in Downpatrick and to shelve the proposed extension to the council chamber at Monaghan Row the SDLP proposed that a new civic centre for Newry be included in the 2015-2019 Council Corporate Plan to be completed by 2019. In making the proposal Newry SDLP Councillor, Gary Stokes, said that since inception his party had followed a twin centre approach to the new district with Downpatrick as the county town and Newry as the city. Stokes explained that the new district was divided by a mountain range with very limited transport linkages meaning basing everything in one place made no economic or logistical sense. Stokes added that the Monaghan Row site was no longer fit for purpose and did not provide a modern working environment for staff or visitors, not to mention the barriers the site sets for disabled members of staff. In opposing the proposal Sinn Fein described the proposal as “sad”. Sinn Fein and the DUP voted against the proposal while Ulster Unionist representatives abstained. Independent Newry City Councillor, Davy Hyland, supported the proposal. Commenting after the new Council’s November meeting Stokes said, “I am both shocked and disappointed. We have followed a twin centre approach from day one. The DUP I can half understand, they have no representatives on this half of the new District. But the Sinn Fein stance I find astonishing. “I was able to rely on support from all my party colleagues from places such as Ardglas and Saintfield but Sinn Fein’s Newry representatives voted against it. It is very troubling and I am worried for the future prosperity and well being of our city and its surrounding towns and villages.,” Stokes added.

Newry SDLP Councillors Gary Stokes and Kevin McAteer

Fellow Newry SDLP Councillor, Kevin McAteer, vowed to fight on. “The issue is too important to let go. We will continue to fight for a new civic centre in Newry both inside and outside the new council.” Dismissing the comments by the SDLP, Sinn Féin Councillor Micky Ruane told Newry Times, “What is shocking and astonishing is the SDLP attempt to once again be all things to all people. “On one night the SDLP in Newry & Mourne Council are calling for the Council to put out a brief to developers for New Civic Centre in Newry to be back by February 2015, whilst on the other hand the next night in the new Council the same party is arguing that a Newry Civic Centre proposal be included in a 2915-2019 Council corporate plan. “The facts as they presently sit are that authority is now granted to Officials of the new Council to prepare a feasibility study outlining the key issues for the development of a new civic and Administration centre in Newry,” Ruane added.
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