Enniskillen plays a vital role in the economy of our county but over years it has been neglected by politicians of all stripes. The shutdown during the Covid pandemic brought things to a head and left in its wake empty buildings across the town. We face the prospect of a multi-million pound public thoroughfare upgrade being delivered at the very time when the future of our town as a commercial centre hangs in the balance.
Supports for workers who lost their jobs from both Westminster and Stormont government were inadequate leaving many prey to unscrupulous bosses who have sought to capitalise on the opportunities posed. Zero hours workers in our town were made redundant overnight – those with less than a year on the job found themselves jobless with no redundancy payments. Many have turned to the trade unions as the best guarantee of protecting themselves from fire and rehire, to win basic health and safety protections and even special Covid payments. This is to be welcomed but the reality is that Stormont continues to preside over an unfair playing field in which workers find the laws stacked against them.
In order to reverse the trend, Stormont must deliver public investment for Enniskillen from Stormont for quality job creation. Cross-community Labour councillor Donal O’Cofaigh has demanded the council take the lead in securing a planned approach to town regeneration, reversing the combined effects of market failure and the pandemic. Efforts by him alongside independent councillors to pass a ‘no cuts, zero rates increase’ budget failed last year but earlier proposals to reduce opening hours at leisure facilities were averted.
The loss of the Post Office on the diamond is perhaps the greatest blow to our county town to date. This is a harsh demonstration of the cost of Stormont blindly following the failed politics of the Tories in Westminster – facilitating the privatisation and rationing of public services.
Reliance on private businesses (who only host postal services for profit) has led to a situation where pensioners, those on benefits, or anyone wanting to post something in the town have been left bereft. This is a disgraceful situation reflects the failed ideology of private profit trumping public service – a dogma which rules the roost in Stormont.
Promises that the period of closure would be short and misinformation fed to the press by anonymous commercial sources have been proven wrong. There are real fears that a prolonged absence will open the door to a permanent closure.
It remains to be seen whether postal services will return and in what form. Instead of having a post office run out of a shop – why doesn’t Stormont reverse their policy and instead return to dedicated General Post Offices?
While they’re at it – they can focus themselves on securing a Northern Ireland exemption to the Tory policy ending benefits being paid into post office accounts – a policy that forces pensioners to open bank accounts and pay banking fees but which also undermines the footfall at our post offices.
The council must take the lead in challenging the failed politics coming out of Stormont – it must step forward to defend services and jobs in our county town.