His team were looking for capital infrastructural projects that would be transformative – and they certainly grasped its significance for the south west. Sadly that wasn’t to be!
A few days after Christmas, I started getting calls for concerned parents and workers in relation to the neonatal unit at South West Acute Hospital. They reported that the neonatal unit had closed down.
I could hardly believe it but as I received more and more calls I started to fear that it was accurate.
Only four years ago, the Western Health and Social Care Trust had threatened to close the service as a cost-cutting measure. Our local campaign swung into action, we mobilised hundreds of local people twice in three days and threatened to take the campaign to Derry/L’Derry before the money to keep the service was magically found and the threat removed.
Conscious of this history, I submitted a question to the new Chief Executive of the WHSCT Neil Guckian on December 30th. I didn’t receive any response so I contacted local journalists about what I was hearing in both the Impartial Reporter and Fermanagh Herald. I suggested that if they would also ask the question we might get clarity. They both did so and we resolved to keep each other informed.
On January 7th I received a reply confirming my worse fears. The unit was down to two cots and these were only for assessment with babies being sent elsewhere. The unit was effectively mothballed. As expected, Covid was blamed although there was a recognition that this was a long-standing recruitment problem. This was certainly true.
The continued reality of that threat was revealed with the publication before Christmas of the long-delayed Sinn Féin White paper which the party promised would outlaw fracking. Campaigners have long demanded to see the content of the White paper but were bitterly disappointed when newly co-opted MLA Áine Murphy finally did make it public. While the bill does set out a ban on fracking it also specifically limits the definition of fracking to shale rocks – in a way that the legislation which banned onshore fracking in the Republic did not.
This is concerning precisely because Tamboran, the company which sought to frack Fermanagh, specifically identified fracking opportunities in Bundoran sandstone – which would fall outside the narrow ‘shale’ definition identified by Sinn Féin’s bill.
The concerns are even greater as it would appear inexplicable that Sinn Féin would bring forward a bill similar in so many regards as that passed in Leinster House – but mistakenly then adopt a definition of fracking which is at variance to that in the southern legislation. The question is doubly troubling since Sinn Féin is a party which seeks to burnish its all-Ireland credentials at all times. Continue reading “Stormont must stop Petroleum licensing to end fracking threat”
The latest statistics by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive confirm the long-term decline in public housing at the behest of policies enacted by consecutive Stormont Executives. The parties have consistently failed to properly invest in public housing despite a huge sell off of stock over recent decades.
Unfortunately, the latest statistics are released on a council based basis and not all councils have the 2021 figures published yet. That said, it is clear that public housing policy is totally inadequate in the face of massively mounting demand.
For decades politicians have been silent on the well-known fact that raw sewerage has been routinely flowing into the River Erne. Former NI Water workers report sewerage having had to be suctioned out when the volumes got too great. Anglers report an underlayer of congealed waste in stagnant pools located around the town.
Like many other towns in the North, Enniskillen retains a Victorian-era style sewer system designed to deal with excessive volumes of brown water by allowing it to overflow into the river. The problem is that the system hasn’t received proper investment for decades so now every time we get a heavy rain (regularly!) sewer water floods out of the top of the combined sewer outlets. What is worse, it has been confirmed in writing to Cllr O’Cofaigh that grills meant to filter solid matter from overflowing have been removed to reduce costs of staff having to clear them out regularly (all to meet Stormont austerity budgets).
Since his election three years ago, Cllr O’Cofaigh has continued his campaign against Fracking and sought to impose every possible barrier to this toxic industry by every means at his disposal and every opportunity.
Council meetings have often been dominated by environmental issues as Cllr O’Cofaigh, working with independents such as Cllr McAleer, has pushed up against the poor and inconsistent positions adopted by establishment parties.
Despite their purported commitment to a greener economy, and mass local opposition, the Stormont Executive continues to facilitate these toxic industries. A new consultants study at the cost of £75,000 has been commissioned to identify options on how Fracking could proceed.
The Terms of Reference didn’t even initially include consideration of public health but after withering criticism from Cllr O’Cofaigh and independent councillors it now does. Whatever is in a terms of reference, there can be absolutely no confidence in this report: there is no safe way to Frack. The fight against this toxic industry both on the council and in the communities must continue until we secure a ban on Fracking.
The Sinn Féin chair of a shambolic meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has excluded independent anti-goldmining Councillor Emmet McAleer from a Council meeting. During most of the meeting, he only called party colleagues.
McAleer’s offence was to query the stance of Sinn Féin on an application for ‘permitted development’ status for seven boreholes by Flintridge Resources near their goldmine at Cavanacaw, just outside Omagh.
At a previous meeting, Sinn Féin councillors had allowed a similar application through by strategically not taking part in the vote or being absent. This time they opposed the application. McAleer said: “This is absolutely shambolic. Sinn Féin remained mute the last time and are now trying to claim the glory. What is going on with your party?”
At this point the Chair of the meeting, Council Vice-Chair Chris McCaffrey of Sinn Féin, said: “Councillor McAleer needs to be removed.” McAleer was then ejected from the virtual meeting. Continue reading “Fermanagh and Omagh Council – an undemocratic shambles”
In December 2018 and January 2019 NHS workers took historic strike action and won pay parity with healthcare workers in England and Wales as a result.
Now Healthcare workers are demanding a pay increase to recover all what was lost over the past decades.
Everyone needs to get behind those who have been on the frontline of Covid as they fight for a pay increase that will aid recruitment, end the staffing crisis and secure a proper standard of living for all those who provide vital health and social care.