Cross-Community Labour Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh today pledged that as a MLA for Fermanagh-South Tyrone in May he would demand Stormont provide proper resourcing of refuges for victims and survivors of domestic violence.
He explained his experience on this issue to date:
“As a councillor I was able to attend a presentation by Women’s Aid on the current problems they were facing. I was both shocked and dismayed to find out that due to Stormont cuts, there were no longer any dedicated domestic violence refuge units anywhere in Fermanagh.
“Subsequently I raised this issue publicly and repeatedly at council meetings and succeeded in getting the council to write to the Communities Minister demanding action. In response, a commitment was made to provide three domestic violence accommodation units in Enniskillen – which was a success.
“That said, even this provision is completely inadequate. It’s widely known that the number of reported incidents of domestic violence has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic but there is literally nowhere for those living in fear to go. This can be a life or death situation. Three or four emergency units are just not enough.”Continue reading “Stormont must deliver domestic violence refuges and emergency accommodation”
Chris Conway, the Chief Executive of Translink, Northern Ireland’s bus and rail provider, today testified on the state of public transport here. His evidence confirmed the criminal neglect of public transport by Stormont over many years.
Mr Conway exposed the fact that per capita funding for bus and rail services in NI is only 27% of the UK average. That is Stormont spends just a little bit more than a quarter of what Westminster, Holyrood and Cardiff spend on bus and rail services – for every man, woman and child.
This situation is compounded by the fact that Northern Ireland is a rural region and the cost of operating public transport here is far higher due to our sparse population densities.
Mr Conway warned that the very future of Translink itself was uncertain and said that underfunding of public transport left it facing question marks over its financial viability.
1,000 bus and rail services under threat!
In a comment which highlights just how bad things are. The Translink Chief Executive warned that one thousand bus and rail services would be lost if the budget remained 10 percent below where it was. He further said that these would be primarily in rural areas.
This would mean Stormont presiding over the greatest calamity in public transport here since the railways were closed and the tracks lifted up in the late 1950s.
Continue reading “Bus and rail services once again under attack from Stormont austerity”
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.
Continue reading “Latest housing stats expose Stormont parties are in the hip pocket of property developers”
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).
Continue reading “Exposing the pollution of our waterways”
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.Continue reading “Enniskillen needs a Post Office!”
Cross-Community Labour Councillor for Enniskillen Donal O’Cofaigh has written to the Chief Officer of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service to obtain a date when a full-time fire station will return to the county.
“I have written to NI Fire and Rescue Chief Officer Michael Graham to ask him when the full time complement will return to Enniskillen Fire Station.
“At the commencement of the COVID-19 lockdown, the full-time team based in Enniskillen was moved to Omagh. From firefighters themselves I understood this to be a short-term measure related to contingency planning around the pandemic. We recognised that there was relatively less risk on being dependent on part-time firefighters when most on-call firefighters were already at home but nonetheless it has been an issue that I’ve been closely monitoring.Continue reading “Full-time fire service cover must return to Enniskillen”
Tuesday [May 12th] two days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson released his government’s plan on how to end the lockdown, the Northern Ireland executive produced their own roadmap on reopening the economy.
The document gave no indicative dates for the transition between each step of re-emergence, as had that of both governments in London and Dublin, but in most other regards the roadmap was closely aligned to that of the Tories and therefore of the economic interests of those who seek a speedy return to normal business in the midst of a global pandemic.
Increased divisions and tensions
Contrary to attempts by the parties to make a virtue of necessity by claiming their collective inability to even agree an alternative, indicative timeline was ‘science-led’, the failure to do so reflects the deep divisions existing between the executive parties and the contested nature of the state in Northern Ireland.
Since the inception of this crisis, the DUP has sought to align Northern Ireland with ‘herd immunity’ approach taken by the UK government – where workers and the vulnerable pay with their lives to minimise the economic damage to the capitalist class.Continue reading “The Northern Ireland Executive’s road map to exit lockdown”