South Down Supercouncil Selects Name

It was a lengthy council meeting as the various parties squared up for the final showdown to pick a name for the South Down shadow council, Newry Mourne and Downe.

After rounds of voting, and hours of discussion at previous meetings and around £30,000 being spent on consultant’s fees, the new name was finally selected amidst tense last minute gambits by parties.

The new name of the shadow Newry Mourne and Down District Council is … wait for it… drumroll… Newry Mourne and Down District Council !

dn_screenThe first round of voting to eliminate two options was held. The results were: Slieve Lough 45, Mourne Regional 39, Newry City Mourne and Gullion, 83, and Newry Mourne and Down 82. The two lowest were eliminated. It then went to a straight vote and from the 40 councillors present (one was absent) Newry Mourne and Down took 23 votes and the full Sinn Féin contingent voted for Newry City Mourne and Gullion with 17 votes. The name Newry Mourne and Downe District Council was duly elected.

In the local government legislation, on page one, the words “District Council” must be tagged on to whatever name is decided. There is an option to change to “borough” status in the name at a later date if it is granted but the cost and benefits of that exercise would have to be calculated.

South Armagh Community Suffers A Very Deliberate Council Snub Says Sinn Féin

In a statement released after the meeting, Slieve Gullion area Sinn Féin Councillor Terry Hearty said: “The exclusion of the entire south Armagh district from the new Council name would be viewed by most who lived there as a very deliberate snub.

“All Sinn Féin elected representatives supported the Newry City, Mourne & Gullion proposal. We felt that this name reflected the entire region that we serve and also give recognition to Newry as the principal City. There is no ryhme or reason as to why in particular the SDLP have deliberately snubbed our area”.

His colleague Cllr Barra Ó Muirí commenting on what he described was “a disgraceful decision” said: “Those who live here,and work here, and who invested in and promoted this area are rightly angry. South Armagh has once again been cast aside”.

Meanwhile Cllr Mickey Larkin said that questions about how £30,000 was spent on a consultant to come up with a name which was the name that already existed would have to be asked.

He added: “This consultation exercise now seems a complete and utter waste of ratepayers money. From the outset it had been agreed that the one name that wouldn’t be put forward was the name given to the shadow Council, Newry Mourne & Down, the name that now has had been chosen by the majority SDLP and Unionist bloc”.

Sinn Féin South Armagh elected representative Roisin Mulgrew voicing her anger explained: “Throughout all workshops it was recognised that investment in tourism was the most realistic way to generate employment and investment, Gullion has been a success story in terms of tourism and our name included the two areas of outstanding beauty which the new council hoped to build on. The exclusion of an entire region of this new Council area has detached and isolated many who day and daily are working to ensure its well being and sustainability.”

SDLP Welcomes New Council Name

SDLP Group Leader on Newry, Mourne & Down District Council, Colin McGrath, has welcomed the council’s selection of Newry, Mourne & Down District Council as its new name.

He said: “Firstly I welcome this name as it can be identified by all residents across our district as it is essentially the amalgamation of the two legacy council names.

“There were a variety of names under consideration, some of which we had added to the list to allow a thorough examination of all alternatives, but the name had to be one that was agreeable to the majority of people.

“We have all found through this process that people wanted a name that they can identify with, that easily sells the district’s tourist and economic strengthens and that didn’t discriminate against anyone or place within our new area.

“The process undertaken by the appointed consultants was worthwhile in helping to identify alternatives, prompting robust discussion and consideration and enabling engagement with hundreds of people across the district.

“This consultation process enabled consultants to test the names and public acceptance of them and the team will benefit us further in the future with the design and branding work they will undertake with this new name.

“The new council will come to life on the first of April this year, in a few short weeks, and now we have the name identified the SDLP group will be focussing on ensuring seamless service delivery, appropriate council structures to reflect and serve our community best and setting a rate that is fair, equitable and realistic for residents in these difficult economic times.”

Walker Expresses Disappointment

DUP Councillor Billy Walker expressed his disappointment at decision to select the new council name. Speaking after the meeting, he said: “When MArk H Durkin, Environment Minister, and his predecessor Alex Attwood drafted up the local government legislation under the Review of Public Administration, they should have never allowed the councils to select their own names.

“This has led to a melt down already in North Down and Ards for example, and certainly did not help matters in the Down District and Newry and Mourne Council decision. It is just a recipe for disaster.

“The shadow council spent a lot of time and money on this naming process and the Governance Meeting on the 18 December was quite clear in setting out three names finally to chose from. The DUP and UKIP agreed to this process and stuck by it. We favoured Mourne Regional District Council.

“Sinn Féin then introduced another name and we voted against it. The SDLP then introduced another name – Newry Mourne and Down – which we on principle opposed as it was not on of the three agreed names.

“The two bigger parties played off each other and Sinn Féin were not going to get their preferred option which was Newry City and Mourne and Gullion.

“After the deselection of two names we were left with a straight choice on two and the Chamber voted for Newry Mourne and Down District Council as the new name.

“We had already spent a lot of time on this and around £30,00 on consultants fees. I’m just disappointed we did not stick to what was agreed on the 18 December. We supported the Newry Mourne and Down option in the end as we had no choice – it was the better of the two options.”

Craig Unhappy with New Name

DUP Councillor Garth Craig said: “I am disappointed that an opportunity was missed to come up with a new name for the Council such as “Mourne” which would have denoted a new start for the combined Council. That name would have been short, easy to say and indicated a new beginning.

“When the final two short listed names came for a vote I felt that we were being presented with Hobson’s choice. Now that the name has been decided there is still a lot of hard work to be done between now and the “go live” date for the new Council of 1 April 2015.”