Coogan Challenges SDLP View Of Ballynahinch

BALLYNAHINCH Sinn Féin Councillor Mickey Coogan has expressed concern at comments made about the town by SDLP Councillor Ann McAleenan in last week’s press. Councillor Coogan said, “An SDLP delegation recently visited the town along with the Social Development Minister Alex Attwood and during that visit they claimed they were going to regenerate the town. While I welcome this and the fact that they finally found their way to Ballynahinch, I was concerned and angered at Councillor McAleenan’s comments, particularly her reference to Ballynahinch as a town on its knees. “I was however heartened by her admission that for too many years the town had been starved of investment and that the regeneration of the town had been put on the long finger.” [caption id="attachment_8505" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Sinn Féin Councillor Micky Coogan has challenged SDLP election candidate Councillor Anne McAleenan"][/caption] Councillor Coogan added, “There is no doubt that Ballynahinch has suffered from a lack of investment in the past – it is one of the reasons I ran for Council in 2005 and, I suspect, part of the reason I was elected. It is also the reason I fought to secure a streetscape scheme in the town; fought to get Council to buy the Market House and am still fighting to put Council departments in that building. “My view is that if people work here, they will shop, trade and ultimately want to live here. Most of us want to live close to where we work, where our children can go to a good school, where they can access basic services and where better than Ballynahinch? “That is why I fought to get a new Civic Amenity Site for the town, which will be opened for business in July. It is why I fought to get new sports and leisure facilities in the town, such as the new 2G hockey pitch at St Colman’s High School, and am still fighting to get a new town leisure centre. “A modern leisure centre that meets the needs of an expanding town is an absolute priority. That is why I have worked with local sports and community partnerships to secure funding for additional sporting, recreational and community facilities at the Lough Park area of the town. That is why I supported a bid by Temple Rangers to secure a lease of the Langley Playing Fields, so that they could progress a community initiative. “That is why I alone fought to secure the provision of Social housing at Riverside/River Meadows, when every other Ballynahinch councillor objected to the planning application. That is why, as Chairperson of the Cultural and Economic Development Committee I wrote to and met with several multi-national companies to secure investment in Ballynahinch and I have every confidence that this will produce positive results in the very near future. “Ballynahinch may well have been a town on its knees during the past misrule of other political parties, fortunately it is now a town that is growing and getting back on its feet. “The Social Development Minister will give us the money we need to improve the town centre, even though his predecessor in that role, Margaret Ritchie, let the LOTS scheme collapse. We will get the Council investment to support DSD and we will get this because we’re no longer the forgotten town. When Martin McGuinness approved the finance to build the Assumption Grammar School, he did so in the knowledge that Ballynahinch was a growing town. If he and others can see the potential of our town, then it’s also a shame that some of our local Councillors can’t.” McAleenan Says Coogan Is Living In Fantasy Land SDLP Ballynahinch Councillor Anne McAleenan has said Councillor Mickey Coogan’s comments about his achievements in Ballynahinch “lack credibility.” She said, “Councillor Coogan’s statement is bordering on the preposterous and it’s a shame that he feels the need to attack the SDLP just because an election is looming. [caption id="attachment_21903" align="alignright" width="195" caption="Councillor Anne McAleenan has responded to Councillor Mickey Coogan's comments. "][/caption] “His claims of all that he has done are so lacking in credibility and will not fool the people of Ballynahinch. In fact some of the projects which he claims glory for were actually initiated by the SDLP. “Is Councillor Coogan seriously saying that Ballynahinch is not in difficulty given the vast number of to let premises, boarded up buildings and soaring unemployment? “The reality is that IRA bombed the heart out of Ballynahinch, held it back from developing and deterred investment into the town. “Town centre renewal has been a key part of the SDLP/DSD strategy for the past four years and a public realm scheme for Ballynahinch would not even be on the radar had it not been for decisive action by SDLP Leader Margaret Ritchie when minister to meet traders and ensure that a plan for the town goes ahead. “As ministers, both Margaret Ritchie and Alex Attwood have invested heavily in town centre regeneration in order to sustain and increase local employment. “The evidence of this is in towns across the North including Newcastle whereby improvements to the streetscape, roads and promenade have seen the footfall of businesses on the main street up 300%. “Our town needs help and that is why the SDLP Leader Margaret Ritchie and Minister Alex Attwood returned to Ballynahinch last week to examine what measures needed to be taken to reinvigorate our town. “It is the reason why the SDLP minister has suggested money be allocated for Ballynahinch by the Department of Social Development and has flagged up a £1million public realm scheme to benefit people here. “Councillor Coogan should have a chat to his ministerial colleagues and query why they have failed to allocate adequate funding to implement all the requirements needed for urban regeneration in Ballynahinch. “He should also inquire where his party’s roads minister Conor Murphy is on the bypass for Ballynahinch? The answer is nowhere.”]]>