Newcastle's O'Boyle Speaks Out

Letter to the Editor. Dear Editor, (re: the future of Newcastle). On Thursday 19th May a public meeting was held in the Newcastle Centre to allow local people and elected residents to contribute to Down District Council’s Corporate Plan for 2011-2015. Over 150 groups were contacted and invited to attend. The Corporate Plan for our district incorporates all of our ideas for leisure provision, the Downe Hospital, education, community safety, jobs, modernisation and reform of local government, central government, maintenance of quality services, statutory obligations, sustainability and waste management. In other words, it is the canvas on which we draw the future roadmap for the people of our district for the next four years, and the consultation meeting was an opportunity for everyone from the Newcastle area to contribute to that future plan. Within the next four years, the likelihood is that RPA will happen and the area that comprises Down District will be subsumed into the greater Newry and Mourne area. This meeting was all the more important therefore, because it may be our last chance to do all that we want to do before RPA happens. In Newcastle a new leisure centre is at the top of most people’s agendas, regardless of where we decide to build it. You can imagine how disappointing it was therefore, that at Thursday’s meeting in Newcastle there were two council officials, a facilitator, a DUP councillor from Ballynahinch, one member of the public, and myself, as the only Newcastle councillor there, representing the SDLP. We have just come to the end of an election campaign during which we were repeatedly advised that changes needed to be made to Down District’s  political landscape, with ‘new faces’ the order of the day. All sorts of pledges and promises were made that people would finally receive the political representation they have been crying out for, and when elected, these politicians were fulsome in their gratitude to the electorate. Looking round an empty room on Thursday, I wondered where these new Messiahs were. The meeting was good nonetheless and a lot of work was done in the absence of the many stakeholders in Newcastle whose voices do need to be heard and whose contributions are essential if we are to take all views on board before decisions are made. There will be two further consultation events for the people of Downpatrick on 24th May and for the people of Ballynahinch on 26th May, so with any luck these will have a better turn-out than we had in Newcastle last week. Their elected representatives may even put in an appearance as well.” Yours, Cllr Carmel O’Boyle]]>