Sinn Fein and DUP combine to block proposed new Civic Centre: SDLP claim

November 10, 2014

A Newry SDLP Councillor has criticised Sinn Fein and the DUP who, he says, have “combined” to block the construction of a new Civic Centre in Newry, which has been proposed by his party.

Councillor Gary Stokes revealed that during a recent meeting of the new super Council, councillors from Sinn Fein and the DUP voted against the idea, a decision he described as “troubling” and has evoked worry for the future prosperity of the city.

“With the decision already taken to hold meetings of the new council in Downpatrick and to shelve the proposed extension to the council chamber at Monaghan Row, the SDLP proposed that a new Civic Centre for Newry be included in the 2015-2019 Council Corporate Plan to be completed by 2019,” Councillor Stokes explained.

Pointing out that his party follows a twin centre approach to the new district, with Downpatrick as the county town and Newry as the city, he explained that the new district was divided by a mountain range with very limited transport linkages meaning basing everything in one place made no economic or logistical sense.  The council premises on Monaghan Row is no longer fit for purpose and does not provide a modern working environment for staff or visitors nor appropriate disability access, he added.

Criticising the opposition to the proposal for a Civic Centre in the city, he said: “I am both shocked and disappointed.  We have followed a twin centre approach from day one.  The DUP I can half understand, they have no representatives on this half of the new District, but the Sinn Fein stance I find astonishing.  I was able to rely on support from all my party colleagues from places such as Ardglass and Saintfield but Sinn Fein’s Newry representatives voted against it.  It is very troubling and I am worried for the future prosperity and well being of our city and its surrounding towns and villages.”

However, Sinn Fein Councillor Mickey Ruane dismissed the claims and accused the SDLP of contradicting itself by attempting to be “all things to all people”.

“On one night the SDLP in Newry and Mourne Council are calling for the Council to put out a brief to developers for a new Civic Centre in Newry to be backed by February 2015, whilst on the other hand, the next night in the new Council, the same Party is arguing that a Newry Civic Centre proposal be included in a 2015-2019 Council corporate plan,” Councillor Ruane said.

“The facts as they presently sit are that authority is now granted to officials of the new Council to prepare a feasibility study outlining the key issues for the development of a new Civic and Administration Centre in Newry.  O’Hagan House in Monaghan Row is designated as the Administration Headquarters of the new Council and also the Mayor/Chairman and Chief Executive will be based in Newry,” he added.