New Council name choice ‘a deliberate snub’ to south Armagh

January 12, 2015

Slieve Gullion area Sinn Féin councillor Terry Hearty has described the exclusion of the entire south Armagh district from the new Council name as a “devastating blow” to the area.

Speaking to The Examiner after the vote was cast to retain the name given to the shadow Council – Newry, Mourne and Down, Mr Hearty said the decision to omit any mention of south Armagh in the title is a “very deliberate snub” which did nothing to promote tourism in the region.

After a public consultation period and proposals put forward by political parties before Christmas, last Monday’s shortlist was whittled down from four to two – Newry City, Mourne and Gullion, which was proposed by Sinn Fein, and Newry, Mourne and Down which was already being used as a working title for the shadow council in recent months.

Sinn Fein had originally proposed the name South Armagh and South Down for the new council but, when this failed to make the shortlist, 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 gave recognition to Newry as the principal City. There is no rhyme or reason as to why in particular the SDLP have deliberately snubbed our area,” said Mr Hearty.

“The feedback we had received from several local groups was that it was vitally important to have the south Armagh or Gullion name as part of the new logo in order to promote this beautiful region and boost tourism in the area.  We have a serious pot of money invested in this area and projects in progress, yet it has been completely ignored in favour of a name which was already being used.

“Why are we in south Armagh not on a par with other areas?” asked an angry Mr Hearty.

Party colleague, Sinn Fein councillor Barra Ó Muirí described the omission of south Armagh as a “disgraceful decision.”

“Those who live here, work here, invested in and promoted this area are rightly angry. south Armagh has once again been cast aside,” he said.

Voicing her anger, Sinn Féin south Armagh elected representative Roisin Mulgrew said it was widely recognised throughout several workshops 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,” she said.

“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 wellbeing and sustainability.”

Sinn Fein have also questioned why upwards of £30,000 was spent on consultancy firm, McCadden Design, only for all five names proposed from its public consultation to be cast aside before a further three were put forward by local political parties.

Sinn Fein councillor Mickey Larkin branded the consultation exercise “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,” said Mr Larkin.

The consultation cost also caused a storm on social media with many local residents expressing their anger that thousands had been spent only to retain the original name “while many charities and youth clubs fall by the wayside.”

Crotlieve Councillor Connaire McGreevy weighed into the argument, criticising how the renaming consultation was conducted.

“If a proper tender for the services is carried out it should have a brief that will have had input into what the authority is looking for from the service provider,” he said.

“If, as it turned out and is proving – it is a political decision, then each political party or individual councillor should have had a part to play in ensuring that a brief contained the correct information to get the best possible value for money suggestions back.

“As it turned out that was not the case and, after spending a lot of money that belongs to the hard pressed people and businesses in the area, they end up with the same old ‘free’ name suggested by the DoE,” he added.