Bus shelter row “dragged through the gutter”: Byrne

February 25, 2018

SDLP Slieve Gullion Councillor Pete Byrne has accused Sinn Fein of deliberately attempting to “make a circus” over the recent debate regarding the public bus shelter located in Cloughreagh Park in Bessbrook.

Councillor Byrne dismissed claims from Sinn Fein that his party wanted the bus shelter removed, saying SDLP councillors proposed it be “relocated” within the estate.

“Over the last week there has been a monumental effort to create a circus and set a false narrative that Cloughreagh Park will be left without a bus shelter,” Councillor Byrne said.

“Let me be clear, Cloughreagh Park will have bus shelter erected once a suitable location is found that is acceptable to all residents. This will be progressed through the Council’s Regulatory, Technical and Services (RTS) committee and again will be open to public consultation.”

Referring to a debate on the subject at last Monday’s Council meeting, Mr Byrne reacted angrily to claims made by Sinn Fein councillors, describing them as “misleading”.

“What occurred at this month’s Council meeting, and overseen by Councillor Mulgrew, was nothing short of a disgrace and below the high standards ratepayers should expect from local government.  What was and remains a sensitive issue involving a vulnerable family should have been openly debated in a respectful manner and not dragged through the gutter as was the case,” he said.

“On Monday night, Sinn Fein Councillor Mickey Larkin delivered a ten-minute monologue bereft of any facts, figures and statistics which he claimed to only deal with. Furthermore, he presented a version of events built around the grossly misleading concept that the SDLP wish to remove the bus shelter from Cloughreagh Park. The proposal the SDLP put forward however was to ‘relocate’ the bus shelter due to special circumstances arising from its current location.  It was also bizarre to hear him to dismiss signatories of a petition of those who objected to its current location while at the same time acknowledge a petition of those who supported it. 

“All parties are in agreement that the shelter is needed, the only issue to be settled is its final location.”

Councillor Byrne says he has raised concerns over the positioning of the bus shelter at previous meetings, and spoke on behalf of residents, seeking answers to a number of pressing questions”: “Did Translink play any part in the selection of this site and if not, did they express an opinion on its suitability? Have the council officials been consistent when considering the concerns raised by all those residents who felt vulnerable?” he asked.

Expressing dissatisfaction at the “inadequate” responses he received, Councillor Byrne says he has called on the Council’s Chief Executive to identify an alternative site for the bus shelter, and he angrily accused Sinn Fein Councillor Roisin Mulgrew of attempting “to silence him”.

“I got involved in politics to represent those who are most vulnerable in our society, I will not allow cheap party politics to dampen my voice when speaking up for those who simply want to be listened to especially those affected by this issue.

“Unfortunately, this is the latest in a long string of cases where the Chairperson [Mulgrew] has moved to silence me in the Chamber and subsequently attack me through the media.

“Whether it was the Albert Basin Park, funding for Slieve Gullion festivals, plans for a Health Committee or the bus shelter at Cloughreagh, there is a clear pattern emerging from Councillor Mulgrew’s tenure as Chairperson of the Council which only compounds the lack of openness and transparency which has been evident throughout the year.  I call on the Chairperson again to reflect on her actions and urge her to open up debate in the Chamber to ensure fairness at all times.

“In relation to the bus shelter, I will continue to work with all other Councillors to find a solution that accommodates all the residents of Cloughreagh,” he added.