Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Platform piece: Sinn Féin seeks to set the record straight 

Submitted by Councillor Michael Ruane, Sinn Fein Group Leader on Newry, Mourne and Down District Council

In recent weeks much has been said about the aspiration of Newry town to build a world-class public park for our citizens.

Sinn Féin is entirely and unequivocally committed to developing a public park in Newry at the Albert Baisin siteand delivering this project for our town. This is a position we have held for years.

This is a project that has the potential to transform Newry, and give ample space for families, tourists and young people to spend their time in a state-of-the-art public facility.

 But precisely because of the scale and importance of this project, as a town, and as local Councillors, we must ensure we are responsible, thorough, and committed to delivering the best possible project for local residents and the ratepayers of the District.

Any public project of this size legally requires consideration of a full range of economic options, including examining all potential options for a park. We need to know the full cost. This includes clearing contamination, development of the site and determining future maintenance costs.

Unfortunately the motion tabled at Newry, Mourne and Down Council by the SDLP and Alliance last Monday night contained no costs, no figures, no plans, no risk assessments, and no consultation with relevant government bodies.

The Councillors behind the motion know this. They also knew that, as a result of Council rules they agreed to, this motion would be passed straight to the committee dealing with development projects without debate or votes.

 Sinn Féin has hundreds of public representatives in Dublin, Belfast, London, and Brussels and in local councils throughout Ireland. No branch of government anywhere in the world would approve a plan without any details whatsoever, and without the, legally required, project development work completed.

 For those Councillors to play party politics and misinform the public about the future of our public park project is deeply cynical and irresponsible. The people of Newry deserve better than this.

Unlike others whose only contribution to this debate has been cheap party political point scoring Sinn Féin won’t be deflected from developing a public park project for our town and its residents and delivering the best deal for Newry.

 We will ensure, through the appropriate Council committee, that a proper development proposal with full public consultation is carried out to deliver a park for Newry in the shortest timeframe possible. 

Such a public consultation should include all residents and campaign groups, users of the waterway, government departments and the relevant authorities. This ensures that the entire community shapes a vision for our park, and Sinn Féin will deliver on this project.