Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

South Armagh Chamber update: Public urged to get behind Gullion campaign

The representatives of the South Armagh Chamber gathered on Monday last at Slieve Gullion Courtyard to announce the launch of their well-publicised petition to the Shadow council, in which they have asked that the South Armagh/Gullion region be included in the renaming of the new council.

Already the petition has gained phenomenal support from locals both within south Armagh and the wider Newry & Mourne area with over 200 signatures online. The Chamber has distributed petitions to most businesses in south Armagh and urge people to use this opportunity to have their say.

Although Chamber president, Colm Murphy, is delighted at the news that the issue of renaming will be raised again and will be voted on at next month’s shadow council meeting, public support for the inclusion of Gullion in the new council name is not enough, as 80% of the 41 councillors need to vote in favour of the Gullion inclusion.

Mr Graeme Finnegan, proprietor of Grounded, said “I can’t help but feel there has been a really great opportunity missed, to package up the area ‘Newry  Mourne & Gullion’ into a very desirable area to visit. What has happened goes in the face of the current tourism strategy laid out and currently being developed by council, businesses and individuals.”

Our understanding is that the company employed by the council to devise a marketing campaign around the new name has outlined to councillors that a short name is preferable, with no more than two or three names.

Chamber Vice President, Mr Raymond Sexton, said: “The principle of an extra-long name to keep everyone happy has been well proven in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in Ireland and the UK, Derry/Londonderry, the British and Irish Lions, to name but a few.

“Words are important, one extra name to include a whole community will demonstrate genuine inclusivity and engagement. This process of change and consultation should be  on a parity of esteem basis and be working towards a shared future.”

The south Armagh area has long felt disenfranchised from Newry & Mourne District Council with councillors from the area previously lobbying for south Armagh to be included within the council name a number of years back – it was subsequently rejected.

Commenting, Colm Murphy said, “As the South Armagh Chamber of Commerce, we are proud of where we live and work. We understand and acknowledge our past history, yet we are working towards sustaining peace through social and economic development of the area. Unfortunately our area has and continues to suffer negative publicity at the hands of the media, thus in recent years in cooperation with Newry and Mourne District Council we have actively supported and enhanced a new tourism brand (Mourne Mountains and Ring of Gullion) around our primary natural resource, Slieve Gullion.

“We have worked tirelessly with help from the various agencies to enhance this brand at home and internationally. We like the ‘Ring of Gullion’. We, in Gullion, want to play our part in the future of the region, we want to be the most positive and progressive area of the new council in a time of change and a new era. We want to be recognised as part of it! It is my hope that councillors that read this article understand how absolutely important it is for the Gullion region, its residents and businesses to have a positive affiliation with the new council moving forward.

“We ask all councillors in both outgoing councils to reconsider their stance and vote for a positive outcome and inclusiveness for all. In the words of President Michael D. Higgins “The mandate I have received and for which I will speak with head and heart to implement has its four pillars – an inclusive citizenship, equality and participation and respect in a creative society creating an excellence in everything we Irish do”.