THE CONTINUED absence of the Stormont Assembly was undoubtedly one the main issues for voters at this year’s local election, dominating the conversation on the doorsteps along with Brexit, rates and roads.
Councillors hold little power over these topics, aside from rates, though, while those who do have the power to work on the issues, our MLAs, can do little without a functioning Executive. This begs the question, as our only currently working elected representatives, should councillors be given more powers? We asked Fermanagh’s newly elected councillors their views.
Alex Baird pointed out expanding council powers was part of the NI Local Government Association policy, while his party colleague Victor Warrington said he “would love to see more powers from Stormont devolved down to local government” and said it was “really needed.”
Garbhan McPhillips said the people of his area were very frustrated at the lack of a functioning Assembly.
“We are contacted on a range of issues that in cases we really can’t do anything about,” he said. “I do think getting more powers to deal with local issues would be a good idea.”
Thomas O’Reilly said he believed local government was best placed to deliver as close to citizens as possible, but said extra powers should come with extra funding.
“There’s no point in hiving off things then not following through with the finance to run it,” he said. “We do need some other powers that can be of benefit to the local area and I think local government has proven over the last number of years they are fit to deliver on those issues.”
Sinn Fein party colleague Siobhan Currie agreed: “I think local politics on the ground works. We’re in closer contact with people, we live in the communities, we know the issues that are affecting our communities.”
Newly elected Adam Gannon said he would rather see Stormont and the Executive restored instead.
“You see about certain more responsibilities, in terms of smaller things, that could definitely be an idea for future, but the ideal situation is to get Stormont back up and running,” he said.
Posted: 3:34 pm May 8, 2019