Protest planned after rates meeting ends on sour note

A PROTEST will be held at the Townhall in Enniskillen this weekend in protest at the council’s decision to raise the local district rate again this year.
On Monday night, local councillors voted 23 to 10 in favour of raising the rates by 2.72 per-cent which, when coupled with the regional rates freeze, will see overall rates bills increase by 1.2 per-cent.
However, the vote was not without controversy, with bitter exchanges breaking out after some members were not permitted to speak before the vote was taken, which although recorded, will not be disclosed publicly until the minutes are published.
Now, a protest has been organised for 1pm this Saturday, February 19, at the Townhall in Enniskillen in protest at both the increase and what the councillors involved described as “silencing.”
At Monday night’s special meeting, chief executive, Alison McCullagh, recommended members agree to striking a district rate for the financial year 2022/23 at 22.7240 pence in the pound for non-domestic, and 0.3819 pence in the pound for domestic.
Proposing to accept, Sinn Fein Cllr Tommy Maguire said he was happy to support the increase, stating the estimates working group was “satisfied the rate before us is sensible and robust.”
UUP Cllr Robert Irvine said his party was not fully in support of the recommendation to increase the rate, however DUP Cllr Paul Robinson was content to second the recommendations in full.
The SDLP’s Mary Garrity said she supported the increase.
“While we would all love a zero rate, it’s not achievable for what we need to do,” she said.
Following these statements, the chair declined any further speakers, and noting dissension moved to the vote, which Cllr Irvine called to be recorded.
Although the recommendations had passed “overwhelmingly”, the chair decided to allow some speakers, who were furious they were not permitted to contribute ahead of the vote.
Independent Cllr Donal O’Cofaigh, stated, “I wish to publicly protest at the fact we were completely excluded from having any input, in probably the most important decision we will make in the next year.”
While the chair insisted nobody had been excluded, Cllr O’Cofaigh said “our voices weren’t heard.” Independent Cllr Emmet McAleer also slammed the allowing of some members to speak more than once while others were ignored.
“You are completely excluding the smaller parties and independents,” he said. “Decisions were taken at workshops, not publicly, open or accountable.”
Cllr McAleer was muted, and the meeting was brought to a close.

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