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Ovens in as Baird steps down as Councillor

AFTER almost two decades on the Council, Alex Baird has announced he will not be putting his name forward on the ballot for the upcoming elections in May.

First elected to the Council in 2005, UUP man Cllr Baird was the only unionist representative for Erne West. Local man Mark Ovens has now been selected to replace him on the ballot, in the hope of retaining the seat.

Cllr Baird said he had “thoroughly enjoyed” his time serving on the Council.

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“After 18 years however and grandkids that are growing up far too quickly, I’ve decided it’s time for me to take a step back from front-line politics. Whilst I’ll remain a committed member of the UUP I feel it’s now time for the next generation to carry on the mantle.”

Cllr Baird said he was delighted local party members had selected Mr Ovens to run in his place, stating he “really couldn’t think of a better and more suited candidate to hopefully retain the seat.”

Likewise, Mr Ovens said he was looking forward to the campaign ahead.

The 34-year-old married father-of-two had been living in Belfast and served as a special adviser to former Health Minister Robin Swann. In 2017 he moved home to Fermanagh, however, to be closer to his family’s beef and sheep farm in Slavin.

He said the benefits of living in Fermanagh far outweighed the challenges.

“Fermanagh’s a great place to live and raise a family,” he said. “The county doesn’t ask for too much but our fair share of government investment and adequate public services is the very least we deserve.

“Whilst the functions of the Council have grown over the last decade given its ratepayers money ultimately all councillors should have an obligation to ensure it’s spent wisely.”

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He said that role was now more important than ever, in the absence of an Executive and ministers, “Working closely with Robin Swann until last year I saw each day the real damage that the political instability at Stormont was causing on our most important public services.

“For instance, whilst I still believe that SWAH’s long-term future is secure, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s current challenges are being exacerbated by the absence of an Executive.”

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Meanwhile the outgoing council chairman came under fire again over his refusal to condemn the 1987 Enniskillen bomb.

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