Newry.ie
Write a comment
Pin It

This week's full monthly meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council hosted a heated 'who said what' conversation, concerning the type of bridge to be built over Newry Ship Canal as part of the Southern Relief Road project, that's being advanced at present by the Department for Infrastructure.

At Tuesday night's meeting, 4 May, Newry City Councillor, Cllr Roisin Mulgrew commenting on an accusation made about her during an online Newry 2020 public meeting on 14 April accused Rowallane Councillor, Cllr Patrick Brown of lying and also questioned "how, not only did he get the facts wrong, but how would he be made aware of anything that was In Committee"

A fixed bridge over Newry Ship Canal would mean that boats presently at the Albert Basin in Newry wouldn't be able to get in or out. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
A fixed bridge over Newry Ship Canal would mean that boats presently at the Albert Basin in Newry wouldn't be able to get in or out. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

The 2020 meeting discussed Newry City Regeneration and at that meeting Rowallane Councillor, Cllr Brown had said that Cllr Mulgrew had "proposed we go with a fixed bridge" during an In Committee (ie public and press excluded) item on the Agenda at the Council's Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism meeting, two days earlier on 12 April.

In a statement released after the 2020 meeting Cllr Mulgrew said that “Sinn Féin totally refute this allegation, it is untrue and disappointing that once again the truth is being distorted for a political point scoring agenda”. Forward to this week's meeting and Cllr Mulgrew spoke of her family connection to the waterway and added "we fully intend and always have supported that the lifting bridge and everything that is done to ensure that as we go through the future that we can build and reopen Newry Canal for recreational and tourism purposes". 

In his reply to Cllr Mulgrews accusations on Tuesday night Cllr Brown said he "had access to the same papers that any other Councillor did and could have attended that ERT meeting" and added in his opinion the report that the ERT Committee were asked to consider and submit to the Department for Infrastructure was a "hatchet job" and "that through wholeheartedly backing that report Sinn Féin were damaging the chances of a lifting bridge quite severely" He added "either they didn't bother to read the report, or they're hoping that an SDLP Minister will put an end to the lifting bridge so they can blame her for it,"

Fixed Bridge

At present the DFI are progressing with the preferred option of a fixed bridge over Newry Ship Canal as part of the proposed SRR, linking the Warrenpoint dual carriageway to the A1/N1. A fixed bridge would spell the end of access for tall ships and yachts to the Albert Basin in Newry and 250 years of maritime history.

Economic Assessment of Water Based Activities/ Economic benefit of lifting bridge

The discussion regarding fixed bridge/ lifting bridge really began in earnest at the Council's Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism meeting on 12 April when an "Economic Assessment of Water Based Activities" Presentation was put forward which allegedly was to show the "potential future economic benefits a lifting bridge would bring to Newry City." At that meeting Cllr Mulgrew proposed to accept the officers recommendations on the presentation, seconded by Cllr Ruane but this was lost with 5 for, 8 against and 1 abstention. A second proposal by Cllr Gary Stokes saw it agreed to defer consideration of the report to the May meeting, which will be held this coming Monday 10 May.

Matters arising ....

When the 12 April Enterprise Regeneration and Tourism minutes were brought forward for consideration and adoption at this week's meeting, the Council Chairperson, Cllr Laura Devlin as usual asked regarding matters arising.

Secret

Because Newry.ie or the public aren't allowed to see what exactly is in the report in question, it means all we can legitimately do is to publish the transcript of the discussion on the Item 6 Agenda Item below in full for our readers to try and work out themselves what exactly is going on!

Transcript

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council May Meeting 4/5/21

Item 6 - Minutes of Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee Meeting held on 12 April 2021

Councillor Laura Devlin "I think we have a proposal there from Councillor Stokes and seconded by Councillor McAteer. Have we any matters arising?"

Councillor Roisin Mulgrew "I want to bring something in under matters arising. Many people will be aware that there was a public meeting held online a couple of days after the ERT meeting. At that meeting, it was said by our dear friend, Councillor, Brown, and I quote, Roisin Mulgrew proposed a fixed bridge over the canal and river, the waterways in Newry.

Cllr Roisin Mulgrew


"Now I'm raising this because this is a very serious issue and this issue was initially raised by Councillor Stokes, who quoted some of the facts and figures from a paper which was In Committee. However, it was Councillor Brown that really ran with it. And I have a couple of issues with that because first of all Councillor Brown was not at the ERT Committee meeting, so I'm questioning how, not only did he get the facts wrong, but how would he be made aware of anything that was In Committee. And I know that his colleague Andy McMurray is Chair of that Committee and that's a position which as a Councillor you're paid to do. So I want to ask a question first of all, from Councillor McMurray as Chair, Did he brings something outside a committee item to his friend and did he actually misquote what happened at the meeting?"

"That's the first thing. And I just want to point out to Councillor Brown and to those that have run with this allegation, and there are quite a few, it's been widely reported on social media. First and foremost, no vote nor Proposal was taken regarding the lifting bridge. The recommendation was that we receive the papers, an Independent Economic Appraisal requested by the Minister, and the recommendation was that we forwarded it to DFI for consideration, because this is a ministerial decision. That was the recommendation of the officers and that was what we had proposed. That's the first thing.

"I have been involved with at least two and possibly three meetings with the minister through party, through Council Committees and through the MOU over a number of years. I've also been involved with meetings with the inland waterways, with myself and the local MLA's and MP's and at every stage, we as a party and myself as an individual have said in the strongest possible terms that we support a lifting bridge across those waterways."

"Now for Councillor Brown who would hardly know one end of Newry from the other to be quite honest, I just want to point out that, I find this particularly, I have taken this quite personal because, my father was a member of the inland waterways until the day he died. My family and my father's family, the Golding's over three generations lost members of their family at sea on Fishers boats, the last one being Bernard Golding who was lost at sea on the 27th of October 1941 on The Walnut.

"I like many families from the Newry, South Armagh and Fathom area, our lives are steeped and were dictated by that Canal. It created employment. It turned Newry into what was a major regional market town at the time. It supported scores of industries again, one of my father's Aunt's, Clara or Clare as she was known, Clare Golding, owned what was a restaurant and bathhouse where Friar Tucks is now on Monaghan Street. I know more about the Canal perhaps than many of the Councillor's here because I was raised with stories from my grandmother about the loss of her brother's and her father and her cousin's at sea on Newry Canal.

"I, like Councillors from Newry and further afield are well aware of the significance of Newry Canal and its waterways to the people of Newry and for surrounding areas. There are some things that a monetary value cannot be put on. None of us are under any illusion that the boats that currently use the Albert Basin, it's simply not viable financially. We never asked the Minister about making her decision based on finances only.

"Newry Canal is the very arteries that brought the blood of life into Newry City and beyond. And we fully intend and always have supported that the lifting bridge and everything that is done to ensure that as we go through the future that we can build and reopen Newry Canal for recreational and tourism purposes.

"I find it absolutely incredible, that a Councillor that wasn't even at a meeting got so carried away with having an audience, that he lied. He lied. He wasn't at the Meeting. He didn't know what was said and he had an audience and he ran with it. He didn't care about his party colleague. He didn't care about the other 40 Councillors in this Council, nor did he care about the officers of this Council. But unfortunately, and this is the laughable bit. The same Councillor says he's all about truth and transparency. Really. Really now ....."
The site on Newry Ship Canal where the bridge is proposed to sit. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
The site on Newry Ship Canal where the bridge is proposed to sit. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie


Chairperson Councillor Laura Devlin "That contribution probably refers to ... (illegible)"

Councillor Mulgrew "Another question. I want to question, because there are people listening into this. I want to ask Councillor McMurray, what conversation did he have with his colleague?"

Councillor Devlin "Okay."

Councillor Mulgrew "Secondly, I want to ask the officers of this Council. At the ERT Meeting, which was held last month, did we take a vote on recommending a lifting or a fixed bridge or were we asked simply to refer an Independent Economic Appraisal to the Minister for her consideration. Because ... (illegible)"

Chairperson Cllr Devlin "What I'm going to do is actually I'll bring Conor back in to address that question first of all, you are raising items that actually aren't on this minute itself regarding that meeting that was online of some description. I'll bring Conor in first. I'll allow Patrick a right of reply, but then I'm cutting that off, we're moving on, okay. Conor, could I maybe ask you to come in there on the question that Councillor Mulgrew has asked?"

Conor Mallon, Director of ERT "Yes, Chair. I can just read out what the recommendation was which was presented to the members at the meeting. It was that Committee consider the findings of the Independent Economic Assessment on the potential future economic benefits a lifting bridge would bring to Newry City as part of the Southern Relief Road proposals and to submit this assessment to the DFI officials."

Chairperson "Thank you, Conor. I'm going to allow Councillor Brown back in very briefly, and then we're moving on folks, because this is going into different type of territory there. Patrick, do you want to give a right of reply there?"

Councillor Patrick Brown "Thank you very much Chair appreciate that. That was a very lengthy sermon from Roisin there. Look, she'll know from my comments in the Newry Reporter what my response was in more detail. I'm sure she'll not have been very happy with what I said, but look, that's her prerogative. I don't dispute that she probably does know an awful lot about Newry than me, even as a former South Armagh Councillor, but I'm pretty confident that I probably know a fair bit more about business and economics than she does, and a cursory glance at the Economic Assessment, which was tabled for all Councillors to see at the ERT Committee meeting."
Cllr Patrick Brown



Chairperson Devlin "Sorry Councillor Brown, you're going into territory there that's actually In Committee as such"

Councillor Patrick Brown "It's not actually because I'm just saying that I had access to the same papers that any other Councillor did and could have attended that ERT meeting, if I did so. I'm not talking about the figures or what was in that report, but it was my perspective, or my opinion on that report that it was a hatchet job and it did not do justice to the case for a lifting bridge. And my perspective is that"

Chairperson Cllr Devlin "Patrick I think that report was from an independent consultants. We can't be tearing that apart as such at this meeting in itself. So if you want to get to the point very quickly, and then we're moving on here, this is, this is, this is stuff that's from outside the minute itself."

Councillor Patrick Brown "Well, yes. Well, the point is, I made this very clear my comments to the Newry Reporter that through wholeheartedly backing that report Sinn Féin were damaging the chances of a lifting bridge quite severely. And I think either they didn't bother to read the report, or they're hoping that an SDLP Minister will put an end to the lifting bridge so they can blame her for it, and that's what I suspect, there's a lot of party politics going on here. But look, I'm on the record saying that already."

Chairperson, Councillor Laura Devlin "Okay. Thank you Councillor Brown, we're moving on"

Take Two

The matter will be discussed once again this Monday 10 May at 6pm with the press and public excluded at the Council's online Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism meeting.

Say something here...
or post as a guest
Loading comment... The comment will be refreshed after 00:00.

Be the first to comment.

DONATE TO NEWRY.IE

Please consider supporting Newry.ie

Amount
Newry.ie require Cookies on some parts of our site to enable full functionality. By using Newry.ie you consent to our use of Cookies. You can use your browser settings to disable cookies on this or any other website.