Tuesday saw the first meeting of the newly formed Newry, Mourne and Down Council in the Downshire Civic Centre, Downpatrick with all of the 41 recently elected members in attendance. 

Shadow Council Presiding Councillor Charlie Casey (L), Deputy Presiding Councillor Declan McAteer (R) and (Centre) Chief Executive Designate for the new Council of Newry, Mourne and Down, Mr Liam Hannway.
Shadow Council Presiding Councillor Charlie Casey (L), Deputy Presiding Councillor Declan McAteer (R) and (Centre) Chief Executive Designate for the new Council of Newry, Mourne and Down, Mr Liam Hannway.

The new Council was convened as a result of legislation passed by the NI Assembly to dissolve the Local Government Act 1972 and restructure local government in NI under a new Local Government Act 2014.  

This Council, which will be known as the Shadow Council for the next ten months, is a significant milestone in the creation of a new single Council for the Down District and Newry & Mourne District Council areas, which will be established on 1 April 2015.

Councillor Charlie Casey from Newry was appointed as Presiding Councillor of the new Council and Councillor Declan McAteer from Crotlieve was appointed as the Deputy Presiding Councillor.  These positions will be held for this first term, June 2014 – March 2015.

Councillor Casey commented, “I am delighted to be nominated as the first Presiding Chair of Newry, Mourne and Down Council and I wish to thank my Party (Sinn Fein) for entrusting me with this important role.  The work of the Shadow Council in the first year is vitally important as it will shape the direction which Newry, Mourne and Down Council will take.  Sinn Fein has extremely high hopes for the new Council and I want to start by congratulating each of my 40 fellow councillors on their election success.

The citizens of Newry, Mourne and Down have placed their trust in us and it is important that we deliver top class services for them.

I also want to wish Liam Hannaway and all of the Council officers well in their new roles and I am confident that we will create a good working relationship and work as equal partners for the development of this new district.

There is much work to be done over the Council term and I am enthused and energised for the challenges ahead.  So let’s go forward in a spirit of comradeship to provide the people of this district from Culloville to Saintfield and everywhere in between with the service they deserve.”

Public Services delivered by Councils will remain largely unaffected by the restructuring.  However, the new Council will have transferred powers and functions from central government.  Functions transferring include:  Planning, Community Planning, Regeneration and some aspects of Housing.

Councillor McAteer explained, “The new Council will have an important role in relation to all Planning applications for development of the new area, we will have the power to approve Planning applications.  In my position of Vice Chairman, I believe that we have to prove to the people that the devolution of power to our local Council is seen by the public on the ground and that they will have a positive experience and confidence in what we do.  As I take up this position, I give an undertaking that I and my Party (SDLP) colleagues will do our utmost to realise these expectations

A new Community Plan will also be developed in partnership with other public service providers in our area, this will enable us to address the needs and aspirations of communities.  I look forward to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council leading and facilitating on this programme.  Integrating both these functions will bring a new synergy and a more complete view of how the district should be developed for the greater good of our communities and our environment.

We want to deliver for everyone at all levels, we want to deliver well, we want to deliver the right things and we want to deliver with integrity."

Mr Liam Hannaway, who took up the post of Chief Executive Designate for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council in April 2014 remarked, “I am delighted with the clear political direction provided by the Members at their first meeting.  It is a good model for moving forward to developing a new vision and clear objectives for the new district.  All of the new DEA’s were represented, it was a really good turnout.  I look forward to seeing the benefits of streamlining our resources and delivering modern day services in a more appropriate and business-like manner.”

The new Council Chief Executive will initially be supported by a small team of officials who will work towards transferring staff to the new Council, decide on its own budget and set the new district rate.

Shadow Council meetings will take place every month and are open to the public to attend.  The next Council meeting will be on Tuesday 8 July 2014 at 6pm in Downshire Civic Centre.

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