Mid Ulster District Council responds to humanitarian and refugee crisis

Mid Ulster District Council responds to humanitarian and refugee crisis

Following up on last weeks special meeting requested by Sinn Féin to look at practical options to provide support to the growing humanitarian and refugee crisis, Mid Ulster Council has agreed practical steps to be rolled out with immediate effect.

Council have unanimously agreed three options that will compliment the work that local charities and individuals have commenced to help with the crisis. 

Firstly the council will initiate a promotion campaign encouraging people to donate monetary contributions through a number of charities. 

Secondly, the council will liaise directly with the Irish and British Governments, and also directly to the European Union, calling on more action to be taken to resolve this issue, and also outlining its commitment to working in partnership providing real support to those who come to the area. Thirdly the council has agreed to strategically plan ahead with all key stakeholders to ensure the district is ready when people arrive in the area

Sinn Féin group leader Ronan McGinley who called for the meeting commented “I would like to thank council staff for their quick response and for taking our direction which has allowed the council to take swift action. The options agreed by the council are realistic, will provide real help and echo the mood of many of the citizens in Mid Ulster. Again I would like to commend the work of those who are providing donations, gathering aid and those who are loudly speaking out about the disastrous circumstances people are finding themselves in”. 

“I’m proud to live in an area that is as outraged as I am that in today’s world people can still find themselves in such horrible conditions. As a society, we can and must to more to help, I’m very proud that Mid Ulster will play a part in making the life’s for some a bit better”.

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Humanitarian crisis warranted the calling of the Mid Ulster District Council Emergency meeting

Humanitarian crisis warranted the calling of the Mid Ulster District Council Emergency meeting

The humanitarian crisis warranted the calling of the Mid Ulster District Council Emergency meeting. 

We are quite literally talking about people living in unacceptable conditions. We are talking about people being denied their basic human rights. To our shame, we are talking about people dying in unimaginable numbers. 

The people who find themselves in the centre of this crisis must find new homes and lives due to the circumstances in their home countries. 

United Nation figures at the end of 2014 suggest there are 19.5 million refugees in the world. This figure is growing on a daily basis to the tune of 42,500 people a day are forced to leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere.

Internally Displaced Persons throughout the world, that is those who are forcibly uprooted and displaced within their own country, is estimated to be in the region of 38.2 million. 

These figures should outrage people and much more needs to be done to help bring this to an end. 

Recent media and public attention has been focussed on the crisis occurring in Syria due to the heart-breaking images we have seen through various media outlets. The United Nation figures suggest that the highest source of refugees is currently Syria, with approximately 4.9 million people. 

It’s important to note that United Nations figures also suggest there are currently 5.1 million Palestinian refugees, that’s 200,000 more. We should be shouting from the rooftops about our Palestinian brothers and sisters who have been forgotten by many in the Western world. Media outlets should be held to account for refusing to report the war crimes that occur there.

Every one of the 19.5 million refugees in this world deserve better.

 
Here is a description of four stages refugees could potentially go through taken from an internet source. It puts the ongoing crisis in context.

“Expert’s state that all refugees go through one of these four distinct stages, unfortunately, the most vulnerable people, if they ever manage to reach safety at all, go through all four.

The first stage is the persecution that forces people to leave their homes. Some reasons for fleeing are war, political persecution or other kinds of violence.

The second stage is what happens to people when they are forced out of their homes. Often they end up in camps. Life here can be difficult, cramped, and unsafe with few prospects for work or education. Often people are kept from integrating into the local community which prevents them from creating stable and productive lives.



The third stage is when people seek safety outside of the camps, often in more developed countries. Their situation leaves them with no options but to take high risk journeys, some of which we have sadly seen played out in the media. These journeys are usually dangerous, such as crossing the Mediterranean on a rickety boat.



The fourth stage is the one many western countries are experiencing now: what happens when large numbers of refugees show up. Often, they face systems that are badly broken – most European countries are still trying to keep refugees out and refusing to accept even a remotely sufficient number of them for resettlement. This means families who make it to Europe end up in camps, sleeping in train stations, or living in fear of deportation.

The last step of this crisis is about much more than just funding; its forcing some really sensitive political issues to the surface in Europe, over migration and identity, and the future of the European Union. Until Europeans can figure out those issues, refugees will continue to suffer.”



Calling for the emergency meeting of the council I am fully aware the Mid Ulster District Council is limited in its ability to provide support, and I know it does not have the power to solve this issue in it’s entirety. 
But it does have the ability to make a difference to some. 

I have been inspired by the generosity and outpouring of support from a large number of people in the Mid Ulster area. 

Recently, there have been aid collection points developed, charity events organised to raise funds, and people donating their time to help in any way they can, including some people offering to travel to the worst affected locations to deliver the aid gathered from this district.

I asked for the meeting as I believe we as elected representatives, and through the infrastructures of the council, should be able to voice our support for the work of our heroic citizens, but also to offer practical assistance.

The practical options I proposed to council were:
(1) That the council send the message to the Irish and British Government, and also the European Union stating that we abhor the terrible humanitarian and refugee crisis unfolding across Europe and the Middle East and that this council is committed to working with them in providing support for people who come to this area.

(2) that the council dedicate some staff time to engaging with the organisations and groups within the Mid Ulster area who are dedicated to helping with the crisis in order to obtain direction on how this council can support.

These proposals were accepted unanimously.

     

Loughshore residents unhappy with Translink timetable 

Loughshore residents unhappy with Translink timetable 

Loughshore residents have expressed concerns about Translink’s bus timetable around the rural area. Alongside the recent uncertainty of the functionality of Cookstown bus station, a decline in rural services has left residents angry.

Local councillor for the area, Sinn Féin’s Ronan McGinley has said ‘I’ve been contacted by a number of local people over recent weeks who have been concerned that public transport in the loughshore area is declining. Rural isolation is something we need to take seriously and in many cases public transport is vital to ensuring that people can sustain both personal and professional lives’.

Cllr McGinley cont’d “I have contacted Translink asking for a meeting to discuss the current timetable, and will present concerns local people have.”

Lough Neagh Rescue is a fundamental component of Mid Ulster

Lough Neagh Rescue is a fundamental component of Mid Ulster

Following a presentation by Lough Neagh Rescue to the Mid Ulster Council’s environment committee, a Sinn Féin delegation met with representatives from the lifeboat service to find out more about what the volunteers do and how they do it. 

Sinn Féin representatives Ronan McGinley, Michelle O’Neill, Francie Molloy and Joe O’Neill heard about ideas and future plans of Lough Neagh Rescue. Their aim is to save more lives and make the Lough a safer place for all those who use it.
Council group leader, Cllr Ronan McGinley, organised the meeting stating, ‘I had the privilege of touring the Ardboe station last year and saw first hand the great work the volunteers were undertaking. I was impressed by the motivation of those who operated the station and their skills and expertise are second to none’.
Cllr McGinley cont’d ‘When the representatives attended the council to present highlights of their work and outline their plans for the future the same passion and dedication was on display. Although a bit more research was required for the committee to make fully informed decisions, I immediately requested a meeting with the charity to hear and learn more. We met on the shores of the lough on a great summers evening, and it’s clear to see why Lough Neagh Rescue is considered as an equal among the emergency services such as the ambulance and fire service’.
‘The work they carry out is amazing, evident through over 400 rescues to date. Alongside literally saving lives, they are developing the lough including the tourism potential it has. I think it’s important to recognise the positive impact they are having in the Mid Ulster area’.

Sinn Féin request special meeting of Mid Ulster District Council to discuss the ongoing refugee and humanitarian crisis

Sinn Féin request special meeting of Mid Ulster District Council to discuss the ongoing refugee and humanitarian crisis

Sinn Féin are calling for an emergency meeting of the Mid Ulster District Council to identify practical measures the council can take to help address the refugee and humanitarian crisis unfolding across the Middle East and Europe.

Sinn Féin group leader Ronan McGinley has submitted the formal request to Mid Ulster Council Chair Linda Dillon, requesting an emergency meeting is held as soon as possible.

Cllr McGinley stated ‘I have submitted the request for an emergency meeting as I think a strong Mid Ulster voice needs to be heard calling for urgent action to be taken in relation to the refugee and humanitarian crisis unfolding across Europe and the Middle East. People in Mid Ulster are becoming more and more outraged each day as the tragic details of the crisis unfold’.

Cllr McGinley continued ‘People are dying, and we cannot sit by and allow this to happen. We must take action. I have asked for the space where Mid Ulster’s elected reps can explore the practical steps we can take to help ease the suffering, and to send a clear message that this crisis needs resolved’.

Sinn Féin request urgent meeting of Audit Committee in response to Magherafelt procurement concerns

Sinn Féin’s group leader Ronan McGinley has written to the chair of the Mid Ulster Audit committee seeking an urgent meeting in response to claims there may be issues with the procurement process in one of the legacy councils.
 

Speaking on the matter Cllr McGinley said ‘if there are issues from one of the legacy councils there needs to be a full and thorough investigation. It is now the task of the Mid Ulster Audit committee to ensure transparency and good governance, and Sinn Féin would like to see immediate action to look into these matters’.

 

Cllr McGinley continued ‘I think an immediate and effective response is needed as the Mid Ulster council has worked extremely hard to keep and build the trust of our citizens, we are working positively for the area and any issues there may be from previous councils need ironed out. I hope my colleague Cllr Wilson will agree with our request and hold an urgent meeting of the Audit Committee to ensure everything that can be done is put into motion quickly.’