Council meetings resume virtually following introduction of new regulations

7th May 2020

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Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, held its first full Council meeting last night since restriction of movement was introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in March this year.

The meeting, which took place on Wednesday 6 May 2020 was conducted virtually following the introduction of the Local Government (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of District Council Meetings) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 legislation announced on 30 April by the Minister for Communities, Deirdre Hargey MLA and which came into effect on 1 May 2020.

The Regulations made provision for district councils to hold meetings remotely by telephone conferencing, video conferencing, live webcast and live interactive streaming.

Extending a welcome to the Councillors, press and members of the public who had joined the meeting remotely, the Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Siobhán Currie said “this evening’s Council meeting, is a historic one as it is the first time Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has met virtually. Indeed, I understand that this is the first meeting of any of the 11 Councils to be held under the new regulations. It is great to see you all again even if remotely.”

In her opening statement, Councillor Currie paid tribute to the way in which the residents of the district had reacted in such a positive manner to the introduction of the restrictions aimed at minimising the spread of the coronavirus which she believed not only saved lives but protected our healthcare workers and enabled the continued delivery of critical services. The Council Chair also offered her deepest sympathy on behalf of her council colleagues to those who had been bereaved as a result of the coronavirus or who had lost family members due to other causes while the restrictions were in place adding that the sense of loss was compounded by the fact that the community could not offer the support which traditionally was evident at wakes and funeral services.

Acknowledging the work being done by frontline workers across all critical sectors, the Chair said, “I would also like to pay tribute to the front line and essential workers, in the healthcare sector, in transport, retail, farming, food production and supply and in many other fields who have risen spectacularly to meet the many significant challenges which the Covid-19 pandemic has presented. Thank you all. And, on their behalf, whilst I welcome the introduction of testing for essential workers at three locations outside our district, I feel very strongly that our council should be calling for testing and tracing to be taking place in both of our county towns to afford better access to our essential workers.

She continued,

“I would also like to direct my thanks and appreciation to the thousands of volunteers across the community, voluntary and sporting sectors who have done such tremendous work across every community in our district to support and assist the most vulnerable and isolated in our society. There are just too many of them to name individually, but we are blessed in this district in that we possess such a strong community and voluntary sector and over the past 6 weeks they have demonstrated their true worth.”

Councillor Currie concluded her opening remarks by referencing the strong Civic leadership role that the Council had played in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Chair highlighted the contribution of the staff in ensuring that critical services were maintained with minimal disruption and the leading role the Council played, working in partnership with the voluntary and community sector and other statutory stakeholders to support those feeling vulnerable and isolated in the district.

A formal proposal was made following Councillor Currie’s remarks to request that the Minister for Health provides testing and tracing facilities in both Enniskillen and Omagh for essential workers, which received unanimous support.

Due to the extensive agenda for the meeting, the statutory time limit for meetings was reached with still a number of agenda items outstanding. The meeting will reconvene virtually this evening at 7.00 pm.