Michael Long defends Robinson centre

I feel that I must respond to the comments of DUP councillor Joanne Bunting (23/3/03) in relation to the proposed closure of the Robinson Centre, in which she accused Alliance of ‘shameful’ behaviour and of ‘misrepresenting the facts.’

The facts are that the DUP and UUP recommended the closure of the main and diving pools at the Robinson Centre at a Committee meeting in early February. They also proposed the temporary closure of Gilnahirk Golf Course and, at the rates meeting, they voted through huge cuts in community, arts and economic development budgets. Alliance opposed both premature and unnecessary closures and voted against the rate. I notice that despite her vague assertion that Alliance “misrepresented the facts”, Cllr Bunting has at no time denied that these are facts, despite ample opportunity to do so.

Let us be very clear – the DUP are not annoyed because they feel that Alliance “misrepresented the facts” – they are annoyed that we refused to conceal the facts from the ratepayers and staff once the matter had been raised in public session of the Council. They are annoyed that, armed with the facts, staff and ratepayers demonstrated in their hundreds to express their disgust at the swingeing cuts proposed. They are annoyed because, faced with growing public and political opposition, they were forced to publicly perform a U-turn and keep both the pool and golf course open.

Without our action and a huge demonstration of people-power, there is no doubt that the DUP and UUP would have proceeded with their plans.

As far as generating fear in the community, I can assure Cllr Bunting that no-one I have spoken to has expressed anything but support for Alliance’ position. In fact, the only fear I have heard in the community is about what services the DUP and UUP may attempt to axe when setting next year’s rates.

Finally, the article also refers to an ‘information leaflet’ which is to be sent to all rate-payers “explaining” the position on the Centre. I would draw to their attention that the only political parties represented on the working group preparing this propaganda are the DUP and UUP, whilst Alliance members have been excluded. I will allow ratepayers to draw their own conclusions about the fairness of such a publication.

This ‘leaflet’ will, of course, be funded at the expense of ratepayers, at an estimated cost of up to £6,000 – money which I’m sure you would agree, could be more wisely spent reducing remaining major cuts to Council services.

Now that is truly shameful.

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