Disabled, elderly and unemployed persons will benefit from charges decision
Wednesday 25th: Newry Unite in the community spokesperson, Martin McKeown, welcomed last night’s announcement (Tuesday 24th) by the council that it would overturn its previous decision to impose a huge hike in user fees at a new swimming pool in the town.
“This is a People Power victory – Unite in the community provided the leadership but this is a victory belonging to the people of Newry who stood up and refused to accept these unfair user fee charges. At last night’s meeting councillors were met by protesters coming from a range of disadvantaged groups including many who came in their wheelchairs.
“Annual user fees were to rise by a staggering 2770% for disabled children, by 1341% for disabled adults, by 1840% for Elderly users and 83% for the unemployed. This was clearly a discriminatory decision driven by financial concerns but which would have impacted dreadfully on the most vulnerable people in our community.
“Unite in the Community built up a grassroots campaign against this issue, raising awareness, organising an online petition and yesterday we stepped up the campaign by organising protests outside the leisure facility and the chamber. The council’s u-turn is a huge victory for people power and a sign of what we can achieve if we stand together” Mr McKeown ended.
The decision to reverse course was also welcomed by Unite’s lead Community Organiser, Albert Hewitt, who commended the work and commitment of the union’s community members in the Newry area.
“Community membership is Unite’s way of saying we want to work with local communities in this sort of campaign. The union seeks to provide campaigners with the resources necessary to successfully demand a fairer society. We want trade unionism to play a key part in community life – not just helping workers during difficult times, but working together, every day.
“I commend the activists in Newry Community branch on their success with this campaign. I’m sure that they will go on to build on this victory and go on to challenge more of the brutal austerity policies being implemented by the Stormont parties at a local and regional level”, Mr Hewitt concluded.