Monday 11 December 2017 10:44:46 PM

Devlin Seeks SDLP Council Seat For Newcastle Area
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LAURA Devlin, SDLP activist and constituency manager for South Down MLA Seán Rogers, has confirmed that she has put her name forward to succeed Down District Councillor Eamonn ONeill as a Councillor for the Newcastle District Electoral Area.

She said: “Eamonn intends to stand down from Down District Council at the final meeting this year on 16 December and a co-option to his seat will take place following an internal party selection convention in November.

Councillor Eamonn O'Neill   with Laura Devlin, Newcastle Constituency Manager, and Councillor Carmel O'Boyle.

Councillor Eamonn O’Neill with Laura Devlin, Newcastle Constituency Manager, and Councillor Carmel O’Boyle.

Laura said: “I have submitted my papers to party HQ. A replacement will be selected by local SDLP members at this forthcoming selection convention.

“I have been a member of the SDLP for over 14 years. I started my career working for Eamonn ONeill in his Castlewellan office, moving to Margaret Ritchie’s office in Downpatrick and now working for Seán Rogers as his Constituency Manager based between the Newcastle and the Castlewellan offices.

“I am heavily involved in Constituency work and this is what I do best.  Whether it is a query regarding a planning application, a homeless case or someone has an issue with their welfare benefits – I provide assistance and representation.

“Currently I am Vice-Chairman of the Castlewellan and Kilcoo Branch of the SDLP and have held a number of posts over my 14 years including as Secretary and Press Officer.

“Eamonn was my first employer and the one person who developed and encouraged my initial interest in politics.  A true community man at heart who has assisted thousands of people throughout his time in the various offices whether it be Down District Council or Stormont. To be considered to replace him is an honour and I look forward to the selection convention.

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Eamonn O’Neill Stepping Down After Long Haul

After 36 years in the cut and thrust of front line local government politics, Councillor Eamonn O’Neill, originally from Monaghan, has decided to stand down before the May 2014 Shadow Council election and allow a co-option to Down District Council.

In 1977 Eamonn was teacher at St Malachy’s High School and father of five which soon was to be seven. He  joined the SDLP as he wanted to work constructively to provide the people of the area with the basic services like housing and job opportunities which the Troubles had greatly impacted on.

He was  elected to Council nine times in total, many of those times topping the poll for the Newcastle area in 1977, 1981, 1985, 1989, 1993, 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2011.) He has  been Chair of the Council twice – in 1986 and 2011 – and has also been the chair of all the Council’s major committees, and also is currently leader of  the SDLP group in Down for over 20 years.

Eamonn’s career in politics extended further than the local council and he was also elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 where he represented South Down. He  was deeply involved in APSE (Association of Public Services Excellence) for over 20 years and served as its Chairman over England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

 On Housing

One of Eamonn’s main objectives was to deliver viable community structures to sustain schools and services.  His long term aim was to increase the level and range of housing on offer, including affordable housing.  In Castlewellan, he secured a drainage scheme in late seventies for fields which now house many of the housing developments in the town including Wood Grove, Mourne Park and Gardens and The Grange.

As one of the longest serving members of Housing Executive, he lobbied to secure housing projects in the Newcastle ward, ensuring a good supply of social housing which has traditionally been difficult because of the interest of developers.

On Regeneration

During the first years of Eamonn’s time as a Councillor, Castlewellan was victim to significant damage from various bombs, so much so that during the 1990’s, the town had a large number of empty shops and demolished sites.  He set up Castlewellan Regeneration Ltd with members of the community in 1993 which began by rejuvenating their first core project – a large building, home and pub which became Hillyard House.

They then secured funding to regenerate the Corncrane Building which was lying empty since its years as a Youth Club.  They also progressed the environmental scheme which delivered grants of up to 50% for business to rebuild and regenerate buildings.  They also replanted trees, installed granite kerbing and street furniture and replaced all the overhead lines with underground cables. Eamonn remains Chair of Castlewellan Regeneration.