Roads Minister Danny Kennedy is refusing to refund drivers who were hit with parking fines over the May Day holiday.
He was responding as businesses and small traders backed pleas from drivers and politicians who want the minister to introduce an amnesty for those facing a £60 fine after being unaware of the holiday parking charges.
The calls were sparked after complaints from drivers in Omagh. Many of those were fined during an Irish dancing competition at a church hall — they were unaware parking charges were in force during the bank holiday.
Mary Ward (68) said a number of people attending the West Tyrone Feis had come back to their cars parked outside the hall to find they had been given fines.
“During the morning we noticed people had been fined. I was aware of at least two teachers and I don’t know how many parents,” she added.
It’s claimed some 30 tickets were issued to those attending the feis.
The Department for Regional Development said 43 tickets were issued throughout Omagh on the bank holiday.
Ms Ward added: “I would want people to be refunded. It makes me angry. I told my daughter to tell those who got fined not to pay it.”
Asked whether he would reverse the parking charges, Mr Kennedy (below) said while people “continue to park illegally, traffic attendants will continue to enforce the restrictions”.
He added: “Any suggested introduction of more flexibility by traffic attendants, or any form of retrospective amnesty for specific days would lead to questions over impartiality and whether one person was treated differently than another.”
Mr Kennedy added that “illegal parking can be dangerous to other road users”.
But Pat Martin of the Road Safety Council of Northern Ireland said drivers parking in designated spots were “not a safety issue”.
“Safety such as parking on double yellow lines can be a hazard and would be unsafe,” she added.
“But if they are parking as they normally would. I can’t see people parking in designated spaces having any safety issues.”
Glyn Roberts of The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said there was a very strong case for reimbursing drivers —and called for a lifting of charges during major events.
The group — which represents small firms across the province — said in the case of those in Omagh, their day was ruined on returning to their vehicles.
“Reimbursed? I think so. There’s a very strong case for that. In the case of major events it could be lifted,” said Mr Roberts.
“The DRD minister last Christmas lifted parking infringement in some areas, so it’s relatively easy for the minister to lift enforcement in certain areas.”
The renewed calls come after the Belfast Telegraph revealed that around three out of five motorists who challenged their parking fines had won their case.
Health Minister Edwin Poots warned that “over zealous” traffic wardens were harming trade.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) called for a “common sense approach” to fines.
A spokesman said: “We need to see the department ensuring greater publicity of the regulations and when the restrictions apply.”