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Campaigning Fermanagh councillor John McCluskey quits after 10 months

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John McCluskey

John McCluskey

John McCluskey

A disillusioned councillor in Co Fermanagh has stood down to make way for "a younger person" after less than a year in the position.

Independent councillor John McCluskey was elected on the first count in Erne East in May's local government elections.

The 76-year-old shocked colleagues in Fermanagh and Omagh District Council earlier this week by announcing his intention "to move to one side" after just 10 months in the job.

Mr McCluskey's decision to enter frontline politics was prompted by his long campaign for a GP surgery in the border village of Roslea to reopen.

The practice shut in April 2017, leaving residents without a GP for the first time in 170 years.

Its closure was caused by a surge of retirements and an inability to recruit a sufficient number of young doctors to replace the outgoing medics.

Since then Roslea villagers have had no alternative but to make a 30-mile round trip to the closest doctors' practice in Lisnskea.

A new healthcare hub for Lisnaskea has been in the pipeline for over a decade but has been delayed for various reasons, most recently the collapse of Stormont.

Plans for the new surgery were first announced by the then Health Minister Michael McGimpsey in 2008.

Mr McCluskey said he believed now was the time to move to one side and allow a younger person to be co-opted onto the council.

He added: "I will continue to help and assist on many issues, particularly the Roslea GP surgery and including all other health and social issues.

"I believe we should have more people standing in future elections.

"I would intend to assist on these and other matters as well.

"I will continue to fight this along with my council successor.

"I've been thinking about this decision for some time now.

"I have submitted six names and it will be one out of that six who will be co-opted in and (named) as the new councillor."

Mr McCluskey's decision came into effect on Tuesday. His seat was empty at the council's monthly meeting in Enniskillen later that evening when colleagues paid tribute to him. Sinn Fein member Sheamus Greene said he was sorry to see Mr McCluskey go.

"He came on to the council with great expectations, (but) it's a very frustrating place," Mr Greene added.

"Maybe people think we have more power than we have. John realised that it's not that easy to deliver the things you promise at election."

Ulster Unionist councillor Victor Warrington also expressed his regret over the decision and described Mr McCluskey as "passionate about what he stood for around (Roslea) GP surgery".

"He was probably a bit daunted and thought councillors had more sway," he said.

The DUP's Errol Thompson expressed similar sentiments.

"He came in here and thought that we all had more power. That is not the case," Mr Thompson explained.

Belfast Telegraph