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Young Children denied free swimming by ‘selfish councillors’

2 December, 2008

Sinn Féin Newry and Mourne Councillor Brendan Curran has said that many people will be angry that Councillors, who get free use of both Newry and Kilkeel swimming pools, have denied that same facility to children.

The Councillor was speaking after his motion to allow children into the Councils swimming pools from Monday to Friday between the hours of 3-30 and 6-30pm was rejected.

Cllr Curran said:

"This scheme would have enabled lots of youngsters from the area to swim, have fun and get fit. Similar schemes in areas in England and Wales have boosted participation rates in some cases by 500 per cent.

"Granting even limited free access to children would have offered educational, health, sporting and social benefits for young people living in some of the most deprived parts of Newry and Mourne.

"On the one hand many thousands are being spent by this Council and other agencies, encouraging more participation in healthy living, physical recreation and sporting activity whilst on the other when practical and reasonable proposals are introduced to achieve those objectives, they are flippantly dismissed.

"Councillors get free use of our Councils swimming facilities but they have denied that same benefit to the children of the area. This was a mean and selfish act.

"I am convinced that the proposal to provide limited free children swimming sessions was denied on purely political bias with no other rationale. The cost to our Council would have been less than £10,000 per year, a small amount in relative Council spend terms. The arguments against the motion were shallow and had no rationale at all."

Note to Editors

Motion to Newry and Mourne Council in the names of Councillors B Curran and Councillors T Murphy:-

"That Newry and Mourne District Council recognizes the serious health implications of childhood obesity on children in our District. In an effort to play our role in combating this condition our Council would provide limited free children's swimming sessions to the public at our facilities from Monday to Friday 3.30 pm - 6.30 pm, to be reviewed after 3 months."

The 'Kids Swim Free' scheme, announced by former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, allowed under-16s in the five East London 2012 host boroughs free access to pools.

Under the scheme, under-16s from Newham, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Greenwich and Hackney will be eligible to receive Kids Swim Free cards. Based on a similar scheme in Newham which boosted participation rates by 500 per cent, it was backed by the boroughs, the Mayor, the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), the Department of Health and London 2012.

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