‘Council are damned if they do and damned if they don’t’ is the response from DUP Councillor John McAuley and Independent Councillor William McCandless to mounting criticism of Causeway Coast & Glens Council after they set up a sizeable area of portaloos in the Lansdowne Crescent area of Portrush.
The large green area has also been fenced off in preparation for Easter weekend.
Despite Covid restrictions remaining in place and non-essential travel still not permitted, it is expected that visitors will flock to the seaside resort leaving many residents dreading the Bank Holiday weekend.
Some angry Portrush residents have said the council are “basically saying come on down, Portrush is open” and “it’s like they are giving people carte blanche to come to the town despite the Covid travel restrictions”.
One member of the public said: “When we asked what was happening one of the men putting portaloos up said ‘yeah they’re being put up for the people that aren’t supposed to be visiting down here.”
Speaking in response, Councillor John McAuley said: “This is not a case of the council encouraging visitors, it’s simply being prepared for the inevitable.”
He added; “The council are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
“Preparations have been made for the anticipated influx of visitors to the Causeway Coast this weekend with temporary toilets and barriers put in place yesterday afternoon.
“This has resulted in another social media storm but let’s deal with the facts.
“Council do not make the rules and regulations
“Council are not responsible for stopping visitors to the area – that is the responsibility of the PSNI.
“Following this week’s failure of the PPS to prosecute those who clearly broke the law, it is clear a large number of people have declared that they will be enjoying themselves this weekend including plans to visit the north coast.
“As a result, the council has put measures in place to deal with this anticipated influx and I congratulate them for taking this initiative, as far too often we are a reactive organisation and not proactive.
“No doubt the very same people condemning the council for providing additional amenities would be the same people condemning them over the weekend for there not being enough provision of toilets.”
Independent Councillor William McCandless shared Cllr McAuley’s sentiments.
“Some people feel that this is going to attract ‘an unruly element’ (not my words) to the town of Portrush,” he said.
“I would have to say that at times like this for council officers and councillors it very often feels like “damned if you do and damned if you don’t “.
“Northern Ireland has just begun taking its first steps out of lockdown after restrictions were introduced just over three months ago, but the rules still have to be adhered to.
“This has been clearly emphasised by the Health Minister and it is the duty of every responsible citizen to support him in that.
“The stay at home message remains in place so if you wish to visit Portrush and the beach the 10 mile rule is still in force, the dictum still is – 10 miles for exercise.
“However, there will be people who may choose to ignore the sensible guidance given, and for anyone considering that I would appeal to them to remain at home until we clearly understand the guidance which will be issued mid April.
“If people choose to break the rules it is the duty of the PSNI to use the powers they have to take action against those who disregard it.
“So if vast numbers of people flout the rules and flock to Portrush or Benone it will not have been the action of council erecting portaloos which has attracted them.
“Council have had numerous complaints from residents of Portrush in the past years that their gardens have been used as toilets by irresponsible people. If we are inundated with day trippers, hopefully the portaloos will prevent a reoccurrence of these disgusting incidents, and if not then I appeal to the PSNI – take action.
“We also receive complaints of insufficient toilet facilities if there are large crowds ( for whatever reason ).
“It also has to be remembered, it is an unfortunate fact for many people that their lives are governed by involuntary bladders/bowels and their opportunity of a day trip can be seriously curtailed for lack of toilet facilities. People suffering from these conditions, expectant mums, those with toddlers and young children and the elderly will have no cause for concern in Portrush this Easter.”
A spokesperson for the council told the Local Democracy Reporting Service, “Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council is working in partnership with other agencies to keep everyone safe during the Easter period.
“We are reminding the public to act responsibly, follow the regulations and only travel if their journey is essential.
“However, we also want to be prepared for the eventuality that despite ongoing restrictions, the area could see greater numbers over the weekend.”