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Lengthy debate sees free swimming for disabled extended across entire borough

Armagh swimming pool Orchard Leisure centre

Free swimming for disabled people has been extended right across the borough following a lengthy debate at Council last night (Monday).

Officers had recommended scrapping free swims for disabled people in Armagh, instead making it a reduced concessionary rate of 65% across the borough.

But councillors on the the Leisure Services Committee agreed to offer disabled people free swims right across the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon district.

Sinn Fein councillor Garath Keating described the development as “hugely significant”.

“I am delighted to have been able to convince the chamber to go against the recommendation of officials on the matter,” said councillor Keating.

Adding: “The initiative now passed sends out a very positive message about inclusivity and well-being to our whole community and putting people first.”

Councillor Keating, whilst delighted with that development was however “deeply disappointed” that a further proposal by him to extend full concession swimming during off-peak hours to individuals in receipt of unemployment benefits, was voted down, despite the initiative carrying what he described as “very minimal cost implications to Council.”

“I think a further inexpensive but highly positive initiative to get more of our people into better physical and mental health and wellbeing during difficult times was missed,” he explained.

“The unfortunate failure of others to support my proposal in this regard will now see a dramatic increase in the price of a swim in Armagh for those on benefits who, by and large, can least afford it.”

Commenting after the meeting DUP Alderman Gareth Wilson stated: “I assist those with disabilities in my public representation work and I feel passionately that any assistance we can offer should be realised which is why our Party were happy to support free swimming for those with a disability.”

He added: “We were also happy to see that a concession rate be applied at 65% to the unemployed for swimming which brought the legacy Armagh area alongside the legacy Craigavon and Banbridge concession schemes to harmonise this allowance under the ABC Borough.”

The decision will have to ratified at the full council meeting later this month.

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