A scheme set-up to help safeguard people socialising in Omagh is now at a serious risk of being stopped after it emerged that volunteers were only out on three occasions over Christmas and the New Year.
The Street Safe Project was established in 2013 following the deaths of Jason McGovern and Darren McBrearty and has been hailed as a vital service for the town’s night-time economy.
But ongoing concerns about the future of the scheme are now coming to a head after it emerged that volunteers – dubbed ‘Street Angels’ – were only out on three occasions over Christmas and the New Year.
Speaking to the Ulster Herald, one of the volunteers claimed that it was only their commitment which was keeping the operation afloat. He blamed the uncertainty on the lack of support from Fermanagh and Omagh Council.
“It’s absolutely disgusting what is happening to the Street Safe Project now and the blame for this rests firmly with the council in our opinion,” he said.
“The volunteers are keeping the scheme going simply through their own grit and determination and without any real support from either council officials or councillors.
“We have been told that there will be no funding for first aid training or anything else unless the Street Safe Project becomes an officially constituted charitable and independent organisation.
“But that isn’t an option for us as volunteers because of the risks attached in relation to potential litigation proceedings if something goes wrong.
“The Street Safe Project volunteers are no longer allowed to operate from the Strule Arts Centre and the whole doubt surrounding the future direction of the scheme is having a serious impact on the morale of volunteers.”
The impasse between the council and the Street Safe Project has been ongoing for over a year. It centres on recruitment of new volunteers and the impact on the work of the Policing and Community Safety Partnership, whose staff have been co-ordinating the scheme.
Earlier this year, Fermanagh and Omagh Council held a meeting with the volunteers to discuss a way to resolve the issues, but failed to reach agreement.
A spokesperson for Fermanagh and Omagh Council said it continues to deliver the Street Safe Project with the support of the volunteers and that its base was temporarily located to the Strule Arts Centre.
To ensure that long-term viability of the Street Safe Project, both councillors and council officers have engaged with Street Safe volunteers to explore options to enable the project to operate on a volunteer-led basis with some level of co-ordination function delivered by council officers,” the spokesperson said.
“The council is committed to support the volunteers throughout this process and will continue to work closely with them to develop a long-term delivery approach.”
Omagh's award winning Street Safe project will only operate on one night this weekend, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council...