Friday, 8 May 2015

Reservoirs Bill could see local sites sold to highest bidder

The future of local reservoirs is at risk after new legislation has made is much easier for NI Water to sell them to the highest bidder.

I am deeply concerned around the environmental impact of the Reservoirs Bill, after the legislation passed through the Assembly last week.

I’m deeply concerned about the implications of this bill and the removal of any responsibility from NI Water concerning future ownership and management of their 22 redundant reservoirs – which they have been keen to dispose of for years.

Once the Reservoirs Bill becomes law public and private Reservoir owners will be required to maintain Reservoirs to a specified standard. No regulations presently exist to ensure Reservoirs are properly maintained thereby increasing risk of flood and environmental damage in the event of a dam breaking or other malfunction.

Since becoming a Councillor in 2010 I have campaigned relentlessly to safeguard the future for NI Water’s many redundant reservoirs which provide a home to range of wildlife plus local organisations such as angling clubs.

Locally, in North Down, I have campaigned to save Portavoe Reservoirs in Groomsport, Creightons Green Lower, Holywood, Ballysallagh Upper & Lower (Craigantlet), Conlig Upper & Lower (Bangor) and Church Road, Holywood.

The new Ards and North Down Borough Council only expressed an interest in relation to Portavoe with all others to be offered to other public bodies this Summer before being placed on the market for sale to the highest bidder. Concerns have now been raised as a result of the Council’s decision that two Reservoirs in Conlig could be snapped up for housing development following previous discussions concerning land zoning during the development of BMAP.

Instead of selling the Reservoirs once the Reservoirs Bill becomes law I urge NI Water to explore different ways for future ownership and management involving local communities in order to ensure the vast economic, social, environmental and health benefits are not lost forever.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Step Forward together, Lead Change and Vote Alliance on 7 May 2015

North Down is a great place but needs ambition, energy and a fresh approach to take us forward. I’m relentlessly positive that our best days are yet to come and offer you courage, determination and commitment to build an even better place where we attract and retain talent, grow the economy, respect everyone as an individual whilst protecting and enhancing our environment for future generations.

Alliance is the only party that puts building a shared society as its top priority, aspiring to a new type of society which embraces diversity. I seek your support for this vision on the basis of a track record of inclusive leadership, delivery on the issues that matter plus a comprehensive Alliance Party manifesto with detailed policies on a range of areas such as plans to tackle division and save £1billion wasted each year on segregation, a Green New Deal, plans to tackle tax avoidance and also to end secretive political donations. Full details at

On 7 May you can move forward to this vision or back to old them and us politics whilst opportunities and public finances are wasted. It’s your choice. Next Thursday let’s Step Forward together, Lead Change and vote Alliance.

38 years old, born, bred and living in North Down with a strong record of public service. Alliance Councillor since 2010, Former Mayor of North Down 2013/2014 undertaking over 700 engagements under theme Working as One, promoting inclusivity daily by engaging with an unprecedented range of people whether Faith Groups, Ethnic Minorities, GAA, Royal British Legion, Orange Order or many Charities such as St Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army and Guide Dogs for the Blind with £13,000 raised for Camphill, YMCA and Mark Pollock Trust.

Strong record of delivery on range of issues, whether £4.5million to address Kinnegar sewage pollution, Bangor 5k weekly parkrun, Bangor Culture Day, securing Council support for an end to fox hunting, saving Cultra Rail Station and Millisle Kindertransport Farm, upgrade for Redburn Country Park, cycling improvements, whilst also securing more transparent Council decision making over planning applications and battling to end secretive donations to political parties.

Alliance Council Group Leader, Member of Priory Integrated College Board of Governors, Friends of Columbanus, Bangor plus Friends of the Earth, Holywood Residents’ Association, Holywood Conservation Group and Cats Protection League. Keen amateur athlete and cyclist who often runs races as member of North Down Athletics Club.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Muir urges end to secrecy around political donations despite DUP opposition

I am disappointed that the DUP voted against my Council motion on improving openness and transparency on political donations. My motion was defeated after the DUP voted against it, with SDLP and most UUP Councillors abstaining.

Donations over £7,500 from a single source to a political party are made public in the rest of the UK; however in Northern Ireland this information is not currently published. Naomi Long secured an amendment at Westminster in 2013 that will mean that at some point in the future, any such donation made since January 2014 will be published, but the Secretary of State has not indicated when this will happen.
It is very disappointing that DUP Councillors on North Down and Ards Council again voted against increasing openness and transparency in politics. My passion to clean up politics remains strong despite the opposition from other parties.

Peter Robinson claimed in 2014 that the DUP would be prepared to publish details around donations over £7,500, so it appears that this was merely talk and his party will not support measures to release information on donations. The UUP and SDLP need to explain their position as their dithering and foot dragging is making them irrelevant on this issue.

With planning powers coming to Councils on 1st April and Councillors voting on planning applications, it is vital we retain public confidence but without transparency around donations, there is a strong risk this will be lost. The public have a right to know when Councillors will be making decisions on planning issues that involves individuals who have made large donations to their party.

Naomi Long secured a massive victory for openness and transparency when she changed the law in Westminster to ensure that all political donations over £7,500 made since January 2014 will be published when the Secretary of State deems that the security situation is acceptable. Alliance already voluntarily releases information on our donations, it is time to that donations to all parties was published to build public trust and end the whiff of corruption surrounding local politics.

We cannot say that Northern Ireland is a good place to invest but then claim that the security situation is not stable for the publication of donations.

Muir tackles littering in fight to protect local beauty spots

I am calling on the new Ards and North Down Council to tackle the borough’s growing litter problem. Both myself and Alliance Councillor Gavin Walker have been approached numerous times by concerned residents – after a busy Easter holiday period left many local hot tourist spots covered in litter.

North Down is a popular destination for many during the spring and summer seasons, but can’t be left strewn with litter after busy public holidays.

During the Easter period both Councillor Gavin Walker and I were approached by residents concerned about the growing litter problem in areas including Donaghadee, Bangor Town Centre and at NI Environment Agency Beaches in both Helen’s Bay and Crawsfordsburn – this cannot continue into the summer months.

The new Ards and North Down Council has a responsibility to take action.  Not only in being more proactive in enforcing littering by-laws going forward, but working with all the relevant agencies such as NIEA to focus on clearing up litter over public holidays.

But I believe the Council could go further, and intend to call on the Council to work with Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful to organise and co-ordinate borough-wide Spring Clean initiatives next Spring.  Not only will this help protect our natural environments, but will also encourage the general public not to drop litter.

North Down is a renowned area of natural beauty – let’s work together to keep it clean and green for future generations.

Referring to the disappointing level of litter clean up in Donaghadee post-Easter, Councillor Walker said:  “Donaghadee is a popular destination for visitors over bank holidays and we need to ensure that they, along with the residents and businesses in town, can be assured an outstanding and litter-free town.”

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Muir officially nominated as Alliance Westminster candidate

With Dr Stephen Farry MLA and
Councillor Stuart Anderson
I was officially nominated on Tuesday 7 April 2015 as Alliance Party candidate in the North Down constituency exactly one month in advance of the forthcoming Westminster Election on 7 May 2015.

I visited Newtownards Area Electoral Office to submit my papers along with North Down Alliance MLA Dr Stephen Farry plus Bangor Central Alliance Councillor Stuart Anderson and Election Agent Mr Michael Watts.

I am very grateful to the Alliance Party for the opportunity to stand for election on 7 May on the basis of Alliance Party policies which seek to positively transform Northern Ireland. Rather than pandering to the extremes, feet dragging, wasting taxpayers’ money and squandering opportunities Alliance seeks to spend taxpayers’ money more wisely by ending segregation and division and has a strong record of standing up, speaking out and taking difficult decisions much move us forward, not back. 

The forthcoming election is a key moment when people will have opportunity to decide whether Northern Ireland moves forward towards an open and inclusive future, or back to old divided sectarian past. I am enjoying the campaign thus far and look forward to the weeks ahead as I outline my track record of delivery and vision for the future as a committed Councillor, former Mayor of North Down,  community champion and eco activist who has delivered many achievements with energy and enthusiasm.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Coastal Pathway success at Seahill

New Boardwalk at Seahill
I welcome the significant progress achieved by contractors who are building a new boardwalk to replace to the steep Seahill steps along the North Down Coastal Path. Official opening is due to occur on Monday 30 March 2015. 

After years of lobbying by myself and others I am delighted to see this alternative route created, bypassing what was the most difficult stretch of the North Down Coastal Path. With work continuing apace during difficult weather conditions over the Winter period final completion of this vital link along with the North Down Coastal Path is now in sight. Rather than requiring walkers, runners or others to tackle the old steep steps the new boardwalk will make passage a scenic stress free journey whilst the sea quietly flows beneath.

Council have advised that whilst official opening is planned for Monday 30 March "a small number of associated civil engineering works to be carried out after the Easter weekend. These works will not hinder the public from using the route and are largely related to reinstatement of the surrounding grass and rock areas."

Focus can now turn to seeking funding for upgrade of other sections identified in the report I requested in late 2014. With only a few sections now left requiring upgrade North Down faces prospect of having our own unique Greenway running from Belfast to Orlock near Groomsport.

I am extremely grateful to all involved to helped ensure delivery of this project which helps make North Down an even better and more healthier place to live, work or visit. Whilst walking and running is permitted along the entire route of the current Coastal Path I would urge everyone to respect shared nature of the path with cyclists limiting their speed and dismounting where requested along some of the narrower sections to ensure safety of all users.