Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Successful Sustrans Piccolo Fondo Pedal Ride from Holywood

Sustrans Giro D'Italia legacy event Piccolo Fondo Pedal Ride took place on Saturday 20 June 2015 involving over seventy cyclists young and old who departed Holywood (Seapark) at 11am to Titanic Quarter, Belfast. Cyclists from Lisburn, Newtownabbey and Comber also converged at Titanic Quarter along with the Holywood Cyclists at approximately 12.30pm.

Cyclists before departure at Seapark, Holywood
The Holywood section was co-ordinated by Sustrans Ranger Jackie Mitchell assisted by Sustrans Deputy Director Steven Patterson plus many volunteers including Sustrans Ranger Andrew Muir, Mary Lappin, James Hunter, Paul Smith, Philip Palin, Tom, Michelle, Martin and others.

After the amazing Giro D’Italia event last year it was fantastic to be able to recreate the Giro feeling again in 2015, wear a little pink and help guide over seventy cyclists at a leisurely pace from Holywood to Titanic Quarter and cross the finish line used by Giro Fondo cyclists the next day. Saturday proven again that cycling can be fun, healthy and a sustainable form of transport which I hope will continue to grow in popularity over the years ahead via the Giro legacy events and local initiatives undertaken by, for example North Down Cycling Club who held another brilliantly successful Coastal Challenge event on Sunday.

Sustrans Volunteer Jackie Mitchel from Holywood said: “Many will remember the great atmosphere of the Giro d’Italia and the buzz about cycling. The Gran Fondo is for non-professional cyclists who want to compete but the Piccolo Fondo is a great chance to join in for a relaxed bike ride into the city. You don’t have to be a lycra-clad racing cyclist but just enjoy being out on your bike. So come explore with us the National Cycle Network (NCN). Tell your family and friends, get into the pink and come along for the ride.”

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Alliance urges action on Paramilitary Flags across Bangor

I condemn the recent appearance of Paramilitary Flags across Bangor and urge statutory bodies to step forward and agree a unified plan to ensure their removal.  I have been contacted numerous times since the flags started appearing with many people appalled to see flags erected for illegal proscribed terrorist organisations.

I, along with many other people across North Down, am appalled to see flags erected for illegal proscribed terrorist organisations. The vast overwhelming majority of people across North Down are law abiding tolerant citizens who respect the Police Service of NI, abhor intimidation and criminality and want us to move forward away from the shadow of all paramilitary organisations, whether Loyalist or Republican. Support for terrorist organisations was never acceptable in the past and must never be tolerated today or in the future.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

FoRM Walled Garden Public Art Exhibition

It's inspirational to see Bangor Castle Walled Garden featuring such a wide range of innovative items designed by local artists. With a rich history Bangor Castle Walled Garden contains many features, plants, Band Stand and cafe which help make North Down a great place to visit or live, enhanced by the current Public Art sculpture exhibition. I greatly enjoyed the guided tour on Saturday and would encourage everyone to pop along and enjoy the exhibition and Walled Garden which is located opposite Bangor Aurora Leisure Centre.

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 www.allianceparty.org

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.