Sunday, 27 July 2014

Muir welcomes Redburn Country Park upgrades and events

Cllr Muir beside Redburn 5k Trail signage
I have welcomed range of events organised by NI Environment Agency for Love Parks Week which runs from 25 July to 3 August 2014 including Trails Day at Redburn Country Park, Holywood on Tuesday 29 July 2014 from 11am to 4pm which will showcase the new 5k Trail I secured after lobbying the Environment Minister.

After successfully lobbying the Environment Minister in 2013 to secure a 5k trail and £10,000 investment in Redburn Country Park I am delighted to see the new 5k Redburn Trail now being showcased this week. As a keen amateur athlete I am very aware of the lack of trails with steep inclines across Northern Ireland but know that when provided at, for example, Glenariff Forest Park, they are popular and useful places for training in preparation for the many road races across Northern Ireland.

Whilst the top loop track remains to be installed once wildlife situation permits in September all the signage is now in place and the route ready for use. I encourage people to have a try and consider the many other events also organised such as Crawfordsburn Country Park 5k on Wednesday 30 July 2014 evening at 7pm, On Yer Bike event also in Crawfordsburn Country Park on Thursday 31 July 10am to 4pm and the Kite Festival at Crawfordsburn Country Park on Saturday 2 August from 10.30am to 4pm.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Praise for Rory McIlroy’s fantastic victory

I am immensely proud of Rory McIlroy’s fantastic victory after the North Down golfer won the 2014 Open Championship.

This is another fantastic win for Rory, proving yet again his position as one of the best golfers in the world. 

With Royal Portrush set to host the Open in the next few years, Rory’s victory today puts Northern Ireland’s passion and talent for golfing on the map.  He has made everyone in North Down and Northern Ireland extremely proud – especially at his old clubhouse in Holywood.

Rory McIlroy truly is a great ambassador for Northern Ireland and we are all looking forward to following his career as his style, technique and flair continues to dominate golf tournaments in the future.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Nearly £13,000 raised for outgoing Mayor’s Charities

Cheque presentation with from left, Maria Kinney
(Camphill Communities), Glenn Aiken (Camphill
Communities), Cathy Cree (North Down YMCA),
David Seaton (Mark Pollock Trust), Barbara
Carson (Mark Pollock Trust, Mark Pollock's Mum),
Councillor Andrew Muir and Stuart Buchanan
(North Down YMCA)
I presented a large cheque on Monday 23 June 2014 for nearly £13,000 to my chosen charities when Mayor of North Down - Camphill Communities, North Down YMCA and the Mark Pollock Trust.

A range of events were organised over my Mayoral year in conjunction with the charities and Council staff including two Business Breakfast events, Antiques Valuation Fair, Golf Day at Bangor Golf Club sponsored by Barclays Bank, St Patrick's Day Musical Celebration, Charity Bag Pack, Raffle at Bangor Business Awards, Football Tournament and a Table Quiz.

Over my year as Mayor I sought to provide positive leadership with a focus on inclusivity, sport & creativity. My decision to support Camphill, YMCA and the Mark Pollock Trust reflected this desire with each organisation focused upon enabling every individual to reach their full potential regardless of age, disability, ethnicity or background.

Working as One we managed to raise the profile of each organisation whilst also raising funds to enable Camphill, YMCA and the Mark Pollock Trust to continue delivering their valuable services. Many thanks to everyone who donated funds and helped make such a successful outcome possible. I am truly grateful and confident that funds raised will help make a positive difference, delivering an enduring positive legacy from my year as Mayor

Three Charities to benefit from the sums raised will each receive over £4,300.

Commenting on sum raised Glenn Aiken from Camphill Communities stated "Camphill Communities NI have enjoyed the experience of working with the Mayor, particularly, when he was so hands-on, making mince pies in our café in Holywood. Also, our unique model of care for people with learning disabilities fitted well with his aim that each individual should be encouraged to reach their full potential. Many thanks to the Mayor from all at Camphill we thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated your support."

North Down YMCA has operating since 1979, is based in Queen's Parade, Bangor and as a faith-based voluntary organisation seeks to put the Christian faith into practice by empowering children, young people, families and communities to flourish in mind, body and spirit.  A spokesperson stated "Over the past year their staff and volunteers have supported over 800 individuals of all ages across North Down through their Youth Development, Healthy Living and Community Engagement programmes. Funds raised will help continue this vital work."

Remarking on the monies collected, Piers White from Mark Pollock Trust commented "At The Mark Pollock Trust we believe that the cure for spinal cord injuries simply requires enough of the right people having the will to make it happen. It is our mission to find and connect those people worldwide to fast-track a cure for paralysis. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Mayor for choosing Mark Pollock Trust as one of his Charities of the Year. The money raised will help enormously with our objectives and help fast-track a cure for this life changing injury."

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

North Down Schools overlooked again

Cllr Muir with Priory Integrated College Student Council
North Down Alliance Councillor Gavin Walker and I have highlighted our disappointment after schools across the area were again left out of the Education Minister’s latest investment plans.

Despite needing extensive new builds, Priory Integrated College, St Columbanus’ College and others such as Holywood Primary School were labelled not high priority and again missed from the Minister’s latest announcement.

Yet again Priory Integrated College and Holywood Primary School have been left on the backburner – despite in dire need of extensive refurbishment and new school builds.

This has been dragging on for far too long and parents, teachers and pupils deserve action.  The rebuild of Priory approved back in 2008 yet in 2014 still nothing has been achieved and a growing number of pupils are continuing to pass through tired, old buildings while officials get caught up in wider reviews.

Alliance will continue to promote integrated education as an essential part of build a shared and inclusive society for everyone

Councillor Gavin Walker added: “I am extremely disappointed St Columbanus’ College has not been included in the latest round of investment by the Education Department.  It has been waiting a long time for a new school build and absolutely deserves it.

“Whilst part of the Catholic maintained system, St Columbanus’ is a very mixed educator welcoming students from all backgrounds in the area.  The Minister must recognise the excellent work being done by everyone involved in the school to promote an inclusive learning experience for all students.”

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Bike Week 2014 wheels into North Down

I am encouraging people to pursue pedal power and enjoy range of events organised in North Down during Bike Week 2014 after originally requesting that Council compile such a range of events for the week which runs from 14 to 22 June 2014. 

Examples across Europe prove that cycling friendly Towns and Cities are healthy and attractive plans to live and visit promoting sustainable travel, active minds and active bodies. I am therefore a keen supporter of cycling and was eager to ensure North Down Council put the wheels in motion and celebrate Bike Week 2014 with a range of diverse events.

Bike Week 2014 in North Down will be delivered by the Council in partnership with Bangor Aurora plus North Down Cycling Club, who I am proud to support as a Honorary Member. Events will include the traditional North Down Coastal Challenge on 15 June, 12 hours of Spin at Queen’s Leisure Complex, Holywood on 16 June, Sprocket Rockets Children’s Cycle Skills event at Bangor Aurora on 17 June.

A novice cycle ride in Ballyholme will also take place on Tuesday 17 June, 5k and 10k gym challenge with Aurora and Queen’s Leisure Complex from 14 – 22 June, Cycling Event in Castle Park on Thursday 19 June, a mass outdoor charity spin class on 21 June at Aurora and opportunity to win a mountain bike via a prize draw. Full details can be found at and

I look forward to supporting the events as someone firmly committed to a Bicycle friendly Borough with a track record of pro-actively leading and delivering sustainable travel solutions and sporting events together with others in order to build a new inclusive, active and prosperous Borough for everyone.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Mayoral term positive year of progress

Many thanks to everyone who helped make my year as Mayor of North Down such a success. I am confident that one year after becoming Mayor I leave a better and more united Borough following a positive year of progress focussed on building an inclusive, active and prosperous Borough.

Promoting inclusivity daily, I adopted ‘Working as One’ as my theme for the year undertaking over 700 engagements – including work with those in need on Christmas day – raising over £13,000 for charities and promoting courageous civic leadership for everyone.

Among my many highlights was the introduction of the Bangor parkrun, sailing a Catamaran, having the opportunity to meet HRH Princess Anne and Irish President Michael D Higgins, securing Bangor’s very own Culture Night and seeing the first sod cut on the new SERC Performing Arts Centre.

Last year I promised and this year I have delivered a positive legacy for everyone. Bangor Castle Town Hall has been opened up with many groups and individuals welcomed to the historic building, from the Orange Order, Ethnic Minorities, Faith Groups, Youth Organisations, the Royal British Legion, local Army representatives, and many Charities such as Guide Dogs for the Blind and the MS Society.

The role has also allowed me to help build an active Borough representing North Down at the World Police and Fire Games and the official opening of Bangor Aurora. But most of all I’m proud to have established Bangor’s own 5k parkrun, which in a matter of weeks has grown to become the second biggest in Northern Ireland. I’ve led from the front, ran 10k races, participated in Open Water Swims, sailed on a catamaran and volunteered for our local food bank, St Vincent de Paul and Salvation Army.

Working for everyone across North Down led me on many new paths not yet travelled by previous Mayors and I’m proud to have been the first to speak at St Paul’s Gaelic Athletic Club Awards in Bangor and later attended a match in Holywood. I also forged a productive working relationship with Belfast Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir promoting local businesses to a global audience. Engaging fully on social media I also promoted North Down beyond the borough, highlighting North Down as a great place to live, visit, work or invest.

I also want to thank everyone who has helped me complete a successful year, including my Mum who often acted as Mayoress and the many people who supported my charities – North Down YMCA, Camphill Communities and Mark Pollock Trust.  Together we raised an unbelievable £13,000 for three fantastic groups that provide hope and inspiration to many.

But the hard work doesn’t stop now – there is still lots to be done and I’m looking forward to work getting underway on the new North Down and Ards Council.  This is a clear opportunity for a new beginning to work together and deliver better services for citizens and businesses across the area.

Throughout my year as Mayor I’ve promoted my vision of what a shared and inclusive society for everyone can look like. I am delighted to have achieved such a positive progress, transforming the role and providing inspiration to many. I look forward to the time ahead focused on a number of new projects which I hope to deliver with the same passion and energy that I possessed when I started one year ago.