Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Change of legislation needed to promote active lifestyles, says Muir

If we are to properly promote active lifestyles, there needs to be a change of legislation to help organisers of local sporting events across North Down and beyond.

I met with Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon on Monday 9 March 2020 alongside representatives from Athletics Northern Ireland, Triathlon Ireland and the Northern Ireland Sports Forum, to discuss the Roads Miscellaneous Provisions Act (NI) 2010, which permits the closure of roads for the holding of special events.


 From left, John Allen (Athletics NI), Darren Coombes (Triathlon Ireland), Andrew Muir MLA, David Seaton (Athletics NI), Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon MLA and Ciaran Kearney (NI Sports Forum).

New legislation in 2017 gave local authorities the power to approve such events on roads. 

This legislation was pushed through just as the Assembly was collapsing, with many far-reaching negative consequences upon local communities and sporting bodies.

It comes at a time when we are trying to encourage active lifestyles and community participation. However, with devolution now restored, an opportunity now exists to fix this bad law. I was therefore grateful to the Minister for meeting and listening to the issues experienced by the officials from the relevant representative bodies.

I am pleased there are plans to undertake a review with a consultation to gather the views, with an aim to agree a way forward by early autumn. If we are to properly promote active lifestyles, the legislation needs changed and organisers should not be hit with prohibitive costs and rules, resulting in significantly higher entry fees and the cancellation of events.

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Alliance Conference 2020 Shaping our Future


Shaping our Future Panel Discussion Speech

Alliance Conference 2020

 You can also listen at http://tiny.cc/rwfzkz

As we prepare to celebrate the fifteenth Anniversary of the Alliance Party’s foundation it’s truly uplifting to see the party full of passionate people of all ages eager to shape a new future for everyone across Northern Ireland.

A new future breaking away from the old divisions and intolerances of the past.

A new future where the blackboard so well presented in Derry Girls is considered a novel reflection of an old forgotten past. For the record, I keep my toaster in the cupboard and hate soup. I never really thought whether you wore a gilet or liked soup was an indication of your religion but in the new Northern Ireland where more and more people are neither Catholic or Protestant the old ways of pigeon holing people just ain’t relevant.


As has been seen in recent elections, it’s increasingly clear that people are throwing aside the orange and green lenses by which nearly everything has previously been viewed and instead opting for clear, bright, sharp lenses which show a new rainbow society of minorities.

Now that the Assembly is back it’s vital we continue the surge towards shaping the new future people demanded and voted for not just once, or twice but three times last year.

No longer can the Assembly be seen as a by word for inaction, intolerance and veto with minority rights denied, difficult decisions deferred and a future focused on the past rather than the hopes and dreams felt today.

The Alliance Party is there to shape a new future for everyone reflecting the change that is already a happening. Fact that this year will feature an historic occasion with Pride Festivals not just occurring in Belfast and Derry~Londonderry but also Newry, Larne, Cookstown, and Fermanagh is just one example of the change occurring in communities shaped by local people and deserving of support. Raising Pride flags or lighting up a building in Rainbow colours to mark such occasions really shouldn’t be such a drag.

That’s why Alliance representatives such as Rachael Ferguson, Sorcha Eastwood, Danny Donnelly and Eóin Tennyson are so important, championing a shared present and pushing for a future resisted by some in other parties but yearned for by the people.

The Militant Moderates, the change makers, the peace builders, the ones delivering today and shaping our future for tomorrow.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Tasting a dram shouldn’t be a drama – Alliance

Councillor Gavin Walker and I are calling for the new Communities Minister to ensure licensing legislation is reformed without delay to enable local Distilleries to offer tasting without fear of prosecution.

Gavin Walker, Councillor for Bangor East and Donaghadee and I both visited the new Copeland Distillery in Donaghadee on 20 February 2020 to hear of concerns from owner Gareth Irvine.

Andrew Muir MLA, Gareth Irvine  from Copeland Distillery and Councillor Gavin Walker 

The Copeland Distillery was originally founded by Gareth Irvine in the Summer of 2016 and is a producer of a range of Irish Gin, Single Malt and Pot Still Whiskey.

Whilst it has been great to see Copeland Distillery opening in Donaghadee and enjoying some great success to date it's bonkers that they are not allowed to offer taste tours to visitors at the actually distillery but instead need to take customers to a separate bar. Legislation must be reformed to enable distilleries to sell alcohol on their premises and offer taste tours on-site without having to obtain a liquor licence.

Councillor Gavin Walker stated "Requirement to obtain a Public House Licence involves significant expenditure and a change of use for part of the premises in planning terms. The cost would be prohibitive. It would also mean the Distillery would be competing against existing Public Houses in town. Gareth wants to provide an additional attraction, not a competing one. Reform of our out-dated licencing laws is therefore essential."

Gareth Irvine, owner of Copeland Distillery commented "Whilst we are able to offer tours this involves a short walk to a bar and need to navigate stairs to second floor of an old building. Modern licensing laws would make life much better for Copeland and other Distilleries enabling us to contribute to economic and tourism growth. We join with Hospitality Ulster in calling for change and hope the new Communities Minister can deliver much needed legislative reform in the near future."

Written Question and Answer from Andrew Muir MLA to the Minister for Communities below:

Q: To ask the Minister for Communities whether she plans to revise licensing legislation to enable local producers of beer, cider and spirits to sell their products directly to the public; and, if so, when the legislation will be brought forward.

A: The reform of licensing laws is an Executive priority under the New Decade, New Approach Deal, and is one that I am keen to move forward as soon as possible.

I am currently considering a draft outcome report on the Department's recent consultation on liquor licensing laws, which includes a number of representations from local producers of beer, cider and spirits. I will announce how I intend to proceed in due course.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Maiden Speech as MLA

Monday 3 February 2020 at Northern Ireland Assembly

Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will start by welcoming you to the role and thanking everyone throughout the Chamber for the welcome that has been provided to me. In the short period since I became an MLA, one thing that has become acutely apparent to me is that, whilst these institutions are supported by structures, it is relationships that form their foundation. If the last three years have taught us anything, it should be the importance of relationships as the way to strengthen the foundation of these institutions.

Talking of relationships, this brings me to the reason why I am here, namely the elevation of my predecessor to the House of Commons. My relationship with Stephen Farry started nearly 30 years ago in the early 1990s, when we were both young-ish and I delivered leaflets and canvassed for Stephen's election to council. I have deeply admired his dedication, insight, integrity and courtesy shown to all. I was, therefore, absolutely delighted to see Stephen elected as my Member of Parliament, and honoured to have been selected by the Alliance Party as his replacement.

Stephen Farry follows in the footsteps of Lady Sylvia Hermon, who personified North Down in so many ways for the 18 years that she served as MP. She was respectful, principled and passionately committed to representing and reaching out to all communities. Stephen Farry and Lady Sylvia Hermon say everything about why I love north Down. I am so immensely proud to represent the people and the place where I was born, grew up and live.


While some may not think of it as remotely enjoyable, one way that I get to enjoy north Down is by running many miles amongst the wonderful natural environment that we are so lucky to have, but, Members, as we have seen in recent times, we cannot take our environment for granted. The impact of climate change has already taken effect on the most vulnerable across the globe. The risk of climate catastrophe is ever-increasing, especially if we do not take action now. I am, therefore, glad that one of the first motions to be debated in this place during this mandate is about such a topic. At this point, I should declare for the record that I am a former employee of Translink and councillor on Ards and North Down Borough Council.


Whilst I welcome the commitments given in the motion and in the 'New Decade, New Approach' document, if we are to genuinely declare a climate emergency, I suggest we must be prepared to respond accordingly. The commitments given in the 'New Decade, New Approach' document should be the bare minimum, and, as a result, I cannot support amendment No 2. The independent Environmental Protection Agency must be urgently established to bring us into line with the rest of the British Isles and Europe. It must have real teeth and real freedom to pursue its remit with vigour. The targets in the Climate Change Act must stretch us in ways that we have never envisaged. Petrol and diesel cars need to be phased out. Plans to expand the Sydenham bypass to three lanes need to be shelved. The way we move around has to change.

A step change in how we produce and use energy is essential. It should not just be about reduce, reuse and recycle but rather reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink — rethinking everything we do about waste. We need a collective effort involving everyone at every level of society and government. It would be great if this were the first issue to be addressed by the citizens' assembly.

I believe that we are up to the challenge. As Alan Turing — a personal hero of mine — once said:

"We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done."

Plenty does need to be done, but I believe that together we can do it.

I am wearing a dicky bow. Hopefully, that is a tradition that has been set for maiden speeches.

Muir urges Minister to ensure Residents Parking Scheme Review reports promptly

I have urged the new Infrastructure Minister to ensure review into Residents’ Parking Schemes reports promptly.

The Minister recently replied to an Assembly Question posed by me detailing that a review is currently being undertaken after introduction of first Residents’ Parking Scheme in South Belfast.

With the problem of residential parking already well known in Bangor, Holywood and so many Towns and Cities beyond North Down it’s essential that evaluation of initial scheme is completed without delay. Local people unable to get parked anywhere near to their home should not have to wait any longer to hear about proposed plans for future roll out to other areas.

Whilst there cannot ever be a perfect Residents Parking Scheme which meets needs of everyone the current situation being endured by residents in many areas across Northern Ireland is entirely unsatisfactory and needs to be addressed via balanced proposals which must not place any undue financial burden on people wishing to obtain a permit and ability to park near their home.

Written Assembly Question and response below

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Andrew Muir MLA recruiting staff

As Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLA) for North Down I am seeking to recruit a number of staff.

Recruitment is underway for a full time Casework and Constituency Manager plus part time Policy and Research Officer working three days a week and part time Constituency Office Coordinator working four mornings a week.

More detail on each job and how to apply can be found below via relevant links.

Casework and Constituency Manager, full time, 37 hours a week
https://www.communityni.org/job/casework-and-constituency-manager

Constituency Office Co-ordinator, part time, working four mornings a week
https://www.communityni.org/job/constituency-office-co-ordinator-0 

Policy and Research Officer, part time, working three days a week
https://www.communityni.org/job/policy-and-research-officer-4


Closing date for all posts is Monday 3 February 2020 at Noon