Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Muir expresses concern at reducing Air Quality in Holywood

With Air Quality affecting everyone across the Borough I was keen to ensure the new Council got the same regular updates as we used to get at the old legacy North Down Borough Council. I therefore requested tabling of the reports for review by Councillors and, in turn, members of the public on the Council’s website. 

I would like to thank officers for agreeing to do this and whilst Air Quality levels are generally satisfactory across the Borough I am concerned to learn that Air Quality levels have been reducing over the last number of years along the A2 near Holywood Town Centre. Whilst officers feel that objective levels will not be exceeded the risk that levels further increase is real especially with further development planned to occur in vicinity. 

I will be closely monitoring the situation which proves yet again the need for government to promote and adequately fund sustainable transport solutions to reduce the volume of traffic and thereby pollution created

Monday, 17 September 2018

Rainbow Colours to hopefully shine after proposal passed at Council Committee

Ards and North Down Alliance Councillor Gavin Walker and I have welcomed a recent decision by an Ards and North Down Borough Council Committee to back our proposal affirming that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people be accepted and valued as equal citizens with Ards Town Hall to be lit up in Rainbow Colours to coincide with Pride Day.

I presented this motion in the hope that we could make a positive difference to the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people living, working or visiting our Borough and am therefore delighted to have secured backing of the relevant Council Committee in affirming that LGBT people should be accepted and valued just like everyone else.

I am extremely grateful to all those who supported this motion and sincerely hope that Council will ratify this decision and let Ards and North Down Borough Council make history as the first Council in Northern Ireland to back such a pledge making it clear that nobody should feel that being LGBT is something to be disappointed about or ashamed of.

Full Council meeting will occur on the evening of Wednesday 26 September from 7pm where members of the public can attend and hopefully witness passing of this positive decision.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Muir secures transparency concerning Councillor attendance statistics

Ards and North Down Borough Council is set to publish attendance statistics of all elected representatives, after an Alliance motion secured the latest move towards full openness and transparency.

I managed to secure unanimous support for the plans – which will be updated on a quarterly basis going forward – since ratepayers’ deserved to know attendance rates for their elected representatives. The decision reached at the Council's Corporate Committee is now subject to formal ratification by full Council on 26 September 2018.

When elected, Councillors have a responsibility to not only articulate the concerns of their constituents, but to ensure good governance within the Council. This is primarily done by engaging with officers via the established Committee structure and full Council meetings, reviewing papers, asking questions, debating the issues and reaching decisions. Whilst simply attending meetings is not the only measure by which we should judge Councillor performance, actually being in the building, ready to work is a starting point, except, of course, if the Councillor has legitimate reason to be absent.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Bangor by the Sea - Tenx9 Story 10 August 2018

"Bangor by the Sea" delivered to Tenx9 Open House Festival Bangor Event on Friday 10 August 2018.

As someone born and bred in Bangor the beach and our bay is something I have many memories of.

Whether it’s the closing down sale at Barry’s Amusements and my sister holding onto the Panda ride with grim death after mistakenly being told by our Uncle Alan she could have it, or watching people jump from the Pier in the summer sun whilst tins of Tennents were drank and music belted out from new fangled technology known as Ghetto Blasters which required an inordinate amount of D size batteries, enough perhaps to power a scooter nowadays!

Granny Peggy with my Sister Nadine
Bangor Bay is a place where I have many great memories.

Sailing around the bay on one of Lairds Boats was a pleasure I only enjoyed once, heading to visit Jenny Watts cave without lifejackets, of course, and returning empty handed without any of the treasure that apparently lies at the end of the cave.

Swimming in Pickie Pool was not something I ever had the fortune, or misfortune, to experience unlike others with only one close shave after my grandfather decided to take me to Pickie after finding out the heated pool at Bangor Castle Leisure Centre was closed.

The sense of elation I felt after discovering Pickie was also closed for the evening is still something I can recall!

Pickie has now been demolished to make way for the Council’s grand seafront development plan with the appearance of a marina, playpark, mini train and a fountain, which often spurts bubbles with a little help of some washing up liquid. 


Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Alliance urges Ards & North Down to support Pride

Ards and North Down Alliance Councillor Gavin Walker and myself have urged people from across Ards and North Down to come out for change and support the Belfast Pride Parade which will take place this year on Saturday 4 August 2018 at 1pm from Custom House Square.

Speaking in advance of the Parade, Councillor Walker stated “Northern Ireland has thankfully travelled a long way since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1982 towards a much more modern, open, inclusive and accepting society. Lots has been achieved through the steadfast commitment of many courageous LGBT people but much more change needs to occur. That’s why I am calling upon people across our Borough to support the Pride Festival and Parade on Saturday which is aptly themed this year as ‘Come out for Change’. Together we can make Belfast Pride Parade the biggest ever, showing our collective commitment to celebrate diversity and demand equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans citizens”.

As the campaign for change builds I have been humbled and delighted to see more and more people like Councillor Walker coming out for change proving that Northern Ireland has changed, for good. In addition to making our call for people to attend Pride we have also submitted a positive proposal which will be considered by Ards and North Down Borough Council in September calling for the Council to affirm that all lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people should be accepted and valued as equal citizens and asking officers to explore potential events to fulfil this pledge. We hope all other Councillors will be able to get behind our motion and stand together in solidarity in support of LGBT people.

In relation to the recent hate incident in Bangor where a homophobic note was received after a 11 year old displayed a Rainbow Flag in her bedroom window my views are that events such like this merely re-emphasise need for everyone in political life to stand up for equality, diversity and against both discrimination and hate. Representing all the colours of the rainbow, the Pride Flag is a positive vibrant celebration of diversity. Display of the Pride Flag reflects an open, diverse, outward looking society and should never result in such a hateful note. Like many others I am looking forward to Belfast Pride as both a positive celebration of diversity and call for equality. I hope that this proves to be an isolated incident within a Borough that I am proud to call home where the overwhelming majority of people in Ards and North Down are warm, welcoming, inclusive and accepting of people regardless of sexuality.”

Motion tabled and to be debated at Council Corporate Committee on 11 September 2018: Proposed by Councillor Muir and seconded by Councillor Walker: “That this Council acknowledged the positive contribution that diversity brings to our communities and accordingly affirms that all lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people living, working or visiting our Borough should be accepted and valued as equal citizens as part of a safe, welcoming and inclusive society. Council consequently requests that officers explore how we can positively fulfil this pledge including via suitable events.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Muir: Council must take responsibility to safeguard local events

Ards and North Down Council is to assess how a new law regarding special events on roads could affect some of the area's most popular gatherings.
At the recent Ards and North Down Council Environment Committee meeting I decided to tackle the issue after concerns raised around the future of a number of events such Holywood May Fair Maypole dancing and races including Ards Half Marathon where the new obligations played a role in decision to cancel the event in 2018.
The new law means it is up to the relevant authority to authorise and approve the use of roads for events with significant costs arising thereby putting key local events into jeopardy.
As a local Council it is our responsibility to safeguard our must-loved local events, promote active living and encouraging charitable fundraising. Whilst May Pole dancing for the Holywood May Fair was given a temporary reprieve this year via a last minute compromise we need to find a fairer and more sustainable way forward. With other Councils such as Derry City and Strabane and Mid and East Antrim levying no charge for small or community events I feel it's apt we review matters locally in Ards and North Down.
The roll out of this new law has been confusing to say the least, and I welcome the support from fellow Councillors to ensure we are in possession of all the facts and able to plan a sensible way forward one year after the legislation came into effect from 3 September 2017 after the previous Minister for Infrastructure Chris Hazzard decided to proceed regardless of concerns raised thereby passing the problem onto Council and creating real issues for local community and sporting groups.