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




Thursday, 19 December 2019

Member of the NI Assembly for North Down

I am delighted to be selected by the Alliance Party to become the new North Down MLA. I will replace Stephen Farry following the latter’s election as North Down MP. I have served as Councillor for the Holywood area since 2010 and will resign the position before taking up the role as MLA early next week.

I served as Mayor of North Down between 2013-14, and have been leader of the Alliance group on Ards and North Down Borough Council since its formation in 2014. I look forward to tackling a number of issues as North Down MLA.

I am deeply honoured to be selected by my Alliance friends and colleagues to succeed Stephen Farry as MLA for North Down. I want to pay tribute to Dr Farry for the trail he blazed in the constituency, helping it become the progressive and inclusive area it is today.

I am coming into the role at a time when the Assembly is suspended and therefore one of my priorities as an MLA will be to play my role in helping restore Stormont, so it can deliver for all the people of North Down and further afield. That includes supporting the health service and local schools, pushing for infrastructure investment and helping tackle the climate emergency.

I am looking forward to building on my work as a Councillor and alongside Stephen Farry MP, provide a strong Alliance voice for all the people of North Down, serving them both in the constituency and at a restored Assembly.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Muir achieves Council support to encourage more upcycling, repair cafes and zero waste shops


Furniture upcycled by my Mum and Sister
I welcome decision by the Council's Environment Committee to unanimously endorse my proposal to encourage more upcycling, repair cafes and zero waste shops.

I presented my Motion seeking to build upon the great achievements made to date by our officers in the recycle agenda as part of the wider reduce, reuse and recycle strategy.

As we move into the next phase of our Waste Management efforts I took the opportunity to look at what's happening elsewhere and found a number of examples of how we could pursue the reuse agenda, conscious of some of the arrangements already in place. Ability to, for example, drop off redundant bicycles and appliances at Household Recycling Centres for subsequent refurbishment is already in place and extremely popular but there's more we could do.

Seeing how repair cafes operate elsewhere it would be great to see if we could trial one here in our Borough allowing people to bring items to get fixed rather than consigning them as waste.

Furniture upcycled by my Mum and Sister
"Repair Cafés are free meeting places and about repairing things together. In the place where a Repair Café is located, you'll find tools and materials to help you make any repairs you need. On clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, crockery, appliances, toys, etc. You'll also find expert volunteers, with repair skills in all kinds of fields." From https://repaircafe.org/en/

Opportunities for more upcycling would also be great, whether it be of clothes or furniture. My Mum and Sister manage to do all sorts of wonderful upcycling themselves but are keen to explore how to do more. Classes, events and other ways can make the process much easier.

Furniture upcycled by my Mum and Sister
In terms of zero waste shops, I have started to see these pop-up outside our Borough and hope officers can see what we can do locally to encourage more in Ards and North Down.

As we hopefully start to turn back from being a throwaway society I hope Council can provide residents with the tools to reuse items rather than seeing them go into the bin.

Motion presented by Alderman Muir and passed by Environment Committee on 4 December 2019, subject to ratification by Full Council meeting on 18 December 2019.  "That this Council asks officers to bring back a report on current range of services offered enabling reuse of items which otherwise would end up treated as waste and considers opportunities to support repair cafes, upcycling of clothes and furniture and provision of incentives for zero waste shops."

Muir welcomes Cairn Wood progress

I welcome progress concerning planned work at Cairn Wood after leading campaign to save the Forest in 2016 which garnered thousands of signatures and secured a u-turn in plans to sell to the highest bidder.

After the concerted efforts of many thousands of individuals I am glad to learn that Cairn Wood is both secure in public hands and work progressing on an extended car park, toilets and improving the walking trails. The walking trails will be made more suitable for family / casual cycling rather than mountain biking in light of consultation responses received by Council. A trail designer has been commissioned to develop detailed plans. Work on the toilets and extending the car park is due to be completed by end of March 2020 and by end of October 2020 concerning the trails.

I will monitor progress over the months ahead to ensure planned works occur and seek to keep people updated as we build a sustainable future for the popular forest. Many thanks to the many people in 2016 whose collective efforts helped ensure secure future for the Forest together with those engaging, responding to the consultations and working to improve Cairn Wood for future generations to enjoy.

Details concerning a few Planning Applications in relation to Cairn Wood from Council Officer:

LA06/2019/1032/F - Cairn Wood Car Park – Works anticipated to commence 20th January and completing 31st March 2020.

Cairn Wood Toilet Block – preparation of the planning application package is currently in progress and submission of the planning application is expected in December. Works anticipated to commence 1st March and complete on the 27th March 2020.

LA06/2019/0848/PAN – Forest trail enhancement scheme at Cairn Wood – currently at Planning Application Notice stage and submission of the major planning application is anticipated in December 2019. Works anticipated to commence 1st May and complete at the end of October 2020.