Gay rights champion Jeff Dudgeon awarded MBE

News that Jeff Dudgeon has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List for services to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community in Northern Ireland is extremely positive, significant and symbolic.

I feel a great sense of joy that Jeff will soon become a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). Whilst long overdue it’s a perfect end to 2011. Jeff will now be honoured by the state after previously facing criminalisation simply due to his sexual orientation.

Jeff courageously and successfully brought a case to European Court of Human Rights in 1981 and achieved decriminalisation of male homosexuality in Northern Ireland. Until the UK Government changed the law in 1982 (following Jeff’s successful case) gay men in Northern Ireland faced arrest, prosecution and imprisonment.

Muir welcomes imaginative approach on confiscated counterfeit goods

I welcome the approach adopted by the Trading Standards service in Northern Ireland to donate counterfeit goods to charity for redistribution to homeless and vulnerable people.

I recently sent an inquisitive query to Trading Standards seeking to ascertain what they do with all the fake and illegitimate goods they regularly confiscate. In response I was delighted to learn that a scheme is now in place where counterfeit goods such as clothing, footwear, food and nappies are given to charities via a designated organisation.

With counterfeit goods seemingly increasing and one market in England recently closed because more fake goods were being sold than legitimate products I welcome this imaginative approach which ensures those in need benefit from the goods rather than those who produce the dodgy items. 

Other public bodies who are in possession of confiscated goods and unclaimed lost property should explore similar opportunities to ensure that those in need benefit from the goods especially during the Christmas season of goodwill, when we should be focused on helping people pushed to the margins of society.

Alliance Councillors working to save historic Cultra Rail Station House

Sketching of Cultra Railway Station House
by Cllr Larry Thompson
My fellow Holywood Alliance Councillor Larry Thompson and I have been campaigning to save Cultra Station House. Contact has been made with the Minister for the Environment and a meeting held with top officials to work out a way to save the building. The Station House is located at Cultra Railway Halt and close to the entrance to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

Commenting on the issue, Cllr Thompson stated: “Cultra Station House was designed by renowned architect Charles Lanyon, built in circa 1863 and was listed in 2007 when threated with demolition. This unique building has long been on the Built Heritage at Risk Register and is now in a very bad state of repair with the exterior covered in graffiti, doors and windows broken and the roof partially exposed. Previous plans submitted by the site owner to refurbish the building never materialised. As a consequence of the general economic downturn the building now faces a very uncertain future with ownership recently transferred to NAMA who have since put the building up for sale on the open market seeking circa £450k.”

Muir welcomes £3.6m investment to stop pollution at Kinnegar lagoons, Holywood

Cllr Muir at Kinnegar Lagoons
I welcome news that NI Water have formally approved the Business Case authorising investment of £3.6million to address the on-going Kinnegar sewage pollution problem which has caused odours for years.

I have been campaigning for action to plug the sewage problem since early 2010 when I exposed the full extent of the problem and secured commitment by NI Water to spend £100,000 to identify the cause and then £3million investment to fix the problem.

Whilst sewage pollution has occurred for far too long at the Kinnegar Lagoons I am glad that progress to implement a solution is occurring after sustained lobbying by myself. This £3.6m initiative will hopefully eliminate the on-going smells which have made some nearby residents and workers nauseous and are often commented upon by people travelling past the location by car or train.

Muir pleased that North Down Council supports shared schooling

I welcome the decision by North Down Borough Council to support my motion expressing support for shared schooling.

Council ratified its decision to endorse my motion at its meeting on Tuesday 22 November 2011. The motion stated: “That this Council calls upon the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive to urgently deliver an education system fit for the 21st century by developing more shared educational opportunities, where children learn and play together.”