Thursday, 27 January 2011

Save our Reservoirs Petition

You can now sign the Save our Reservoirs Petition online at www.ipetitions.com/petition/reservoirs

Ducks at Portavo Reservoir
You can also download a copy of the Petition in Adobe Acrobat PDF format to print off and get people to sign in person at by clicking here

Return completed petitions to Cllr Andrew Muir, c/o Town Hall, The Castle, BANGOR, BT20 4BT. Copies can be emailed in Word format and hard copies posted upon request, just contact me by telephoning 07813 945411 or email mail@andrewmuir.net 

Save our Reservoirs Petition states "We the undersigned believe that Portavo, Ballysallagh, Conlig, Church Road and Creighton’s Green Reservoirs offer vast economic, social, environmental and health benefits for all. 
We therefore call upon NI Water to halt their plans to sell the Reservoirs and urge NI Water to explore and consult upon an alternative financially sustainable future for the Reservoirs. 
Such a future must attract widespread support from the community, ensure security of supply, minimise flood risks, protect wildlife and the environment generally whilst also allowing users to continue their current activities in a safe manner"
Template Letter of Objection can be downloaded by clicking here.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Muir urges NI Water to halt scandalous Reservoir sale plans

I call upon NI Water to halt their plans to sell Reservoirs across North Down. Last Thursday over one hundred people attended my Public Meeting to discuss NI Water's plans to flog seven Reservoirs across North Down. Representatives from the Ulster Wildlife Trust, RSPB and Woodland Trust provided information followed by an extensive discussion chaired by Adam Harbinson.

People were shocked to hear that NI Water plan to sell reservoirs on the open market with many calling upon them to halt their sale plans forthwith, especially in relation to Portavo Reservoir, near Groomsport, which is scheduled for sale during 2011/12.


I echo these calls and urge NI Water to withdraw their sale plans. This would allow people and organisations to explore how the reservoirs can enjoy a brighter future in the hands of people who care rather than allowing them to be sold to the highest bidder on the open market.


I find it scandalous that NI Water are prepared to contemplate selling these reservoirs whilst many homes across Northern Ireland were recently without water. The water crisis must have a significant bearing on the mind of NI Water and convince the organisation that sell-offs are the last thing people need. Selling the reservoirs could also endanger a vast array of wildlife which lives in the Reservoirs whilst also reduce the opportunity for recreational activities such as Angling and Countryside walks.


I also used the meeting to update people on what he has found out about the sale plans including information obtained which indicates that a company is interested in buying Ballysallagh Reservoirs in order to establish a Hydro Electric Power Station.


Renewable Energy should be encouraged, but any plans for such a power plant in the Craigantlet Hills shouldn't be shrouded in secrecy and only uncovered as a result of my Freedom of Information request. Details concerning this proposal plus any other potential uses should be published to allow the public to give their views.


An extensive Campaign Plan is now in place including a petition which will soon be online at http://www.andrewmuir.net/ for people to sign once the content is agreed. In the meantime please don't hesitate to join my Save our Reservoirs email list by emailing mail@andrewmuir.net

North Down and Ards Council's have also agreed to establish a working group to thwart plans to sell Portavo Reservoir near Groomsport. I will sit on this group along with Cllr Ian Henry and Cllr John Montgomery from North Down Borough Council. The battle to Save our Reservoirs continues apace.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Muir slams Craigantlet fly tipping

I condemn those responsible for dumping rubbish and rubble on North Down’s scenic Craigantlet Hills. I am also calling for people to report any information which may lead to identification of the culprits.

Builders rubble and other assorted rubbish has recently been dumped on the Ballymoney Road, Craigantlet by despicable individuals who have little regard to the environment nor respect for rule of law. I condemn this pollution outright.

I understand that Council officials are trying to identify the culprits but haven’t managed to seek out those responsible. I call upon anyone with any information concerning the fly tipping to report details to North Down Borough Council or the NI Environment Agency via 028 9056 9453 or environmentalcrime@doeni.gov.uk If the offenders are not caught the rate payer may have to pick up the bill associated with removal of this waste.

The Craigantlet Hills are North Down’s jewel in our crown. The hills should be a place for wildlife and tranquillity not rubbish. I hope the offenders are quickly identified and seriously punished.

Muir welcomes progress in banning Circuses involving animals

I welcome news that hopefully all schools across Northern Ireland will no longer welcome circuses involving animals. I have been leading change by working to close this loophole for the last few months.

I am glad that the loophole allowing circuses involving animals to easily establish circuses at sites across Northern Ireland has now hopefully been closed. 

Evidence from the Alliance for Animal Rights details ‘Animals in circuses live a life of restriction, cages, chains and constant transportation.’

W
ith circus animals sometimes forced to perform confusing, uncomfortable, repetitious and often-painful acts I am glad that my actions will make it more difficult for circuses involving animals to establish at many sites across Northern Ireland. It will also be a relief for people living near the old Bangor Academy School who had to endure the Circus Vegas on their doorstep during late July / early August 2010.

I will continue to campaign and lead change to see a Northern Ireland wide ban on circuses involving animals. Animal welfare must be higher up the political agenda.


After successfully lobbying the Education Minister and each Education and Library Board I was able to announce in November 2010 that the South Eastern Board have decided to ban circuses involving animals from any of their land. 


The Western Board has also agreed to implement a similar ban and Belfast Board informs me that no applications have yet been received by circuses and, if so, would be carefully considered. No response was forthcoming from the Southern Board and the North Eastern Board was refusing to take action.


The Southern Education and Library Board have now responded detailing they ban use of their land by commercial purposes such as circuses involving animals.


After contacting the Minister for Education and requesting that she takes action and intervenes in relation to the North Eastern Board I am now informed by CaitrĂ­ona Ruane that the North Eastern Board “will be strongly advising schools against the use of their premises for any commercial purposes in line with Board policy.”

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Alliance Conference Speech - Leading Change

With Leader of Fine Gael Enda Kenny TD
I was delighted to have the opportunity to address Alliance Party Conference today. We met at Dunadry Hotel, Antrim and were joined by Enda Kenny TD, Leader of Fine Gael and widely considered as the next Taoiseach.

The party was in an extremely upbeat mood and were inspired by many of the speakers including Deputy Leader Naomi Long MP plus Justice Minister and Party Leader David Ford MLA.

A number of our election candidates were given an opportunity to speak including me. Below is a copy of my speech, described by blogger Alan in Belfast as "one of the strongest and best-written candidate speeches".

People across America and beyond this week remembered Martin Luther King.


Martin Luther King inspired me to get involved in politics over twenty years ago and continues to light a beacon of hope which shines brightly across the globe.



King once remarked that “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

That’s why I am a member of Alliance.


Alliance grasps challenges and doesn’t run away from controversy.


For the last forty years we have been Leading Change. Standing up for what is right and taking action to deliver a Shared Society where diversity is viewed as a strength not a weakness.


Whether it be by saying that everyone is welcome here, regardless as to whether they are black or white, Romanian or Polish or stating that if we want a first class water and sewage system we need to work out a way to pay for it, we measure up as leaders who have the courage to say what others shy away from.


Chris Lyttle MLA, Cllr Sara Duncan, Trevor Lunn MLA,
Party President Colm Cavanagh, Party Chair Cllr Stewart
Dickson plus Deputy Leader Naomi Long MP
As an Alliance Councillor on North Down Borough Council I look forward to the forthcoming elections. I hope the people will choose me to represent them for the next four years.

Since being appointed as a Councillor last July I have achieved lots but have much more to do.


Whether it be in relation to a Shared Society, the Economy or the Environment I am leading and delivering change day after day.


I stand out from the crowd and am known for my clear Vision and Values. These are Alliance Values.


I believe that division is wrong and sharing is a must. 


I also believe that to grow our economy we must tackle the division and intolerance which exists across Northern Ireland. We can no longer afford to spend billions on division and indecision each year. 


As a committed environmental activist I am proof that you can be green by voting yellow.  


Whilst the Greens talk about obscure issues I am focused on the real issues of concern affecting peoples everyday lives.


Earlier this week I packed a room full with over one hundred people. In response to plans by NI Water to sell Reservoirs across Northern Ireland people flocked to my meeting to support the Save our Reservoirs Campaign, initiated and led by me as an Alliance representative. 


From Seahill to Stoneyford, Lough Cowey to Craigantlet, Portaferry to Portavoe Alliance is on top of the environmental agenda.

Today I am happy to announce that after months of lobbying nearly £3m worth of investment is now in the pipeline to end the awful problem of sewage pollution into the scenic Kinnegar Lagoons. Through my dogged determination I am both leading and delivering change. 

The environment isn’t however the only issue in town. There’s many other issues facing Northern Ireland. 


It’s easy to talk about a Shared Future but delivery is an another matter.


As Northern Ireland’s first openly gay Councillor I am well aware that I made history last July. I broke the mould and have been warmly accepted by most people. I am however aware that I am not the only gay in the village.


Whether it be by engaging with the Loyalist Ladies of Loughview or local GAA Club I am taking real action to build a Shared Holywood which powers a strong economy with a bustling Town Centre.


The days of plenty are over. Now is the time for smart, shared and sustainable solutions.


Last year people told me Alliance wasn’t going anywhere. How wrong where they? We are now going to the Executive table and to Westminister whilst others go nowhere.


The challenge ahead is to continue leading change across Northern Ireland. 


To those who doubt us I say Yes we can. 


To those who said Naomi Long wouldn’t get elected as a MP I say Yes she did.


To those who ask whether we will increase our number of MLAs and Councillors at the next election I say Yes we will.


Let’s breakthrough old politics of the past towards new shared future where politics works and businesses grow.


Together we can change Northern Ireland.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Over 100 people attend Save our Reservoirs Meeting

Save our Reservoirs Public Meeting organised by
Cllr Andrew Muir on 20 Jan 2011
Thank you to the many people who came along to the Save our Reservoirs meeting I organised last night (Thursday 20 January 2011) at the Marine Court Hotel, Bangor.

Over one hundred people packed into the room to hear more about the battle to Save our Reservoirs including representatives form the RSPB, Ulster Wildlife Trust and the Woodland Trust.


Lots of information was exchanged concerning plans by NI Water to sell Reservoirs at Portavo, Ballysallagh, Conlig, Church Road and Creighton’s Green.


If you haven’t joined my Save our Reservoirs mailing list please email me mail@andrewmuir.net and I will add you to the growing list of campaign supporters.


In the next week I hope to set up an online petition and provide template letters of objection. Lots of other actions are also planned. Working together we can step up the battle to Save our Reservoirs.

Join the email list and keep an eye on my website to find out more.

Breaking the mould as first openly gay Councillor

Longer version of the article which appeared in the Belfast Telegraph today (Friday 21 January 2011) can be found below entitled;

Rise of minority politicians a refreshing sign of the times

Gay councillor Andrew Muir believes old prejudices can no longer thwart moves towards a more liberal-thinking society.

Last year I stepped forward and broke the mould by becoming Northern Ireland’s first openly gay Councillor. This occurred as a result of my appointment as an Alliance Party Councillor on North Down Borough Council for the Holywood area on 8 July 2010 via the new co-option procedure.


Wearing Councillor Robes at Bangor
Town Hall for Freedom of the Borough Event 

for the RNLI on 18 September 2010 
along with Cllr Dr Stephen Farry MLA
It is widely known throughout Northern Ireland that I am gay. I don’t hide my sexuality nor do I shy away from the difficult issues. 

When I see something wrong I don’t turn a blind eye or hope that somebody else will address the matter. I take action and stand up for what is right. I stand out from the crowd and am known for my clear commitment to a Shared Society where diversity is embraced and celebrated.


The fact that my appointment as Northern Ireland’s first openly gay Councillor passed without any adverse comment hopefully signifies that Northern Ireland has changed. 

We have evolved from a place where it was illegal to be gay to a new Northern Ireland where gay people are protected against discrimination and now feature in many professions whether it be medicine, law, finance or politics.

Since July I have been working hard to meet the needs of my constituents, attempting to make Holywood the best place in Northern Ireland for everyone to live, work or visit. 

I have received a warm welcome from nearly every person I encounter. Whether at the Town Hall or across Holywood, I am judged by most people on my ability to do the job not my sexual orientation. 

Cllr Andrew Muir
The next challenge is to face the electorate in May and be returned as a Councillor for the Holywood area. I have already managed to achieve progress in building a prosperous, shared, clean and green Borough and hope I will be given the opportunity to continue my work as a Councillor.

But why did we have to wait until 2010 before Northern Ireland got its first openly gay Councillor? 

The answer to this question lies in North Down. In 1953 Patricia Ford was elected in that constituency as Northern Ireland’s first ever female MP. This development occurred 35 years after Constance Markiewicz became the first female MP to be elected to the House of Commons in 1918 followed by Nancy Astor in 1919 for the Plymouth Sutton constituency.

Naomi Long MP
When Patricia Ford was elected in 1953, it was 35 years since older women had been given the right to vote in Westminster elections and 25 years after universal suffrage was achieved in 1928. It took far too long but thankfully having great female MPs such as Naomi Long for East Belfast and Lady Hermon for North Down has helped to partly right this wrong.

A long delay therefore seems to occur in terms of the representation of certain people in Northern Ireland following legislative and attitudinal changes. 

Stephen Twigg MP when elected
in 1997 beside Michael Portillo
Across in Great Britain, they already have many openly gay MPs and Lords. Maureen Colquhoun became the first openly gay MP in 1976 followed by Chris Smith in 1984. Neither of which were however known to be gay when selected and elected unlike Stephen Twigg and Ben Bradshaw. Both Stephen and Ben were elected in 1997 as openly gay candidates. I will always remember Twigg’s iconic election success unseating Michael Portillo and ushering in the New Labour era which saw significant progress in terms of equality for lesbian and gay people.

The Irish Senate has several openly gay members including Presidential hopeful David Norris whilst a wide range of gay people have been selected as candidates by mainstream political parties in winnable seats for the forthcoming Dail Election. In addition to this the Scottish Parliament has four openly gay Members.

Irish Presidential hopeful
Senator David Norris
Northern Ireland still hasn’t any openly gay MLAs or MPs. I do however believe that this will change within the next four years. 

Northern Ireland has already had elected representatives who weren’t straight. I dare not speak their name. 

The challenge ahead is for mainstream political parties to select men and women who are openly gay to stand in winnable seats so that the people can elect a new generation of politicians fully reflective of today’s society. 

The Alliance Party has already proven its ability to meet this challenge with myself as Northern Ireland’s first openly gay Councillor. I hope others will also step forward. 

Peter Robinson recently remarked “We’re the party of progress, We are the party of the future. We are the party of Northern Ireland.” Their ability to attract openly gay candidates and voters should be used to test whether this is rhetoric or reality. 

With legal protections now in place and attitudes changing, an increasing number of lesbian and gay people have the confidence to be out and proud. 

This is now feeding into the political system, with being gay less of an issue for party members. Barriers to selection are slowly breaking down and I hope more openly gay people will soon emerge as election candidates.

Anna Lo MLA
Anna Lo was the first politician born in East Asia elected to any legislative body in the UK.  She was also the first person from an ethnic minority elected to any office in Northern Ireland. Anna bucked the trend and lifted the glass ceiling. It was a great step forward but we need to go much further. 

In order for politics to work we need people to get involved. Anna stepped forward and has proven a fantastic MLA for South Belfast.

The time for others to step forward is now. To those who yearn for change, I call on you to join a political party and consider putting yourself forward as a candidate. If you don’t want to stand for election, do attend party meetings and re-balance the debate. Political parties which are much more representative of society will ensure a wider and more varied slate of candidates emerge.

Shortly after winning a supervisor's seat in San Francisco, Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected in the US and later to be assassinated stated “It’s not my victory, it’s yours and yours and yours. If a gay can win, it means there is hope that the system can work for all minorities if we fight. We’ve given them hope”. I hope to continue the beacon of hope lit by Harvey back in 1977 and that others will join me. Together we change Northern Ireland. 

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Love your Bike - Bangor, Sat 12 Feb 2011

Love your Bike - Valentines Weekend Group Cycle plus Cycling Manifesto Launch

Saturday 12 February 2011, Bangor

Organised by Friends of the Earth in co-operation with Sustrans

Friends of the Earth North Down & Ards group, in co-operation with Sustrans, will launch it’s Cycling Campaign on Saturday 12 February 2011, 10.30am with a group Cycle around Bangor followed by event at Bikeworks Balloo to unveil our Cycling Manifesto.

The Cycling Campaign is designed to create a Bicycle friendly Borough by lobbying for practical actions which ensures more people use their bicycle to make short journeys across North Down. We aim to make Cycling more attractive and safer as the quick, cheap and environmentally friendly way to travel with clear socio economic and health benefits.

Purpose of the event on Saturday 12 February 2011 entitled “Love your bike” is to launch our Cycling Manifesto for North Down and highlight the need for the Green Advance Stop Lines across Bangor.

We will meet at Bangor Bus and Rail Station at 10.30am and then cycle around Bangor Town Centre with photo at one of the advance stop lines. We will then cycle to Bikeworks Cycle Shop at 1 Balloo Link, Bangor for tea, coffee and launch of Cycling Manifesto.

The event is open to everyone of all abilities.

For further information please do not hesitate to contact me via email mail@andrewmuir.net or telephone 07813 945411.

West Green Flats in Holywood update

Earlier this month I expressed my concern after I learnt that demolition of West Green flats, Holywood has been delayed - see Alliance Party Press Release


Alliance MLA for North Down Dr Stephen Farry recently received a response concerning the ongoing problem.

I welcome news that demolition will take place before March 2011. Albeit delayed the response from Alex Attwood (Social Development Minister) is encouraging. West Green flats will hopefully be removed within the next few weeks. Once demolition has taken place the focus must then be on ensuring the new homes are built without delay.

Assembly question and response below;


West Green Flats in Holywood

Dr S Farry asked the Minister for Social Development to outline the timescale for the demolition of West Green Flats in Holywood.
(AQW 3197/11)
Minister for Social Development: Two blocks of flats alongside other adjacent properties in West Green Holywood have been earmarked for demolition to make way for a new housing development in the area.

The demolition will take place in two phases: the first phase involving the flats and the second involving the adjacent properties.

Services have been disconnected from the flats at West Green and plans are already being developed to effect their demolition before March next year.

Residents from the adjacent properties comprising the second phase of demolition are still being re-housed. Once that has been completed, those properties will also be demolished but the timing of that will of course be entirely dependant on how quickly suitable alternative accommodation can be found for those residents who have to relocate.

Muir speaks at Sullivan Upper Politics Society - Water, EU & Coffee Shops on the Agenda

The state of Northern Ireland’s water and sewage system, the European Union and the number of coffee shops in Holywood and Bangor Town Centre’s were among the topics discussed when I attended Sullivan Upper Politics Society last Friday 14 January 2011.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to deliver a talk to pupil’s and answer some of their questions. It was an extremely interesting engagement where I made the case for investment in Northern Ireland’s water and sewage system and a variety of views were expressed in relation to whether Holywood and Bangor Town Centre’s have too many coffee shops..

I look forward to the opportunity to speak to pupil’s at Sullivan Upper again and invite any other groups who want me to come along to hear their views to contact me – telephone 07813 945411.

Seed Swap Saturday 22nd Jan Holywood

Seed Swap Saturday
News from Holywood Transition Town

3.45–6.00pm Sat 22nd January

Redburn Community Centre, Jackson’s Road, Holywood

Are you a gardener with spare half empty or unopened seed packets?  


Have you no seeds to swap but would like to start growing this year?


Then why not come along to Holywood’s first ever seed swap event!


Please feel free to forward on to other interested parties.                                                                                                                                          

H
ow does it work on the day?
You are welcome whether you have seeds to swap or not


No seeds to swap?
We have a selection for you to take away and try!


If you have seeds you can bring partially emptied or unopened packets of bought seeds or, saved seeds from last year’s plants


Seeds can be veg, fruit or flower – there will be a swapping table for each


Important: all seeds must be in date for the 2011 growing season!


You can swap flower for vegetable, bought for saved, an opened packet for an unopened packet etc.


Children can make a seed packet & take away sunflower seeds


Tea and coffee available


Voluntary donation of 50p per adult


More information?  Contact Sacha 077 1058 5876 or sw@meenacahan.co.uk or Mandy on 078 2739 9165

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Muir commends action on Holywood’s ugliest building

Moffet's Building, picture courtesy of Google Streetview

I commend North Down Borough Council for taking strong action in relation to the old Moffett’s building on Downshire Road which most people now regard as Holywood’s ugliest building.


Moffets’ Building has long been a blot on the landscape in Holywood, gradually falling into disrepair until its current awful state. A number of people have raised the state of the building with me and directly to Council officers. People are keen to see action before someone is hurt with the building in a precarious state.


I am delighted to learn that North Down Borough Council has served a notice against the owner, requiring him to carry out significant works to include removal of vegetation from the building, re-instating the roof, repairing or replacing brickwork, repairing window sills and repairing or replacing any damaged window openings and doors. I hope this notice is complied with and look forward to seeing this eye sore removed either through repair and maintenance or complete demolition.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Save our Reservoirs Public Meeting

Save our Reservoirs Public Meeting

Thursday 20 January 2011, 7.30pm

Marine Court Hotel, 18-20 Quay Street, BANGOR, BT20 5ED

Find out more about plans to sell Reservoirs across North Down and beyond

Come along and share your ideas to Save our Reservoirs

Representatives from Woodland Trust, RSPB and Ulster Wildlife Trust will be there to provide information


Rescheduled after previous meeting had to unfortunately be postponed due to bad weather

Just incase you aren’t aware;

Portavoe Reservoir scheduled for sale 2011/12
Ballysallagh Upper and Lower Reservoirs scheduled for sale 2013/14 – fast track disposal being considered
Conlig Reservoirs scheduled for sale in 2013/14
Church Road and Creighton’s Green Reservoirs scheduled for sale 2015/16


Meeting arranged by Cllr Andrew Muir and open to everyone including other politicians.


More information concerning my Save our Reservoirs Campaign including news that over £3m was invested during 2003/04 to bring the Ballysallagh Lower Reservoir to EU drinking water standards at www.andrewmuir.net

Please do no hesitate to contact me if you have any queries.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Flooding update

Readers may recall that flooding incidents occurred across North Down during November 2010.

From immediate recollection serious flooding was been experienced on the A2 near Seahill, A2 opposite Dicksons Garden Centre on Belfast bound carriageway, A2 near Culloden (with pavements lifted due to force of water) and also on the Belfast Road, Holywood opposite Sullivan School.

I am concerned that these incidents are not “one off” but now seem to be regular occurrences which are causing significant disruption. I therefore sought an update from the Roads Service on proactive measures that are planned to eliminate these problems so we don’t experience the same difficulties on an ongoing basis with heavy rainfall now more and more likely.

In response I have been informed;

1. A2 near Seahill ~ flooding caused by debris blocking mouth of culvert. This has now been cleared. No further action programmed

2. A2 opposite Dickson Garden Centre ~ flooding took place due to the volume of water that was being fed to the road culvert. No engineering issue exists at this location. No further action programmed.

3. A2 at Woodlands ~ repair to a section of carrier pipe and footway has been programmed to commence after the Christmas Embargo. This work will resolve this issue.

4. Belfast Road, Holywood ~ investigations by Roads Service and Rivers Agency determined that the problem was associated with a blockage caused by foreign matter entering the drainage system. This has since been removed by Rivers Agency. The road culvert at this point which is under the control of Roads Service has been found to be fully functional.