Muir dismayed Holywood Library to suffer savage cuts

I urge Libraries NI to rethink their plans to cut Holywood Library Opening Hours from 53.5 hours to 40 hours per week and the Opening Hours at Bangor's Carnegie Library cut from from 65 to 57 hours per week

Libraries NI recently announced that following receipt of additional funding ‘opening hours do not need to be reduced to the same levels as originally proposed’ and issued their final decisions concerning future opening hours for all Libraries across Northern Ireland.

I am astounded to learn that despite receiving an extra £2.39million the Libraries Authority still plan to savagely cut Holywood opening hours whilst other libraries will have their hours increased! Cutting Holywood Library opening hours from 53.5 to 40 is a significant reduction with only one other library in Northern Ireland targeted for such a massive cutback. Cutting Bangor's Opening Hours from 65 to 57 is also of concern.

Holywood welcomes Dominic Hannigan TD

Dominic Hannigan TD with myself
and local community representatives
Dominic Hannigan TD visited Holywood this week and took the opportunity to meet a range of community groups at Redburn Community Centre. 

Deputy Hannigan was visiting the Town in his role as Chairperson of Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and was briefed by those present on Holywood’s efforts to build a shared, attractive and prosperous future.

I organised the visit and was delighted to welcome Dominic to Holywood after previously inviting him to come to the town and meet with people to find out more about the work being undertaken to transform Holywood towards a new shared future.

Commenting on his visit, Deputy Hannigan said "It is excellent to speak to local community groups who, having adopted a co-ordinated approach, have ensured that their local area benefits to the greatest extent in a climate in which funding is often scarce.  It is important that community groups share their experiences with similar groups around the country. 

Muir welcomes progress to protect war memorials

I recently raised concerns that war memorials could be stolen at North Down Borough Council and am satisfied to report that comprehensive action has been taken.

Council now has a record of every inscription and all our main war memorials have been photographed.

Funding will also be sought from the War Memorials Trust* to mark each war memorial with Smartwater in order to give each memorial a forensic signature which cannot be removed.

Funding is being sought from a scheme set-up by the Trust to mark 100th Anniversary of the First World War in 2014 which will ensure greater protection of war memorials across the UK.

Since these actions relate purely to Council owned or maintained memorials I would encourage any other bodies with war memorials (such as, for example, Churches) to apply for funding from the Trust’s Memoriam 2014 project which allows for memorials to be protected free of charge.    *pending ratification by full Council at end of this month

There was no one left to speak out for me

This week we remember Martin Luther King Jnr on Monday 16 January 2012 and next week the Holocaust on Friday 27 January 2012. Martin Luther King Day and Holocaust Memorial Day are important opportunities to stop, reflect and reaffirm our commitment to building a shared society based upon respect and non violence.

Martin Luther King has long been my personal hero and once remarked “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This unfortunately still remains a dream in some cases with a Dutch man and his Nigerian wife and son living in East Belfast again subjected to racist attacks last weekend.

Gay people should be accepted not excluded and stigmatised

Myself and others at launch of LGBT Pride North West
1998 I remain proud to have been involved as Co-Chair 
We recently learned that Reparative Therapy events will again be delivered by the Core Issues Trust towards the end of this month, this time at Orangefield Presbyterian Church.

Whilst I still believe that everyone is entitled to the same Human Rights including people from all faiths and none (such as, for example, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion), I am very disappointed that these events will again take place.

Reparative Therapy seeks to change a persons Sexual Orientation from gay to straight and has been condemned as wrong and unnecessary by a wide range of respected organisations such as the UK Council for Psychotherapy.

In an era when people across Northern Ireland increasingly wish to live in a Shared Society based upon respect I find it extremely disturbing that some feel it necessary to hold such events where gay people are disgracefully described and stigmatised as lepers

Rather than focusing on the reasons why people are gay and seeking to change their Sexual Orientation those involved with these events should realise that diversity is strength not a weakness. 

Being gay is good and not something people should seek to 'change' or be ashamed of. We are all different. Gay people should be accepted and embraced without qualification rather than excluded and stigmatised.

North Down Alliance welcome Lord Alderdice at AGM

Lord Alderdice plus North Down Alliance Elected reps and Officers
North Down Alliance last week welcomed Lord Alderdice as Guest Speaker at their AGM held in the Good Templar Hall, Hamilton Road, Bangor on Thursday 5 January 2012. 

New office bearers were also elected with Adam Harbinson re-elected as Chairperson and Claire Johnston joining as Vice Chair.

Lord Alderdice’s speech touched upon his time in politics, experience of being part of a party of Government in Westminster and life in the House of Lords and left members in an upbeat mood.

Muir comments on Fire at Villa Toscana Restaurant, Bangor

Villa Toscana when operational before fire
Commenting on tonight’s fire at Villa Toscana restaurant, Bangor, North Down Alliance Councillor Andrew Muir remarked;

“I am very concerned that such a serious blaze occurred in Bangor tonight destroying commercial premises at Toscana Retail Park, Bangor. Thankfully the Fire Service were able to tackle and extinguish the blaze very quickly without any loss of life. Anyone with any information concerning the incident should contact the Police without delay in order to help the Police and Fire Service to identify the cause.”

Continuing, Cllr Muir remarked “With the restaurant closed for a significant period of time and both Clandeboye Retail Park and Toscana Retail Park placed into receivership by Anglo Irish Bank last year I have long been concerned about the state of the Villa Toscana building. After previously contacting the police concerning ease of access available to the building I was glad to see the building partially secured but with no occupier anyone intent on gaining access could almost certainly enter the old disused restaurant”.

Concluding, Cllr Muir stated “Whilst the cause of tonight’s fire hasn’t yet been established the need to secure and protect disused buildings remains paramount during these tough economic times when more premises remain unsold and unoccupied”.

Muir urges Education Minister to rectify contradictory and hypocritical stance concerning new Holywood Schools project

I am disappointed that the new Holywood Schools project remains stalled and am urging the Education Minister to rectify his contradictory and hypocritical stance after supporting the building of new Schools in Omagh.

People across Holywood and beyond recently received disappointing news that the Education Board plans to pursue its plan to close Redburn Primary School. I condemn without hesitation this decision by unelected Education Board Commissioners to proceed regardless of public opinion and close this valuable Primary School whilst the new Holywood Schools project remains live and ready to proceed once monies become available.

Muir encourages people to consider new Essential Skills Course at SERC Holywood

I am urging people to consider new Literacy and Numeracy courses which will commence at SERC Holywood Further Education Campus from Tuesday 17 January 2012.

Whilst the Loughview Ward in Holywood continues to generate many fantastic leaders such as golfing legend Rory McIlroy I recently received statistics which detail that 64.5% of people living in the Loughview Ward, Holywood have ‘No or low levels of qualifications'

After becoming aware of this fact I lobbied South Eastern Regional College to expand the range of courses available locally in order to ensure local people can easily increase their skills if so desired. In response SERC now intend to deliver Essential Skills courses at their Holywood Campus which is located on the Old Holywood Road near Redburn and Loughview Estates.

Numeracy classes will commence on Tuesday 17 January 2012 from 6.30pm to 9.30pm with Literacy classes then commencing on Friday 20 January 2012 from 9.30am to 12.30pm. Anyone wishing to enrol should simply turn up on the evening or morning of the class whilst more details can be obtained from Annett Dixon Tel 028 9127 6600 or mobile number 07920756347 or by email to  adixon@serc.ac.uk   Classes are free for people who do not have a GCSE qualification in one of these areas to be studied.

With the courses delivered locally in a friendly environment by experienced tutors I strongly encourage anyone who wants to improve their Literacy or Numeracy skills to sign up and grasp the opportunities now available.

Rory McIlroy MBE

Yesterday it was announced that Rory McIlroy will receive a MBE. 

Royal recognition of his sporting achievements is fantastic news both for Rory and Holywood. 

Whilst I am confident Rory McIlroy will have yet more successes on golf courses across the globe news news that he will receive a MBE must surely be a very proud moment for Holywood’s premier sportsman.