Mayor's 2014 New Year message

Since becoming Mayor I have had the opportunity to meet a wide range of people and organisations across the Borough. Whether it’s community groups, businesses, sports clubs or government bodies I have been amazed by the vast range of positive work being undertaken to ensure North Down remains the best place to live, work, visit or invest in.

With World Police & Fire Games Medal Winners
Opportunity to serve as Mayor is a great privilege and opportunity to make a positive difference. Under my theme “Working as One” I have been able to work to join up efforts of the different organisations I have met, focused on building an Inclusive, Prosperous, Active and Healthy society.

Whether it’s been welcoming the Princess Royal to officially open Bangor Aurora Aquatic Leisure Complex, opportunity to celebrate life of St Columbanus and meet President of Ireland Michael D Higgins, championing work of the Mayor’s Charities (North Down YMCA, Camphill and Mark Pollock Trust), hosting an event at the Town Hall on how to tackle Homelessness in the Borough, be the first Mayor to speak at local GAA Awards Dinner or to welcome athletes from across the world for World Police and Fire Games I feel a great sense of achievement.

Just over half way through my Mayoral term I remain passionate to achieve much more over the remaining six months, determined to ensure positive change as the inclusive Mayor for everyone.

With economic situation slowly recovering, Public Realm works due to commence in Bangor and Holywood Town Centres during 2014, merger of North Down and Ards Councils approaching in 2015 and 100th Anniversary of the outbreak of First World War in 2014 we face perhaps momentous times with many challenges and opportunities.

Together, Working as One we can overcome these challenges and grasp the opportunities presented to build an inclusive society for everyone. I look forward to serving you all as Mayor in 2014 and wish you a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Muir to meet Minister over sewage works delays

Cllr Muir at Kinnegar Lagoons
I will meet the Regional Development Minister early in January to discuss on-going delays to works aimed at improving the sewage infrastructure in the Holywood/Kinnegar area.
While I welcome the announcement that planned works will get underway next year, the Minister still has questions to answer over the constant delays to this project.  Why has it taken so long for this work to get underway?
Many people in the area have been living with the odour coming from the Kinnegar Lagoon area for years.  It is completely unacceptable that this has not previously been addressed and I am disappointed that initial works are only beginning on this project next year.
This has been a long struggle for local residents and I was glad to see NI Water engage directly with them ahead of work beginning.  However many may have been left disillusioned as to why work won’t be finalised until 2015.
I am meeting with the Minister at the earliest opportunity to get answers to these questions and to ensure the most effective and efficient action is taken to move the works forward.
Alliance has campaigned long and hard to solve this problem and I won’t stop until a positive outcome has been achieved.  It took a long time to get a commitment and funding from the relevant bodies to allow these improvement works to go ahead.  I hope we will see a speedier outcome in coming months.

Mayor's Christmas message

Hornby Intercity 125 Train Set - Christmas Day delight
Yet again we approach another Christmas with the same traditional duties to perform. Whether it’s preparing the Turkey or doing some last minute shopping or visiting Church, Christmas remains a special time for many, especially Children.

As a child I can clearly recall one very special Christmas Day when I awoke to find a Hornby Intercity 125 train set. Years later I am acutely aware that Christmas can be a tough time for many with train sets a distant dream for some who struggle to purchase sufficient food due to increasing fuel bills, unemployment, ill health, job insecurity, negative equity and other pressures.

As Mayor of North Down I consider it my duty to focus on those in need and therefore valued the opportunity to volunteer in recent days for the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul and Storehouse as they prepared food and gifts for those requiring support.

I look forward to continuing this work tomorrow on Christmas Day at Bangor Inter-church Community Initiative Christmas Lunch for those with no family and/or no home, reaching out and exploring how, Working as One, we can provide support to those in need of support often marginalised at the edge of our society, fulfilling the true meaning of Christmas.

Best wishes to you, your family, friends and all those who will be visiting North Down over the Christmas period which I hope brings you joy, peace and an opportunity to relax and recharge and prepare for 2014.

Mayor focuses on those in need over Christmas

In the last month I have volunteered with the Salvation Army, Storehouse and Saint Vincent de Paul to demonstrate the real meaning of Christmas involving values of compassion, love and support.
Mayor Muir with Salvation Army

I volunteered with Saint Vincent de Paul on Friday 6 December 2013 and then the Salvation Army on Monday 9 December 2013 sorting toys, food and gifts and making up parcels for those in need. I then supported work of Storehouse and volunteered on Wednesday 18 December 2013.

Mayor Muir with St Vincent de Paul
With so many in need across North Down and the increasing focus on consumerism I am determined to refocus minds on the Christian meaning of Christmas involving values of compassion, love and support. Active practical support for the joint Salvation Army and Saint Vincent de Paul Christmas Family Appeal was a useful exercise to give assistance and obtain a greater understanding of the work involved. 

Mayor Muir at Storehouse

I also enjoyed supporting Storehouse on Wednesday 18 December 2013 and found their operation extremely impressive. The need for financial donations to help Storehouse purchase items in short supply was clear.

Mayoral first for NI Mixed Marriage Association

I achieved another Mayoral first by providing first reception for NI Mixed Marriage Association (NIMMA) at a Council Civic Building throughout their 40 year history. 

NIMMA aim is "Supporting couples who are united in love across traditional Christian divisions and promoting acceptance of these relationships within Northern Ireland society"

As a product of a Mixed Marriage I am acutely aware of the challenges faced by Mixed Marriage couples especially in relation to desire for shared housing and the right for the parents and children to be treated as individuals rather than pigeon holed by government systems.

I was therefore delighted to host representatives from the organisation at the Town Hall, Bangor a few weeks ago to listen to current concerns, follow up on issues requiring action and to commend them for their fantastic work.

Business boost for Mayor's Charities

From left David Sloan, Chair Bangor and Holywood
Town Centre Management, Mayor Muir, Ken Sharp,
President Bangor Chamber of Commerce,
John Minnis, President Holywood
Chamber of Commerce
Local businesses from across North Down have helped to raise of £2,000 for the Mayor’s Charities. Recent Bangor Business Awards raised £2,064 through an ballot with cheque for the substantial amount presented to me by organisations involved at the Town Hall on Wednesday 11 December 2013.

I am extremely grateful to all the people who attended the recent Business Awards and helped make this donation possible. Particular thanks to Bangor Chamber of Commerce, Holywood Chamber of Commerce, Bangor and Holywood Town Centre Management and especially Paula Kane from Bangor Chamber of Commerce who organised the awards and ensured we raised such a substantial sum of money. 

All monies raised will go straight to my three nominated charities – North Down YMCA, Camphill and the Mark Pollock Trust.

Mayor celebrates International Human Rights Day with Amnesty International

I welcomed community activists to the Mayor’s Parlour for a presentation of the International Declaration of Human Rights by Amnesty International members on International Human Rights Day on Tuesday 10 December 2013.

On International Human Rights Day I feel it’s important we recognise positive contribution Human Rights can have locally in North Down safeguarding rights and enabling people to realise the potential without discrimination. 

I am extremely grateful to the Amnesty International members who presented me with a framed copy of the International Declaration of Human Rights which will now be proudly displayed in the Mayor’s Parlour. 

The Declaration is known for it’s historical context after the horrors of war and it’s relevance to societies across the world as the second most translated document ever, surpassed only by the Bible.

As a Civic Leader I consider it my duty to champion and protect Human Rights everywhere and hope this event and display of the Declaration makes a small impact to improve lives of everyone across North Down and beyond.
I am particularly grateful to Bangor company Wall Hangers for framing the Declaration and local artist Lee Boyd for producing the Amnesty Candle we lit to celebrate International Human Rights Day.

Mayor Muir Guest Speaker at Royal Ulster Yacht Club Annual Dinner

RUYC at Clifton Road, Bangor
I was Guest Speaker at Royal Ulster Yacht Club’s prestigious Annual Dinner on Saturday 23 November 2013. Speaking from a few notes I used the opportunity to outline his interest in sport, sailing experience so far during his Mayoral year and positive agenda for change as Mayor under the theme “Working as One”.

I was delighted and honoured to be invited to speak to this prestigious Annual Dinner engaging with many members of the club who I have got to know since becoming Mayor in June. With 845 members, Royal Ulster Yacht Club is a substantial organisation positively contributing to the life of North Down by keeping the historic club house active and in a good state, making the place attractive to tourists plus potential residents and businesses whilst also promoting active living.

As someone fascinated with the open water I was delighted to be given the opportunity to sail on Enigma with RUYC earlier this year and whilst beaten in the face of stiff competition I look forward to taking to the sea in 2014. Mixing Sailing and Politics isn’t unique with at least one former politician known for such, namely Edward Heath who won Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in 1969 and Admiral’s Cup whilst Prime Minister in 1971. I therefore used the opportunity to speak a bit about Edward Heath and my affiliation with some of his views, especially his pro-European outlook.

As Mayor I am seeking to deliver change under the “Working as One” banner, promoting good Community Relations, Active Living plus Creative Industries and Skills through practical actions. I was therefore grateful for the opportunity to talk about my inclusive Mayoral Agenda and recall why I didn’t consider a career in the Diplomatic Service after finishing my Peace and Conflict Studies Degree when Edward Heath stated “A diplomat is a man who thinks twice before he says nothing.

Mandela - Transformative & Courageous Leader & Statesman

Death of International Statesman Nelson Mandela and his burial today fills me with enormous sadness.

The Nobel Peace Prize Winner made an enormous positive contribution to life in South Africa and across the globe including Northern Ireland.

Mandela once stated “"It always seems impossible until it's done." Ending Apartheid seemed impossible but it was done.

Moving from violence to peace, reconciliation and saving South Africa from Civil War through transformative gestures of leadership by, for example, supporting the Springboks Rugby Team seemed impossible but it was done.

Today, in death, Mandela serves as an example of what can be possible through courageous leadership to people across the world including people in Northern Ireland struggling to move forward following our divisive conflict.

Words of Nelson Mandela that “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” Seem apt whilst we work to resolve key issues with Richard Haass.

North Down Mayoral Reception for RNLI Crew

Bangor RNLI Crew with Mayor Muir
I held a reception for RNLI Bangor Crew last Friday to recognise the courageous volunteers who seek to save lives along Belfast Lough and out in the Irish Sea and North Channel.

With the brave crew members on call day and night and regularly going out to save lives in treacherous waters I was keen to recognise their courageous efforts via a formal Mayoral reception. 

I wish the crew and RNLI generally festive wishes and hope the seas remain safe over the Christmas and New Year period.

Mayor works at Camphill Cafe

Mayor Muir baking with Aaron Toland
I rolled up my sleeves and worked at the Camphill Café in Holywood on a busy Saturday afternoon baking mince pies, serving customers and enjoying the positive inclusive atmosphere.

As Mayor I am determined to roll up my sleeves and support the fantastic work of the Mayor’s Charities whether by raising money, providing a helping hand or raising their profile. 

With Camphill one of the Mayor’s Charities alongside North Down YMCA and Mark Pollock Trust I snapped up the chance to help in the Camphill Café on Saturday 30 November 2013.

Whether working as an Apprentice Baker under the supervision of Camphill resident Aaron Toland or serving food and drinks in the café I greatly enjoyed the experience and was delighted to be awarded 10/10 by Aaron when I clocked off. 

Opportunity to hear Christmas Music played using special bells and meet local friends and families whilst working made it even more special with all the yummy Mince Pies cooked now eaten.

Mayor Muir praises St Columbanus

Mayor Muir with President Higgins
In advance of the 1,400th Anniversary of St Columbanus’ death in 2015 I was delighted to attend a range of excellent events recently to remember the famous Saint.

Whether it was by attending the “On the Way” Concert on Friday 22 November 2013 at Bangor Abbey or the Ecumenical Church Service at Ballyholme Parish on Sunday evening together, Working as One, we were able to show positive influence of St Columbanus.

In celebration of Feast of St Columbanus it was a great honour to meet President of Ireland Michael D Higgins as Guest Speaker at an event hosted in Belfast City Hall on Thursday 21 November 2013 by Ullans Academy, Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and Dr Ian Adamson OBE. With Lord Bannside PC, Dr Ian Paisley and Baroness Paisley also present it was another positive step forward bringing people from across the Island of Ireland together.

As someone who travelled from Leinster to Lough Erne, Bangor, France, Austria and Italy St Columbanus’ influence across Europe is profound helping to inspire one of the founders of the EU Robert Schuman who once stated that St Columbanus is “The Patron Saint of all those who now seek to build a United Europe”.

With St Columbanus now due to be bestowed with Patronage of Europe in 2015 I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to serve as Mayor in the run up to this significant event marking 1,400 years after his death at Bobbio, Italy. I greatly enjoyed celebrating his influence over recent days and look forward to other events my Mayoral year ahead as a passionate pro-European and past pupil of St Columbanus’ College.

Mayor engages with Positive People at Positive Futures

I met up with a range of people at Positive Futures Bangor office on Friday 22 November 2013 and was delighted to meet so many positive people at Positive Futures. 

The benefits of this organisation are immense enabling people, young and old, to lead fulfilling and more independent lives with bespoke individual centred approach for every person. 

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity that was created by Agnes and the other Positive Future staff and volunteers to meet so many positive people at Positive Futures and look forward to supporting the organisation as Mayor and tackling stigma as a Civic Leader with a Civic Duty to represent everyone.

Reflection of Hope at Bangor Walled Garden

As someone who has lost two friends through suicide I was particularly grateful for the opportunity to attend FASA’s Reflection of Hope last Sunday 24 November 2013. During  a moving and poignant event we were given the opportunity to remember those lost and articulate messages of hope with a range of support services available afterwards.

I am confident that Working as One we can help create a more open, welcoming, caring and supportive society which embraces everyone, rejects prejudice and encourages people to talk about mental health and other issues.

Sunday’s service at Bangor Castle Garden was another step towards this new future, protecting and celebrating life.

The role of Civic Leaders is of paramount importance to help us move forward and I hope I have played a small but useful part helping to build hope.

Photos from event at this link.

North Down YMCA celebrates year of achievement at AGM

North Down YMCA held its Annual General Meeting in the Town Hall on Monday 11 November 2013.  The choice of venue reflected the Association’s status as one of the three Mayor’s Charities for 2013-14.  The event was attended by over 50 people, including elected representatives, partner agencies, Council officers and supporters.  YMCA Board, staff, volunteers and service users were also well represented at the event.

Stuart Buchanan, General Secretary/CEO of North Down YMCA, introduced the Annual Report 2012-13 and summarised the Association’s work with over 900 people across North Down and Ards during the past year.  Various service users and volunteers, alongside staff, spoke about their personal experience of the YMCA’s work with children, young people, families and communities.  Neil Robinson, Treasurer, presented the Association’s financial report for 2013-14 and highlighted the increasingly challenging funding environment within the voluntary sector.

Edgar Jardine CB, Chairman of North Down YMCA, launched the Association’s Strategic Plan for 2013-16.  Mr Jardine, while introducing the YMCA’s priorities for changes for the next three years, stated, “What we believes determines what we do”.  Furthermore, he highlighted the importance of the Association’s values – integrity, inclusion, respect and responsiveness – in underpinning all of the work carried out by North Down YMCA.

I hosted the event and addressed the meeting emphasising the important role that the YMCA plays in North Down and that the YMCA has important role in the redevelopment of Bangor closing the meeting by encouraging the YMCA to “continue to do the difficult work it already does”.

Copies of North Down YMCA’s Annual Report 2012-13 and Strategic Plan 2013-16 are available on request from the main office by telephone (028 9145 4290 option 0) or email (cathy@northdownymca.org ).

Myah’s Bangor Christmas Lights switch-on story

Mayor Muir and Myah
I was delighted to welcome young Myah to Bangor Castle for the Annual Christmas Lights switch on which took place on Saturday 23 November 2013. 

We both wore our best Christmas Jumpers and after a fantastic fireworks display seven year old Myah successfully flicked the switch and turned on all the bulbs decorating Bangor's huge Christmas Tree. 

Myah's winning drawing is now being printed onto the Mayor's Christmas Card which she will help me post in early December.

After such a star performance on Saturday night Myah will also help me turn on the Christmas Lights in Conlig on Friday 6 December at 6.45pm. I would like to thank everyone for coming along to the Fireworks and Myah's light switch on at Bangor Castle and hope they will consider coming along to Holywood on Saturday 30 November at 4.30pm.

Muir proud to attend local GAA Awards

L to R Fearghal Eastwood (St Paul's GAC Secretary),
Mayor Muir, GAA Commentator Jarlath Burns and
Michael Monaghan (St Paul's GAC Chairperson)
I recently recorded another milestone in my role as First Citizen of North Down, attending St Paul's Gaelic Athletic Club's Annual Dinner and Awards Night, talking in Irish about my pride to have St Paul's Gaelic Athletic Club within the North Down Borough.

North Down has a long history of supporting Gaelic Football, with St Paul's - based in Holywood - founded in 1979, but my visit on Saturday November 16, marked what I understand to be the first time a Mayor has attended the club's official Annual Awards Ceremony.

Crediting St Paul's as a 'significant milestone' in the development of Gaelic Football across North Down and Ards, I used the Awards Night as an opportunity to pay tribute to the commitment of the many dedicated volunteers working hard to keep the club going.

I was honoured to attend St Paul's Gaelic Athletic Club Annual Dinner and Awards Night and to show my support for the sport at a local level I presented the club with a special gift.

The success of this club would not be possible without the many dedicated volunteers, working day and night to keep the clubs going, or the role of players, whether young or old, and I want to commend St Paul's as a positive beacon of hope and positivity within the Borough.

Gaelic sport plays a large part in our society and as we work together as one to build a truly shared inclusive society it is important to celebrate our diverse culture and sporting achievements. I am determined to make a positive difference, reaching out and including all sections of our society.

As part of this drive I will be delighted to welcome the Under 16 Gaelic Football team to the Town Hall early next year to celebrate their fantastic achievement, recently winning Down Division 2 title.

My speech delivered at the Awards Night is provided below

Ladies and Gentlemen thank you for the invite to attend and speak at tonight’s dinner.

As Mayor of North Down I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to engage with St Paul’s Gaelic Athletic Club and celebrate your many achievements to date.

Whilst I cannot play Gaelic Football or Hurling I enjoy the sport and enjoy my annual visit to Newry to watch the Down County Final won again this year by Kilcoo.

Tá mé an-bhródúil go bhfuil Club Naomh Pól de Chumann Luthchleas Gael i gceantar Dhún Thuaidh. 

I am extremely proud to have St Paul's Gaelic Athletic Club within the North Down Borough.
Dating back to 1927 when the first Gaelic Athletic Club was established in Holywood, North Down has a rich history of participating in Gaelic sports with foundation of St. Paul’s Gaelic Football Club in 1979 a significant milestone in the development of the sport across the North Down and Ards area following the amalgamation of the Holywood, Bangor and Newtownards clubs. 

34 years later you have much to be proud of whether it be money raised to allow development of the grounds named after the late Patrick Mac  Namee or the many sporting achievements, most recently the Down Under 16 Division 2 Title.

As someone who often runs 10k road races across Ireland I am proud of the strong part Gaelic Athletic Clubs within their communities when I often take part in races organised by the clubs.

Whilst the GAA passed on the task of promoting athletics to the National Athletic and Cycling Association in 1922 the organisation still plays a valuable role facilitating and promoting road races North and South.

Whether it be at Darragh Cross, Dunshaughlin,  Castlewellan, Saul, Leitrim or Kilclief the hospitality, professionalism and warm welcome before and after the race is simply amazing.

The success of Gaelic Athletic Clubs would not however be possible without the unstinting commitment of the many dedicated volunteers working day and night to keep the clubs going, whether by training players, keeping the grounds up to standard or managing the money we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the men and women who ensure that the GAA not merely survives but thrives in the many towns, cities and small villages across the Island of Ireland and beyond.

As an amateur sporting organisation the role of your players, whether young or old is of paramount importance. To see them out training and playing at your grounds in Holywood adds vitality to the sporting mix of the town known globally for it’s sporting achievement by Holywood boy Rory McIlroy who lived nearby Mac  Namee Park for many years.

Whether it be due to the players, volunteers, development work or the cultural heritage delivered St Paul’s Gaelic Athletic Club is a positive beacon of hope and positivity within a Borough seeking to move forward together. 

When elected earlier this year I set out to achieve three key objectives under the banner Working as One. Whether it be promoting good Community Relations, active living or economic growth I am determined to make a positive difference reaching out and including all sections of our society, leading by example and delivering a legacy for everyone.

It will therefore give me great pleasure to welcome the Under 16 Gaelic Football team to the Town Hall early next year to celebrate their fantastic achievements.

I wish the Under 16s and everyone associated with the club well in your future sporting or development endeavours and will do everything I can to promote, celebrate and include St Paul’s Gaelic Athletic Club within the general life of North Down.

Mayor Muir plans to remember JFK

I will mark the 50th anniversary of President John F Kennedy’s assassination on Friday 22 November 2013 with a special event in Bangor Town Hall.

I will welcome a small group of people to watch, listen and reflect upon previous speeches made by the 35th 
President before his tragic death.

JFK was an inspirational leader and in the short time he was President he showed strong, independent leadership, tackling major foreign policy issues and paving the way for American civil rights legislation.

With his Presidency cut tragically short we will never know what other significant changes JFK could have brought to America.  50 years on, and still with no clear explanation for what happened that day in Dallas, it is important we remember the influential man who’s legacy is motivating and influencing a new generation.

I have always found inspiration in the words of JFK which is why I felt it was important to acknowledge this anniversary.  I am looking forward to sharing my favourite speeches and talking about his legacy at a special event in Bangor Town Hall on Friday night.

"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things.
Not because they are easy, but because they are hard" John F Kennedy

Putting St Columbanus on the map - 'The Columban Way'

Maurizio Parma - Assessore of Piacenza,
Marco Rossi - Mayor of Bobbio,
Mayor of North Down - Cllr Andrew Muir plus
Michel Raison - Mayor of Luxeuil signing
Cultural Route 'The Columban Way'
Late last week on Friday 15 November 2013 I welcomed my Mayoral counterparts from towns in Italy and France to Bangor to unveil a new European Cultural Route 'The Columban Way' based on the life and travels of both Bangor, and central Europe’s most famous Saint, Columbanus.

The signing took place in Bangor Town Hall and sees the start of a process that over the next number of months will develop an application to be presented to the European Cultural Committee in Luxembourg that will see the union formally recognised as an official European Cultural Route.

The initial route is to comprise of Bangor, Luxeuil-les-Bains (France) and Bobbio (Italy) and will recognise the influence of Columbanus’ work within central Europe and is to be formally established by 2015, the year that will mark the 1400th anniversary of the passing of St Columbanus. This anniversary year one that will be marked with events throughout the European countries he was influential in. 

After the initial route is formed it is envisaged that it will then expand to take in the additional countries of Switzerland, Austria and Germany where Columbanus also left his mark through the establishment of monasteries and settlements.

Not only did Columbanus play a pivotal role in the spread of Christianity in mainland Europe but his importance both here and in Europe has been recognised in that he was the first person to use the term "European", was notably our first "man of Letters", famous for his poetry, and was the first Irish man of whom a biography was written, by fellow Monk, Jonas. 

The creation of this route will be a fitting testimony on a European scale to the man and his work.

Paramilitary Poster is a threat to the Rule of Law

I have publicly expressed my concerns as Mayor of North Down about a poster from paramilitary organisations stating they will severely deal with perpetrators of crimes. The poster (right), in names of the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commandos does not encourage public to pass information to the Police but instead to unnamed "community representatives" following a series of burglaries and robberies in the Kilcooley area of Bangor.

Whilst all crimes, including burglaries and robberies against the elderly are reprehensible, there is no place in our society for vigilante activity from illegal paramilitary organisations seeking to intimidate and control local communities.

I condemn this attempt to undermine the rule of law without hesitation and hope all other all civic leaders with join me in stating that the only people who should be investigating criminal activity and seeking to apprehend alleged offenders are the Police Service of Northern Ireland. I urge the public to contact the Police or Crimestoppers with any information about any crime. 

Royal opening for Bangor Aurora Aquatic and Leisure Complex

Official Opening with HRH The Princess Royal
Official opening of Bangor Aurora Aquatic Leisure Complex last Tuesday 12 November 2013 by HRH The Princess Royal was a proud, positive moment for North Down with world class sporting facilities and the legendary 50 metre pool now available for everyone across the Borough and beyond.

As Mayor of North Down I have greatly enjoyed watching Bangor Aurora Aquatic and Leisure Complex evolve from inception to construction and completion. 

By Working as One we have managed to deliver a world class facility for everyone. Whether it be through involvement of contractors, Council, government, Sport NI, Swim Ulster and local sporting organisations it fills me with great pride to be at the formal opening of the complex which will serve as a sporting hub for future generations across North Down and beyond. 

Mayoral duo at Bangor Abbey

Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and Mayor Muir
I welcomed Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir to Bangor Abbey on Monday 28 October 2013 to explore our Shared Christian Heritage. Canon Ronnie Nesbitt joined us guiding Máirtín and I around the Abbey, outlining the history and plans to commemorate in the future.

I was delighted to welcome Máirtín Ó Muilleoir to Bangor. As the 1,400 Anniversary of the death of St Columbanus nears it was great to outline history of Bangor from a Christian Heritage perspective and explore opportunities to work with Belfast to further promote and utilise opportunities for reconciliation.

Councillor Ó Muilleoir stated “Envious of Bangor's history and heritage, leaving Belfast in the shade. St Columbanus, St Gall & St Comgall Pilgrim troika to be proud of."

Muir welcomes Holywood winning Best Kept Town 2013

Holywood Residents celebrating award
Holywood Winning Kept Town is an amazing achievement with congratulations due to everyone involved in making this happen for Holywood.
Having taken the runner-up spot last year, this year's success is well-deserved after the amount of hard work, time and energy that went into to securing this title.
Winning this title is proof that by Working as One we can succeed. The Council together with community groups, such as Holywood Residents Association and Holywood Conservation Group, has worked relentlessly in sprucing up the town, tackling eye sores and making the place a great town to visit, live, work or invest in.
How a town looks is vital to attracting visitors and hopefully this news will encourage tourists and residents alike to come and see everything Holywood has to offer, all surrounded by award-winning beauty.

Example of partnership working and commitment to Working as One is that Holywood Residents Association made a donation to Council to help provide more plants. Combined with fantastic commitment from staff and other efforts such as Holywood Conservation Group working with owner of 1 Stewarts Place to give it a much needed face lift this I believe helped us clinch the award by Working as One after achieving runner up status for last few years. 

Mayoral support for Whitehill Community Association

At Whitehill Community Association AGM
I showed my support for Whitehill Community Association on Wednesday 16 October 2013 attending their Annual General Meeting. During the meeting a comprehensive update was provided on work undertaken over the last year with strong appreciation shown for the work undertaken by staff and volunteers alike.

As someone who originally grew up as a child on the Skipperstone Road in the Whitehill Estate I have a strong links and love for the area and was delighted to attend the AGM at Skipperstone Community Centre. North Down is extremely lucky to have such strong community organisations such as Whitehill Community Association who have courageously embarked upon the NI Housing Executive Shared Communities Programme recently. I commend them for the great work done Working as One to build a safe and supportive community for everyone.

Mayor delighted to attend Down GAA Final

I attended the Down County Senior Championship Final at Páirc Esler, Newry to witness Kilcoo beat Burren 0-9 to 0-7 thereby retaining their Down Club title. They will now play Armagh champions in an Ulster club quarter-final on 3 November 2013.

The Gaelic Athletic Association play a positive and welcome role promoting active living, cultural diversity whilst contributing towards the creation of a shared, open and inclusive society. 

I warmly welcome their presence in North Down and beyond and am delighted to have been invited to attend the match. After witnessing Kilcoo win last year it was amazing to visit Páirc Esler once again to see the club snatch victory for a second year in a row. 

As a long term committed supporter of the GAA I look forward to supporting this sporting organisation and local club St Paul’s GAC over my year as Mayor of North Down.

Over 300 fish killed at Portavo Reservoir

I note the initial report recently received from government concerning recent fish kill at Portavo Reservoir in August 2013 and look forward to final report identifying why so many fish died. A total of at least 347 dead fish were recorded following this awful event plus small number of roach and an eel. 

Cllr Muir at Portavo Reservoir
I was baffled by the bureaucracy encountered when I initially tried to report the problem but am glad someone is finally taking the initiative to find out the cause and explore solutions. 

With routine scheduled maintenance due to take place at the Reservoir from November 2013 to March 2014 no more fish will be stocked until 2014 giving us time to sort the problem and help secure a viable long term future for this valuable environmental haven which should be saved not sold.

Response from Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure below.

I refer to your e-mail dated 29 August 2013 to Minister NI ChuilIn regarding correspondence you received, in relation to a fish kill at Portavoe Reservoir. The Minister has seen your email and I have been asked to respond on her behalf.

Following a report of dead fish at Portavoe reservoir on 30 August, DCAL Fisheries Protection Officers, working with Inspectors from the NIEA, carried out a joint investigation of the incident. Initial findings indicated no evidence of any introduced pollution in the reservoir, with natural causes the likely reason for the fish mortalities.

Some of the dead fish were found to be affected by fish lice and a fungus. The approximate fish mortalities total was 94 on Friday, 169 on Saturday and 84 on Sunday. It is important to note that while the majority of fish mortalities were trout, small numbers of other species have also been recorded including perch, eels and roach. A number of dead fish were passed to the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute Veterinary Sciences Division for investigation of the lice and fungus. Unfortunately they require the fish to be still alive or recently dead and further analysis could not be carried out.

The reservoir was stocked with 750 rainbow trout from the Department's fish farm at Movanagher near Kilrea on 28 August. These were healthy takeable size fish, free from any parasites or infections. Had there been any signs that Portavoe was unsuitable to receive the fish on that date, the fish would not have been stocked.

Fish are sensitive to dissolved oxygen levels in the water and the NIEA staff have taken a number of samples from the reservoir. Dissolved oxygen levels recorded during the daytime were deemed adequate to sustain fish life, however it is at night that the dissolved oxygen levels will be at their lowest.

The NIEA subsequently positioned a water monitoring buoy in the centre of the reservoir to record dissolved oxygen levels over a number of days and information received has indicated that the lake is prone to periods of low oxygen levels. As such DCAL is currently reviewing it's stocking protocols for Portavoe Reservoir.

Significant aquatic weed growth has resulted from recent high temperatures and sunlight and this impacts on oxygen levels in the water. Consequently the Department moved a weed cutting vessel to Portavoe on 3 September and work on removing excess aquatic weed is underway.

When anglers and members of the public contact DCAL regarding such incidents staff will try to be as helpful as possible, but cannot speculate on causes of a fish kill. You will appreciate that until all the circumstances are assessed and investigations completed, staff would not wish to jeopardise any further action by making comments that are not fully informed.

I hope that this information is of assistance to you.

Yours sincerely,

Departmental Private Secretary to Carãl NI Chuilin MLA
Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure

Mayor convenes Housing Roundtable Summit

Mayor Muir with Housing Roundtable meeting
attendees attached at Town Hall, Bangor
I convened a roundtable meeting of all relevant Housing organisations earlier this month on Wednesday 2 October 2013. Various Housing Associations operating in North Down were represented at the Roundtable Summit along with NI Housing Executive and NI Federation of Housing Associations Chief Executive Cameron Watt.

I found the meeting extremely useful to identify key issues relating to Social Housing in the Borough and actions required to ensure North Down is a warm and welcoming place that can provide a home for everyone. 

I was greatly encouraged by the positive progressive view that we should be Working as One to address housing needs together as a society and look forward to providing necessary civic leadership to realise our collective aspirations.

Mayor visits Legenderry City of Culture

Mayor Muir and Mayor Reilly at Guildhall,
Derry / Londonderry after exchange of Borough Crest Plaque gifts
I met with Mayor of Derry / Londonderry Councillor Martin Reilly on Friday 4 October 2014 to explore how the city has achieved such great successes such as UK City of Culture status, peaceful parading season and implementation of one plan for one city.

The People of Derry~Londonderry should be very proud of seismic changes that have taken place. Derry / Londonderry is now a City of Culture, Vision and Hope with One Plan replacing 74 different strategies and plans. 

The collective vision and determination to move forward as a progressive, open and inclusive city based upon a strong focus on culture and respect is extremely impressive. I look forward to meeting Mayor Reilly again and exploring how we can share stories of success between North Down and Legenderry Derry / Londonderry.

Mayor visits North Down Development Organisation

Mayor Muir with Lynne Forde, Co-Owner Baskets Galore
(centre) and Lynne Vance Chief Executive NDDO (right)
I visited North Down Development Organisation (NDDO) on Wednesday 2 October 2013, engaging with staff and visiting local businesses Creative Commercial Interiors and Baskets Galore.

I was extremely impressed by the wide range of successful businesses at NDDO premises and look forward to visiting again as Mayor to meet more and explore how I can provide necessary civic leadership to provide a strong positive environment which allows businesses to thrive.

Mayor Muir : Working as One we can keep North Down moving on

My formal Mayoral Installation Dinner took place on Thursday 26 September 2013 at the Town Hall, Bangor attended by North Down Councillors, community representatives and Alliance Party members – including guest speakers Party Leader David Ford MLA and East Belfast MP Naomi Long with entertainment from Priory Integrated College Holywood Choir.

Minister Dr Stephen Farry MLA, Mayor of North Down
Cllr Andrew Muir, Naomi Long MP Alliance Deputy
Leader and Alliance Party Leader Minister
David Ford MLA at Installation Dinner
Speaking during the night I detailed that I am determined to ensure my year is characterised by change, progress and delivering an enduring positive legacy for everyone.  I dream of a shared, integrated and accepting society, why not?

I also spoke about my background with a proud Orange woman as his Grandmother, renowned Trade Unionist as his Great Grandfather and a late Grandfather from a devout but yet ecumenical Catholic background.

As a Mayor from working class mixed marriage minority background I aim to show that politics can deliver for everyone.

Tomorrow North Down Borough Council will celebrate its 40th anniversary, October 1. We have much to be proud of, including the ability to provide a forum for democratic debate when violence ensued outside, the provision of a world class Marina, state of the art recycling centre and now the amazing Aurora Aquatic and Leisure complex.

North Down Borough Council has consistently delivered good value for money to local ratepayers through a coherent partnership based power sharing approach. New North Down and Ards Council will provide us with a great opportunity to expand, reach out and improve how services are delivered locally. Conscious Community Planning power will soon be devolved and keen to make a positive difference as the penultimate Mayor of North Down I have adopted Working as One as the theme for my year.

Having now been in post for over three months, I also shared some of the lighter moments of the role so far, including the ‘armless fun’ of being fed to hungry sharks by Council officers in the new Aurora pool to promote the screening of Jaws.

Whether it be building One Community or promoting sport or growing the economy through a focus on skills and creativity I have already delivered a number of initiatives in each area and look forward to delivering more.

Full speech below

Mayor's old bicycle recycled

I am encouraging the public to recycle more than just newspapers and plastic containers after recycling something that would never fit into any blue bin – my old bicycle!

I was ready to dump his old bicycle when I realised it could be recycled and receive a new home following refurbishment. After submitting it to local cycle maintenance shop it was refurbished and is now in use by crew of Gerd container ship!

After donating the bike it was refurbished and given to Pastor Sam from Seamen’s Christian Mission who then gave it to a person on one of the many International Ships that dock in Belfast Port. I am delighted to see my old redundant bicycle recycled, refurbished and given a new home to those in need.

Anyone can recycle their old bicycles easily by dropping off at Bangor or Holywood Recycling Centre’s who will then, in turn, donate to those in need in Africa following refurbishment by a local organisation. A full list of items that can be recycled, from paper to cans and cartons can be found at http://www.northdown.gov.uk/Resident/Bins/Bin-Types Please check often as the list is reguarly expanded and updated.

2nd Officer Dante Alfonso onboard Gerd Container ship provided a thank you message detailing “We, crew of MV GERD thank so much Bangor’s Mayor and help of Pastor Sam and Paul Smith from Bike Smith for the bike donated to us. It’s now easy to go to the city to buy our needs. Thank you so much, God Bless you All.”

Photo above of Cook Joseph Punzalan (L) and 2nd Officer Dante Alfonso (R) from Gerd Container Ship receiving Councillor Muir’s recycled bicycle on behalf of the crew