Time to realise dreams 50 years after Martin Luther King’s speech

The 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech today on Wednesday 28 August 2013 provides a useful opportunity to recall the background to King’s historic public speech, the vision espoused and progress made towards a more equal, harmonious, open and welcoming society.

Martin Luther King is a personal hero who has influenced my views since a teenager. With posters and pictures of King around my home I constantly recall his vision for a fair and free society on almost a daily basis.

Delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington on 28 August 1963 to over 250,000 civil rights supporters, Martin Luther King Jnr captured the mood of a nation and globe eager for change, helped deliver a largely trouble free rally and can be attributed to ensuring passage of Civil Rights legislation, award of the Nobel Peace Prize and Man of the Year title from TIME magazine to King. 

Today, fifty years later, we have achieved much progress with President Barack Obama in office, Apartheid abolished in South Africa and racial equality legislation in Northern Ireland since 1997.

Looking forward, my role along with other Civic Leaders must be to courageously commit ourselves to delivering Martin Luther King’s aspirational vision at home and further afield to realise the collective dreams of everyone whether Black or White, Catholic or Protestant, Rich or Poor, Republican or Loyalist, Male or Female, Disabled or able bodied, Married or Unmarried, Unionist or Nationalist, Gay or Straight, Old or Young.

The challenges may be great, the barriers tall but we owe it to everyone, especially future generations, to have the uncomfortable conversations and take the difficult decisions to tackle prejudice and realise the fantastic opportunities ahead, reaching out, aiming high and recalling King’s dream “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”

A Home for Everyone is my dream. I have a few ideas on how to deliver it but I want to hear yours. Only by   Working as One can we deliver the collective dream of shared, integrated society. I can be contacted via email mail@andrewmuir.net or Facebook, Twitter (AndrewMuirNI) or write to me at the Town Hall, The Castle, Bangor, BT20 4BT. Together we shall overcome.

Mayor Muir congratulates local woman on World Transplant Games success

Mayor Muir and Marie Devine with
gift presented by The Mayor
Earlier this week I congratulated local woman Marie Devine who won 6 medals at the World Transplant Games which were recently held in Durban. 

Marie won two gold, three silver and one bronze medal in track events. Marie received a kidney transplant nine years ago.

Marie is such an inspirational figure. She has shown that having a transplant does not have to be a barrier in your life.
Winning six medals was a magnificent achievement. Everybody in North Down is immensely proud of her results.
I hope other people who have had transplants will seek to emulate Marie's achievements and get involved in local sports activities.

Mayor Muir proud to launch Whitehill Shared Communities Programme

On Skipperstone Rd as baby with Mum
I visited Skipperstone Community Centre, Bangor on Saturday 17 August 2013 to launch the Shared Communities Programme for Whitehill. During my visit I recalled childhood memories growing up on Skipperstone Road and his vision for a shared and integrated society.

I am inspired and encouraged by the courage and leadership shown by those living in Whitehill who have chosen to support and engage in the Shared Communities Programme.

Following my Birth at Bangor Hospital in 1976 I lived on Skipperstone Road with my Grandparents, Mum and Dad and fondly recall visiting the Whitehill Shops, attending Sunday School on the road and, in later years, opening of new Presbyterian Church premises. It was great to return to my roots and launch such a positive initiative.

On Skipperstone Rd with parents and our Dog
By Working as One we can address and overcome the difficult issues which can cause division and strife in communities across Northern Ireland. As Mayor of North Down I am keen to ensure North Down is seen as open and welcoming.

Through courageous civic leadership we can create a home for everyone regardless of background, race or religion. The challenges posed are great but the opportunities are immense and can be realised through practical efforts such as the Shared Communities Programme taking place in Whitehill.

Mayor speaks following visit to Juvenile Justice Centre

I visited the Juvenile Justice Centre, Bangor on Wednesday 14 August 2013 to find out more about the centre, issues faced and meet young people on the road to rehabilitation.

I met Paula Jack, Chief Executive of Youth Justice Agency and Phil Tooze, Director of Custodial Services.

I greatly valued the visit and look forward to some innovative leadership during my year as Mayor to encourage greater understanding and a stronger public focus on the benefits of rehabilitation. Commitment and dedication by staff at the centre was admirable.

Mayoral support for active Groomsport weekend

Winners and competitors at
Eddie Skelly Memorial Swim
I added my support to the wide range of sporting events which took place in Groomsport at the weekend on Friday 16, Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 August 2013. 

I started the Half Marathon in Groomsport on Friday 16 August plus the Eddie Skelly Memorial Sea Swim on Saturday 17 August 2013. 

The Groomsport Iron Man also occurred on Sunday 18 August 2013. 

North Down AC at Groomsport Half Marathon
With promotion of active living and sport one of my priorities as Mayor I was delighted to support such a strong range of events courageously undertaken by a range of resilient sportsmen and women. 

Whether first or last each person who participated demonstrated outstanding personal success and should be admired. Active living is not about winning but taking part and the vast range of health and social benefits arising.

Full Steam ahead for Mayor Muir

Mayor Muir on steam train with Dr Joan Smyth,
RPSI Vice President waving alongside Gabriel Perrott
I kept my Mayoral year on track on Saturday 17 August 2013 when I joined Steam Train enthusiasts on board the Bangor Belle Steam Train from Bangor.

The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland organised a number of steam train journeys between Bangor and Belfast on Saturday 17 August 2013 with more opportunities to enjoy power of steam on Saturday 24 August 2013.

Following my election as Mayor on 13 June 2013 I can confirm that I am still undertaking a wide range of engagements promoting and celebrating North Down as an open and inclusive Borough to live, visit, work or invest in.

Bangor Belle Steam Train visits are another great addition to the tourism events calendar and very enjoyable for young and old alike. Anyone wishing to join the train on Saturday 24 August 2013 should visit www.steamtrainsireland.com After a one day break on Sunday it’s full steam ahead for Mayor Muir.

Mayor volunteers for Macmillan

Macmillan NI has set up the first ‘Macmillan Cancer Community Helpers’ project in Northern Ireland.  

As it is in the Bangor area, I dropped in as Mayor to find out what the program was all about and to offer a helping hand. 

I visited the home of Elizabeth Devlin who is currently undergoing cancer treatment alongside her Macmillan volunteer Ruth Farr and Macmillan Volunteer Service Manager Rachel Loughins.

Explaining the project Macmillan Volunteering Service Manager Rachel Loughins said: “The project recruits and trains volunteers to work directly with people living with cancer who need practical assistance or support in their own home.  Those living with cancer or recovering from treatment may be suffering from fatigue or pain which means they need help with household tasks or they may be isolated and in need of company.  

The ‘Macmillan Cancer Community Helpers’ programme connects those who want to volunteer in their community with those who need their help, this can be with gardening, cleaning, dog walking, shopping or simply a cup of tea and a chat.  The Macmillan team is there to help, offering local services delivered by trained volunteers that can give a helping hand when it is needed most.”

Speaking about my visit I said: "As someone with a number of family members affected by Cancer and the personal challenges arising, it was inspiring to see the new Macmillan volunteering scheme currently being piloted in Bangor. Working as One we can support and enable people with Cancer to enjoy life and undertake usual household tasks we all find difficult when tired and worn down. The volunteering scheme is a great initiative which I strongly support providing a helping hand whilst also combating social isolation through a cup of tea and chat which I greatly valued on my visit – it was on a par with afternoon tea at The Merchant!"

Elizabeth Devlin who receives help from ‘Macmillan Community Helpers’ said: "Having been through the ups and downs of cancer treatment, I have found the help Ruth offers invaluable.  The scheme is such a fantastic idea, Ruth is such a great help when I need it most.  She helps me a lot with my ironing and other practical things around the house but she is also great company for me.   Even with help from friends and family things can be extremely difficult so a volunteer prepared to give their time for others is a very special thing.  If I was healthy I would love to do the same for someone else."

Ruth Farr said of her volunteering:“It’s wonderful to give something back.  I got involved because I think it’s really important to support people going through the cancer journey. They are so brave and inspirational and I get so much joy from their positive attitude. It’s a privilege to help and I really enjoy spending time with Elizabeth”.

If you would like to volunteer or you or a family member would benefit from the service - contact rloughins@macmillan.org.uk or phone 028 90708 610

Notes on the program and volunteers
  • Volunteers can make regular home visits to provide practical help and support.
  • All volunteers are carefully selected by Macmillan and undergo thorough background checks.
  • All carry Macmillan identity badges with their photo on it.
  • All receive extensive training to help them provide the best possible support to people living with cancer.
  • All receive regular supervision from Macmillan.
  • Macmillan Cancer Community Helpers has been running since June 2013
  • The project will be rolled out across NI over the next 4 years but Bangor has been leading the way!

Mayor Muir pledges support to Amnesty International

Earlier this week I pledged to work closely with Amnesty International during my term in office as Mayor of North Down, addressing human rights issues locally and beyond.
As a member of Amnesty International I offered my support and welcomed the North Down Amnesty group to the Mayors Parlour, praising the work the local group undertakes as 'extensive and extremely valuable'.
Speaking at the event, I stated "Locally we are lucky to live under the European Convention of Human Rights, created to ensure past evils perpetrated across Europe never can occur again.
"It is our challenge to ensure this approach prevails in all bodies and all states signed up to the convention. The delayed implementation of European Court decisions by some should be a serious cause for concern, with the compliance rate dropping from 90 percent in the late 90s to below 50 percent now - with Russia and Ukraine some of the worst offenders.
"Working as one we can enhance rather than diminish the rights of men and women across the world. Each time we speak out against injustice momentum grows towards a fairer world that cherishes life and the right to speak out and live freely.
"I look forward to working with Amnesty International in the year ahead, standing with them and speaking out for freedom and human rights everywhere."
Full speech to Amnesty International North Down and Ards Group, Mayoral Reception, Tuesday 6 August 2013 below

North South Mayoral meet-up

I met with the Mayor of Fingal Councillor Kieran Dennison on Friday 26 July 2013 and Noel Cullen at Royal British Legion Dublin Central Branch on Saturday 27 July 2013 as part of my efforts as Mayor to build reconciliation, peace and an prosperous, integrated shared society.

North Down and Fingal Councils are linked together via the Edge Cities Network along with Ballerup (outside Copenhagen), Getafe (outside Madrid), Grodzisk (outside Warsaw) Nacka (outside Stockholm) and Pernik (outside Sofia).

The Royal British Legion in the Republic of Ireland administer and support the delivery of welfare services and the membership and fundraising activities of the Legion's branches and clubs throughout the Republic of Ireland.

I greatly enjoyed meeting Mayor of Final Cllr Kieran Dennison and visiting Royal British Legion Dublin premises. I look forward to exploring opportunities to build reconciliation and understanding with both Fingal County Council and Royal British Legion in Republic of Ireland in advance of Centenary Commemoration of the outbreak of World War One in 2014.

With a number of significant employers based within the Fingal County Council area such as eBay, IBM and Symantec I was keen to learn about this investment was secured and sustained. Kieran and I look forward to working together over the year ahead, building relations and sharing economic success stories to grow our economies.

Muir welcomes WPFG competitors to North Down

The World Police and Fire Games will give North Down an opportunity to showcase the best it has to offer.
A number of events are set to take place across the Borough, including swimming events at the newly opened Bangor Aurora Aquatic Complex.
As Mayor of North Down I want to welcome all competitors to North Down and wish them every success in taking part in the World Police and Fire Games.
Some great events have been organised locally providing fantastic opportunities for people across the borough to get involved in supporting the many different sports on offer. Many of the events are free and I would encourage people to come along and watch.
The games will not only bring competitors into the area but many spectators are also expected to make the journey, giving North Down the chance to boost its tourism potential.
I hope the games are a success across Northern Ireland and locally we do all that we can to ensure North Down is seen as a place to come back to.