Monday, 30 September 2013

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

Mayoral Installation Speech
Thursday 26 September 2013, 7.30pm
Councillor Andrew Muir, Mayor of North Down

Aldermen, Councillors, Members of Parliament, Minister Ford, Minister Farry, Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Ladies and Gentlemen it gives me great pleasure to welcome you here tonight to celebrate my installation as Mayor of North Down.

I hope you enjoyed the meal and the entertainment provided earlier by the choir from Priory Integrated College.

All of this would not have been possible without the hard work and commitment from the many excellent Council staff and the caterers for which they all deserve a strong round of applause.

Thanks also to the boys and girls and teachers from Priory Integrated College for the excellent performance tonight.

To have such a great choir at my dinner fills me with immense pride. Thank you.

Serving as Mayor brings with it many different experiences,   whether the sense of joy experienced tonight or the relentless schedule of engagements.

I am however enjoying the role and look forward to serving as the Mayor for everyone over the year ahead, guided by my Chaplins Rev Simon Richardson and Rev Chris Hudson who join us here tonight.

I cannot however leave here tonight without sharing some of the more bizarre incidents that have arisen to date.

Whether it was being mistaken for the previous Mayor and being berated for belonging to the DUP or to being fed to hungry sharks by Council officers in the new Aurora pool, in order to promote the screening of Jaws,  it's all been armless fun.

Following my election as Mayor I have enjoyed these experiences whilst also learning more about the local community I was born into and now proudly represent.

I am particularly grateful to the previous Mayors for positive legacy left and would like to particularly welcome Geraldine Hill here tonight. Tony was a fine man and an amazing public servant and his legacy lives on today for which we are all truly grateful.

Following my birth at Bangor Hospital away back in 1976 I grew up in the Whitehill and Rathgill Estates and off the Clandeboye Road in Bangor.

37 years later its great to go back to these communities and witness the immense changes that have taken place.

Whether it's the Whitehill Shared Communities initiative or the individual voices espousing change and inclusion within the Kilcooley Estate, where my Grandparents once lived, it's clear to see that North Down is moving on.

My election as Mayor perhaps best personifies this change.

From a strong working class mixed marriage background I have shown there's no glass ceilings in politics  and regardless of who you are you can succeed.


As the first person in my family to attend University, with a proud Orange woman as my Grandmother, renowned Trade Unionist as my Great Grandfather and a late Grandfather from a devout but yet ecumenical Catholic background I have shown that through hard work, support of a fantastic mum, a determination to succeed and a focus on working with others to address the real issues of concern     politics can deliver, for everyone. Northern Ireland is moving on.

As previous Mayors can confirm, serving as Mayor brings with it immense responsibilities.

It's not just all about ribbon cutting!

In a few days North Down Borough Council will celebrate it's 40th anniversary on the 1st October.    40 years later we have much to be proud of.

Whether it's the ability to provide a forum for democratic debate when violence ensued outside

Or the provision of a world class Marina,

state of the art recycling and waste transfer station

or our iconic wind turbine 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.

I look forward to the official opening of the Aurora Centre later in my Mayoral year and urge everyone to engage and embrace the new multi million pound Public Realm schemes due to commence early next year.

By Working as One we can work through the difficult period of construction works ahead focused on the long term benefits that will arise once we renew, refresh and revitalise Bangor and Holywood Town Centres.

The work of North Down Borough Council isn't however merely focused on Aurora and Public Realm but expands into many areas,

whether the day to day duties such as ensuring good Environmental Health, Waste collection, Recycling, provision of high quality Parks and public Cemeteries to ensuring good efficient governance the organisation is busy delivering a public service for everyone

whether they be businesses, residents or visitors.

In terms of visitors it gave me great pleasure to welcome sportsmen and women from across the globe to the World Police and Fire Games earlier this year.

The warm welcome and high quality facilities offered impressed many and helped build upon our great reputation for delivering high quality high impact events.

Whether it's the Bangor 400 Celebrations or RS Elite Sailing Championships we have shown that big events can deliver big benefits not just for the local economy but for everyone whether they be participants or spectators.

Any review of the roles, responsibilities and achievements of North Down Borough Council on its 40th anniversary cannot, however, omit the forthcoming merger with neighbouring Ards Borough Council in 2015.

This new Council will provide us with a great opportunity to expand, reach out and improve how services are delivered locally.

Whether it will be through more efficient service delivery or by connecting people better to planning decisions through the devolution of planning powers I look forward to establishment of this new Council and hope the electorate will choose me to serve on it.

Whilst the focus has, to date, been on merger mechanics a wider more strategic focus should be taken on opportunities for more radical reform on how local government could work.

The same old approach cannot continue into the new Council.

Rather, a newer better way of doing things is required reflecting how other local Councils have changed to reflect modern demands of businesses, residents and society in general.

Whilst Dublin now debates possibility of a directly elected Mayor and other cities and towns across the UK, Europe and beyond have adopted new ways of working it's time we considered whether, for example, we are up for cabinet style governance or giving the Mayor Executive authority over a range of area with appropriate checks and balances.

Contrary to public belief I don't have much real power as Mayor. My mum won't do my ironing,    no matter how nicely I ask   nor will my work colleagues call me Mr Mayor.

All I technically have is the right to chair monthly Council meetings and ability to use Standing Orders to ensure good order but, as many of you know, this often doesn't deter Councillors to make their points forcibly and often, as is their democratic right.

Whether this changes at the new Council I don't know but the new Community Planning power due to be devolved to Councils provides us with a great opportunity to reach out and engage with wider society,    joining up how we work to deliver better more efficient services for everyone.

Conscious that this 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 ahead and am seeking to use my civic leadership duty and the ability to convene round table summits to prepare us for the changes ahead.

By Working as One we can achieve so much more.

Whether by establishing one single point of contact for anyone wishing to setup a new business or by delivering creative hubs in Holywood and Bangor partnership working is firmly on my agenda as is a commitment to be relentlessly positive just like the current and previous Belfast Lord Mayors.

As Mayor of North Down I have already completed numerous engagements involving a wide range of issues with a strong focus on three issues of concern.

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.

I'll not take up   much more time   tonight talking all about the various initiatives already delivered or underway except to say that as someone often referred to as a Duracell bunny I am determined to ensure my year is characterised by change, progress and delivering an enduring positive legacy for everyone.

The role of the Mayor's Charities plays a central part of my work enabling me to reach out to many people across society.

Whether it be via North Down YMCA, the Camphill Communities or the Mark Pollock Trust by Working as One we are raising awareness of the issues each organisation addresses alongside valuable funds to help progress the work of each.

It's great to see the Mark Pollock Trust represented here tonight. For those unaware of Mark's story he's a Holywood man who has overcome adversity again and again.

Whether it be after becoming blind or then paralysed he's an example to us all of a
can do will do approach that politics desperately needs today.

As Bobby Kennedy and George Bernard Shaw  once said

 "There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why?

I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?"

Fifty years later after Martin Luther King's I have a Dream speech it's time we had the courage to dream and ask why not?

I dream of a shared, integrated and accepting society. Why not?

I dream of an active healthy society    devoid of the evils of poverty, disease and hunger. Why not?

I dream of a prosperous economy built for the future     with young people staying not leaving Northern Ireland. Why not?

As Bobby Kennedy’s brother JFK once remarked

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction”
Tonight I have set out the purpose and direction for my Mayoral year ahead.
Working as One we can keep North Down moving on. 

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