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.