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.