Mayor participates in historic Irish State Visit

Mayor Muir with President Higgins at a previous event
I participated in the historic Irish State Visit to the UK by attending the performance of Ceiliúradh at the Royal Albert Hall in the presence of President Michael D Higgins, The Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD, former Prime Minister Sir John Major plus the First and deputy First Ministers Rt Hon Peter Robinson MLA and Mr Martin McGuinness MLA plus the Lord Lieutenant Dame Mary Peters.

I was greatly honoured and proud to have the opportunity to participate in the historic Irish State visit to the UK. Following the momentous State Visit to Ireland by Her Majesty The Queen this visit has helped move us forward to a new era in Anglo Irish relations. Our Shared and Diverse histories can now again be explored and enjoyed with differing identities, cultures and views celebrated and embraced.

Muir delivers extra staff to tackle Holywood Dog Fouling problem

I have led the way in tackling the on-going dog fouling problem in the Holywood area, securing an additional member of Council staff to focus directly on the issue.
After months of campaigning I have welcomed the local authority’s decision to employ a part-time member of staff.
I worked directly to resolve the issue with Council staff, after discovering FIDO – a dog fouling removal vehicle – is regularly out of action and unavailable to be used in Holywood, leaving dirt strewn across footpaths.
After receiving numerous calls from concerned constituents, and witnessing the notorious problem myself, I started to make enquiries as to why the situation had become so bad.
I quickly discovered FIDO is prone to being unwell, often in the kennels for repair and regularly impounded due to mechanical malfunctions.  As these problems appeared to be on-going, I was keen to achieve a resolution and effectively used the budget setting process to secure an extra member of staff who will be primarily employed to remove dog fouling from the streets of Holywood.
Rather than purchasing another potentially unreliable machine an extra pair of hands has now been secured.  The part time member of staff will start soon.
Alliance Holywood representative Kate Nicholl added:  “When it comes to clearing the streets of dog fouling, detection and enforcement is the key.  The majority of dog owners are responsible, but it is the minority that leave mess behind who are destroying the comfort of many when out walking in Holywood.
“It can be difficult to detect offenders and I would urge anyone who sees a dog owner being irresponsible when it comes to cleaning up after their pet to register a complaint with North Down Borough Council, raising awareness of problem areas.  Along with my colleague Councillor Andrew Muir, I will be continuing to monitor this situation in coming months.”

Mayoral praise for Bangor Central Integrated Primary School

I welcomed Teachers and Staff from Bangor Central Integrated Primary School to Bangor Castle Town Hall on Wednesday 9 April 2014 to praise the work undertaken at the school.

Principal Peter Campbell led the delegation who enjoyed a historic tour of the building and a strong speech in support of the school and Integrated Education by Mayor Muir.

As someone passionately committed to enabling young people to develop in an inclusive environment, learning, playing and growing up together I am delighted to see Bangor Central Integrated Primary School sustain such a strong enrolment.

I enjoyed providing a practical demonstration of my support for the school by providing a formal Mayoral reception and hope Council will soon be able to finally resolve issues with South Eastern Education and Library Board to facilitate redevelopment of the school site. By strengthening the school estate we can together ensure that children attending Bangor Central Integrated Primary School enjoy the highest quality learning environment.

Muir says Kinnegar Sewage works are long overdue

I have questioned NI Water after the company admitted it had fallen behind schedule in planned improvement works for the Kinnegar area.

A contractor was due to be appointed in November last year in an attempt to end on-going sewage problems for good, with Lagoon Remediation taking place shortly after.

But in correspondence with me, NI Water has now admitted the work is behind schedule with the announcement of a contractor now expected to take place in May.

It is disappointing that NI Water has fallen behind schedule on the Kinnegar improvement works.  Local residents and commuters have been living with these disgusting odours for far too long and the completion of the promised work must be an immediate priority.

I welcome NI Water’s attempts to alleviate the sewage problem, including raising the outlet weir of the lagoons, which seems to have reduced odour complaints significantly.  However these short-term solutions are not good enough and with only mask the overlying problem for so long.

Alliance activist Kate Nicholl added: “As a Holywood resident I am tired of not being able to enjoy the town’s open spaces or being able to open the windows of my home with confidence.  I look forward to the contractor being named and work getting underway later this year."

Portavo Reservoir update

Mayor Muir at Portavo Reservoir before it was drained
I am extremely concerned about the impact of the works currently being undertaken at Portavo Reservoir and potential damage to the Environment plus the wider Eco-System as a result of the drainage of this beautiful Reservoir.

Immediately after I became aware that the Reservoir was being drained I contacted NI Water with my concerns and have continued to request a full explanation.

I welcome the recent decision by North Down Borough Council to call for urgent action to be taken and have followed up matter by requesting a prompt meeting with the Minister for Regional Development. No response has unfortunately been received to this meeting request.

As someone who was closely involved in the Save Portavo campaign a few years ago and successfully managed to get sales plans postponed I am acutely aware of the concerns held and have regularly lobbied relevant government bodies.

I previously arranged a joint meeting between Minister Kennedy and North Down and Ards Mayors on Wednesday 4 September 2013 which helped clarify the Reservoirs future.

I intend to seek further assurances when I again meet with the Minister and will invite the Mayor of Ards to join me. Only by working together we can help secure a better future for Portavo.

Decision by NI Water to attend a special meeting of the joint North Down and Ards Portavo Working Group on Friday 25 April 2014 at 11am at Bangor Castle Town Hall to address the many queries and concerns that exist following decision to drain the Reservoir is to be welcomed but the decision to exclude members of the public does not help to build trust and confidence. I am therefore seeking clarification on what basis this decision has been made and unless commercial, legal or other matters are due to be considered I am inclined to propose that members of the public are allowed into the Public Gallery to hear the discussion.

Establishment of a Friends of Portavo group is to be welcomed and has my full support. An inclusive, community based support and lobbying group is essential to help co-ordinate campaign to save Portavo from ongoing environmental damage and potential sale.

Whilst the absence of any legislation regulating upkeep and maintenance of Reservoirs may inhibit NI Water from selling Portavo in the short term the Reservoirs Bill currently being debated at the NI Assembly has the potential to give NI Water the necessary vehicle to sell Portavo in the knowledge that the Act will place responsibility on upkeep and maintenance with any new owner rather than leaving this in limbo following any Reservoir sale. Imagine the outcry that would arise if NI Water sold a Reservoir without the Reservoirs Act and a flooding incident occurred because the new owner failed to properly maintain the facility! With the Reservoirs Bill proceeding apace it this therefore crucial that active consideration is given to how we can ensure Portavo is not simply sold the highest bidder.

NI Water have previously offered to transfer Portavo Reservoir to relevant local Councils for a nominal fee. With Portavo covering both North Down and Ards Council areas the forthcoming Councils merger provides us with an opportunity to safeguard this environmental haven for future generations in partnership perhaps with established countryside and wildlife groups. The terms of the transfer plus the ongoing maintenance costs and any infrastructure improvements must however be clarified before any decision is made. I intend to request this information and will not relent in my determination to save Portavo Reservoir. 

Mayoral welcome for Groomsport Village Association

I welcomed representatives from Groomsport Village Association to the Mayor’s Parlour at the Town Hall, Bangor on Wednesday 2 April 2014 to recognise the strong and positive contribution the Association plays in making Groomsport a great place to live, visit or work.

As Mayor of North Down I have the opportunity to meet a wide range of people and organisations. Throughout my year I have been impressed at the courage and commitment shown by Groomsport Village Association and was therefore delighted to host them in the Mayor’s Parlour to recognise the work undertaken.

After narrowly missing out on the Best Kept Village title last year I am confident that with all the work being undertaken by the Village Association, Council, NI Water and other bodies the award could be clinched in 2014. I wish Groomsport Village Association best of luck in their future endeavours. They have my full support.

Mayor Muir welcomes Orange Order to Town Hall

 Ballyrobert WLOL LOL with Mayor Muir
at Town Hall, Bangor
I welcomed members of the Orange Order to the Town Hall last Thursday 27 March 2014.  Members of Ballyrobert Victoria True Blues LOL 1920 and Ballyrobert WLOL 47 visited the Town Hall and were given a guided tour by me.

I was delighted to welcome Ballyrobert LOL and WLOL to the Town Hall, enjoyed the conversations and opportunity to explain some of the history associated with Bangor Castle. As Mayor of North Down I am striving to be the Mayor For Everyone and am enjoying my open, inclusive and welcoming approach.  I look forward to engaging with many other groups over the remainder of my term. We are very lucky to have such a wide range of organisations that exist across the Borough which help make North Down a vibrant and diverse area I am proud to call home and is arguably the best place to live, visit or work.

Mayor welcomes Sullivan Upper School Rugby Team to Town Hall

I welcomed Sullivan Upper School, Holywood Rugby team to Bangor Town Hall on Monday 24 March 2014 to recognise achievement of reaching Ulster Schools Cup Final and to encourage them onwards & upwards.

I am enormously proud of Sullivan’s achievement to reach the Ulster Schools Cup Final and felt a Mayoral reception at the Town Hall was vital to recognise this proud moment for the team, Sullivan, Holywood and the Borough in general. Whilst they did not win the team played well and with yet more focus and determination can hopefully fight back and win the Ulster Schools Cup next year. I wish them best of luck and was delighted to have the opportunity to meet the team and the staff which made this achievement possible.

Mayor Muir supports Armed Forces Holywood Jobs and Trades Fair

attended the Armed Forced Jobs and Trades Fair in Kinnegar, Holywood on Sunday 23 March 2014 to support the recruitment efforts of the Army, RAF and Royal Navy. I toured the event, talking to serving officers, finding out more about the career opportunities and providing his support.

I was grateful of the opportunity to attend this important event and provide my support for the Army, RAF and Royal Navy who can offer many positive career possibilities including the Reserve Forces opportunities for those who seek to remain in Northern Ireland and continue with their current employer. 

The professional, approachable nature of those involved was impressive and I hope the event proved fruitful. Whilst I may not currently have the time for a career in the Reserve Forces it’s an attractive and life enhancing role for many which I fully support.

Mayoral reception for Bangor West Conservation Group

I hosted Bangor West Conservation Group at the Town Hall on Monday 10 March 2014 for a useful discussion on key issues of concern.

I found the engagement extremely useful and look forward to following up on the range of issues raised. Forthcoming devolution of planning powers to local Councils together with the desire for Third Party Right of Appeal are rightly key issues of concern. 

By Working as One we can together build a more sustainable Borough with more sensible planning policies and decisions to safeguard our built heritage and character of the our much loved neighbourhoods.

Mayor in tune with Holywood Music Festival

I hosted Holywood Music Festival in the Mayor’s Parlour on Wednesday 12 March 2014 to recognise the valuable contribution the festival makes each year.

Holywood Music Festival attracts competitors from across Ireland and has developed a strong reputation of artistic excellence helping to add to the what makes Holywood great. Reliant upon many dedicated volunteers I am truly grateful to all those concerned who help make the Music Festival possible and enjoyed hosting Committee members in the Mayor’s Parlour to recognise this contribution. I look forward to another successful Festival in 2014 and will continue to support the Festival in any way possible both as Mayor and as Councillor if re-elected.

Mayor opens Town Hall for successful local business

 Mayor Muir with SendmyBag.com staff
at Town Hall, Bangor
I opened the Town Hall and the Mayor’s Parlour recently for local company SendMyBag.com to thank founder Adam Ewart and staff for the contribution made by the successful small business which recently announced plans to create twelve new jobs and to open an office within the USA in 2014.

SendmyBag.com allows people to avoid excessive airline baggage charges by using their door to door luggage shipping service.

I am delighted to see sendmybag.com go from strength to strength and wish them every success over the year ahead as they seek to expand.

With Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) accounting for almost 95% of businesses in Northern Ireland I was grateful for the opportunity to recognise the invaluable role played by SMEs such as SendMyBag.com

Sendmybag.com have shown an amazing level of innovation and determination to realise opportunities arising from the high charges now levied by budget airlines when you need to travel with more than hand luggage.

With Bangor based customer service staff providing 7 days a week customer support to more than 70 countries worldwide, sendmybag.com are a local success story that I was proud to recognise.

Founder and CEO of sendmybag.com Adam Ewart remarked “It was a pleasure to be invited to the town hall, from renting the first SendMyBag office within North Down Development Organisation to recruiting staff, Bangor has proven a great place to start and grow a business."

Mayor praises Guide Dogs for the Blind

From Left, Mayoress Mrs Scott, Guide Dogs for the
Blind User Elaine Orwin, Guide Dogs for the Blind
Staff Member (
Fiona Brown), Local Branch Chairperson
Orrlene McMillen and Mayor Muir.
I recently hosted Guide Dogs for the Blind users, volunteers, fundraisers and staff at the Town Hall a few weeks ago.

Over thirty people attended the special reception which featured a short history talk from the Town Hall Supervisors and guided tour from me and my Mum, The Mayoress, Madeline Scott.

I was delighted to host Guide Dogs for the Blind at the Town Hall recently to recognise the valuable contribution made by people who are blind or visually impaired plus the fantastic volunteers and staff that help provide the valuable service of a trained Guide Dog.

I was particularly thankful to David, Brian and Elaine for coming along with their Guide Dogs and the opportunity to hear their personal stories and how they enjoy life in North Down with their Guide Dog.

By collecting funds, organising events, training dogs and raising awareness Guide Dogs for the Blind volunteers and staff help enable people who are blind or visually impaired get out and about and enjoy life. I am therefore extremely grateful for the role played and enjoyed providing the Town Hall reception to formally express my profound thanks. I look forward to helping the organisation in any way possible over the remainder of my term as Mayor and beyond if re-elected to serve as a Councillor.

Mayoral duo visit Crosslé Cars, Holywood

I recently welcomed Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir to visit Crosslé Cars, arguably Holywood’s secret success story.

We met with Caroline Crosslé, daughter of founder racing champ John Crosslé, CEO Paul McMorran and staff at Crosslé’s Holywood premises.

Crosslé is a well established successful company exporting racing cars across the world led by Paul McMorran and a number of dedicated skilful staff with a strong future ahead of them.

In order to grow our economy and export markets we must look outwards and work together in collaboration with our neighbours whether they be in Belfast, London or Dublin. I was therefore delighted to welcome the Belfast Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir to Holywood to see Crosslé Cars, arguably Holywood’s secret success story. Máirtín was extremely impressed and looks forward to profiling the company to business leaders across the USA when he next visits the East Coast of America.

The history and heritage associated with Crosslé is rich and I therefore look forward to reading the forthcoming publication documenting this history and heritage. Until then I will be working in conjunction with relevant Council officers to explore how we can further assist and enable Crosslé to grow based upon a proud reputation as the world’s longest-established constructors of racing cars.

Established in 1957, Crosslé is the world’s longest-established constructors of racing cars.