Summer of Silence over flags of fear

The following letter appeared in the County Down Spectator on Thursday 24 September 2015

I write in relation to the recent removal of paramilitary flags from most arterial routes across North Down. For months local residents, visitors and investors have been forced to endure this flagrant demonstration of support for illegal proscribed terrorist organisations. I am therefore encouraged to see removal commence and hope this will continue in all locations throughout the Borough.

The lack of action by statutory bodies to address erection of these flags and ensure removal over the Summer has been extremely disappointing and has only served to increase legitimate sense of frustration and dissatisfaction by law abiding members of the public who demand a society free from fear and intimidation.  

Deafening silence from local DUP and Ulster Unionist MLAs and Councillors has further compounded the problem, allowing statutory bodies to continue with their ambivalence and those who erected the flags with the impression that such activity is somehow acceptable.

Rather than a one sided approach to dealing with the sinister presence of paramilitary organisations North Down deserves strong, unequivocal, vocal leadership from across the political spectrum in support of the Rule of Law and against the continued existence of any paramilitary organisations, regardless as to whether these criminal gangs masquerade as Loyalist or Republican.

For the current talks process to succeed the era of silence or inferred support from elected representatives on erection of paramilitary flags, murals and shrines must end alongside negotiations and joint protests with those representing paramilitary organisations.

We’ve travelled so far in Northern Ireland and have much more to achieve but without a real commitment to eliminate poison of paramilitarism our shared desire for a peaceful and prosperous future will never been realised. I’m not prepared to reluctantly contemplate another Summer of paramilitary flags flying off lampposts neither should any other elected representative or statutory bodies. People across North Down deserve better.

Yours etc.

Alliance Councillor Andrew Muir
Town Hall, Bangor

Muir welcomes Kinnegar Sewage Works progress

Councillor Muir at Kinnegar Lagoons
I have welcomed progress to date concerning multi million pound project to eliminate the foul odour and sewage pollution in the Kinnegar Lagoons, Holywood. The Project is being delivered by NI Water after I relentlessly lobbied Department for Regional Development, European Environment Commissioner, NI Environment Agency and NI Water to take action.

Whilst I am disappointed some of the tunnelling work has now been re-scheduled due to poor ground conditions I welcome news that project is generally proceeding apace with much needed new pumping station due to the complete by Summer 2016.

Whilst it should not have taken so many years for action to be taken, I welcome the commitment by NI Water to address the issue via the £4.5million construction project currently underway.

Through dogged determination and effective lobbying I am proud to have brought the campaign to this stage and will continue work to ensure NI Water finally remove the odour and pollution in the area which has destroyed the natural environment, eliminated any wildlife and left local people angered after having to endure years of a disgusting malodour.

Alliance continues campaign for St Columbanus’ College New Build

With young people across the Borough recently commencing the start of new School Term, North Down Alliance Councillor Gavin Walker and I are continuing the campaign to ensure St Columbanus' College get the green light to build long awaited new school building.

Following a series of meetings over the last year with School Principal Mr Liam Perry plus, Chairperson of the Board of Governors Mr Pat McCartan, Alliance representatives Dr Stephen Farry MLA, Councillor Gavin Walker and I have been lobbying the Minister for Education to deliver the much needed new school building. With the new School Development Plan permitting slightly increased enrolment the need for modern, fit for purpose buildings is of paramount importance.

I am therefore disappointed that, in response to correspondence from myself, Minister O'Dowd detailed "St Columbanus' College is not currently in my announced Major Capital Programme. I am therefore unable to commit to taking forward a new build for the College at this time.

Whilst other schools in the area have rightly been awarded new school buildings, St Columbanus' College has been left to exist in out of date buildings ill-equipped to deal with increasing enrolment and modern teaching requirements. I would urge the Minister to reflect upon situation and consider how the new building can be better prioritised by the Department for Education.  With a super mixed enrolment, popularity across North Down and Ards areas, a non-selective policy and good academic results St Columbanus' College ticks all the boxes and deserves to see construction work commence as soon as possible.

Commenting on the Minister's commitment to the programme of Minor Capital Works at the College, Alliance Councillor Gavin Walker said, "The ongoing success of the College has resulted in increased enrolment and the need for additional teaching facilities. And so I welcome the Ministers approval of the College's Development Proposal and his commitment to providing additional accommodation.

"In light of the GCSE results this week it is obvious that St Columbanus is an educational success story and we will continue to work with Mr Perry to ensure that the needs of the College - and particularly those of  the pupils - remain firmly at the top of the Minister's to-do list."

Bangor to become another Movie Destination - The Lost City of Z

I warmly welcome plans to film “The Lost City of Z” at the old Bangor Castle Leisure Centre, with real economic benefits to be derived. The former diving pool will be used on 13 September 2015.

Following filming of the movie “High Rise” at the old Leisure Centre, news that another movie will be filmed at the location is a positive development for Bangor. Yet again North Down will feature on the silver screen with resulting economic benefit derived as a result of increase PR, purchase of local services by visiting film crew and additional money for Council coffers as a result of the hire charge levied.  I look forward to watching the movie when finalised and can’t wait to watch ‘High Rise’ when released later this year on 9 October 2015.

Muir welcomes progress for The Front Development, Holywood

I welcome progress which will hopefully see new retail and apartment development at Hibernia Street, Holywood, known locally as “The Front”.

For far too long the area adjoining the A2 Holywood Bypass has been left an derelict eyesore, portraying a negative image to passing motorists. I am therefore delighted that Council has approved plan to progress this new scheme which will involve new shops, offices, apartments plus provision of new parking spaces in the same quantity as currently available and new Public Conveniences.

With occupancy rates in Holywood Town Centre fast approaching 100% the need for additional retail and office space is becoming acute, in stark contrast to other Town Centres. Progression of this scheme therefore provides opportunity to facilitate further economic growth with additional jobs likely to be created by the new businesses and construction work to be undertaken.

Rather than leaving the current carpark areas to deteriorate this scheme provides template for rejuvenation of the wider area, linking into the second, but smaller, phase of Public Realm works which will refresh and renovate Redburn Square and Hibernia Street.

More details at www.frontholywood.com