Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Muir welcomes saving of historic gate lodge

I welcome news an historic gate lodge is to be saved from potential destruction. Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy recently announced in response to an Alliance Assembly question that Craigowen Lodge, located on the main Belfast to Bangor road close to the Seahill Road junction, would be given to Hearth Housing Association with a view to securing its future. 

The lodge had been purchased by Roads Service ahead of a proposed road-widening scheme that never occurred. The listed building suffered an arson attack several years ago, after which it had a tin roof installed for protection. It was designed by Thomas Turner, a pupil of Sir Charles Lanyon. 

Craigowen Lodge is a building steeped in history and heritage, which deserves to be restored and protected as much as possible. Hearth Housing Association informed me in 2011 they wanted to renovate the building, so it is extremely welcome to see that work finally moving ahead. 

Hearth specialises in restoring historic buildings, so the organisation is perfect to bring back Craigowen to its former glories. Our built heritage needs to be secured - they could provide much-needed social housing and used in general so future generations can enjoy them.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Twelfth Celebrations have the potential to succeed, days of inflammatory and prejudicial words and actions must be consigned to the past

Enjoying bottle of pop as a child on 12th July after
watching Band Parade and Demonstration
Over the next week Towns and Cities across Northern Ireland will celebrate the Twelfth, with parties culminating in bonfires, parades and speeches at the Field.

As someone born as a product of a mixed marriage, I am proud to consider part of my identity as British and recall looking forward to watching the bands play and parades pass on the Twelfth of July, whether in North Down or Belfast.

As an adult I have continued to attend events nearly every year and in recent years was  grateful to be invited as a guest of the Orange Order for a meal and historical discussion at The Field in Belfast. As Mayor of North Down in 2013/14 I also valued the opportunity to welcome local Orange Order members to the Town Hall on two occasions and found my visit to The Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre at Oldbridge House, Co Meath worthwhile.

In 2010 I was delighted to accept an invite to attend a 12th July Garden Party hosted in Dublin by Irish President Mary McAleese. The event was held to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne and the resulting shared history of Ireland, North and South. It attracted people from all backgrounds, North and South, Unionist and Nationalist, Orange and Green, other and none and set out a positive vision of how we can celebrate our shared past today.

With Dr Martin McAleese, President of Ireland Mary McAleese
and my partner Alan at Twelfth of July Garden Party
Despite recent difficulties and previous incidents, especially at some local bonfire sites, which I condemn without equivocation, it is my strong hope that the Twelfth Celebrations have the potential to succeed as a positive celebration of identity characterised by mutual respect, tolerance, dialogue, understanding and support for the Police as they seek to uphold the Rule of Law. The days of inflammatory and prejudicial words and actions perpetrated by a small minority but projected across the world must be consigned to the past.

The numerous bonfire sites across the borough and the main local demonstration due to occur in Holywood in the days ahead provide a great opportunity to enhance and strengthen North Down as a welcoming and inclusive place for everyone with universal respect for the rule of law. Together, let’s grasp it.