New builds for North Down Schools a step closer

Dr Stephen Farry and Councillor
Andrew Muir at Priory Integrated
College, Holywood
New builds for two local integrated schools have moved a step closer, Alliance representatives have said, as they hailed recognition for integrated education in North Down.

With plans for both Priory Integrated College and Bangor Central Primary School earmarked for further support, under a fresh round of funding announced on Tuesday, Stephen Farry MLA and Councillor Andrew Muir said they hoped the move would see the long-overdue new builds become reality.

Stephen Farry MLA said: "While this doesn't automatically guarantee an immediate new build for Priory and Bangor Central, it is the next step in a long-running campaign to enable both schools to meet the strong demand for integrated education in the area.

"Alliance has been at the forefront of campaigning for new builds for both schools, with pupils and teachers suffering unnecessarily in cramped conditions. I hope this is the start of major changes to education provision locally, putting the integrated sector on a level par with other sectors across North Down."

I added: "With initial funding for Priory's new build announced on March 1, 2006, teachers, pupils and parents have had enough of constantly having their hopes dashed and funding withdrawn.

With the planning process for both Priory and Bangor Central now moving a step closer, I hope this will have a knock-on effect to other local schools in need of new premises. Alliance will continue to champion integrated education, giving every family the opportunity to choose integrated education locally.

As a former Pupil of St Columbanus' College, I will also continue our campaign to deliver the long overdue new building for St Columbanus' College which, as a super mixed and positively inclusive college operating in buildings dating back to 1960, desperately deserves similar funding to facilitate a new building."

Muir calls for Fines to be parked

I am calling for the owners of the Omniplex and Oasis Bingo site in Bangor to park fines wrongly issued to users in recent weeks and apologise for the debacle which has seen people fined for non-payment of parking fees despite payment machines being out of order.

I was recently contacted by a constituent angered to receive a Parking Fine when using the Bangor Omniplex and Oasis Bingo site. With parking machines out of order for weeks and covered in large bags detailing “Not in Use” the local resident was perplexed to receive a fine but felt a sense of hope that the matter would be amicably addressed via the appeals mechanism.

Despite outlining the situation, the appeal was not successful with the fine then increased and sold onto Debt collectors. After learning about this situation I immediately sought to contact both the Parking Enforcement company and the Cinema but, to date, no reply has been received with the increased fine remaining and debt collection agencies perusing the customer without hesitation.

I have already explored how Council could assist in relation to this matter but with the site leased by North Down Borough Council to Omniplex (NI) Ltd on a 999 year lease this avenue is not unfortunately available.

Rather than leaving the matter to be resolved in the courts I would urge the Omniplex to avoid any further reputational damage and both waive the fines issued and apologise to those affected. It is entirely unacceptable that customers should be fined and chased by Debt collectors for non-payment when payment machines are clearly non-operational.

Time to stop legitimisation of paramilitaries

Letter below published in County Down Spectator on Thursday 10 March 2016.

I write in response to recent reports concerning the situation within Clandeboye Village and the influence of Paramilitaries. For far too long local communities across North Down and beyond have been forced to live under the influence of illegal terrorist organisations whose only focus is control of the areas and progressing their criminal activities such as drug dealing, racketeering and extortion.

Last year following the erection of paramilitary flags in the Clandeboye area local people courageously stepped forward and requested their removal. The response from statutory bodies, including the Police, sadly followed previously failed approach, suggesting dialogue and discussions rather than respecting the will of the vast majority of people across North Down who desire immediate and prompt removal of such flags which demonstrate support for proscribed terrorist organisations who have murdered and maimed hundreds.

Alliance Conference 2016 Speech - North Down deserves better, forward, faster

As President of the Alliance Party I chaired our 46th Annual Conference on Saturday 5 March 2016, below is abridged version of my opening address:

We are gathered here today less than nine weeks away from what could be a momentous Assembly election.

Short 2 minute Alliance Broadcast with message from 
Naomi Long, Deputy Leader

I’ll talk a little bit more about this election and also the forthcoming Brexit Referendum in a minute but first I feel it’s important to put on record my thanks to all those MLAs who have decided not to pursue re-election on the 5th May.