Tasting a dram shouldn’t be a drama – Alliance

Councillor Gavin Walker and I are calling for the new Communities Minister to ensure licensing legislation is reformed without delay to enable local Distilleries to offer tasting without fear of prosecution.

Gavin Walker, Councillor for Bangor East and Donaghadee and I both visited the new Copeland Distillery in Donaghadee on 20 February 2020 to hear of concerns from owner Gareth Irvine.

Andrew Muir MLA, Gareth Irvine  from Copeland Distillery and Councillor Gavin Walker 

The Copeland Distillery was originally founded by Gareth Irvine in the Summer of 2016 and is a producer of a range of Irish Gin, Single Malt and Pot Still Whiskey.

Whilst it has been great to see Copeland Distillery opening in Donaghadee and enjoying some great success to date it's bonkers that they are not allowed to offer taste tours to visitors at the actually distillery but instead need to take customers to a separate bar. Legislation must be reformed to enable distilleries to sell alcohol on their premises and offer taste tours on-site without having to obtain a liquor licence.

Councillor Gavin Walker stated "Requirement to obtain a Public House Licence involves significant expenditure and a change of use for part of the premises in planning terms. The cost would be prohibitive. It would also mean the Distillery would be competing against existing Public Houses in town. Gareth wants to provide an additional attraction, not a competing one. Reform of our out-dated licencing laws is therefore essential."

Gareth Irvine, owner of Copeland Distillery commented "Whilst we are able to offer tours this involves a short walk to a bar and need to navigate stairs to second floor of an old building. Modern licensing laws would make life much better for Copeland and other Distilleries enabling us to contribute to economic and tourism growth. We join with Hospitality Ulster in calling for change and hope the new Communities Minister can deliver much needed legislative reform in the near future."

Written Question and Answer from Andrew Muir MLA to the Minister for Communities below:

Q: To ask the Minister for Communities whether she plans to revise licensing legislation to enable local producers of beer, cider and spirits to sell their products directly to the public; and, if so, when the legislation will be brought forward.

A: The reform of licensing laws is an Executive priority under the New Decade, New Approach Deal, and is one that I am keen to move forward as soon as possible.

I am currently considering a draft outcome report on the Department's recent consultation on liquor licensing laws, which includes a number of representations from local producers of beer, cider and spirits. I will announce how I intend to proceed in due course.

Maiden Speech as MLA

Monday 3 February 2020 at Northern Ireland Assembly

Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will start by welcoming you to the role and thanking everyone throughout the Chamber for the welcome that has been provided to me. In the short period since I became an MLA, one thing that has become acutely apparent to me is that, whilst these institutions are supported by structures, it is relationships that form their foundation. If the last three years have taught us anything, it should be the importance of relationships as the way to strengthen the foundation of these institutions.

Talking of relationships, this brings me to the reason why I am here, namely the elevation of my predecessor to the House of Commons. My relationship with Stephen Farry started nearly 30 years ago in the early 1990s, when we were both young-ish and I delivered leaflets and canvassed for Stephen's election to council. I have deeply admired his dedication, insight, integrity and courtesy shown to all. I was, therefore, absolutely delighted to see Stephen elected as my Member of Parliament, and honoured to have been selected by the Alliance Party as his replacement.

Stephen Farry follows in the footsteps of Lady Sylvia Hermon, who personified North Down in so many ways for the 18 years that she served as MP. She was respectful, principled and passionately committed to representing and reaching out to all communities. Stephen Farry and Lady Sylvia Hermon say everything about why I love north Down. I am so immensely proud to represent the people and the place where I was born, grew up and live.

While some may not think of it as remotely enjoyable, one way that I get to enjoy north Down is by running many miles amongst the wonderful natural environment that we are so lucky to have, but, Members, as we have seen in recent times, we cannot take our environment for granted. The impact of climate change has already taken effect on the most vulnerable across the globe. The risk of climate catastrophe is ever-increasing, especially if we do not take action now. I am, therefore, glad that one of the first motions to be debated in this place during this mandate is about such a topic. At this point, I should declare for the record that I am a former employee of Translink and councillor on Ards and North Down Borough Council.

Whilst I welcome the commitments given in the motion and in the 'New Decade, New Approach' document, if we are to genuinely declare a climate emergency, I suggest we must be prepared to respond accordingly. The commitments given in the 'New Decade, New Approach' document should be the bare minimum, and, as a result, I cannot support amendment No 2. The independent Environmental Protection Agency must be urgently established to bring us into line with the rest of the British Isles and Europe. It must have real teeth and real freedom to pursue its remit with vigour. The targets in the Climate Change Act must stretch us in ways that we have never envisaged. Petrol and diesel cars need to be phased out. Plans to expand the Sydenham bypass to three lanes need to be shelved. The way we move around has to change.

A step change in how we produce and use energy is essential. It should not just be about reduce, reuse and recycle but rather reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink — rethinking everything we do about waste. We need a collective effort involving everyone at every level of society and government. It would be great if this were the first issue to be addressed by the citizens' assembly.

I believe that we are up to the challenge. As Alan Turing — a personal hero of mine — once said:

"We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done."

Plenty does need to be done, but I believe that together we can do it.

I am wearing a dicky bow. Hopefully, that is a tradition that has been set for maiden speeches.

Muir urges Minister to ensure Residents Parking Scheme Review reports promptly

I have urged the new Infrastructure Minister to ensure review into Residents’ Parking Schemes reports promptly.

The Minister recently replied to an Assembly Question posed by me detailing that a review is currently being undertaken after introduction of first Residents’ Parking Scheme in South Belfast.

With the problem of residential parking already well known in Bangor, Holywood and so many Towns and Cities beyond North Down it’s essential that evaluation of initial scheme is completed without delay. Local people unable to get parked anywhere near to their home should not have to wait any longer to hear about proposed plans for future roll out to other areas.

Whilst there cannot ever be a perfect Residents Parking Scheme which meets needs of everyone the current situation being endured by residents in many areas across Northern Ireland is entirely unsatisfactory and needs to be addressed via balanced proposals which must not place any undue financial burden on people wishing to obtain a permit and ability to park near their home.

Written Assembly Question and response below