Category Archives: Press

DUP inaction means new health minister’s inbox already filling up

Trevor Lunn MLA

Trevor Lunn
Lagan Valley

Alliance Assembly candidate for Lagan Valley, Trevor Lunn, has said that because the current DUP health minister has avoided hard decisions, the inbox for the new health minister is already filling up.

Trevor Lunn said: “We have the unacceptable situation in Northern Ireland where our junior doctors have been left not knowing if the health minister is going to impose the new contracts that have led to industrial action in England. Health is a devolved issue, and the administrations in Scotland and Wales have decided not to follow England in penalising this invaluable group of health workers.

“Our current DUP health minister has refused to make a decision, preferring to leave it until after the election for his successor. This inaction is seriously impacting on morale amongst the junior doctors and has the potential to lead to some leaving Northern Ireland for other areas that may value their skills more than here.

“We also have the situation where the Northern Ireland branch of the BMA is calling for funding for GPs to be increased in line with what has been agreed in England. Current funding for GPs in Northern Ireland is about 6% of the health budget, whereas in England it is over 10% of the health budget. If we do not fund GP practices adequately we could have a situation where some practices may have to close. This will disproportionately affect rural areas, where it has proven difficult to replace retiring GPs.

“Last October the health minister set up a working group to look at how patients can be better served by GPs. The report from this group, the Review of GP led Primary Care was published in March, but it has been sitting on a shelf in the minister’s office with no decisions taken. The incoming health minister will have some urgent decisions to take as soon as they step into the office.”

Lunn welcomes potential Hillsborough HGV weight limit


Trevor Lunn

Trevor Lunn MLA

Lagan Valley MLA Trevor Lunn has welcomed the potential introduction of an HGV weight limit in Hillsborough.

Alliance representative Mr Lunn was speaking following Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen’s announcement she is to consult on the introduction of a 7.5 tonne weight limit within the conservation area of Hillsborough. The first phase will apply to the stretch of Lisburn Street from the Culcavy Road to the Ballynahinch Road/Main Street junction.

“This would be a good move for Hillsborough,” said Mr Lunn.

“The heavy traffic travelling through the area on a daily basis is a big problem for people there. By introducing a limit, it will not only improve the health and safety for locals but still allow shops and businesses to trade normally.

“In the long-term, I would like to see the entirety of Main Street designated in a similar way to help remove the weight problem entirely.”

Grehan welcomes ban on ‘legal highs’

Alliance Councillor Amanda Grehan has welcomed a ban on so-called ‘legal highs’, after the Psychoactive Substances Act received royal assent in recent days.

The Act – due to be implemented from spring this year – will prohibit the production, supply and importation of these potentially dangerous drugs, often incorrectly called ‘legal highs’, with offenders facing up to seven years in prison.

Councillor Amanda Grehan said: “Banning these substances is a very welcome move to protect our young people. They are often produced and packaged in back street garages with no controls on hygiene or what actually goes into the packages.

Examples of 'legal' highs (Getty Images)

Examples of ‘legal’ highs (Getty Images)

“Tests on packages found in Northern Ireland have shown the same brand name to regularly contain different ingredients. This can lead users to take more when they do not get the same effect as previously, and overdosing can result.

“We have seen too many of our young people become ill, or tragically die following use of these products. The people producing or selling these substances are only interested in making money and have no concern for the users.

“I have previously highlighted this issue in the Council Chamber and I applaud the efforts of the Alliance Justice Minister David Ford MLA, who has worked closely with the Home Office to have this new law enacted. As a mother, I am pleased that another potential danger will be removed from our streets.”

O’Dowd’s priorities all wrong – Trevor Lunn opinion piece

Trevor Lunn MLA on a recent visit to Malone College

Trevor Lunn MLA on a recent visit to Malone College

Whist I have some sympathy with the Education Minister’s problems, several recent decisions fly in the face of stated ministerial priorities and obligations.

The decision on Drumragh Integrated College ignores the stated obligation to “facilitate and encourage” integrated education, to allow successful and popular schools to expand and the principle of parental choice.

In the High Court last year, the Department stated that in future, consent of other schools would not be required for a proposal to be granted, area school enrolments should not override the statutory obligation to integrated education, yet this is exactly what the Minister says lies behind his decision.

The education of our children together is a vital component of any shared future agenda, but it appears the Minister still has difficulty accepting this simple premise or honouring his legal duty in this area.

Clintyclay Primary School is trying to make history as the first Catholic maintained school to transform to Integrated status and despite the opposition of CCMS and the Department, Mr Justice Treacy has upheld their judicial review of the Department’s refusal to allow them to do so. Will the Department appeal this decision? I sincerely hope not, but who knows?

Primary school language tuition is regarded worldwide as valuable to children, this has been recognised by the Department by supplementary funding for many years, but now without warning this support has been removed. A vital front line service (these are supposed to be protected) being discontinued to the disadvantage of our kids against those from other countries, and to Northern Irelands long term ability to compete for business.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects are a priority for the Department, to equip our children for their futures in employment and to enable NI PLC to compete for jobs in the world economy. The Ministers response is to cut 50% from the grant to Sentinus who do such valuable and essential work in this field.

Budgetary control is vital to the efficient running of any Department but so is eliminating the costs of a divided society, hence the need to promote integration where parents clearly want it. When budgets are tight the priority must be quality education and the need to equip our children for careers.

By these decisions, the Minister is leaving himself open to the charge of wrong priorities, training too many teachers for too few jobs, Irish Language expansion (which I will support but not at any cost) as well as maintaining segregation.

We await further developments with interest.


Amanda Grehan Lisburn South Alliance representative

Amanda Grehan
Lisburn South Alliance representative

On behalf of blind pedestrians in Lisburn, Amanda Grehan, candidate for Alliance in Lisburn South is continuing to press Lisburn City Council on the question of kerb heights in Market Square, which are currently to be set at 30mm. This height is not enough to be identified by a guide dog, presenting obvious problems for blind and partially sighted persons.

According to Amanda, “Roads Service originally wanted no height difference between the roadway and footpaths in the square, but following discussion, agreed to set this at 30mm.  Experts in this field agree that a minimum of 60mm is essential for blind pedestrians and their guide dogs to recognise the difference between the pavement and the roadway.  Colour coding has also been suggested, but it is not a workable solution as guide dogs are not trained to recognise colour change as a hazard and, obviously, this would not help a blind person.”

Amanda has undertaken to continue further discussions with Roads Service to seek a workable solution as soon as possible.

Alliance condemn theft of election posters

Alliance posters illegally removed

Alliance posters illegally removed

A number of Alliance election posters have been illegally removed in Aghalee and Lisburn in recent days. The thefts in Aghalee occurred on the 17th April between 19:30 and 22:15 and in Lisburn between 17:00 and 23:30 on the 18th April.

Alliance Killultagh representative Jonathan McCrea condemned the actions of the thieves “Across Europe people are standing for a democratic election, erecting election posters, delivering leaflets and canvassing. Yet there are those in our society who are quite happy to openly defy the rule of law and illegally remove election posters. The removal of election posters is illegal, anti-democratic and both incidents have been reported to the PSNI.”

Downshire East Alliance representative Aaron McIntyre continued “There appears to be a concerted effort on the part of some individuals to remove Alliance posters. We are not suggesting any political party is explicitly involved in their removal, but clear patterns are emerging.  The Alliance Party is committed to building a shared future and it is clear that those removing the posters view us as a threat to the tribal carve-up politics of ‘Orange’ and ‘Green’, which suit some political parties.  We will not be deterred, intimidated or bullied, by those individuals who try to damage our campaign for a better Northern Ireland.”

Anyone with information regarding the theft of any election posters should contact the PSNI.

Eel stocks to be replenished

Downshire East

Downshire East

Scientists are releasing 17 000 young wild eels, sourced from the River Severn, into the Lagan river system and its associated lakes. Six thousand have already been released into Hillsborough Lake by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, financed by the Lough Neagh Fisherman’s Cooperative Society Ltd.

Downshire East Alliance representative Aaron McIntyre welcomed the initiative stating “This is an exciting long term experiment that should go a long way to addressing the declining wild eel population, which has dropped by 95% across Europe in recent years.  These juvenile eels will hopefully mature to renew breeding stocks in the Lagan river system, and it is my understanding that a number of the eels are marked so that their progress can be tracked over the next number of years.

This scheme will breathe new life into the Lagan system and its associated lakes, increasing biodiversity, and the overall initiative will contribute to the on-going programme of eel research at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute funded by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.”

Downshire West colleague Owen Gawith added “The marked eels will be especially useful in tracking the life of these remarkable fish.  On the River Severn poaching has been reported as a particular problem, so close observation here should help deter any such behaviour, and help ensure the re-establishment of a viable eel population.”

Grehan demands clarity on welfare reform

Amanda Grehan Lisburn South Alliance representative

Amanda Grehan
Lisburn South Alliance representative

Alliance Lisburn South representative Amanda Grehan has demanded an end to DUP-SF carve-up politics and the delivery of clarity on welfare reform for people across Lisburn and Castlereagh.

Ms Grehan stated: “People across Lisburn are coming to me in severe distress caused by the uncertainty over welfare reform.
“The DUP and Sinn Fein may feel they can enjoy a game of political ding-dong over this, but we are talking about real people’s lives and real people’s futures.
“I am in no position to advise people on how they should prepare, for example, for the change from DLA to Personal Independence Payment or for the big switchover of other benefits to a single Universal Payment because we simply do not yet know if it going to happen. I know independent Advice Centres and the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux across the area are finding the same.
“The fact is that people are being caused further distress and uncertainty while the DUP and Sinn Fein abuse this issue for electoral gain. It is simply unacceptable that they are causing people to wait until the other side of 22 May to resolve this vital issue.
“The Bill should be placed on the floor of the house and debated urgently, so that people know how to prepare for the future.”

The Ulster Grand Prix – an opportunity not to be missed – McCrea

Alliance Representative for Killultagh

Dr Jonathan T McCrea
Alliance Representative for Killultagh

The Belfast Film Festival opened last week with the world premiere of ‘Road’. Narrated by Liam Neeson, this film tells the story of the world famous motorcycle road racing family, the Dunlops. The Isle of Man TT, the NW200 and the Ulster GP circuits are equally well known. Motorcycle Road Racing is an extreme sport which has attracted increased interest over the past 10 years.

The Isle of Man has led the way in developing its full potential. As motorcycling journalist Mat Oxley (Bike Magazine, July 2013) put it: “It’s… a hugely costly operation, funded by the Manx government and various sponsors. So why does the government spend so much money televising the races? Because the show advertises the Isle of Man to the rest of the world, just like the Qatar GP advertises Qatar across the globe. It’s a competitive world and the global game is getting noticed amid the chaos. The TT show certainly gets the Island on the radar: when… (television) coverage began in 2009 the show was beamed to 35 countries, now it’s seen in more than 130 countries”.

The Lagan Valley Alliance Party team welcomes the Northern Ireland Assembly having finally changed the legislation to give more flexibility for road closures, as is the case in Isle of Man. This should avoid the shambles of previous years and allow races to happen. Manufacturers, teams and sponsors will then be more likely to support these events. This year Michael Dunlop is being supported by BMW Motorrad Motorsport, and German motorcycle tyre manufacturer Metzeler will again sponsor the Ulster GP.

Spectators will be also more likely to come for a whole week to enjoy the racing at the Ulster GP and to explore the many tourist attractions of Northern Ireland and beyond.

The Lagan Valley Alliance Party team welcomes the support Lisburn City Council has given over past years in support of this event.


Dr Jonathan T McCrea has been selected by the Alliance Party to run in the new Killultagh DEA at the forthcoming Local Elections.

Lisburn Alliance makes reminder about rural funding

Owen Gawith Alliance representative for Downshire West

Owen Gawith Alliance representative for Downshire West

The Lagan Valley Alliance team is reminding people locally that the ‘Maximising Access to Services, Grants and Benefits in Rural Areas’ (MARA) project is ending in June this year.

Downshire West representative, Owen Gawith explains “The project has the potential to offer highly valuable assistance to local people in rural areas. I have used a similar scheme myself and can vouch for it. For example, a partial grant towards replacing a boiler can be hugely beneficial in the current economic climate.

“The project works through trained enablers, who carry out home visits and can provide assistance including rural community transport, benefit entitlement and home safety checks. They can also assist with access to boiler replacement and energy efficiency grants”.

The local scheme covers Glenavy, Maghaberry, Moira, Ballinderry, Ballymacbrennan, Hillsborough, Maze, Drumbo and Dromara.

Downshire East representative, Aaron McIntyre concluded “This innovative project is essential because it uses a personal approach to give people access to local services, grants and benefits that they may not be aware they are entitled to. I would encourage everyone in the MARA project area to avail of the services offered by the project before the scheme finishes in June 2014.”

For more information on MARA or to arrange a home visit please phone 028 38398888, or contact the local Lagan Valley Alliance office on 028 92671177.