Category Archives: Press

Grehan condemns Lisburn burglaries

Amanda Grehan Lisburn South Alliance representative

Amanda Grehan
Lisburn South Alliance representative

Alliance Lisburn South representative Amanda Grehan has condemned those responsible for two burglaries in Lisburn on Friday night, which the Police believe may be linked. A family of four were locked in a room in their house on Laurelhill Road by four masked men. Jewellery and money was taken  A pensioner was then bound and locked in his room in his house on Glenavy Road by two masked men, however nothing was taken. Nobody was injured in either crime.

Amanda Grehan said: “I am disgusted by those responsible for these burglaries. It is disgraceful that a pensioner was tied up and locked up in his own home. People should not have to worry about this sort of thing happening in their own home.

“While I am thankful that nobody was hurt during these crimes, I am sure it was a very traumatic experience for those involved.

“If anybody has any information about these burglaries then I would urge them to contact the Police.”


Gawith hits out at Ulster Unionists Redpath

Representative for Downshire West

Owen Gawith
Representative for Downshire West

Alliance Downshire West candidate Owen Gawith has hit out at the Ulster Unionists after one of their council candidates criticised the recent Haass process.

Mr Gawith was speaking after the UUP’s Alexander Redpath criticised Dr Richard Haass, who facilitated talks between the main five parties in an attempt to find movement on the issues of parades, flags and the past, stating he had “no mandate from the people of Northern Ireland” and that “his arrogance is staggering”.
Moira resident Mr Gawith said the comments showed Mr Redpath’s own arrogance.
He added: “Mr Redpath also has no mandate from the people of Northern Ireland – or, more to the point, from the people of Lisburn North whom he is supposed to represent – despite never having been elected to do so.
“In fact he has never even stood for election in any part of Lisburn. He has not put himself to the electoral test before, and yet makes much of being ‘Councillor’. Now he is standing in the new area of Downshire West, abandoning the people of Lisburn North before they have even had the chance to decide whether to vote for him or not.
“Mr Redpath has appeared out of nowhere, giving his views, remarks and comments. I for one am not impressed and I would wager the voters of Downshire West are the same.”

Fly tipping putting council staff at risk

Fly-tipping across Lisburn is continuing to waste valuable rate payers’ money

Fly-tipping across Lisburn is continuing to waste valuable rate payers’ money

Fly-tipping across Lisburn is continuing to waste valuable rate payers’ money and is putting council workers at risk says an Alliance Party candidate.

Aaron McIntyre, a candidate for Downshire East in the forthcoming council elections, has received telephone calls from concerned residents in Drumbo regarding illegal dumping at Jacob’s Ladder. He also uncovered a fly-tipping site whilst out cycling on the Legacurry Road, Ravarnet.

He said: “The Alliance team have been working with Environmental Services to get both sites cleared, but court proceedings may be necessary as the waste at Ravarnet was dumped on private land.”

However he says he will continue to liaise with the relevant authorities to ensure the waste is removed.

Mr McIntyre added: “It is a disgrace that people are willing to destroy the local environment in this way. The Ravarnet fly-tipping site is in close proximity to the Ravarnet River and therefore risks polluting the river which only last year suffered a massive fish kill due to slurry entering the river course.

“If you find a fly-tipping site do not disturb it as the waste may be hazardous and it could potentially contain evidence that may help obtain convictions. I would stress to residents that if they witness any suspicious activity, note the vehicle make, model and registration and contact the police. If you have waste you need to dispose of, please do it responsibly at either of the council’s facilities.”

Martin supports End Age Discrimination Now Campaign

Alliance Councillor Stephen Martin with Age NI

Alliance Councillor Stephen Martin with Age NI

Alliance Councillor Stephen Martin has supported the Stop Age Discrimination Now campaign organised by Age NI which attended the 44th annual Alliance Party conference at the La Mon Hotel on Saturday 21st March.

Speaking at the Conference, Councillor Martin stated: ‘I am fully supportive of the Stop Age Discrimination Now campaign by Age NI as I firmly believe that irrespective of age people should not be discriminated against and there is a real case for appropriate legislation here in Northern Ireland.’

‘The Northern Ireland Executive has promised to introduce legislation by March 2015 to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of age in accessing such vital services such as healthcare, mortgages, bank loans, club membership, accommodation and transport.  Age discrimination is something which can affect us all and often times can be very subtle.

‘Age NI is working to prevent age discrimination in Northern Ireland and I believe that with the help of Alliance we can ensure that the Northern Ireland Executive keeps this promise.’

St. Patrick’s day for everyone

At some time St. Patrick may have walked down from Slemish, stood at the edge of Black Mountain and he too may have gazed over the Lagan Valley. Beauty and tragedy. I live on the banks of the Lagan where the Vikings and Irish battled, my town-land Aughnafosker – ‘fields of slaughter’, a remnant of the long lost lives. I grew up in Belfast, a place of more lost lives.

More has been written about St. Patrick, than he wrote. Claimed by more people than he ever knew. A slave, taken captive again and again by religious, political and cultural groups to support their ends, many well meaning, some not. I hear there was a parade in New York! The organisers finally invited the PSNI to parade alongside An Garda Síochána but were then pressured to divide these Irish men and women, who wanted to parade in celebration of their patron saint.

 People first divided, it then becomes divisive, fellow humans driven apart, excluded, expelled, rejected, despised, to a stage where they can ultimately be de-humanised. In Belfast this weekend it was great to hear the steps taken to reverse this and to include more sections of our community, to try to include. Yet the job is not finished.

We need open arms and a generous spirit toward one another.

We still need to ask: Who are we still excluding?

Maybe next year we can have a St. Patrick’s Day, even more, for everyone.

Dr Jonathan T McCrea
Alliance Representative for Killultagh

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For @JonniePeacock the 2012 @Paralympics "changed the game" for disabled people in this country #Strictly

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Alliance reveals its council candidates

The Alliance Party in Lisburn has revealed its candidates for the upcoming council election.

The election, which will be held in May, will elect the councillors for the new ‘super councils’, including the new Lisburn Castlereagh District Council.

Sitting Councillor Stephen Martin will contest a seat in the north of the city.

However the other two Alliance Councillors in Lisburn, Brian Dornan and Jennifer Coulter, have decided not to run again, due to family and business commitments.

In addition to Councillor Martin, the party will run four candidates in the Lisburn area, and four in the Castlereagh area.

Alliance Constituency Officer Manager Amanda Grehan will seek a seat in Lisburn South, Heritage Officer Aaron McIntyre will be running in Downshire East with Dr Jonathan McCrea representing the party in Killutagh.

Owen Gawith, a local independent financial advisor and long time Moira resident, will round out the Alliance team asking for a mandate in Downshire West.

Lagan Valley Alliance Chair Aaron McIntyre said: “I am excited to have been selected to stand in this election for the new style council.

“I am delighted that we have such a strong team seeking election right across Lisburn.

“Together we will be offering everyone in Lisburn the opportunity to vote for a party which is not afraid to take tough decisions in order to move Northern Ireland forward.”

Councillor Stephen Martin added: “We have a strong record locally but we are eager to deliver more.

“It is more important than ever that we elect a Council capable to managing the difficult decisions the merger with Castlereagh will present.

“This new Alliance  team will bring a range of experience and a commitment to working for everyone in the community no matter what their background.

“We are looking forward to the challenges ahead,” he added.

Alliance Council TEam

Alliance Council Team

Freedom of “City for Everyone” can only be for organizations “for everyone”

Lisburn promotes itself as the “City for Everyone” – it is peculiar, therefore, that DUP Councillors are seeking to give the freedom of the city to an organization which is specifically not for everyone.

As a Liberal party, we have no objection to organizations which seek to support or promote a particular religious doctrine and we support associated cultural activities provided they take place within the rule of law in a respectful manner. However, the attempt to give freedom of the city to an organization which has problems with members even attending Catholic funerals is bizarre.

“The argument is that the Orange Order provides a valuable community service,” says Cllr Brian Dornan, “But so do many churches and other organizations.”

“Freedom of the City is something reserved for organizations where there is wide consensus that they have provided exceptional service. In the case of the Orange Order, such consensus simply does not exist,” he adds.

The Orange Order excludes Catholics, non-Christians and women from its membership. “For everyone” it most certainly is not!

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Time for Action on Education Reform

Is there any matter which more clearly points up the inability of the Executive to take forward important legislation than the stop-start progress of the bill to establish the Education Skills Authority?

This legislation is meant to provide an administrative body to replace the five Education boards, a measure which by common agreement was badly needed four years ago when it was first announced. However the delay in implementation has created uncertainty that has led to the boards losing key staff in large numbers to the point where despite the sterling efforts of those who remain, the Boards are barely able to fulfil their functions.

Originally ESA, was to be introduced in two stages due to its complexity, by the then Minister Caitriona Ruane. However, due to DUP suspicion that this was a means of getting the first bill through before all the nasty bits were revealed in the second bill, they refused to allow the first bill to progress until we had sight of the second one.

With some delay the second bill was produced for scrutiny and the first bill went to the Executive for approval.

In November 2010 it was to be introduced before the Assembly, but it was withdrawn by the Executive, apparently because Unionist Ministers were afraid to allow it to be debated despite all the safeguards and blocking mechanisms they have at their disposal

Now I concede there were matters of difference, particularly around the independence of the Voluntary Grammars and the role of the Protestant clergy (Transferors) who ceded control of their schools to the State back in the 1940’s, but I am convinced that by debate and amendments brought forward in a normal Parliamentary way, those concerns could have been addressed.

As it was, the bill never came before us and we, as a supposed legislative Assembly filled the time discussing frequently irrelevant private members motions, binding on nobody, to the obvious dismay of the people who sent us to Stormont and who are entitled to better.

The present Minister John O’Dowd made it clear when he took office that he would only reintroduce ESA legislation if he was reasonably certain that the same thing would not happen again but he did indicate early this year that progress had been made and he was hopeful that a bill could be brought forward. Positive signals came from Unionist quarters also and even Mervyn Storey as Chair of the education Committee appeared to soften his “ESA is dead in the water” stance.

Incidentally, establishment of an ESA body was a commitment in the DUP manifesto for the May 2011 elections, but on 26th June 2012 the Minister told the Education committee that the bill which he had presented to the Executive on 7th March was in trouble.

Lo and behold however, on 18th July the First Minister announced that they had reached agreement and ESA would be brought to the next meeting of Executive, the same announcement they made after the May 2011 elections, fifteen months previously.

We will watch with interest what progress is made, because while the two main parties play their parliamentary games, the education of our children is suffering and it is absolutely imperative that we streamline the system and realise the savings that ESA will bring.

ESA is one of the best examples of the paralysis which has for too long gripped our Executive. Would it surprise people to know that for two full years during the last Assembly, no discussion on any matter relating to education was allowed at Executive meetings?

The most often asked question from the man in the street is “what are you doing up there” and it is unfair to those Assembly members who are prepared to find ways forward by negotiation and discussion, to be held back by deadlock at the highest level.

Frankly as an Assembly we have run out of excuses, the “building trust” and “getting to know each other” ones are no longer are valid. Northern Ireland is sorely in need of responsible government and the present Assembly needs to prove it is relevant to that need.

“Shape up or ship out” should be our mantra, otherwise I would question whether we should be there at all, certainly under the present system.

Original version of article which appeared in the Belfast Telegraph on 17 August 2012

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Lunn calls for co-operation between Education Boards and CCMS over school plans

Trevor Lunn MLAAlliance Education spokesperson Trevor Lunn MLA has called for closer co-operation between the Education Boards and CCMS over their plans for the number and type of schools that they need in each area. Currently there is two separate audits of what each sector requires. The plans are aimed at reduced the 85,000 empty desks in all schools.

Trevor Lunn MLA said: “If we want this whole process to achieve the best results then there needs to be a suitable level of co-operation between the Education Boards and CCMS about the changes that could happen. Currently we have two separate processes going on which is not going to make our school system more sustainable in the long run.

“Everybody will agree that there is an urgent need to update our school system to meet Northern Ireland changed demographics. We are already seeing some changes with the sharing of resources between schools and I welcome that, now is the time to see what further actions we can take to increase sharing.

“This is going to be a long process and what has been announced are not firm proposals, it is merely the beginning of a consultation exercise. I would encourage the public to read these proposals and respond to the Boards.”