Northern Ireland falling behind on equality

Trevor Lunn MLAAlliance Assembly candidate Trevor Lunn has criticised the lack of progress on equality issues.

Trevor Lunn said; “During the last term, the Assembly failed to fulfil its responsibilities on a range of equality issues, leaving Northern Ireland behind the rest of the UK.

“Alliance believes that a Single Equality Act should be a priority for the new Executive following next month’s election. The Act would harmonise existing equality and anti-discrimination measures and update and strengthen equality provisions. It would also revise fair employment monitoring to better reflect the diversity of the mixed and multiple identities that makes Northern Ireland such a vibrant society.

“Through inaction in the Office of the First and deputy First Minister, we have fallen behind in our protection of those from the LGBT community, while also failing on age discrimination legislation. While an updated racial equality strategy was finally published, we need to see legislation strengthened to protect newcomers who may be targeted or discriminated against. The introduction of the Equality Act (2010) in Great Britain means that in certain areas our legislation lags behind best practice.

“Alliance believes equality should be at the heart of the new programme for government, to show citizens from every community and background that they are valued and their rights will be protected.”

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.”

Lagan Valley Island lights up for World Down Syndrome Day

Cllr Vasundhara Kamble

Cllr Vasundhara Kamble

Lisburn and Castlereagh Councillors have agreed to light up Lagan Valley Island in blue and yellow on 21 March to show support for World Down Syndrome day.

The decision was taken following a proposal from Alliance Party councillor Vasundhara Kamble, who said; “This is the tenth year of World Down Syndrome Day, and I am very pleased that my fellow councilors have agreed to help raise public awareness of Down syndrome through this simple gesture.

“Right across the world this important day will be observed in many ways and it is appropriate for Lisburn and Castlereagh to show our support and help raise awareness of what Down syndrome is, what it means to have Down syndrome, and how people with Down syndrome play a vital role in our lives and communities.”

WDSD was first observed in 2006 in many countries around the world and in December 2011 the United Nations General Assembly declared 21 March as World Down Syndrome Day. The date for WDSD being the 21st day of the 3rd month, was selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome.

McIntyre: Health Minister must reveal decision on junior doctor contracts

Alliance representatives at the Junior Doctor Rally.

Alliance representatives at the Junior Doctor Rally.

Alliance Councillor Aaron McIntyre has called on the Health Minister to announce his decision on junior doctor contracts, as Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council backed his proposal to write to the Minister, urging an immediate response.

Councillor McIntyre said: “Health is a devolved issue, so there is no reason for our Health Minister to follow the English Health Secretary, who has imposed the unfair and unsafe contracts on the junior doctors.

“Scotland and Wales have already stated they will not impose the new contracts and Alliance is calling on the Health Minister to end the uncertainty and make an announcement as soon as possible.

“Junior Doctors are the cornerstone of our health service and any negative changes to their contracts could have serious implications for staff welfare and the wellbeing of patients. The lack of a decision is already impacting morale among junior doctors.

“With the on-going uncertainty we will continue to see junior doctors vote with their feet, and any further brain drain will only further deepen the crisis within the NHS – especially with news this week that thousands of NHS posts lie vacant across the UK.”

Alliance Assembly member Trevor Lunn added: “Last October, Alliance MLAs wrote to the Health Minister to support the junior doctors. It is now time for a decision to end the uncertainty, which is impacting on morale in our hospitals. We cannot afford to lose any junior doctors to other health services which value them more highly.”

Lunn welcomes tougher penalties for animal cruelty

Alliance Assembly member Trevor Lunn has welcomed the decision of Justice Minister David Ford to increase the penalties on those convicted of animal cruelty.

Trevor Lunn said: “I welcome the swift action of Alliance Justice Minister David Ford in including these new penalties in the Justice Bill currently going through the Assembly. This sends a clear message that anyone convicted of cruelty to defenceless animals could face up to five years in prison.
“There had been a local suggestion to regard theft of pets as animal cruelty, but this is outside the current legislative proposals and would be dealt with as a separate offence.”

Those convicted of animal cruelty can now expect; increased maximum sentences for Crown Court cases raised from 2 years to 5 years, increased maximum sentences for Magistrates’ Court cases raised from 6 months to 12 months, maximum Magistrates’ Court fines increasing from £5000 to £20000.


Smoking ban will protect children says Gawith

Getty Images

Getty Images

Alliance Councillor Owen Gawith, who is a member of the Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council’s Health Working Group, has welcomed the ban on smoking in a car when a child is present.

Councillor Gawith was speaking after the Assembly voted to introduce the ban, which is unlikely to come in before next year. Councillor Gawith said: “This very welcome news goes some way to protect children from the dangers of passive smoking. As it also limits the opportunities for children to see adults smoking, I hope it can reduce the likelihood of children taking up smoking. A similar ban has recently been introduced in England, Wales and the Republic of Ireland and I look forward to its implementation in Northern Ireland.

“Smoking not only has a human cost, in terms of the illnesses directly resulting from it, but also places a huge burden on the health service. I hope that both these bans on smoking will help change the attitudes and habits of smokers, who can access a range of free initiatives to help them quit.”

Lunn supports Special Olympics

imageAlliance Assembly member Trevor Lunn has highlighted the important role the Special Olympics plays in the lives of hundreds of young people across Northern Ireland.

The MLA for Lagan Valley was speaking after attending a Special Olympics bowling event at Lisburn Leisure Park, where he presented medals to participants.

He said: “For many young people, the Special Olympics gives the opportunity to develop skills and participate in sports. Bowling is a lifetime fitness sport which contributes to balance, coordination and motor skills.

“It is a particularly beneficial sport to people with intellectual disabilities, irrespective of their age or sports abilities, since it ensures physical exercise and at the same time participation and social integration.”


Cllr Tim Morrow

Cllr Tim Morrow

Cllr Tim Morrow

Tim Morrow is the Alliance Party councillor for Castlereagh East.

Tim attended Campbell College in East Belfast, before heading to Newcastle University to study General Agriculture.  After a year in Newcastle he came home to work on the family farm which the Morrow family have been farming from 1730.

Tim has previously been chair of the County Down Young Farmers Club and more recently Tim has received an award to recognise his contribution to agriculture in Northern Ireland.

Tim got involved with the Alliance Party through his father during his teens, joining the party on his return from university. He served as the chair of the Dundonald branch of the party for 10 years. Tim was first elected to Castlereagh Borough Council 6 years ago.

Tim currently sites on the Environmental Services Committee and the Leisure & Community Development Committee.


A free vote on abortion is essential

Trevor Lunn MLASome time ago, my colleagues and I met Sarah Ewart and her mother, Jane Christie. In 2013, Sarah made public her heartbreaking experience of having to travel to England to access a termination after her unborn baby was diagnosed with a brain and skull malformation that gave no possibility of survival outside of the womb and led to the risk of her being poisoned if the foetus died in utero.

It was a tragic story that brought to prominence the plight of women who suffer a Fatal Foetal Abnormality (FFA) and I and others promised Sarah and Jane we would do all we could to help prevent other women going through the same harrowing experience.

The amendment to the Justice Bill brought by Stewart Dickson and I will be debated in the Assembly on Wednesday. It is a strictly worded amendment relating specifically to FFA and, while it may not go far enough for some, as we know, politics is about what is possible.

I believe this is the only way forward which a majority of the Assembly will potentially support.

Abortion law is a matter of conscience for Alliance, with the party’s representatives and members having opinions that range across the spectrum.

After an extensive consultation, the Justice Minister brought a proposal to the Executive in June 2015 that would have seen legislation agreed in cases of FFA. Unfortunately, that has been blocked by others in the Executive, leading to a stalemate. I would make a personal appeal to those parties who blocked it and who have not yet made public their intentions around this amendment to allow a free vote among their MLAs on this issue. I believe in such a case, the amendment would pass.

Further to that, I plead with the larger parties – in particular, the DUP – not to use the petition of concern mechanism to block it.

Not only would that be an immense disappointment to me, other sympathetic MLAs and supporters of such legislation, but it would deny a relatively small group of women in tragic circumstances the right to make their own choice, a right they surely deserve.

(Originally published in the Belfast Telegraph 08/02/2016)

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.”