Saturday, 30 October 2010

Ministers saddened to learn of the death of Micheál Martin's daughter

First Minister Peter D. Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA have expressed their sadness on learning of the death of the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin's daughter, Léana.
The Ministers said:  "We are saddened to learn of the death of Micheál's youngest daughter Léana.  We wish to express our heartfelt sympathies to Micheál, his wife Mary and the entire Martin family at what must be an exceptionally difficult time for them all."
Notes to editors:
Media enquiries to OFMDFM Press Office on 028 9037 8142. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Office via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned. 

Friday, 22 October 2010

Statement from the Executive Information Service - A great professional and a true friend

The staff of the Executive Information Service are shocked and saddened at the sudden loss of their friend and colleague John Harrison.

Speaking about John, the Director of the Executive’s Information Service Stephen Grimason said: "John was at the pinnacle of his profession, acclaimed locally, nationally and internationally. The ultimate professional, his engaging style won him the admiration of Presidents and Prime Ministers. He has been at all the key moments and events of our recent past. His work over the past 30 years is a photographic record of the social, economic and political life of Northern Ireland.

"Above all John was a friend, he was a friend to everyone and he will be a great loss to us and of course to his family. Our deepest sympathy goes to his wife Mandy and his children Peter, Thomas and Catherine, as we mourn the passing of a wonderful human being."

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Foster announces £1.7million investment by Terex corporation

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster today announced a £1.7million investment by US based Terex Corporation, creating 35 new high skilled jobs.

The investment involves Terex Corporation locating its European Global Business Services Centre in Northern Ireland.

The Minister made the announcement in Washington, at the start of the US-NI Economic Conference being hosted by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Terex Corporation is a global manufacturer producing an extensive range of equipment for a broad spectrum of sectors including the construction, infrastructure, recycling, shipping, transportation and maintenance industries. Within Northern Ireland, Terex has two manufacturing units in Dungannon and Omagh, employing over 1,000 people in the manufacture of mobile crushing and screening equipment.

Arlene Foster commented: “Terex already has a considerable footprint in Northern Ireland and is a significant employer at its two plants in County Tyrone. The decision to also locate its European Business Services Centre in Northern Ireland is an acknowledgement of the value placed on our local capabilities and the support offered by Invest NI.

"Winning new investment in high value sectors, such as Business Services, is the focus of today’s conference. This announcement is an excellent example of the type of project we are working to secure and provides further credibility to Northern Ireland’s proposition as a business and financial services location."

Ron DeFeo, Chairman and CEO of Terex Corporation, commented: “Establishing the European GBS centre in Northern Ireland is a major step in our plans to organise and deliver internal support services more efficiently and effectively.

“The assistance offered by Invest NI has been instrumental in our decision to base the centre in Dungannon. With a highly talented labour force to work with, we are confident of a successful outcome from our investments in Northern Ireland.”

Invest Northern Ireland has offered Terex £369,000 to secure this investment for Northern Ireland which will safeguard six existing jobs and create 35 new high skilled positions.

The Terex Global Business Services Centre based in Dungannon will provide centralised support for finance functions across the firm’s European business operations. This centre is the second in the corporation’s global initiative aimed to link Terex manufacturing, accounting, supply chain and human resources processes.

Note to editors:

For media enquiries, please contact DETI Press Office on 028 9052 9297. Outside office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Robinson and McGuinness announce investment by the Dow Chemical Company

First Minister Rt. Hon. Peter D Robinson MLA and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA, today announced that The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE:DOW) is to establish a Dow Design & Modify Supply Chain (D&MSC) Centre in Belfast, creating 25 new high quality jobs.

The new centre will help ensure that the company’s supply chain is optimally designed to respond to emerging social and economic trends and customer needs around the globe. It also reflects Dow’s commitment to leverage its Business Services expertise to drive more value to the market through Dow’s businesses and joint ventures as the company seeks to become a high-growth earnings company.

"Selecting Belfast as the location for the expansion of our global supply chain organization is a meaningful example of our commitment to strategic investments that support our long term business objectives while also enabling us to have a positive impact on region and community," said Andrew Liveris, Dow Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

Dow is one of the largest chemical companies in the world with annual sales of approximately $45billion in 2009 and over 52,000 employees worldwide.

Speaking in Washington in advance of the US-NI Economic Summit, where the announcement was made, First Minister Peter Robinson said: "In travelling to the US to reinforce the NI investment proposition, there can be no greater endorsement of our world class skills and knowledge base than an investment by a company of this calibre. 

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "Generating almost £1million in salaries annually through the creation of 25 highly specialised posts. This investment proves beyond doubt that we can attract international companies, offering quality high end jobs, even in such challenging times, for the global economy."

"Offering salaries well above the NI private sector average, this is an investment which will deliver quality career opportunities to the people of Northern Ireland and result in a significant, welcome boost to the local economy."

Notes to editors:

Media enquiries to OFMDFM Press Office on 028 9037 8142. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Office via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Empey discusses US initiatives to improve student drop out rates

Employment and Learning Minister, Sir Reg Empey, today learned how the US has been improving university and college completion rates.
As part of his four day visit to Washington DC, he met with Complete College America, which was founded to dramatically increase completion rates in the US.
The Minister shared Northern Ireland's experiences with CCA president Stan Jones and compared this with American experience.

Sir Reg said: "While Northern Ireland has relatively good college and university completion rates when compared to the US, I am not prepared to accept a complacent approach to current drop-out rates. Each failure to complete a university or college course is a waste of public money and deprives an individual of economic and educational opportunities.

"Complete College America stresses the crucial importance of student welfare support in addressing drop-out rates and the need for colleges and universities to reconsider their teaching structures so as to promote retention.

"I was pleased to be able to share the experience of our own excellent Step Up programme in Northern Ireland, working with secondary schools to promote the aspiration for university and the skills that will encourage course completion."

The Minister continued: "Amidst the ongoing debate on Lord Browne's proposals, I have stated my determination to protect and further enhance Northern Ireland's widening participation record. Closely related to this is the need to ensure students complete their courses. This makes a vital contribution to social mobility and economic competitiveness.

"I am grateful for the experience Complete College America shared with me today - another example of how US and Northern Ireland colleges and universities can learn from each others challenges and successes".
Notes to editors:

All media queries should be directed to the Department for Employment and Learning Communications Branch on 028 9025 7872. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned.

Ministers attend US economic conference

First Minister Rt Hon Peter D. Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA have arrived in Washington DC ahead of Tuesday’s economic conference.

The conference which will be hosted by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton will bring together a range of Northern Irish companies, current investors from the US and a range of potential investors identified by Special Economic Envoy Declan Kelly.

Mr Robinson said: "This conference will allow us to sell the Northern Ireland product directly to some of the America's most successful and best know companies, many of whom have already expressed an interest in investing here.

"The Executive said from a very early stage that attracting inward investment was vital to the Northern Irish economy and we have had some considerable success. I have no doubt that as a direct result of this conference we will forge a new set of relationships that will in the months and years to come see further significant investment."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "Secretary Clinton has played an extremely important role not only in the peace process but in helping us to develop our economy and to improve the lives of our people. The conference that she is hosting further highlights the commitment that exists in the US to boosting our economy through investment and the creation of jobs.

"I am very conscious that there are areas across the north that have yet to feel the benefits of peace and have only ever known deprivation, poverty and inequality. This conference will, I am sure, bear fruit and will have a long and lasting legacy that will benefit our economy and all our people equally."

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster and Employment and Employment and Learning Minister Sir Reg Empey are also attending the conference.

Minister Foster said: "The one day conference gives us an unprecedented opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland and to promote the local business model to a select group of senior decision makers. The focus will be on direct business discussions to allow very senior executives from American companies to hear why an investment in Northern Ireland makes sound commercial sense.

"Invest NI will support the US Economic Envoy, Declan Kelly at the conference, by promoting Northern Ireland and following up potential investment opportunities with the conference delegates."

Employment and Learning Minister Sir Reg Empey said: "This conference provides an excellent opportunity to showcase the skills of the Northern Ireland workforce. We are here in Washington for the economic hard sell - to show that Northern Ireland is an excellent location in which to invest and do business.

"Northern Ireland's further education colleges and universities, working in partnership with my Department, are already producing the skills looked for by inward investors. Our Assured Skills initiative further ensures that the right skills will be provided for new investment, boosting Northern Ireland's attractiveness and competitiveness."

Notes to editors:
Media enquiries to OFMDFM Press Office on 028 9037 8142. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Office via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Statement from Social Development Minister

Commenting on the press statements on a set of measures to reduce benefit fraud including "three strikes and you are out", Minister Alex Atwood said: " In the week of announcements on forthcoming public spending cuts, these statements only serve to reinforce concerns that I hold that the focus of fraud and error resources is on targeting the most vulnerable in our society rather than on those individuals and companies who avoid paying their taxes.
“The proposed measures could lead to people not claiming benefits because they are worried about fines if they make a mistake and also targets whole communities by proposing mobile task forces to investigate all claims in particular areas where there is high level of benefit payments. I fully support tackling benefit fraud but not in ways that seek to demonise individuals and communities."

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Statement on free prescriptions from the Health Minister

Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey said today that it was unfair and wrong to suggest that free prescriptions for items such as sun-cream should not be dispensed.

He said: “Items such as high factor sun-screen are only dispensed following a clinical decision by a doctor. These sun-screens are normally dispensed to treat people because they may be undergoing radiotherapy, or have certain genetic conditions or suffer from photo sensitivity all of which can make their skin much more sensitive to sunlight.

“In addition, some medications can also make the skin more sensitive to sunlight including some antibiotics and heart drugs. 

“I will not second-guess doctors or other medical experts who seek to ensure patients have vital medication which saves them from harm. I am very concerned that some people have tried to turn such a serious medical issue into a trivial headline.”

Turning to the introduction of free prescriptions the Minister said that he would continue to monitor dispensing volumes very carefully and asked the public to act responsibly when asking for medication.

He continued: “The reason I introduced free prescriptions in the first place was to remove the inequality that existed which meant that some people with serious illness, such as cancer, had to try and find the money to pay for their drugs. This was a tax on illness and I could not allow this situation to continue. 

“The fact is that in 2009/2010 prescription charges generated income of £6million, approximately 1.4% of the overall prescribing budget which is around £400million. 

“My Department and the Board are continuing to ensure that any issues of overprescribing and cost are being dealt with. Over the last five years, my Department has delivered some £90million of efficiencies in the prescribing budget and at the same time managed £3million additional prescriptions in 2009/10.” 

Continuing the Minister said that during this period the use of generic medicines has increased from 43% to 60% and that is an important way of managing drugs inflation. He said that he had also set in train a further range of initiatives through the Pharmaceutical Clinical Effectiveness Programme to improve medicines management in the Health and Social Care Service. 

He concluded: “It is too early to identify any additional costs associated with free prescribing in 2010-11 but this is being kept under review. It is important to note that the prescribing volumes increase by an average of 5% to 6% every year. It is wrong to say that all increases in prescription numbers are the result of free prescribing. 

“For example, issues such as rising numbers of older people with long-term conditions and the effects of the economic recession impact on prescribing rates.”

Notes for editors:

1. Media enquiries to the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0575. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Regional Development Minister welcomes Minister Pat Carey TD to Rathlin Island

Minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy warmly welcomed Minister Pat Carey, TD, to Rathlin Island today.

As Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, Minister Carey has responsibility for off shore islands in the south, of which around 30 are inhabited. 

Commenting on island life and meeting Minister Carey on Rathlin, Minister Murphy said: “Islanders live in some of the most beautiful and inspiring parts of Ireland, but they must also deal with the unique challenges of island life. Since coming into office I have been committed to improving island life and the services available to those on Rathlin.

“In July last year I visited Inis Oírr in the Aran Islands off the Galway Coast to see first hand how the islanders there have developed socio-economic activities to sustain their island community, and so I welcome this opportunity today to meet with Minister Carey on Rathlin to share with him our local experiences about how government can help island communities to maintain and develop island life.”

Minister Murphy added: “The Executive’s policy for Rathlin Island seeks to improve the conditions of all people on this island while also protecting its natural and cultural heritage. My Department has been in the lead in developing the Action Plan to implement the Executive policy. To achieve success we need to work together with the islanders and other interested parties to help build a vibrant and sustainable community.” 

During their visit the Ministers’ had time to discuss the recent Small Ferries project, a unique INTERREG funded study undertaken to establish the best way to design, build and procure a replacement fleet of small ferries to deliver lifeline ferry services for island and other geographically remote communities off the Irish and Scottish coastlines.

Speaking about this Minister Murphy said: “The Small Ferries Project has demonstrated that there are opportunities for public bodies across these islands to join together to address issues that are common to them all. I am now considering the recommendations of the Small Ferries Project report which I received recently.”

Notes to editors:

1. The Rathlin Island Policy was endorsed by the Executive on 25 February 2010 and may be viewed at

2. A copy of the Small Ferries Project report can be found at

3. Media enquiries to DRD Press Office on 028 9054 0007. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Office via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Justice Minister - Goal must be the creation of secure, safer, shared communities

Justice Minister David Ford has today said that Northern Ireland's goal must be the creation of secure, safer, shared communities.
 Speaking at the annual Irish Association Conference in Newry entitled 'Northern Ireland: Solved - Not Settled', the Minister argued that while Northern Ireland is undoubtedly more settled than any time in its history, the real challenge remains the creation of a shared future.
Addressing the delegates, the Minister said: "I question if any society can be truly settled. Challenges we face today are not the same as the previous generation and will not be the same for the next. The real challenge for Northern Ireland is achieving the safer, shared, sustainable society the people deserve.
 "We have come a long way in recent years. As a society, we are moving forward and we are in a better place. But whilst we can take heart from the progress that has been made, we must recognise more needs to be done."
 Mr Ford also highlighted the importance of dealing with the past. He said: "How we deal with the past will either become another vehicle that takes us forward, or it will become a roadblock to progress."
 The Minister explained how the devolution of policing and justice has an important role to play in Northern Ireland's future.
David Ford continued, "In the months ahead, I will be the first local Minister to set long term policing objectives for the PSNI. I will work closely with the Chief Constable, the Policing Board and the wider community in doing so. Devolution provides that opportunity to develop and shape policing.
 "I also want us to live, work and play in safer communities. So the new Community Safety Strategy upon which I will be consulting in the months ahead will look at ways to reduce crime, reduce the fear of crime, promote a culture where diversity is celebrated not feared and look to build connections between people rather than walls to keep them apart."
Notes to editors:
All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Young Peoples Consultation Event on the Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration

The Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister is hosting a consultation event tomorrow to get the views of young people (aged 12-18 years old) on the Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration. This programme provides the framework for co-ordinating actions across Government to tackle sectarianism and racism.

Where: Grosvenor House, Belfast
When: Saturday 16 October
Time: 11am - 3pm

More information can be found on the OFMDFM website at

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Robinson and McGuinness meet Deputy Prime Minister

First Minister Rt Hon Peter D. Robinson, MLA, and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP, MLA met today with deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at Stormont Castle.

During the course of the meeting Ministers discussed a range of issue including their concerns over the forthcoming spending review and its impact locally.

Following the meeting Mr Robinson said: "During our meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister, we once again reiterated our position that Northern Ireland faces a particular set of challenges which differ from the rest of the UK. The Coalition’s proposed cuts will, I have no doubt, have a far greater effect here that any other region."

Mr McGuinness said: "In the course of our discussions the First Minister and I again reiterated out call for the British Government to fulfil their obligations under the St Andrews Agreement and we will continue to make that case through every avenue possible."

Notes to editors:
Media enquiries should be directed to OFMDFM press office on 028 9052 1905. Out of office hours, please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Joint declaration from the Devolved Administrations

There is now less than a fortnight until the publication of the UK’s Comprehensive Spending Review and the Scottish Government, Northern Ireland Executive and Welsh Assembly Government wait with considerable apprehension to learn of the consequences for our respective budgets.

While we recognise that a credible budget strategy is vital in returning the public finances to a sustainable footing and maintaining the confidence of the wider community including the financial markets, it is essential that we do not put the recovery at risk. We are concerned however that the UK Government’s spending plans may do just that.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that the spending plans outlined in the June Emergency Budget represent the deepest and most sustained cuts to public services since at least the end of the Second World War. We all believe these cuts are too fast and too deep, consistent with views expressed at the recent Finance Ministers’ Quadrilateral.

The proposals to cut public spending to such an extent run the risk of stalling any recovery. Private sector demand remains fragile and access to finance continues to be constrained. The current plans for fiscal consolidation could therefore have a significant and lasting negative impact on the economy, including people’s jobs, which would undermine the very efforts to address the UK’s fiscal position. We believe that promoting economic growth is the best way to restore the health of our public finances and this must be our overriding priority.

Only when there is clear evidence that the recovery is well established, and can be sustained, should significant fiscal tightening be implemented. Frontloading the cuts into the next two years is entirely the wrong approach for the economy and the vital public services upon which so many people depend. We therefore urge that the spending cuts are scaled back and phased in over a longer time period. Failure to do so runs the risk of doing lasting damage to the economy and the fabric of our public services. This does not preclude the setting out of a clear plan for consolidation which promotes confidence and guarantees financial sustainability but simply that the focus at this stage must be on securing the recovery.

We are particularly concerned about the scale of the cuts planned in capital budgets. Current budget assumptions indicate a cut in capital spending of up to 50% in real terms by 2014/15. Such cuts will be deeply damaging both to jobs and output in the short-term but also to our long-term infrastructure needs and economic prospects.

These are issues of tremendous importance. We have welcomed the general spirit in which the new Coalition Government has approached inter-governmental relations. However, it is essential that this is reinforced by their engagement with the Devolved Administrations over the trajectory of public spending - not just in the conclusions reached over the pace of fiscal consolidation but also, through a willingness to share its thinking in advance of the 20th October, so that we can organise our own budget processes as effectively as possible.
The Devolved Administrations believe that the proposed approach to public spending reductions by the UK Government runs the risk of delivering significant economic and social harm and urge the UK Government to re-consider its proposals.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Robinson and McGuinness condemn bomb attack

First Minister Rt. Hon Peter D Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP, MLA have condemned last night's bomb attack in Londonderry/Derry.

The Ministers described the attack as a mindless attempt to destabilise the lives of people living in the city.

The Ministers said: "It is clear that the people who carried out this attack have no regard for life or property, their sole aim is to disrupt our peaceful society and to create a culture of fear.

"We are as determined as ever to build a stable and peaceful society free from sectarianism and we will not allow the achievements of recent years to be destroyed by a small minority who have nothing to offer but a return to the past."

Notes to editors:

Media enquiries to OFMDFM Press Office on 028 9037 8142. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Office via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Monday, 4 October 2010

McCausland praises Europe's Ryder Cup success

Sports Minister Nelson McCausland has congratulated the European win in today's final round of the Ryder Cup.

Europe defeated the United States team by one point to regain the Cup, which was held at Celtic Manor, with Portrush golfer Graeme McDowell securing the decisive point.

Singling out the two Northern Ireland players for particular praise, the Minister said: "I was delighted to see Northern Ireland's two golfers Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell play such an instrumental part in helping Europe regain the Ryder Cup. Indeed with Darren Clarke as vice captain, Northern Ireland's players have a deserving place at the top table in the golfing world.

"As Northern Ireland's ambassadors they join with our Commonwealth team in Delhi in showcasing Ulster to the world."

Notes to editors:

Media enquiries should be addressed to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure Press Office Tel 028 9051 5047 or email Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Robinson and McGuinness congratulate Ryder Cup team

First Minister Rt Hon Peter D. Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA have congratulated the European Ryder Cup team on their stunning success this afternoon.

Mr Robinson said: “I would like to congratulate the European team on their wonderful Ryder Cup win. The win is all the more enjoyable given the pivotal role played by local golfers, especially Graeme McDowell, whose heroic victory brought the trophy back to European soil. We can all be extremely proud of Rory McIlroy and Graeme, they are marvellous ambassadors for their sport and their country, well done!"

Mr McGuinness said: “Rory, Graeme and Padraig have led the European team to a wonderful victory. The manner in which they have conducted themselves under enormous pressure, is an example to us all. Local golfers have once again proved themselves to be the best in the world, an achievement we should all enjoy. I would like to offer my congratulations to each member of the team on a truly memorable achievement.”

Ministers also congratulated team vice captains Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley.

Notes to editors:

Media enquiries to OFMDFM Press Office on 028 9037 8142. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Office via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Social Development Minister responds to Cameron's statement on welfare cuts

In response to David Cameron's comments on the cuts and welfare changes, the Minister for Social Development Alex Attwood said:I remain highly vigilant around welfare reform proposals. Simplifying benefits, positive help to get people into work and making work pay are principles that can make sense.

“As Minister, I will consider proposals, be blunt about what will not work, acknowledge what might and identify what are unjust cuts masquerading as reform.

“There are three concerns. First, will the high upfront costs of benefit change be paid out of upfront severe benefit reductions? 

“Second, will benefit changes just end as a blunt instrument hitting those in need, as has been the case with the Chancellor's emergency June budget?

“Third, will there be any acknowledgement of the conditions in Northern Ireland, where benefit changes to get people into work could end up as a dead end because of the lack of jobs given the recession here until 2012 at least?

“I shall continue to meet with London Ministers and robustly put the case for Northern Ireland.”

Health Minister condemns attack on nurse

Condemning the recent attack of a nurse in Holywell Hospital, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey today said: "Any attack on health care staff is totally unacceptable. 

"Anti social behaviour in hospitals and attacks on healthcare workers is a very serious issue and is one that I am committed to tackling. However everyone has a duty to ensure the zero tolerance message is clearly understood. 

"Staff, patients and visitors to our hospitals have a right to a safe and secure environment and anything else cannot be tolerated by society. My thoughts and best wishes goes to the nurse who is the victim of this recent attack and his colleagues who all must have been deeply effected by this incident."

Robinson and McGuinness wish games team good luck

First Minister Rt Hon Peter D. Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA have wished team NI every success as they make their final preparations for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Mr Robinson said: "I have long been an admirer of sportsmen and women who dedicate their lives to competing at the highest level. Representing your country at any sport is a great honour and an achievement of which every member of the team should be proud."

Mr McGuinness said: "I wish all the athletes competing well, and hope that they will be successful in their individual events. I will be following the progress of our OFMDFM representative with keen interest."