Friday, 29 June 2012

DFP Statement on power in the Stormont Estate

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson who has responsibility for the Stormont Estate has said there has been a number of Government buildings within the estate which have encountered a total loss of power following the severe and heavy flooding on Wednesday night.

Dundonald House and Craigantlet Buildings are both closed. The remaining buildings within the Stormont Estate including Parliament Buildings continue to operate on a limited power supply. All business areas affected have initiated their business continuity plans to ensure that essential functions and services are maintained.

Sammy Wilson said: “The situation is being closely monitored and Northern Ireland Electricity are assisting my Department to resolve this situation as quickly as possible. Engineers have been and will continue to be on site over the weekend.”

The Departments affected by the closure are the Department of Finance and Personnel, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Prison Service Headquarters.

The Minister said: “I would like to take this opportunity to assure the public that all essential services provided by these Departments remain unaffected as alternative arrangements have been made and business continues as normal.” 

For media enquiries please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Latest update from TrafficWatch NI

  • Stockmans Lane - closed under Flyover.
  • Knock Road, closed between Castlereagh Road and Shandon Park.
  • Upper Knockbreda Road / Cregagh Road. Road closed.
  • Finaghy Road North closed at M1 Bridge.
  • Hillhall Road. Reported as closed.
  • Stewartstown Road / Twinbrook Road. Reported as closed.
  • Castlereagh Road / Loopland Park. Road closed.
  • Milltown Road / Belvoir Road. Passable with care.
  • Stockmans Lane under M1 Bridge. Passable with care.
  • Blacks Road under M1 Bridge. Passable with care.
  • Milltown Road / Belvoir Road. Passable with care.
  • Prince William Road / Lisburn North Feeder Road. Passable with care.

Government Agencies respond to Northern Ireland Floods

Government Agencies have been working together this evening to address the severe flooding which has been primarily across the Belfast area.

Roads Service has brought in extra staff in the Belfast area and staff from other areas within Roads Service to work alongside staff from other Agencies.

The heaviest of the rain is expected to pass over the Province this evening but the Met Office has issued a further amber weather warning valid from 04:00 to 21:00 on Thursday 28 June. There are expected to be further slow moving torrential downpours tomorrow afternoon and further flooding can be expected.

Motorists are advised to exercise extreme caution especially tomorrow morning as the clean-up gets underway.

Customers may have experienced some problems with the Flooding Incident Helpline. This was caused by the severity of the rain storms and the high volume of calls. Additional resources have been brought in overnight to deal with the situation.

List of affected areas

It is understood the areas affected in Belfast included:

  • Stockmans Lane - closed under Flyover.
  • Knock Road, closed between Castlereagh Road and Shandon Park.
  • Upper Knockbreda Road / Cregagh Road. Road closed.
  • Finaghy Road North closed at M1 Bridge.
  • Hillhall Road. Reported as closed.
  • Stewartstown Road / Twinbrook Road. Reported as closed.
  • Castlereagh Road / Loopland Park. Road closed.
  • Milltown Road / Belvoir Road. Passable with care.
  • Stockmans Lane under M1 Bridge. Passable with care.
  • Blacks Road under M1 Bridge. Passable with care.
  • Milltown Road / Belvoir Road. Passable with care.
  • Prince William Road / Lisburn North Feeder Road. Passable with care.

Advice on dealing with flooding

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Submit your question directly to the Education Minister via Twitter

Education Minister John O’Dowd will be live on Twitter at 11.30am on Thursday 28 June answering your questions.

You can submit your question now via the hashtag #AskDE. The Minister will respond to as many education-related questions as time permits via the @niexecutive Twitter feed.

If you are not able to be online at 11.30am on Thursday to see the responses live, don’t worry. All responses will remain on the @niexecutive timeline and under the hashtag #AskDE. A full transcript will also be published on this blog.

So if you have a question for the Minister, please do submit it via #AskDE and the Minister will do his best to respond.

Users should submit no more than two questions each. This will enable as many people as possible to have a chance to take part and have their query answered.

You can also submit your question in Irish. Any Irish tweets that the Minister is able to cover in the hour available will be answered in Irish. These tweets will be translated into English in the transcript that will be posted here after the Q&A has finished.

The Minister will respond to as many tweets as possible in the time available. If your particular tweet is not responded to, it may be the case that the topic is covered by a different response, so do please read them all.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Ní Chuilín pays tribute to the Torchbearers

Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has welcomed the third day of the Olympic Torch Relay in the north.

Speaking on the morning the Torch set off on its journey to Newry, the Minister said: "The planning of the all-Ireland Torch Relay has been years in the preparation, with many people and communities coming together to plan details such as the route, the Torchbearers and the celebrations. Last night's event in Derry showcased a vibrant, youthful city coming together to celebrate in the Olympic spirit.

"Now it is the turn of cities, towns and villages such as Fivemiletown, Caledon, Armagh, Banbridge and Newry to join in with one of the greatest global sporting occasions.

"Many of the Torchbearers have inspirational stories to tell. Amongst them are the oldest Torchbearer here, Bob Lingwood, and the youngest - Hannah Rainey. Bob, who will be carrying the Torch in Omagh, was nominated for his work in his local community. Hannah, who will be in Lisburn, was nominated for her fundraising and dedication. I wish them both well, along with the hundreds of other people who are carrying the Flame on its journey.

"The Olympic Games are about celebrating both sport and culture and perhaps becoming involved in something you might not have been before. This is reflected in the many events and activities taking place along the route. For example, there are the Olympic Challenge sports taster sessions in Armagh; and in Portadown the five sports hubs with athletics, climbing walls, street entertainment and Samba bands, as well as a balloon release by young people involved in Craigavon Intercultural Programme's Inspire project. I am sure the Olympic Games and the all-Ireland Torch Relay will inspire people to become involved in sport or their local communities long after London 2012 has finished.

"Tonight will see the Torch Relay finish in Newry, where I am sure there is still much celebrating to be done."

For information on the Torch route please visit

Monday, 4 June 2012

All-Ireland Olympic Torch relay crosses Derry Peace Bridge

Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has joined thousands of local people to welcome the all-Ireland Olympic Torch relay across the Peace Bridge in Derry.

The Minister said: “It has been another day of memorable moments in the all-Ireland Olympic Torch relay as the flame travels west of the Bann. Its journey across the Peace Bridge saw the Torch unify both banks of the city and all sections of the community together in celebration. The Torch was greeted by a parade which recognised local people's commitment to the development of youth through sporting pursuits. The colourful flag procession has promoted the Olympic message of ‘peace, unity and friendship’ to a global audience.

“Derry will today again show the world an exciting preview of its 2013 City of Culture offering. As the Olympic Cauldron is lit during a celebration concert, I know the city will light up the Olympic spirit for everyone."

Ní Chuilín cheers on Olympic Torch on second leg of its journey

Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has applauded the Olympic Torch on the second day of its journey here.

Speaking after the all-Ireland Torch Relay left Portrush the Minister said: "I am sure all those who attended last night's evening celebration in Portrush had a great time. This is what the all-Ireland Torch Relay really represents - people coming together to share in the Olympic experience and be part of the Olympic spirit. It is a celebration of sport, arts and culture. The Torch will pass close by many of our homes and work places and I hope people will come out to cheer on the Torchbearers. Many of these people are members of the local community, people we know who have done extraordinary things - be this in their sporting field or through facing challenging situations.

"The second leg on the Torch Relay will take in some stunning scenery, and I know there are also a number of exciting events and festivities to help it along its way. The event at Downhill Beach as archers send flaming arrows into the sea promises to be spectacular. I am sure the Olympic flame and Torchbearers will be cheered on as they make their way through places such as Castlerock, Ballykelly and Greysteel.

"This is an opportunity to share with a global audience our towns, villages and cities. The Celtic Fusion Concert at the Ebrington site and Olympic carnival parade, which are part of one of our local Inspire projects, will be a perfect opportunity to showcase what Derry has to offer for the 2013 City of Culture, as well as the exciting Evening Celebration Concert. I am sure many will watch the Games unfold at the Live Sites or Big Screens in Belfast and Derry."

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Sports Minister welcomes Olympic Torch on first day

Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has welcomed the Olympic Torch on its first full day in the north.

The all-Ireland Torch Relay made an early start this morning, leaving the iconic Titanic Building just after 6am.

Speaking after the Torch left Belfast, the Minister said; "This is just the start of the Torch's exciting journey here.  The all-Ireland Torch Relay is a celebration of sport, culture and our local heroes. This really is our opportunity to shine and showcase our cities, beautiful scenery and most of all the people who live here.

"Each Torchbearer has their own unique story, be they an elite sportsperson, someone who has overcome adversity, or a person who makes a difference to their community. 

"Karen Marshall our first Torchbearer is an amazing example. Karen has lived with Crohn's disease for the last 14 years but she doesn't let it slow her down.  She works full time with marginalised young people and in her free time she volunteers for her local church, for REACT (Reconciliation Education and Community Training) and is a member of the local District Policing Partnership.  She is a real inspiration to the local people of Tynan in County Armagh and today is an inspiration to all becoming the first torchbearer here.  
Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín pictured with local woman Karen Marshall, the First Torch bearer of the all-Ireland Torch Relay at Titanic Belfast this morning

"Today will see the Torch travel from Belfast along the route to Portrush, taking in places such as Glenariff, Ballycastle, Ballycastle and Bushmills. It will also be visiting the village of Dervock - home of Kennedy Kane McArthur, a gold medal Olympian. I hope as many as possible take the opportunity to come out and cheer on the Torchbearers as they take part in what is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

"I know there are a number of exciting events and activities planned as the Torch makes its way through our towns and villages. For example, there is a visit to Stormont with activities from some of our local Inspire projects, the unique spectacle of local rowing clubs rowing alongside the Relay as it makes its way along the coastline at Glynn, an afternoon of family fun at Carnfunnock Country Park in Larne, and a balloon release by local schoolchildren in Castlereagh. With all the events it will be a truly memorable day."

 For information on the Torch route please visit

For information on local events please contact your local Council area.

The family event at Carnfunnock Country Park will include a Mount Olympus maze; storytelling; arts and crafts; live music; sports tasters from archery to Zumba; BMX stunt show; and tasters in break dancing, hip hop and parkour. It is part of the Larne Alive Ignite the Light Festival which was awarded the London 2012 Inspire mark. For more information see

The Inspire programme is a participation initiative spanning England, Scotland, Wales and the North of Ireland. It formally recognises exceptional non-commercial projects which have been inspired by the 2012 Games. For further information, see or contact

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Robinson and McGuinness welcome Olympic Flame to Belfast

First Minister the Rt. Hon. Peter D. Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP, MLA were at Belfast City Airport today to welcome the arrival of the Olympic flame.
Also on hand to greet the flame was local Olympian Dame Mary Peters.

Beth Stafford, Victoria Park PS, First Minister Peter Robinson, Olympian Dame Mary Peters, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Louis Cannet from St Josephs PS

Speaking at a reception to mark the arrival of the flame to Northern Ireland, First Minister, Peter Robinson said: “We are privileged to welcome the flame to Northern Ireland and to witness its journey over the next five days, during which it will be carried by 400 torchbearers through cities, towns and villages, past many of our iconic landmarks, creating what promises to be a once in a lifetime spectacle for all to see.
“2012 is a great year for Northern Ireland. It really is our time and our place. Many events are taking place here this year, such as the Irish Open and along with the spectacular interest in the Titanic centenary, these star attractions are boosting the Executive’s drive to showcase all that is great about Northern Ireland in the run-up to Londonderry’s launch as the first UK City of Culture and our hosting of the World Police and Fire Games in 2013."
Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness said: “The Olympic and Paralympic Games are at the heart of sporting excellence, but the Games are also about much more than sport. The Olympic Torch relay is a visible demonstration of this.
"The all Ireland torch relay epitomises the values and spirit of the Olympics. The Olympics are a celebration of sport, culture and local heroes. It is great that we are playing our part in this celebration.
“However, underpinning the Games is a set of important values: respect, excellence and friendship. Our torchbearers are inspirational people who make a real difference to people and the communities around them.”

Friday, 1 June 2012

O'Dowd welcomes important engagement on the link between poverty and educational attainment

Department of Education representatives have met with Frank Field MP to discuss the findings of Mr Field's report 'Foundation Years, preventing poor children becoming poor adults'.
The meeting served as an opportunity for officials to brief Mr Field on the work being done in the north to break the link between social disadvantage and educational underachievement.
Education Minister John O'Dowd said: ''Since my appointment as Education Minister I have made clear my aim of tackling the inequalities in the education system. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the link between free school meal entitlement and educational under-achievement and while educational outcomes are improving, the gap in attainment remains. Indeed the Programme for Government specifically challenges me to improve the educational outcomes for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
"I also recognise the importance of the early years in a child's development and that is why I recently announced additional funding for this area.
"Today's meeting proved a useful opportunity not only to brief Mr Field on the work being done here, but for us to listen to the challenges being faced in Britain and how they are being tackled. I believe there is much we can learn from each other in the fight to ensure every child, regardless of background, has the opportunity to fulfil their potential from poverty."