Saturday, 22 September 2012

Attwood comments on Athletic Stores leave for Judicial Review judgement

Environment Minister Alex Attwood today commented on the court decision today to grant leave for a judicial review into the Athletic Stores planning decision.

After an exhaustive assessment of all options from every angle, the Minister gave approval, with regret, on 20 April this year, for retail and residential development on the Athletic Stores site.

Alex Attwood said: “I note the decision today to grant leave for a judicial review of the planning decision at the Athletic Stores. I arrived at this decision after the fullest consideration. I inspected the site accompanied by representatives of the UAHS to ensure that I was fully appraised of all the issues. I am confident that the decision was the right one, even though it was taken with much regret. After all I have put much effort, since becoming Environment Minister, into saving our historic buildings. Unfortunately the Athletic Stores building was too far gone for modern living and working.”

The Minister also highlighted that the court decision today does not indicate that there are any flaws in the planning decision.

“I take note of the fact that the judge emphasised that granting leave in no way raised a presumption that the DOE’s decisions are flawed,” concluded the Minister.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Minister welcomes Executive agreement to Education Bill

Education Minister John O'Dowd has welcomed the Executive's agreement to the Education Bill, which will see the establishment of the Education and Skills Authority.
Speaking after today's Executive meeting, Mr O'Dowd said:
"Today we have taken a significant step forward in the strategic planning and delivery of our education system; a system which will deliver educational excellence for all and will meet the needs and aspirations of our young people, helping them fulfil their potential and enhancing their life chances.
"The creation of a single authority, able to plan, deliver, support and challenge schools and other providers, will also ensure we are better able to enhance the role played by education in developing our economy.
"I look forward to bringing this Bill to the Assembly in the coming weeks for scrutiny by the Assembly and the Education Committee.
"I wish to pay tribute today to staff at the Education and Library Boards, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, the Youth Council and the Staff Commission for the Education and Library Boards. Over the course of the past 40 years they have provided an invaluable service to schools and I recognise the hard work and commitment of staff in all these organisations. This has been particularly true in recent years as many posts have gone unfilled in preparation for ESA with the remaining staff showing their professionalism in ensuring the continued delivery of services.
"Next week I will announce the way ahead for the establishment of a sectoral support body for the controlled sector. I will be establishing a working group to take this forward and I look forward to engaging with the group to secure the establishment of the sectorial support body by next year."

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Ministers express sadness at farming deaths

First Minister the Rt Hon Peter D Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP, MLA have expressed their deep sadness at the passing of three members of the Spence family in a tragic accident at their family farm in Hillsborough yesterday.

The Ministers said: "It was with great sadness that we learned of the sudden and tragic passing of Noel Spence and his sons Nevin and Graham in an accident on their family farm yesterday.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Spence family at this extremely sad time and pass on our deepest condolences to them. We understand another member of the family, Emma, has been hospitalised following the accident and we wish her a full and speedy recovery.

“This tragedy has shocked the entire community and is a terrible reminder to us all of the dangers of farming life. Our thoughts are also with farmers everywhere at this time.

“Nevin was a rising star of local rugby and it is only a matter of months ago, in happier times, that we had the honour of hosting him and his colleagues at a reception in Parliament Buildings to celebrate the achievement of Ulster in reaching the Heineken Cup final. His untimely death is a blow for the game in the province and we sympathise with his teammates and everyone at Ulster Rugby who have lost a true colleague and friend."

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill has expressed her condolences to the Spence family who tragically lost three family members in a farm accident yesterday evening.

Minister O'Neill said: "I am shocked and deeply saddened to learn of this terrible tragedy which has hit this hard working farming family. My thoughts and prayers are with Noel, Graham and Nevin and their family and friends at this extremely difficult time. I also hope and pray that Emma Spence who was also involved in this accident makes a full recovery."

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: "I want to express my sincere sympathies to the Spence family following the deaths of Noel Spence and his two sons Graham and Nevin who was a rising Ulster Rugby star.

"This tragic accident has devastated a family and my thoughts and prayers are with them at this very difficult time.

"I understand that another family member Emma Spence, is currently in hospital following the accident and we all hope that she makes a full recovery."

Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety Edwin Poots has expressed his sympathy for the family of Noel, Graham and Nevin Spence following yesterday's tragic accident in Hillsborough.

He said: "I have known the Spence family for many years and it is difficult to comprehend the grief that they are suffering after such a terrible accident. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and their friends. I also want to wish Emma a full and speedy recovery. The loss of Noel, Graham and Nevin is being felt right across the community.

"I know that the firefighters, paramedics and medical staff who did everything in their power to save Noel, Graham and Nevin are devastated by what has unfolded. There is a sense of shock and disbelief across Northern Ireland today.

Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin has paid tribute to Ulster rugby player Nevin Spence and his father and brother who lost their lives in a farm accident in Hillsborough, and to Fermanagh County GAA player Brian ÓG Maguire, who died on Thursday following an accident.

The Minister said: "The loss of two talented sports players, and also a father and a brother, in such tragic circumstances is a tragedy for both the Spence and Maguire families. My sincere sympathy is extended to them at this extremely difficult time. My thoughts and prayers are with them all, and also with Nevin's sister Emma who is currently in hospital.

"Nevin and Brian were committed sports players and their untimely deaths are not only a loss to their immediate families, but also to the sporting organisations they represented and to their wider communities. Ulster GAA and Ulster Rugby are two of the great provincial sporting codes which unite society. Brian Og and Nevin were wonderful examples for their respective sports.

"I offer my condolences to both the Ulster and Ballynahinch rugby teams on the tragic loss of Nevin, and to the Ulster, Fermanagh and Lisnaskea GAA community on the loss of Brian, both of whom will be sadly missed."

Friday, 7 September 2012

Sports Minister congratulates Jason Smyth on sprint double

Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has congratulated Jason Smyth on winning his second gold medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Jason won his second gold medal in 200m T13 race.

The Minister said: "Jason is one of the heroes of these games and is a outstanding athlete. Yet again he ran a terrific race and created another new world record. He truly deserves this second gold medal and the title of the 'fastest paralympian in history'. Watching athletes like Jason compete at these Games is an inspiration to us all."

The number of medals won by local athletes at the Paralympic Games now stands at seven.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Sports Minister congratulates Portaferry cyclist James Brown

Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has congratulated Portaferry cyclist James Brown on winning a bronze medal in the Paralympic Games.

The Minister said: "This is a terrific achievement for James to come third in the Individual B Time Trial Final with an impressive time of 31:13:00. James' bronze medal brings the number of medals won by our local athletes up to 6 and Team Ireland's medal count up 11 medals - overall this was another fantastic performance and there will be more to come over the next few days.

"I would also like to commend Ballykelly's Sally Brown for her great race this evening. Even though Sally was not on the winner's podium, she is still a winner in our eyes and has provided us with tremendous enjoyment and pride."

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Sports Minister congratulates Golden Paralympians

Sports Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín has paid tribute to Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop who have both won gold medals.

Speaking at the end of the day the Minister said: "The 1st September certainly lived up to its billing as a super Saturday! Jason Smyth's 100m final was stunning as he smashed his own World Record for the second time in 24 hours with a time of 10.46. Incredible! His gold is truly deserved. This was followed closely by another golden moment as Michael McKillop resolutely defended his six-year unbeaten record at Paralympic level in the 800m T37 and also beat the world record. In less than 48 hours, our golden paralympians, Bethany, Michael and Jason have proved they are the best - three golds is an astounding achievement.

"Once again I would like to congratulate all of the paralympians, both from Ireland and across the globe, taking part . As I have said before, it takes hard work and dedication to reach the Paralympic finals, we are all proud of you."

O'Dowd expresses shock at blaze at Omagh school

Education Minister John O'Dowd has spoken out following a major fire at a school in Omagh.

During a visit to the scene, the Minister viewed the extensive damage caused to Arvalee School and Resource Centre in the town by last night's fire.

After speaking with the Principal of the school and the Chair of the Western Education and Library Board, Mr O'Dowd said: "The fire at Arvalee School and Resource Centre will have a devastating impact on the whole school community. The school caters for some of the most vulnerable children in our society and this fire will cause great distress just as the pupils are preparing to return for a new academic year. However, the impact will go further; this also affects the parents, staff and the wider community in Omagh.

"I have spoken with the Principal of the school and relayed my shock and sympathy at the events of last night and assured him that my Department stands ready to assist the Western Education and Library Board and the school in the coming days.

"I have been disturbed by the fact that this fire is currently being treated as suspicious. Whilst I struggle to comprehend who might wish to do this to a special school, I would ask that if anyone has information on the blaze, they take it to the PSNI.

"In the mean time, the Western Education and Library Board will be putting in place alternative arrangements for the children due to return to school next week. The aim will be to ensure that arrangements are made as quickly as possible, and that any distress to the children involved is kept to an absolute minimum. Parents of pupils at the school will be alerted once alternative arrangements are agreed.

"I had already announced a new build for Arvalee School and Resource Centre as an early development on the Lisanelly site. I will want to explore with my officials and other stakeholders how we can advance the timetable for that given last night's events.

"Finally, I would like to thank the emergency services for the professional way they dealt with the incident and for their efforts to contain the fire."