Monday, 29 October 2012

High rates of suicide in Moyle demands extra government support

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has said that the Health Minister must ensure that Moyle district is provided with adequate suicide support services in line with the high rate of suicide in the area. He was speaking after meeting local community group SOLAS along with Ballycastle Councillor Cara McShane.

He said

“Figures from the Public Health Agency clearly show that the rate of suicide in Moyle (over a 5 year period) is the third highest in the north behind only Strabane and Belfast council areas.

“This is a very stark statistic and given that the rate is double that of districts such as Banbridge and North Down then I think there is clearly an argument that there should be more backing from the Department of Health and other government agencies for local groups that deal with issues such as mental health and suicide prevention.

“The highest number of suicides in the north is amongst the 35-44 age group (for both male and female) and the number of registered suicides here has rose from 148 in 1991 to a shocking high of 313 in 2010.

“We need additional support to reduce suicide prevalence here and the Health Minister needs to take cognisance of these statistics when considering requests for further funding for services that tackle issues concerning mental health and wellbeing.”

Cllr Cara McShane added

“SOLAS were formed in 2010 in response to the alarming number of local suicides. It was very encouraging to hear today of the services and courses that they are aiming to provide here to improve the health and wellbeing of people living in this area.

“The high prevalence of suicide here is not something that we can ignore, indeed it needs to be a priority for the local council and all agencies involved in health and well-being in the community.”

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Sinn Féin say flag-flying putting £2million grant in jeopardy as funders prepare to meet council

The Arts Council is to meet with Ballymena Council to discuss its decision regarding the use of flags and symbols in the Braid Centre. Confirmation that the meeting was taking place was given to local Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay in an answer to a question he put to Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín. Sinn Féin has said that the decision not to keep the Braid Centre neutral and free from flags could put at risk the £2 million grant that the Arts Council gave to the Council.

Mr McKay said

“Most councils across the north keep their council chambers free of flags and Ballymena Council should do the same rather than becoming embroiled in court cases and putting a £2million grant at risk. Ratepayers would have expected the council to have matured by now and realise that to increase economic prosperity, tourism and investment Ballymena needs a modern pluralist image, one that is accepting of different cultures and the sensitivities that already exist in this area.

 “The controversy over the Braid Centre as well as the resultant reinforcement of negative views of the town should have been avoided. The council should have listened to the legal opinion that they were provided instead of ignoring it. They should also have taken into account previous court judgements made in regard to flags and symbols elsewhere in the north.
 “This council should be neutral for workers and councillors alike. Erecting the flag of the old Stormont regime in the council sends out a clear message to Catholics that work in the council as well as Catholics that live in this district – it is truly pathetic.

 “From the onset of this discussion Sinn Féin along with others has been advocating Equality or Neutrality on the issue of flags and emblems. That is a common sense approach. Council buildings should be a welcome place for all who work in them and for all who visit them.

 “Unionist councillors have put a £2million grant for the Braid centre at risk and this may now be lost as this decision was reached without consultation with the Arts Council. I have put a series of questions to the Arts & Culture Minister about this and it is to be welcomed that the Arts Council will now be meeting with the council to discuss this matter. It is a basic condition of all lottery funding that projects supported must be open and accessible to all sections of the community. All Arts Council contracts also contain clauses relating to withholding of funds or claw back of funds if an organisation breaches any condition of grant. This clearly outlines what the potential cost of council’s obsession with flags could be and I do not think that ratepayers will want to pick up this £2million tab.

 “We are in difficult economic times. Does anyone really think that leaving this council open to being taken through the courts over the next few years on the basis of these flags is going to help create jobs and prosperity? Of course not, if anything it will make people think twice of shopping here or coming to do business here, it will have a negative effect on people's perception of the town. That is not what we in Sinn Féin want and that is certainly not what local ratepayers want."

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Radical measures needed to halt rise in energy prices

Sinn Féin brought a motion to the floor of the Assembly today on the issue of energy prices in the wake of yet more price hikes in oil, gas, electricity, even coal. I put it to the Minister that we should look at the possibility of undertaking energy brokering and more radical measures to address energy prices as tinkering around the edges isn't working.

Mr McKay: Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I rise to support the motion, and I very much welcome the debate that we have had today, although there is a sense of being resigned to the fact that there are a lot of limitations on what we can do. So, after today’s debate, we need to explore the options and come back with solutions as soon as possible, because there are not enough solutions on the table at present.

I went on to the Consumer Council website last night, and it contains a very useful tool to compare the prices of oil and fuel prices across different parts of the North. When looking through its archives from the past two years, you realise the effect of the prices. We can say that gas prices have gone up one third and that electricity prices have gone up 30%, but what does that mean in real terms? For example, the average price for 900 l of heating oil on 22 September was £533∙62. This time last year it was £396∙68, and two years ago it was £339∙56. So, that is an increase of £200 over two years for a fill of oil. Those are the kinds of figures that households are facing. Of course, as many Members have said, people from rural areas not only pay for oil but for a fill of fuel to go to work in Belfast every day. Some people come from west Tyrone and some come from north Antrim, and the price of fuel has shot through the roof in the past year.

In the past two years, we have been living in a period of the worst winters, certainly in my living memory, and that exacerbates the problems that we face. Of course, indicators from some sources in Roads Service suggest that this year will be worse again. So, not only will we have problems with our transport system, but that will add to the excess winter deaths that the Deputy Chair of the Social Development Committee referred to earlier. So, people need help and support, and we need to provide some solutions to those problems.

The Deputy Chair of the Social Development Committee, Mickey Brady, referred to a number of proposals that were presented to that Committee, one of which was energy brokering. A feasibility study has been carried out by the Housing Executive, the Consumer Council and Bryson Charitable Group, and it recommended that, by using local and central government procurement bodies to use their energy purchasing power as a base load, we could leverage a better deal for domestic consumers under one contractual tariff arrangement. So, the state, as opposed to a private company, could act as a broker on a cost-neutral, not-for-profit basis. That would increase savings to the consumers further. The report was based on the success of a Dutch initiative called Met de Stroom Mee, which sought the registration of 10,000 households that agreed to let it negotiate on their behalf directly with the energy companies. That is one alternative that we should look at.

Phil Flanagan opened the debate and made the important point that we should try to ensure that the House is undivided on this issue. I am glad that that is the case and that we have had a constructive debate. He referred to the fact that the chief executives of some energy companies are paid exorbitant salaries: £700,000, in one example. It is absolutely ridiculous that anybody earns that sort of money, given the pressures that ordinary people face and the fact that the worst off in society are in their worst position in some time.

He also raised the issue of Power NI proposals to plug the gap in pension shortages and the rural impact of energy prices, because oil is more expensive than gas, and, as Mickey Brady also said, 82% of homes use oil. That needs to be addressed. The Minister also referred to that when she said that we need to extend the gas network to ensure that people have more choice over what sort of energy they use.

Mr Flanagan also has a habit of using the F-word in debates these days: fracking, to which the Minister also referred. I do not know the details of that particular issue, but I am sure that there will be many more arguments about it.

Stephen Moutray proposed the amendment. He outlined that the Minister cannot set prices, and that is recognised. He also said that the construction and transport sectors are affected, so this is not only an issue of household prices, it affects how many jobs there are in the economy and causes us to lose more jobs than necessary. Mike Nesbitt also referred to the increasing levels of fuel poverty.

South Belfast Member Alasdair McDonnell emphasised that inroads had been made in regard to renewables and used the key word “sustainable”, which leads me to a major part of the problem. When he appeared before the Committee, the Utility Regulator referred to the fact that we are totally over-reliant on fossil fuels. Anna Lo made the pertinent point that Scotland is moving ahead in that regard. If we all get our heads together, there is absolutely no reason why we should not be in the same position, because we have the same potential. Look at Strangford and the coastline between Rathlin and Ballycastle; we should be a world leader in developing tidal energy technologies and using our natural resources.

Anna Lo referred to long-term sustainability and the fact that 99% of our energy needs are met through imported fuel. The Minister also said that difficult choices have to be made about renewables. I am sure that the Minister faces a lot of concerns in her constituency, as I do in North Antrim, where a lot of applications are made for wind turbines. The natural reaction from many constituents is, “Not in my backyard”. Therefore, we will sometimes face difficult choices. In his statement to the House earlier, the Education Minister said that sometimes we will have to make difficult decisions that will not be popular, but we need to have a long-sighted approach on energy if we are to ensure that we deliver in people’s best interests, particularly those in fuel poverty.
 Sue Ramsey outlined the reasons put forward for price rises, including natural disasters, conflicts and more domestic issues, such as pension funds. She also said that absolute clarity and transparency are important when it comes to price rises, and you cannot disagree with that.

Mickey Brady, as Deputy Chairperson of the Social Development Committee, said that other measures must be explored by the Minister for Social Development and the Enterprise Minister. He outlined energy brokering and social tariffs. I suppose that the most pertinent point he made was that 756 older people died of cold-related illness last year.

Sometimes during debates, we look at the statistics and forget about the reality behind them. As Michael Copeland said earlier, it is shameful that the situation continues. I welcome the fact that the Minister said that she will make a joint statement with the Minister for Social Development with regard to moving the issue forward and dealing with fuel poverty. However, it needs to be something substantial. If it is not, she needs to look at the alternatives that are available; for example, at what they are doing in Holland and Britain with regard to social tariffs. If those cases prove to be successful, we need to apply them here.
 Most importantly, we must not sit back and do nothing. We can tinker around the edges and put in place minor schemes to mitigate the impacts. However, we need radical policies in place if we are to deal with the real problem here, which is the statistics relating to those who are dying as the result of fuel poverty.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Marketing and accommodation key to Ballycastle realising full potential

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has said that Ballycastle should be one of Ireland ’s most popular tourist hotspots and that stakeholders should focus on increasing accommodation and achieving a higher scale of marketing. Mr McKay was speaking after meeting the Enterprise Minister along with the local Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking after the meeting Mr McKay said
“Ballycastle has so much going for it in terms of its location. It has the Glens to the east, Rathlin Island to the north, Carrick-a-rede and the World Heritage Site of the Giants Causeway to the west. It has beaches, a quality golf course and the aul Lammas Fair. Yet so many other locations, whether it be in Mayo and Kerry, have higher tourist numbers with less of a tourist product in my opinion.
“This is something that needs to be addressed and was the focus of today’s meeting with the Tourism Minister Arlene Foster and senior officials of both Invest NI and the Tourist Board. We should not be in the position that we are currently where there are no hotel rooms in the town, and whilst we raised the issue of the Marine with the Minister today there are obviously limitations to what her department can do at this stage. What we need from DETI, and other departments to be fair, are incentives for people to invest in accommodation (of all types). Further to that Invest NI should be doing more work to attract investment into Ballycastle by flagging up the opportunities that clearly exist to investors further afield.

“A number of proposals were put to the Minister at the meeting which she has agreed to look into. I intend to work constructively with the Department on this matter but will not hesitate to hold them to account if Ballycastle is not prioritised equally with other parts of the north where tourism is a key economic driver.
“Key to increasing tourist numbers is choice in terms of accommodation and a selection of attractions and activities which we already have here in abundance. Marketing is also vital and Ballycastle should be seen as being at the heart of the Causeway Coast and very much the gateway to Rathlin. I have tabled a series of questions to the Tourism Minister to ask what exactly Tourism Ireland and NITB have done and plan to do to market Ballycastle and Rathlin. I believe that they could be doing a lot more.”

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Welcome for £25million investment in Ballymena Health Centre

For Immediate Release

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has welcomed the announcement that the Health Minister is to provide approximately £25million to build the new health and care centre on the Braid Valley hospital site in Ballymena.

Mr McKay said

“At a time when there have been a lot of negative decisions regarding the withdrawal of various health provisions in North Antrim it is indeed welcome that the Health Minister has not reneged on the agreement of the previous Minister to build the health and social care centre.

“It is important that this centre is open to the public as soon as possible and although the Minister has announced that work on designing the new facility will begin later this year what people want to see is a completion date for the work and a commitment that there will be no further delays or extensions to this.

“That should not take away from the fact that this announcement will come as a reassurance to those of us who have supported the progressing of this capital project and is testament to the lobbying work that local elected representatives have engaged in over the past few years.”

Saturday, 16 July 2011

PSNI officers slammed for allowing bandmen to assault Catholic man at Ballycastle parade

Sinn Féin has criticised the PSNI operation at a recent parade in Ballycastle and said that a young Catholic man was beaten to and on the ground by a number of bandsmen during the recent 12th demonstration because of police inaction. Cllr Cara McShane said that three police officers stood by whilst the attack took place and did not intervene.

Cllr McShane said

“Whilst a number of commentators and newspapers reported that the Twelfth parade in Ballycastle was trouble free and without incident the reality for people in the town was something quite different.

“The attack in question took place at the end of the Twelfth demonstration in the town at Novally Road. A number of members of the Dervock Young Defenders band actually came off the bus that they had already boarded and launched a vicious assault on the man punching and kicking him on the ground. More sinisterly, a flagpole was used by the band in the assault.

“As the attack was taking place three police officers were located literally a number of yards away and actually stood with their hands in their flak jackets and did not intervene. Indeed as soon as the band members attacked the young man the officers turned away.

“The fact that bands deliberately played both ‘the Sash’ and the ‘Billy Boys’ outside the Diamond reflects the fact that many participants in this parade were only interested in intimidating Catholics living in this town. This behaviour is totally unacceptable."

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay added

“This type of policing response from these three officers is all too reminiscent of the Robert Hamill case in Portadown, it is old style policing and has no place in today’s society. The real test for the PSNI here in North Antrim is how they will deal with the officers concerned as well as officers in the town, one of whom spoke to a public representative and said that there was no issue with a band playing the Billy Boys outside the Diamond as they were not “singing it”.

“There is a need for the PSNI to ensure that members of the public have confidence in local policing. These recent events will lead to there being less confidence in policing here in Ballycastle, and demonstrates that those who harbour old policing attitudes within the PSNI still feel that they can get away with certain actions and inactions. That in itself reflects a major problem in terms of police discipline. As a first step the PSNI should engage with the victim and his family because they have not afforded him the protection which he should have received from these officers. Secondly the PSNI should investigate the three officers concerned and discipline them accordingly. The nationalist community in this town will be paying detailed attention to how this is dealt with because such officers who come to this town with the attitude that these officers displayed should be ‘out on their ear” as far as members of the public are concerned. Indiscipline and the fact that the PSNI fail to deal with it effectively will only serve to isolate members of the nationalist and republican community from policing.

"We will be meeting the PSNI this week to raise these matters and the party will be raising it through the Policing Board."

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Ballycastle hotel provision needs focus from NITB & Invest NI

At the Enterprise Committee this week I raised the issue of youth unemployment with the Minister Arlene Foster. The Executive needs to be looking at ways that we can ensure young people can continue to get apprenticeships and are not forced to consider leaving Ireland.

I also raised with her the matter of hotel provision in Ballycastle. The Marine Hotel there recently went into administration and there is no other hotel in the town. However I believe with investment and focussed work by Invest NI and NITB we can secure not only the re-opening of the Marine but also other hotel provision. We certainly have the tourist numbers here and we must ensure that Ballycastle and this part of the north coast becomes a place where overnight visitors want to come to, not just a place for a day out.

Monday, 2 May 2011

North Antrim Sinn Féin Election Video

This is the video referred to in today's Irish News complete with Monty Python-esque animations of Carson and Craig and some hurling clips:

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Childcare funding boost for local groups

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has welcomed the £12million boost for childcare announced in the final Budget. He also said that it is important that the Executive decide upon a Childcare Strategy which will ensure that there is certainty and assurance for those who work in the sector as well as those who avail of it. He was speaking after meeting with the Rasharkin Women’s Group along with Rasharkin Sinn Féin representative Leanne Peacock.

Mr McKay said

“Childcare is a vital service for many children and parents alike and there is a concern that funding for it could be squeezed after the British Government cut to the local Budget. The ministerial subcommittee on children and young people has produced a substantial scoping report into childcare provision which has revealed that there are significant challenges in provision and affordability.

“I would like to very much welcome the budget provision of £12million over the next four years for a childcare strategy. I also welcome the announcement that there will be immediate action from the £3million that has already been made available.

“It is important that childcare is not only viewed in terms of education or health but as an economic driver in itself. It is because of childcare and afterschools clubs that parents are available to remain in or go back into full time employment.

“There are 80 afterschools clubs across the north and the investment that the Executive already makes to this pays for itself economically in my opinion and should be continued. The Executive are currently considering a Childcare Strategy and it is important that this is made the responsibility of a department in which it will not be found at the back of the queue when it comes to committed long term funding.

Miss Peacock continued

“The Womens Group in Rasharkin has been to the forefront of numerous initiatives in the community here and has contributed hugely to improving the education, skills and health of people living in Rasharkin over many years.

“People truly rely on the work that is done by the group and we will work to ensure that the funding streams that contribute to this work continue.”

Monday, 21 February 2011

Assembly Question-Time :Motor Neurone Disease

Motor Neurone Disease

1. Mr McKay asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety whether his Department is conducting any research to advance the drug treatments available to those suffering from motor neurone disease. (AQO 1035/11)

The Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (Mr McGimpsey): No studies on drug treatment for motor neurone disease are under way in any of our health and social care trusts. Furthermore, health and social care research and development, which is in the division of the Public Health Agency that allocates research funding provided by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, is not currently funding any such studies.
Research into new treatments, including new drugs, is typically undertaken by the pharmaceutical industry or in specialised institutes and laboratories across the world. If new treatments were to become available in the UK, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) would be expected to assess them. NICE rigorously and independently assesses drugs and treatments and provides guidance to my Department on their use. That guidance is then assessed for its applicability to Northern Ireland.

Mr McKay: Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I thank the Minister for his answer. Is his Department being proactive in co-operating and keeping abreast of developments through its counterparts in the South? Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, for example, is taking part in international trials for new drugs that may benefit sufferers of motor neurone disease. If those are approved, will the Department make them available to sufferers in the North?

The Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety: I was not aware that those trials were ongoing specifically in a hospital in Dublin. Trials are typically ongoing in a number of hospitals and in a number of countries. However, if new treatments become available after research, they will be assessed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. It is on its recommendation that the Health Service is then able to fund particular treatments.
I understand Mr McKay’s questions. It is a particularly difficult condition with a poor life expectancy. Work on the condition is ongoing. If we got the appropriate drugs that gave sufferers any anticipation of progress, I would not be slow in coming forward.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Woodtown Road 'deathtrap' requires immediate action

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has said that someone will be killed if drainage problems on the Woodtown Road in Ballymena are not addressed urgently. Mr McKay was speaking after a car aquaplaned into a house on the road last week.

Mr McKay said

“Last April I flagged up the problem of excess water gathering close to the junction of the Woodtown Road / Bog Road with Roads Service and the fact that cars had previously aquaplaned into the yards and houses of local residents.

“To date this issue has not been resolved and as a result we had a near tragedy when a number of vehicles again aquaplaned into a family home here at the end of December.

“Those living here have been shaken up by what has happened and talk about the possibility of cars crashing into their home again in terms of ‘when’ not ‘if’. Statutory agencies need to intervene here immediately to deal with this.”

Braid Sinn Féin Representative Paul Maguire continued:

“It is quite clear that someone will be killed if this problem isn’t seen to. The drainage needs to be addressed, street lighting should be introduced on this stretch of road as well as appropriate signage.

“We have made arrangements to meet with Roads Service this week to discuss this problem, I hope that meeting will be constructive and will result in a positive outcome.”

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Loyalists confront Catholic children in Rasharkin with weapons

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has condemned an incident in Rasharkin where a group of loyalists confronted a number of Catholic teenagers armed with a wheelbrace, hockey stick and stanley knife.

Mr McKay said

"I am aware that the incident occured in Rasharkin last night after a number of men were asked to leave a cafe in the village where they were directing sectarian abuse at a number of teenagers. After the teenagers themselves left the cafe they were confronted by the same men who threatened them with a wheelbrace, a hockey stick and a stanley knife.

"These men were intoxicated and represented a significant threat to members of the public on the Main Street in the village. At 9.10pm last night I contacted the PSNI who were to come out to the village and take statements from the young people involved who were clearly very shaken up by what was a quite traumatic incident. The PSNI did not come out to take these statements last night. They then put out a press statement about the incident without trying to ascertain the version of events from all parties involved. I find this both unprofessional and totally unacceptable.

"It is an absolute disgrace that these loyalists who brought weapons onto the streets of Rasharkin last night have not been arrested." ENDS

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Plastic Bag Levy Proposals adopted by Executive

Having to agree a budget in a time of financial austerity is never a good thing but one of the positive things about the Executive's budget is the fact that a levy on plastic bags will be introduced. Having only introduced a bill to the house on the matter recently I would have to very much welcome this as will environmental groups but also other sections of society who stand to gain from the revenue generated from this levy.

Those who have been following the campaign that we fought on this matter will know that it was at times difficult to see if such a proposal would go through the Assembly and there were negative soundings from some quarters way back in 2008 when Cathal Boylan and myself put a motion to the house supporting a plastic bag levy. However no party ruled out the possibility of a levy entirely.

I put together a piece of legislation which would place a 15 pence levy on plastic bags and proposed that the proceeds of this would go towards the Green New Deal Housing Fund. The GND will improve the energy efficiency of 100,00o homes, provide 2-3,000 jobs, save Co2 and take more people out of fuel poverty. To see this proposal become a reality after the Sinn Féin team brought the issue to the negotiating table is extremely satisfying given the environmental, social and economic benefits that it looks set to deliver on.

Below is an excerpt from today's Budget debate:

Mr McKay: Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I thank the Minister for his statement and welcome his announcement that the Executive will adopt proposals from my Single Use Plastic Bags Bill, which I brought to the Assembly quite recently. I also welcome the Executive’s approach of identifying additional revenue streams and refusing to be restricted by the Tory-imposed comprehensive spending review. Will the Minister confirm that that work will continue and further avenues for new revenue will be considered, including additional tax-varying and borrowing powers?

The Minister of Finance and Personnel: My only regret about the plastic bag tax is that leaflets will probably go all round north Antrim saying what a great triumph it is for Daithí McKay. He has caused me to have second thoughts about that proposal.

We have already hammered down and nailed down some revenue proposals, and £842 million worth of them are in the Budget. There is still work to be done on a large number of other proposals, and we have sought ways to ensure that they are followed up. Rather than simply saying that they are good ideas and hoping that Ministers work at them in their Departments, they will be pushed forward by the Budget review group. Therefore, there will be some central drive. The Member is quite right: the strength of our Budget proposals and some of the discussions that we had will be that they can supplement the amount of money available for public spending in Northern Ireland.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Proposal for footway between Rasharkin and Finvoy ‘being progressed’

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has welcomed Roads Service’s announcement that his proposal for footway provision between Rasharkin and Finvoy has met the criteria to progress for further more detailed appraisal.

Mr McKay said

“Already there is significant footway provision between Ballymoney and Finvoy and also from Finvoy towards Rasharkin. However from the village boundary to the north of Rasharkin out towards Finvoy there are a lack of footpaths and this is along a stretch of the road which can be treacherous for pedestrians to walk along.

“The proposal for footway here would cover an area of 2,500m and it is to be welcomed that it will now progress for further appraisal. Given the length of the proposal and the potentially high cost such a project would inevitably be done in stages. It is however at a preliminary stage and if it progresses further it will be subject to funding availability.

“I will continue to monitor this proposal’s progress and push for it to be prioritised. The fruition of this would mean that there would be pedestrian access from Ballymoney to Rasharkin, something that would be very much welcomed by walkers in the area.”

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Questioning at DFP Committee on Spending Review & Budget

QuestionTime - North Antrim Capital Funding for schools

New schools have been built recently in Ballycastle and Portglenone in the North Antrim constituency and the Education Minister attended the opening of both of these in the past two weeks.

Its quite clear that the level of capital build spend is far superior to the Minister's Direct Rule predecessors who handed back millions of pounds unspent, a disgraceful situation which Caitriona has succesfully addressed. We do need more capital spend in the constituency for schools such as Castle Tower and Braidside Integrated but there is a long list of schools waiting and the key to securing such funding is (1) The Executive addressing the massive cut in Capital Spending which the British Government is proposing and (2) The Finance Minister allocating more money to the Education Minister for Capital Spending on Schools.

More capital build will also help our Construction workers who are going through a very difficult time at the moment so the benefits of this are multiple.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Sinn Féin seek assurances over Causeway A&E Service

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has welcomed assurances from the Northern Trust that the Accident and Emergency 24 hour service will be retained at Causeway Hospital. Mr McKay was speaking after meeting with the Chief Executive of the Northern Trust in Ballymena and wants a further assurance from the Health Minister that the service will not be scaled back.

Mr McKay said

“There is a lot of concern amongst people in North Antrim at the moment that the A&E in Causeway may be scaled down significantly over the next year and that they will be forced to go to hospitals in Antrim and Altnagelvin at certain times. Such a situation would be disastrous; it would affect ambulance response times, deprive this rural area of a much-needed service and result in local people having to travel for over an hour to access an A&E. During our meeting the Trust has assured me that there are no plans to scale down A&E and are committed to retaining the service which I very much welcome. However I would also like an assurance from the Health Minister that he will support the retention of the service and I have tabled priority questions to him in the Assembly regarding the matter.

“We discussed with the Trust the details of the proposed transfer of services out of Braid Valley Hospital in Ballymena and still have a number of concerns about the consultation proposals which they released last week and the services located on the site. The approval of the £14million Health and Social Care Centre at the Braid Valley site has not yet been secured but I have to say that I am encouraged by the positive soundings I have heard in regard to this and given that the proposal itself will be revenue neutral it makes economic sense for this particular proposal to go ahead. We are in a severe financial climate however so its important that all local representatives continue to lobby the Minister in regard to this until it is signed off on.

“At this difficult time economically I think we need to be wary of the school of thought that exists that believes hospital services should be centralised into a very small number of sites and the influence it may have on departmental proposals. Such thinking, which may be effective in large urban areas in other countries, does not take into account the rurality of this area and the effect it will have on the rural community. Sinn Féin will oppose any efforts to run down vital life-saving services such as the A&E at Causeway and the Minister needs to be frank and honest with the public about what his department’s proposals are for Causeway hospital.”

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Sinn Féin hosting information evening on Farm Modernisation Programme

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay is inviting local farmers to come to a presentation by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) on Tranche II of the Farm Modernisation Programme. The meeting will be held at Loughgiel Millennium Centre this Thursday 11th November at 7pm. The deadline for receipt of applications is Friday 26th November.

Mr McKay said

"Officials from the Department will be at the meeting to outline the key elements of the Farm Modernisation Programme (FMP) including eligibility, criteria and advice on how to submit online applications. Tranche two of the FMP is open for application for a six week period from 18th October until Friday 26th November 2010.

“All applications received will be scored individually at the end of the application period and those awarded the highest marks will receive funding from the £7m that has been made available.

"The Minister's objective with this tranche of FMP is to target disadvantage by focussing on those farms within the Less Favoured Areas, where a need for modernisation is great. FMP is about modernisation and those people who operate in difficult farming and environmental circumstances everyday. The intention is to ensure that those farmers should receive that modernisation opportunity within this second tranche of the Programme.

"Any farmers in the local area who have questions pertaining to the FMP or need advice on completing applications should feel free to attend the meeting we have organised for Loughgiel on Thursday night."
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