SDLP West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan has said that Justice Minister David Ford’s dogged determination to close Strabane Court House flies in the face of the needs of local people and the local legal profession.
Mr McCrossan said: “David Ford stood in the Assembly today armed with clever remarks but utterly lacking in an ounce of understanding about the effect of his pronouncement that a number of court houses across the North will close. Key amongst those that now face the Justice Minister’s axe is Strabane Court House, the closure of which has been the subject of his dogged determination for a number of years.
“I have stood with the people of Strabane and the legal profession based here through previous attempts to strip our town of a court house. We will continue to oppose these moves which will not only disenfranchise those seeking justice here but will also manufacture an additional burden as the overflow transfers to Omagh.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that Strabane is being starved of public service investment and those services which we do have are being gradually dismantled. That is not acceptable to me or to the people I represent. We will continue to oppose the Justice Minister’s plans and I would call on him to urgently reconsider.”

SDLP West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan has slammed a decision by the Minister Jonathan Bell to axe the Renewable Heat Incentive. The loss of the scheme which funds renewable heating projects to produce renewable energy is predicted to cost 2,000 jobs with a business owner in Omagh expressing concern for his 70 staff.
Mr McCrossan said: “Minister Bell’s sudden announcement makes devastating reading for the many businesses who have invested hundreds of thousands of pounds into equipment on the basis of the scheme.
“One company based in Omagh have £650,000 worth of orders taken on this scheme and have £400,000 worth of boilers already paid for and non-refundable. They are expecting this move to cost them around £1million and are seriously concerned about the future of their 70 staff. They said that if the Minister had given warning or employed a staggered reduction then the damage would not be as severe.
“DETI has specialised in low-skill job creation and massive job losses particularly in manufacturing. Throughout the North this move has been forecast to cost 2,000 jobs in an industry that employs graduates and skilled workers.  Minister Bell seems intent on creating a call-centre economy.
“The Minister intends to bring his plan to the Assembly on Monday. The SDLP will strong in our opposition to a decision that will only put people on the dole queue and businesses into administration.”

Offices, hotels, factories and warehouses throughout Northern Ireland must act now if they are to halve their lighting bills and save up to 25% off the purchase price of replacement high efficiency light fittings. The NIE Energy Lighting Scheme which offers subsidised lighting equipment is due to close at the end of March. Scheme manager, Jim Allen, told us “The scheme is available not just to companies but to any public or private organisation, in fact any non-domestic organisation can apply”. He continued, “People don’t realise how much lights cost to run. An old twin-tube fluorescent fitting costs more than £180 per year to run if left on 24/7. The latest fittings will consume half that. Imagine the possible savings in a warehouse or factory full of them”. For further information or to place an order, customers can either visit the scheme website where an order form can be downloaded, email or ring the offer helpline on 0845 6060 306.

Some of the biggest names in rock and pop music will be flying in to Belfast for a special massive one-off gig in the Odyssey Arena tomorrow tonight (Friday 19 November), in aid of this year’s BBC Children In Need.

Westlife, The Script and Jedward will be performing in front of a crowd of over 7,000. Also confirmed for the gig are Twist and Pulse, General Fiasco, Caro, The Overtones and Hayley Westenra.

The massive concert is being hosted by John Daly and BBC Radio 1′s Reggie Yates.

This year, viewers in Northern Ireland will enjoy the show live from BBC Television Centre, presented by Sir Terry Wogan and Tess Daly, joining up with gigs across the United Kingdom, including the Odyssey Arena at key moments throughout the night, sharing some fantastic live music from Northern Ireland, as well as showing how money raised from last year’s appeal has been spent locally.

Tickets, for the Odyssey Arena concert, being tipped as the hottest gig in town, were all snapped up in hours.

However, viewers can tune in to the gig live on BBC Radio Ulster in the company of Ralph McLean and Lynette Fay, from 7pm.

And on Saturday (November 20), BBC Northern Ireland will show a special one-hour highlights programme from the Odyssey Arena gig.

Children In Need Rocks The Odyssey is on BBC One Northern Ireland at 5.30pm.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow night’s massive gig, John Daly said: “I am delighted to be part of Children in Need again this year, as it’s always a huge thrill to be part of a great night of live entertainment and what a fantastic line-up of artists we have performing on stage.

“We want as many people as possible to get on the phone and call in and pledge money for this year’s appeal. I know that there is not as much money around at the moment but every penny raised goes to projects here in Northern Ireland so this is a real opportunity to make a huge difference to the lives of children and young people throughout Northern Ireland. The Children in Need here have never been more in need – so get dialling!”

Reggie Yates added: “Being involved in Children in Need is a massive honour and the fact my involvement has a heavy music lean makes it all the more special. Apologies in advance to everyone at the Odyssey Arena for my really bad singing along to The Script!”

Earlier in the week, BBC Northern Ireland presenters took over Belfast restaurant – 27 Talbot Street – in a bid to raise as much money as possible for the appeal.

For one night only, Stephen Nolan led his hospitality “dream team” as he assumed the position in the kitchen as Head Chef. Stephen was tasked with creating his own menu and delivering three delicious courses for 70 hungry diners.

Joining Stephen as maître d’ for the night was Alan Simpson, who worked his charm on diners as they arrived for the evening’s entertainment.

A veritable feast of “expert” waiting and bar staff, including Kim Lenaghan, Cecilia Daly and Barra Best, with Noel Thompson acting as official paparazzo, completed this hospitality dream team. Highlights from the evening will be shown on tonight’s television programme.

Throughout the week, BBC Radio Ulster presenters have been supporting the appeal with updates on mad-cap fundraising events and how the money was spent locally to help projects across Northern Ireland during last year.

Hugo Duncan launched his on-air auction on Monday, which runs until Friday 19 November, which last year raised over £27,000 for the appeal and which, to date, has raised £11,719.

Hugo will also be hosting his show with guest performers live from Studio A, BBC Blackstaff Studios on Friday from 1.30-3pm, in the company of Jimmy Buckley, Crystal Swing, Warren Smyth, Tony Kerr, Boxcar Brian, Kenny Archer and Nathan Carter.

Last year on the night, in Northern Ireland alone, Children in Need raised over £623,000 for local projects. Thanks to the amazing generosity of the public across the UK, a record-breaking total of over £39 million was raised, of which £3.2m was used to fund over 200 projects throughout Northern Ireland.

To make a donation to Children in Need either call: 0345 7 33 22 33 (standard geographic charges from landlines and mobiles will apply) or log on to the Children in Need website.

The festival provides an opportunity for Northern Ireland’s young people to get hands on-experience in film making and understand how films are animated, directed, classified and promoted. Each year the festival uses film, television and all forms of moving image to entertain, educate, inspire and broaden understanding and awareness of the media industries among young people aged between 4-25 years.

It is now the largest children and young people’s film event in the UK and Ireland, engaging with over 500,000 young people and screening over 3,000 films. Thousands of young people have gone on to have very successful jobs in the industry.

Speaking at an awards ceremony to celebrate the work of the festival, the Minister said: “Through this festival, Cinemagic continues to inspire young people to find something exciting, create something new and do something different. It ensures our next generation think in new ways and bring new ideas and creativity to enrich our society and drive change.

“Cinemagic is designed for and by young people and is driven by their interests and enthusiasm and I am pleased that my Department has been able to provide support for this project. It is very important to spend time learning and making future plans when you are young, but equally important is taking time to reflect on your achievements. I welcome the opportunity to be here this evening to celebrate these achievements and I hope that Cinemagic will continue to thrive and celebrate another 20 years of success.”

The festival programme also included an array of preview screenings, workshops for schools, special film events, Q&A’s, a Cinemagic Young Filmmaker Competition, and a masterclasses in all aspects of television and filmmaking.

Kathleen Marshall will replace Paula Jack on the Review Team and their reporting timetable has been extended until June 2011.

David Ford said: “I sought views from the Review Team regarding its composition and timeframe and I listened to the points they raised. One was around perceived independence and to address that issue Kathleen Marshall will join the Team.

“As someone who has written and spoken extensively on children’s issues and served on a number of bodies concerned with the rights of children, Kathleen brings a wealth of experience to the role.”

The Minister thanked Paula Jack for her contribution to the initial workings of the Review Team and welcomed that as Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Agency, she will continue to be available to them in an advisory capacity.

David Ford said: “I have also agreed to extend the Review Team’s timetable by three months until June 2011.

“Since being elected Justice Minister, I have set out a wide ranging programme to reshape the justice system and this review will play a fundamental part of that agenda.”

Northern Ireland Electricity said there was widespread damage, especially in Omagh, Enniskillen, Dungannon, Londonderry, Coleraine and Ballymena.

Roads have also been affected, with the Glenshane Pass closed for snow ploughing.

The road has been closed since the early evening and Roads Service said their work has been hampered by snow, lying up to 50cms in some areas.

The Met office is predicting heavy rain and snow with biting gales.

The police have said driving conditions across Northern Ireland are “treacherous” and have advised motorists to slow down.

The Glenshane Pass is said to be “particularly difficult”. Snow ploughs and gritters are working to clear the road.

Winds have brought down electricity lines and poles and caused 250 individual faults.

An NIE spokesperson said its engineers were working on faults as quickly as it was “safe to do so” and that an additional 250 staff have been called in.

Contractors from the Irish Republic will be called in to help on Wednesday morning.

“At present, around 30,000 customers are without electricity,” an NIE spokesperson said.

“This number is constantly changing – as faults are repaired in one area, customers are losing power in another.

“Poor visibility, high winds and worsening weather have meant that crews will stand down from midnight.

“Customers should be aware that if they are still off supply at midnight, their power will be off overnight.”

Happy new year to all!

Jason Lamont, Cookstown is one of hundreds of athletes putting themselves through their final paces in preparation for the Dwarf World Games, taking place in Belfast from Monday 27th July – Monday 2nd August 2009.

Jason, 19 years old, is a member of the DAA NI (Dwarf Athletic Association of Northern Ireland), which after organising the hugely successful Belfast City European and Open Championships in 2006 secured the bid to bring the World Games to Belfast.   Since then preparations have been in full force to stage one of the world’s most unique sporting events.   More than 200 athletes of restricted growth, from 15 countries, will take part in nine sports with competitions taking place at the Mary Peters Track in south Belfast, Larne Leisure Centre and the University of Ulster’s Jordanstown campus.

Jason has previously participated in the DAA UK National Championships but never in the European or World Games so he will be hoping to give a strong performance in his first major tournament when he competes in the team sports – football and basketball.

Eugene McVeigh, Chairperson of the DAA NI said,

“Jason is really looking forward to the Games and I’m confident he will be a strong contender for picking up a few medals throughout the week.  He’s one of ten athletes from Northern Ireland taking part and they’re all very excited to be a part of such a huge event, and I’m sure they, along with all the other athletes will enjoy themselves at whatever level they are competing at.

We are honoured to be hosting such a prestigious event, the success of the Belfast City European and Open Championships in 2006 inspired us to bid to host a larger, more competitive and more spectacular event and hopefully over the course of the week everyone involved will get to experience this.”

The first Dwarf World Games were held in Chicago, USA, in 1993.  England, Canada and France subsequently have held the Games, in 1997, 2001 and 2005 respectively.

The 2009 Dwarf World Games are sponsored by Belfast City Council, the Department for Culture Arts and Leisure, and Sport Northern Ireland, and supported by Disability Sports NI.  Premier Inn is the official accommodation provider for the Games.

For more information on the Dwarf World Games, Belfast go to

Family doctors in Northern Ireland today (Friday 17 July) moved to allay fears over the swine flu virus.

Larne GP Brian Dunn, Chairman of the BMA’s GP committee said, “It is understandable that people will be worried when they hear about the potential number of fatalities that may arise due to the pandemic. It should be remembered that these are worst case scenarios to enable government to plan.

“We urge everyone to follow the recommended advice and telephone their doctor, rather than physically going to the surgery if they have symptoms and are concerned.

“In most cases, it will be a mild illness and the vast majority of people will recover quickly by taking paracetamol or ibuprofen, and drinking plenty of fluids. Anyone who is not recovering quickly or who is in a more vulnerable group, for example young children, pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions, should get extra advice as a small number will need more intensive treatment”.

Tom Black, a GP in Londonderry added,
“The message we need to get across is it’s a pandemic flu – this is new, we haven’t seen this before and yes, most of us will probably catch it.

“We must remember that every year there are deaths from complications of seasonal flu; this is unfortunately inevitable with any strain of influenza, but following the recommended advice will minimise the risk.”

Simple but effective hygiene measures such as frequent hand-washing can also help. Remember to cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, the put the tissue into a bin – catch it, bin it, kill it!”

January 2020
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