Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has said that funding must continue for the Middletown Centre for Autism.

The Minister said she had received a letter from the Minister for Education and Science, Batt O’Keeffe TD, advising that his department had to review funding for all educational projects and it was not currently possible to enable the capital project to proceed as planned.

Minister Ruane said: “I fully appreciate the implications of the current economic climate, but am very disappointed at any potential to delay progress at Middletown as it is in difficult times that support for vulnerable children is paramount.

“The development of Middletown has been discussed at every meeting of the education sectoral North South Ministerial Council meetings since 2002, when both departments committed to develop and jointly fund the project. My department will uphold our commitment and I hope we can jointly restate our support for Middletown.

“I have written to Minister O’Keeffe to emphasise the importance of Middletown to children with autism, their families and the professionals who work with them throughout the island of Ireland.

“Already the staff have provided training for over 700 individuals from the education and health sectors. The development of the capital project has the potential to provide facilities for in depth assessment programmes to enable local service providers to better meet the needs of our most challenged autistic children.

“I will be meeting with Minister O’Keeffe at Middletown and will be pressing for a renewed commitment to the centre to ensure all children on the autistic spectrum can avail of the best treatments possible.”

Statement by Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, on the publication of the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

Today’s publication of the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, by Mr Justice Sean Ryan, throws light on a dark period of the past. The publication of this comprehensive report and analysis is a welcome and important step in establishing the truth, giving justice to victims and ensuring such abuse does not happen again.

This Report makes it clear that great wrong and hurt were caused to some of the most vulnerable children in our society.  It documents a shameful catalogue of cruelty: neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, perpetrated against children.

I am profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways in these institutions.  Children deserved better and especially from those caring for them in the name of Jesus Christ.

I hope the publication of today’s Report will help to heal the hurts of victims and to address the wrongs of the past.  The Catholic Church remains determined to do all that is necessary to make the Church a safe, life-giving and joyful place for children.

With Ireland’s Six Nations success still very much the topic of the day and with the impending Lions tour just around the corner the rugby squad from Gibson Primary School in Omagh took the opportunity to show off their skills at Ulster Rugby’s Primary School Mini Rugby Tournament that was held on the famous Ravenhill pitch.

The squad displayed some fantastic skills and a great team spirit in front of friends, family and members of the current Ulster Rugby team and proved that they all have a great sporting future ahead of them.

Supported by education ICT specialist, Northgate Managed Services, for a fourth consecutive year, the tournament that has been a key fixture on the school rugby calendars for more than 35 years, is an excellent way of encouraging children to become more active and to develop their rugby skills.

To reach the finals tournament the team from Gibson took part in a prequalifying tournament and successfully progressed to Ravenhill for their chance to compete for the 2009 Primary Schools’ Mini Rugby Cup Trophy.

Commenting on the tournament, Simon Wallace, Commercial Manager with Ulster Rugby said, “Mini rugby is an exciting way for kids to play and enjoy rugby.  The tournament has proved to be a hugely successful feature of the primary schools’ mini rugby calendar, and continues to play an important role in nurturing young sporting talent in Ulster.  The added element of competing on the historic Ravenhill pitch is something that the kids are sure to remember long after the final whistle.”

Stuart Gunning, Head of Education with Northgate Managed Services added “We are delighted to continue our support for this excellent tournament for a fourth consecutive year.  The standard of play was incredibly high and the children, their parents and teachers are to be congratulated on making this year’s event a huge success.”

John Crowe, a lecturer in Hospitality & Catering at North West Regional College was recently named the winner of a prestigious UK award, for his innovative teaching methods.

The Professional Association for Catering Education (PACE) recognised John’s novel approach to engaging with his catering students, through the use of computers in the College’s state-of-the-art training kitchens, and awarded him 1st prize in the Innovative Use of Technology category at the recent PACE Awards 2009.

John travelled to Towcester, Northamptonshire to collect his award at a gala ceremony, where he also accepted the 2nd place certificate on behalf of his colleague Luane Quigley, who was commended for an online project which allowed students to provide feedback to improve the quality of teaching and learning.

John and Luane were the only lecturers from Northern Ireland to feature in the PACE nominations and awards for innovation, which are open to Hospitality staff in Colleges and Schools across the UK.

The judges were impressed with how the College’s School of Hospitality and Catering is committed to introducing new methods of teaching on such practical programmes.  The enhanced technology in use includes as a laptop tablet, where students can access a wide range of course information and materials, a photo station, which allows the students to photograph their dishes, then store or print the images and helps them build their portfolio. Others include kitchen camera and interactive white boards.

This award is another success for John, who spent time last year working under Gordon Ramsay in his Claridges restaurant, developing new skills that have since been passed onto his students.  In addition, two of John’s trainees scooped bronze medals at the highly competitive Chef Ireland 2009 international WACS Salon Culinaire in Dublin in February.

Sports Minister Gregory Campbell today joined thousands of fans to enjoy the carnival atmosphere and excitement at the North West 200.

Speaking during the event the Minister said: “As a visitor behind the scenes, and a spectator here today, I am seeing at first hand the hard work and determination that goes into making this event possible each year. It is the magnificent achievements of all the riders, organisers and volunteers that have made the North West 200 an international success and enabled it to grow year on year to reach this milestone 80th birthday.”

Since its inception in 1929 the North West 200 has grown into one of the fastest road races in the world, attracting over 150,000 visitors from home and abroad and generating over £7million for Northern Ireland’s economy.

The Minister continued: “Over the years my Department has demonstrated its commitment to making this event a success through the provision of funding. In 2007 my predecessor, Edwin Poots MLA, announced funding of £150,000 to help improve safety at the circuit. This was followed by an additional £100,000 which was aimed specifically at upgrading safety at various motor sport circuits throughout Northern Ireland. The North West 200 was allocated £34,855 of this money.

“In 2008, my Department awarded the Coleraine & District Motorcycle Club £175,000 over a three year period to contribute towards the cost of employing a Business Development/ Operations Manager, and also developing the organisation’s web-presence.

“In addition, with a further £100,000 funding through Sport NI the organisers of the North West were able resurface the paddock area and, a successful application in 2009, brought further funding of £45,000 to support the introduction of two new marketing campaigns.”

In conclusion the Minister said: “I would like to thank Mervyn Whyte, the huge band of volunteers and all the sponsors for their continuing hard work and support in making this international event happen and finally I send my best wishes to all the riders and hope everyone has a safe race.”

Cllr Allan Bresland MLA – Press Release

At approximately 1.30am on the morning of Thursday 14th May, an elderly couple was viciously attacked and robbed at their home on the Plumbridge Road, Newtownstewart, by a cowardly group consisting of two men and two women.

The male resident heard a knock and the door, and talked with the caller through the door.  The caller claimed to need the use of the phone.  The resident stated that he did not have a phone in his house, and advised the caller to use the phone in one of the other houses.  The caller responded by stating that he would be back.

After hearing this, the resident went back into the bedroom to wake up his wife.    Shortly after doing this, there was a loud bang, and the caller was standing beside the resident, wearing a balaclava.  The resident, fearing for the safety of himself and his wife, attempted to defend himself and knocked the intruder to the ground.  When he was on the ground, the resident removed the balaclava and discovered a number of distinguishing marks on the intruder.

Shortly after knocking the intruder to the ground, two women and another man set upon the elderly resident.  The man, armed with a knife, brutally cut the arms of the elderly resident, before threatening to cut off his ear if he did not tell the group where he kept his money.

The group, after their cowardly and violent attack on an elderly couple, made off with around £400 in cash.

I want to condemn this robbery.  There is no excuse for attacking and threatening an elderly man and his wife.  The PSNI have been informed and I am confident that they will track down and arrest those responsible in a quick and professional manner.

I appeal for anyone with information relating to this to come forward and assist in the apprehension of these vicious criminals.

Members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board’s Human Resources Committee have been briefed on the application rates in the latest recruitment campaign for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)

Speaking about the figures presented, Committee Chairman Jimmy Spratt MLA said,

“Board Members were very encouraged by the high number of applicants in this latest recruitment round which show that policing remains an attractive career choice right across the community.

Just under 10,000 applicants for 440 posts is the biggest response to the police recruitment campaigns to date. This level of interest shows that those who would wish to threaten and intimidate potential recruits to a career in policing have failed.”

Of the 9825 applications received 3734 (38%) were from Catholic applicants and 2987 (30.4%) were from women.

Mid-Tyrone SDLP Councillor Seamus Shields has welcomed plans by DRD Roads Service to undertake the surface dressing of more than 40km of rural roads in the area.

The programme of repair includes Drumnakilly Road, Crockanbuoy Road, Creggan Road, Donaghanie Road, Loughmacrory Road and Greencastle Road and will be carried out over the next financial year.

According to Mr Shields, a report to be presented at a special meeting of Omagh District Council by the Western Roads Service Divisional Manager states that surface dressing is a “cost effective treatment that re-seals the road surface to prevent the ingress of water that could freeze and completely break up the surface”.

Mr Shields said: “This vindicates my earlier stance that surface dressing would have prevented the spate of potholes which appeared in many of the rural roads of Mid-Tyrone when there were numerous complaints about accidents and damage to vehicles.

“Roads Service has now admitted that the pothole epidemic has been caused by the freeze/thaw phenomenon caused by ingress of water.

“Clearly, a programme of surface dressing would have prevented this, as the Roads Service now seems to admit.

“I will be putting pressure on Roads Service to extend this programme to other roads, particularly those in the Beragh and Sixmilecross areas, where the condition of many of the roads remains unacceptable, despite the laying of some stretch of Bitmac dressing in some of the worst affected areas, including Beragh Main Street.”

Responding to the DUP’s announcement that some double jobbing DUP MPs will not stand for re-election to the Assembly Jim Allister said:

“It is not often that the EU Parliament gets things right but they were certainly correct when they decided that MEPs could not be members of their national parliaments. The ending of duel mandates is something which I have long called for.

“It is clear to me that the voters are tired of the double and triple jobbing politicians which are so common in Northern Ireland politics. Nor, might I add, have they much time for family dynasty building.”

Sinn Féin MEP for Foyle Bairbre de Brún speaking at her campaign launch  for the European elections on June 4th has said that Sinn Fein are fighting for every vote in every county in Ireland.

Ms de Brún was joined for the campaign launch by Party President Gerry Adams, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Junior Minister Gerry Kelly

Speaking from yesterday’s campaign launch Ms de Brún  said:

“Sinn Féin has been out on the ground visiting local communities and listening to the concerns of people across the North. We are a strong voice for local communities when it comes to Europe and when it comes to defending the peace process. We are fighting for every vote not just in Derry City or the North but in every county in Ireland.

“Our campaign is based on our leadership – and our record at home and in Europe.

“Sinn Féin will continue to deliver progress on advancing Irish Unity, on policing, for local communities, on jobs and the economy, and to challenge those who want to slow down the process of change.”

Martin McGuinness  said:

“We want to maximise the Sinn Féin vote across Ireland and maximise the vote for progress – for political progress, for economic progress and for a new relationship with Europe that puts Ireland first.

“We know that a some small number of people are opposed to the progress of recent years and we are asking people to come out to defend the Peace Process; to defend the progress that we have made in the past decade; To give us a mandate for change.”

May 2009
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