Nollaig Shona

24 12 2011

To the many families, who mourn the absence or loss of a loved one at this time of year, our thoughts and prayers are with you. Have a Happy and Peaceful Christmas

Cunningham: Moyle must make most of renewable energy project

16 12 2011

Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has welcomed the potential which a major offshore tidal renewable energy infrastructure project could present for the local economy and community.
Cllr Cunningham was speaking after an announcement by the Crown Estate that it was putting contracts for renewable energy production in the Rathlin and Torr Head Strategic Area out to tender following the confirmation of market demand.
He said: “Moyle District Council has agreed to my request for early engagement and consultation with the companies successful in the upcoming leasing round for sites in the offshore Moyle areas, and we are keen to ensure that Moyle fully benefits from the project.
“It is important that Council has its act together as we need to achieve a real economic stimulator in terms of jobs and economic input rather than any short term goodwill gesture form these big companies.
“The development of offshore renewable energy provides not only greater energy security and diversity but significant economic and employment and educational benefits

McCambridge congratulates award-winning Cushendall B&B

16 12 2011

SDLP Glens of Antrim Councillor Catherine McCambridge has congratulated Mrs Olive McAuley from Cullentra House B&B Cushendall who won the Top Guest House in Ulster award from B&B Ireland.
The Glens councillor said: “I am particularly pleased to see a rural guest house receive the award.
“It is important that the NITB and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development work to promote and develop the concept of the bed and breakfast industry within the rural and farmhouse community, which has the potential to generate additional income for many hard-pressed farmers at this difficult economic time.”

Malachy McSparran RIP

15 12 2011

SDLP Leader Alasdair McDonnell MP MLA has, along with party representatives from North Antrim, led tributes to former Moyle Council Chairman Malachy McSparran, who died on Tuesday 13th Decemeber.

Dr McDonnell said: “Malachy was not only a towering figure in the Glens and a much-admired politician, he was a dear friend.
“His contribution to the party and Moyle Council, but most importantly to his community and his family, cannot be overstated and he will be much missed.

“To Brigid, John, Donal, Paul, Brendan, Patrick, Anne and all the extended family, I extend the thoughts and prayers of myself and my family and the SDLP as a whole.”

Former MLA, Sean Farren also said that Malachy McSparran had been a staunch supporter of SDLP principles since the party’s inception, deploring violence believing that partnership between our communities was the only way forward.

Dr Farren said ‘Malachy served for several terms as an SDLP member and Chair of Moyle District Council. He firmly believed in developing cross-party and cross-community partnerships within and beyond the council.

“Malachy worked tirelessly to promote Moyle District and especially his own beloved Glens. Like few others he knew and loved the Glens, its history, its games, its folklore, its customs and traditions and he has left a fine legacy of writings covering all of those aspects of Glens life.
“On a personal level Malachy McSparran was a great support to me as a public representative in North Antrim. I was very proud to call him my friend. To his wife Brigid and family I offer my deepest condolences.”
Councillor Catherine McCambridge, who succeeded Malachy as representative of the Glens on Moyle Council said that Malachy McSparran had been an excellent role-model.
She said: ‘Malachy served the people of the Glens one-hundred per cent. As Chair of the Council he guided its business with a steady hand and won considerable admiration from all sides. The Glens are the poorer for his passing.”

Ballymena Councillor and former North Antrim MLA Declan O’Loan said: “I had a great liking and regard for Malachy McSparran. He was an outstanding person. He was totally immersed in the life and history of the Glens and was a fine public representative. He will be much missed but fondly remembered.”

Fuel Poverty Petition

15 12 2011

The Fuel Poverty Coalition has launched a petition “calling on the Assembly Executive to tackle comprehensively fuel poverty in the final Programme for Government 2011-2015.” The petition also asks the NI Executive and Assembly “to include in the Programme for Government a commitment to develop a detailed and costed action-plan setting out how and when fuel poverty will be eradicated in Northern Ireland; and provide continued support to households in severe fuel poverty to stay warm until fuel poverty is eradicated.”

The petition will coincide with the consultation period for the draft Programme for Government 2011-2015 (PfG). The aim is to generate public support for our key asks, which we believe will strengthen the Coalition’s response to the draft PfG.

Members of the public can sign the petition on the revamped website, . Those who do not have access to the internet can also sign our petition using a freepost Fuel Poverty Coalition petition postcard. In order to minimise the cost and to avoid delays producing the postcards we are using the Consumer Council’s freepost address.

Government slash benefits for Disabled Children

13 12 2011

Author: Sue Marsh (Labour List)

Last night, the House of Lords failed to support an amendment put down by Tanni Grey-Thompson, the most successful paralympian of all time, to protect the benefits of disabled children once Universal Credit is introduced.

Effectively, under universal credit, all but the most profoundly disabled children will only get half as much support. Child Tax Credit additions for disabled children will fall from £52.21 per week to £25.95 per week – a loss of £1366 per year, or £20,000 over the course of a childhood.

You might wonder what possible argument a government who promised to “protect the most vulnerable” could possibly make for this change. I myself was fascinated to see how on earth they had justified throwing disabled children to the wolves.

Ready? OK, if they didn’t betray disabled children, it would just have to be disabled adults. After all, disabled children have parents to look after them. What’s more, if they didn’t cut money used to buy wheelchairs and incontinence pads for disabled children, they wouldn’t be able to afford to address the hideous failures of ESA (Employment and Support Allowance or sickness benefit) and ensure that all those who qualify for long term support, get it.

Could there be a more disgusting example of divide and conquer? Each man for himself. The image of a Victorian gent throwing a handful of pennies on the floor and leaving the cripples to fight it out amongst themselves comes to mind.

And remember, this is no longer theory.

I’ve been writing about these issues for 18 months now, sadly my blogs have often contained doom and gloom predictions of horrors to come. Well last night they started to come in a first blaze of in-glory. The Welfare Reform Bill is now at Report Stage in the Lords. These votes will almost certainly decide what becomes law and what doesn’t. For disabled children, now it’s too late.

Shame on us.

There is one more session before Xmas. Then 4 sessions after Xmas, then the final no-going-back vote to pass the bill. There is still time to lobby peers. There is still time to stop the time limiting of ESA. There is still time to oppose PiP and abolishing Disability Allowance. There is still time to fight Clause 52 and housing benefit changes that will leave thousands of sick and disabled people at risk of homelessness.

In a week where the government suggested all cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy ought to be assessed to see if they can work or not, I can only wonder where this will all lead. I can only hope history is no guide the future

If I can find any tiny silver lining, it is that we only lost by 2 votes. That is the closest vote I have seen so far.

2 votes. 2 Lords. 2 letters, 2 emails, 2 tweets.

There is still all to play for, but sadly disabled children just fought the last stage of their fight. And lost

Cuts to Community pharmacies are an attack on the community

13 12 2011

Following a presentation to Moyle District Council by local Community Pharmacists SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has said that the proposed 30% cuts to community pharmacies across the North particularly those serving rural communities are an unacceptable attack on the community. Pharmacies need to be protected against these cuts which will ultimately result in reduced service and in some instances closure.

“We cannot be underestimate the important and vital role of community pharmacies within the healthcare system. Pharmacies are the first port of call for thousands of sick people every day, in rural areas they serve as the frontline of the Health Service,Community pharmacists knew their patients their medical history, domestic circumstances and offer the most professional service in a personal manner.”

“Pharmacies have also embraced the whole ethos of community and contribute immeasurably to various health improvement schemes being implemented by community and voluntary groups.

“It is imperative that our pharmacies are protected. Not only is their service vital, but it is also value for money with chemists dispensing advice as well as remedies and keeping people away from GPs and out of our hospitals.”

Cold Cruel Cuts for Older People this Winter

11 12 2011

The Fuel Poverty Coalition has hit out at the cuts to the Winter Fuel Payment that have been imposed by Westminster.
Despite numerous campaigns from a range of organisations including the Fuel Poverty Coalition, Winter Fuel Payments have been slashed by £50 or £100, depending on the household. This is taking place following two of the
coldest winters on record and at a time when energy costs have never been higher.

Pat Austin, joint Chair of the Fuel Poverty Coalition, which has a base of around 150 organisations from across the North representing local councils, voluntary, community, business and faith groups, said: ‘the cut to the Winter Fuel Payment is a national scandal which will have huge impacts for the health and well being of our older people. The payment went some way to protecting the most vulnerable and those who have taken this decision should be hanging their heads in shame’
The cuts have been introduced in the North despite the region having the highest incidence of fuel poverty in the UK. Also, older people in the North are further disadvantaged as they are not entitled to a Warm Homes Discount of £120 which is payable to GB pensioners on low income. The Fuel Poverty Coalition is calling on the NI Executive to use the Social Protection Fund to reduce these inequalities in the first instance and develop a plan setting out how and when fuel poverty will be eradicated in the North.
Concluding Antoinette McKeown, joint Chair of the Fuel Poverty Coalition said: “the cuts to the Winter Fuel Payments are not only unfair on our older people, but they could not have come at a worse time when the energy bills for the majority of households here are around £1,100 higher than the highest energy bill in GB1. The focus now must be on
the Executive and its Programme for Government 2011-2015 to ensure our older people receive the required support to keep their homes warm this winter”

Cunningham calls on those involved in snowball attacks to “wise up”

6 12 2011

Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has called on those involved in snowball attacks on motorists to “wise up.”
No sooner than we had our first fall of snow, than we also received a number of complaints about snowball attacks on cars and buses particularly on the main town entrances.
“Those involved must realise that these attacks have a very upsetting and traumatic effect on drivers and their passengers. Snowballs when compacted can have the same impact as a stone.
Snowballs thrown at moving vehicles can distract drivers and have the potential to cause a serious accident, we are very fortunate that no one has been seriously injured.

“In snow and icy conditions, drivers need to concentrate even more and even a small distraction can be dangerous. There are better ways to enjoy the snow than attacking cars and buses”