Cunningham welcomes approval of Ballycastle hotel plans

24 01 2012

SDLP Moyle District Councillor Dónal Cunningham has welcomed news that plans have been approved for a 120-bedroom hotel
He said: “Ballycastle has been without a hotel for almost a year and a half, so this is excellent news.

“There is also hope that a buyer can be found for the vacant Marine Hotel.”,

“Moyle District Council is urging Invest NI and the relevant tourist agencies to support this project.

“Ballycastle has not had its fair share of Invest NI investment, so this project is their chance to show commitment to the area.

“Hopefully this hotel will become a catalyst in the redevelopment of Ballycastle, as the proposed hotel could create 70 full time and 35 part time jobs, all of which are greatly needed.”

“Our local economy is in great need of boosting tourism in the area and this is a positive step forward in that regard.

“So now, with this latest development, we can begin to give a clear signal to business leaders, developers and tourists that Ballycastle is open for business and wants to encourage trade and tourism.”

Ballycastle Ambulance Station more important than ever

23 01 2012

Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has said that the Ambulance Station in Ballycastle is needed more now than ever before. Whatever the outcome of the Local Commissioning Groups Review on Health Service provision, the Ballycastle community will depend heavily on an efficient and locally delivered ambulance service.

Councillor Cunningham said, ‘Moyle Council strongly supports the retention of Acute Services at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, to get the best outcome from these services it is absolutely critical that the Ambulance Service has a base in Ballycastle which can serve people living in rural isolated communities”

Ballycastle needs the Causeway Hospital

22 01 2012

Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has expressed his concern that the imminent Health Review to be conducted by a Local Commissioning Group may consider the downgrading of Causeway Hospital in Coleraine.
“I am totally opposed to such a measure as this will have a hugely detrimental impact on healthcare provision for people in Ballycastle and the surrounding rural areas.
“It is vital that these A&E services are maintained due to the large geographical spread of people in the Trust area”
“The Causeway in my view meets the three Compton Report criteria of sustainability, resilience in clinical terms and accessibility to the population.”
“Stripping healthcare services at Causeway will diminish the level of care provided to people in the Ballycastle area and the local communities must fight tooth and nail to ensure that this doesn’t become a reality. The SDLP will be supporting the motion before the Council and seeking early engagement with the Local Commissioning Group.”

Cunningham calls for improved library facilities for Ballycastle

19 01 2012

While welcoming the news that the proposed cuts to opening hours at Ballycastle library are not to go ahead as planned – Ballyastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has called for improved library facilities for the town.
“Ballycastle Library is an excellent example of a vibrant public library. It is excellently managed and provides a dynamic focal point in the community assisting many people especially the young to fulfil their potential”

“However there are improvements which would revitalise the service enabling it to provide a modern, vibrant library service, which would offer an enhanced range of books and other services. The people of Ballycastle both deserve and need the best public facilities.”

Say “NO” to Fracking in the Rathlin Basin

15 01 2012

Hydraulic Fracturing – it goes by the ugly name of “fracking”, and it could be on it’s way to Moyle.
Rathlin Energy – a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian company Connaught Oil & Gas Ltd has been granted a licence from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Industry for oil and gas exploration in the onshore Rathlin Basin (coloured pink on map above).
In year 3 of their operation Rathlin Energy are planning to apply for permission to sink a test bore 2,700 metres deep , in a bid to exploit the shale gas that could be locked in the rocks deep beneath the earth.
If it finds what it hopes, full-scale hydraulic fracturing – to extract the gas could follow. This would unleash an unprecedented environmental threat .
Fracking involves pumping water or other fluids laced with sand or other particles at high pressure into rock formations deep underground. The process fractures the rock and releases shale gas trapped inside. Only some of the gas can then be collected and brought to the surface.
Shale gas extraction poses many actual and potential environmental and human health concerns including groundwater pollution, air pollution, demand for water and impact on climate change. Moyle District Council at their meeting on 20/10/11 unanimously accepted a proposal from Councillor Dónal Cunningham and resolved to oppose the use of hydraulic fracturing in any part of the explorations on Rathlin or in the Rathlin Basin.
We must continue to say NO to the possibility of fracking in the onshore Rathlin Basin.

Moyle must continue to promote “power sharing”

14 01 2012

Dónal Cunningham has urged parties and political groupings on Moyle District Council to enter into the true spirit of power sharing and to consider very carefully the choices made for their uptake of the positions of Council chair and vice chair.
“We are faced with the prospect that Moyle District Council once a model of power sharing and co-operation unnecessarily entering three years of single identity representation.”
“The positions of chair and vice chair are the most visible sign of local democratic leadership,equality and inclusion and I am convinced that the local community want to see partnership working. Partnership threatens no one and will provide the basis for a stronger, more proactive democratic leadership, one closer to all sections of the community.
“The Council needs to be seen to be working in partnership in order to take advantage of very limited economic opportunities and deliver the best possible outcomes for the community giving confidence to local businesses, the voluntary and community sector.”

O’Loan: Council flags fly in the face of equal treatment

12 01 2012

SDLP Councillor Declan O’Loan has strongly criticised the decision by Ballymena Borough Council to continue its practice of flying the Union flag on all days of the year and to place flags and a picture of the Queen in the Council Chamber and the Mayor’s Parlour.
He said “I very much regret that this majority decision was pushed through by the Unionist parties. In many meetings and private conversations the SDLP tried to persuade them that symbolism using only the Council crest would demonstrate to all residents that the Council regarded them all equally. In particular, the Council Chamber as the central decision space of the Council, should be entirely neutral in character. We suggested compromises which would have shown respect for the history of the Council but which would have marked a clear new beginning. Unfortunately these were rejected.”
“I am particularly concerned that the Council acted against legal advice. That legal advice said that that flying the Union flag externally on days other than those designated in the Flags Regulations carried a significant risk of legal challenge, and that the display of the Ulster flag is especially problematic and incurs a high risk of successful legal challenge. That is why I presented amendments which addressed these points. These were rejected. That matter may well now be tested in the Courts and Councillors who supported the Council decision may end up being surcharged.”
“I am also concerned also that legal advice told the Council that it is in stark breach of a obligation to agree an Equality Policy with the Arts Council following a £2 million grant for The Braid complex which contains the Council Chamber and the Mayor’s Parlour. I regret that this decision has been taken without the consent of the Arts Council. That could lead to the grant being clawed back.”
“This has been a wasted opportunity for a Council which has made great progress in recent years towards giving united civic leadership. Sadly on the traditional issue of flags, that progress has not continued.”

Without a hotel Ballycastle will lose out

7 01 2012

Following the excellent news that the 2012 Irish Open Golf is to be hosted in Portrush, SDLP Moyle Councillor Dónal Cunningham fears that lack of hotel provision in Ballycastle will see the town miss out on the knock on effects of what will be a world class event on our doorstep.
He said: “Our local town economy is likely to miss out on the significant potential tourism spend which this event will attract.
“I would restate my recommendation made last year that an all-party working group made up of the town councillors meet with the relevant government departments and the Tourist Board to discuss the hotel issue and possible solutions to it.
“Ballycastle has a lot to offer visitors with its wealth of history, the natural beauty in and around the town as well as its proximity to the Glens, Rathlin and the Causeway.
“As a seaside town, Ballycastle has excellent static caravan parks and bed and breakfast establishments but, lacks quality hotel accommodation.
“The local economy needs people to stay over in the town, to shop in our local shops, eat in our restaurants and to drink in our pubs and clubs. A boost in the town’s hotel provision would doubtless have a positive economic effect

The Irish Language must be respected

5 01 2012

Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has called on his fellow council members to exercise more sensitivity in their remarks regarding the issue of the Irish language and bi-lingual street signs.
Currently under the terms of the Local Government Miscellaneous Provisions (Northern Ireland) Order – Article 11 (1) (a) and (b), Councils may erect a nameplate showing the name of the street in English and any other language. Moyle’s “Street Naming and Numbering policy” requires a survey from which 66% of respondents must be in favour of the bi-lingual signs before any action is taken.
At recent council meetings when the Building Control report is being considered, councillors on all sides have made derogatory comments often relegating the debate to other non related sham sectarian issues.
“The Irish language must be respected and enjoyed in a positive way, acknowledging the strength and value of the diversity in our community”

Cunningham calls for road safety measures on the Magheramore Road

2 01 2012

SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has called on Roads Service to introduce new road safety measures including road strengthening and the erection of marked impact barriers on a stretch of the Magheramore Road known locally as the “Quarry bends”.

Speaking after visiting the site and speaking with concerned local residents, Cllr Cunningham said, “After inspecting the stretch of road, and hearing details of recent incidents when drivers have for one reason or another lost control of their vehicles, I am convinced that unless urgent action is taken there will be fatalities on this stretch of road”
The Magheramore Road (A44) is the main link road between Ballycastle and Armoy and serves as the main route from Ballycastle to Ballymena, Belfast and the Antrim Area Hospital.

“Residents are concerned that this stretch of the very busy road is dangerous especially at night time and in periods of inclement weather. Part of the road is supported by a retaining wall put in place and strengthened by a neighbouring farmer. There is also evidence of damage to the road, which locals fear could cause subsidence. ”

” I will be pressing Roads Service for urgent action.”