Earth Hour 2014

29 03 2014

Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham is backing the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) campaign and its starry- themed ‘wish for a better future’ ahead of the global lights out event due to take place on Saturday 29th March at 8:30pm.

Cllr Cunningham said: “Our natural world is precious to all life that inhabits it, but we need to do more to protect it.  WWF’s Earth Hour reminds us that there are simple things we can all do for the planet – not just for one hour, but every day. It’s a great opportunity to bring together millions of people from across the world with one united goal – to help protect our planet.”

Earth Hour sees millions of people around the world coming together to switch off their lights for one hour in a symbolic act of support to show they care about our planet. WWF already works to tackle a lot of environmental challenges – like deforestation, threats to endangered species, and the impacts of climate change – but Earth Hour is a chance for everyone to say they’ll do their bit.

Last year, Earth Hour brought together over 10 million people in 154 countries took part. Iconic landmarks such as Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Opera House all switched off and hundreds of local communities, schools and businesses took part.

Year after year, more people sign up and join the millions of people across the globe taking part in this celebration of our beautiful planet. By switching off your lights, you will be part of a movement of people that are pledging to live more sustainably and creating a brighter future.”

To find out more about WWF’s Earth Hour and register to take part visit<file:///C:\Users\sbrown\AppData\Local\users\krollings\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary%20Internet%20Files\Content.Outlook\HRSULW4C\\earthhour> and join millions of people who are signing up to the big switch off.

Assembly Question on Ballinlea exploratory bore well

22 03 2014


Proposed On-Shore Oil Well in Ballinlea

 Mr Agnew asked the Minister of the Environment what consideration has been given to the health of residents in the vicinity of the proposed on-shore oil well in Ballinlea (E/2013/0093/F); and whether he is aware of best practice regulations in other locations which require a buffer zone around the vicinity of such developments. AQW( 31531/11-15)

Mr Durkan:

To clarify, application E/2013/0093/F relates to temporary works for the drilling of an exploratory borehole to approx 2700m depth to investigate underground strata for hydrocarbon exploration under DETI licence PL3/10 issued to Rathlin Energy Ltd. The application is not for the commercial exploitation of oil. In relation to the health and safety of the local residents the Department consults with a range of statutory consultees when assessing the impact the proposed development will pose to the local area.

In relation to this application the Department has consulted with environmental agencies within NIEA such as Water Management Unit, Industrial Pollution and Radiochemical Inspectorate and Land and Resource Management who assess the potential impact the development will have to the local land, air  and water environment.

The local Councils Environmental Health Department (EHD) has been consulted and has the remit to assess and comment on noise and air quality impacts. The Health and Safety Executive (HSENI) has also been consulted to ensure that on-site operations are conducted in line with health and safety regulations.


The Department also intends to consult with the Public Health Agency upon receipt of information to be submitted in March from the applicant. In terms of best practice, DOE Planning Officials work closely with colleagues in NIEA and in other regulatory agencies to ensure that the development is comprehensively assessed and safeguards are in place to protect the safety and amenity of the public.



Former Green Party Chair to run for SDLP

30 01 2014

 Conor Quinn

The Social Democratic and Labour Party has selected a former Chair of the Green Party in Northern Ireland to run for the new Lisburn and Castlereagh Council in the Lisburn South electoral area.

Conor Quinn, Green Party Chair from June 2010 until October 2012, lives in Lisburn.

Mr Quinn said: “Moving to the SDLP has been a positive experience. When one examines the voting record of the SDLP in the Assembly there is much alignment with Green thinking, particularly on social justice issues.

“The strong performance of the SDLP ministers in the Department of the Environment was a decisive factor in encouraging me to join, as were my strong family connections to the party.

“I have also been deeply impressed with the strong cross-community approach taken by the current SDLP members of Lisburn CityCouncil.”

Councillor Pat Catney, SDLP Group Leader, said: “I was delighted when Conor joined the party in early 2013 and it is of no surprise that such a strong candidate has managed to convince the party organisation of his capabilities.

“Conor is very active in the community, particularly with his local church, and will be an excellent representative for the citizens of Lisburn.”


North’s renewable energy sector must be explored

8 11 2013

SDLP MLA Fearghal McKinney says the growth of the North’s indigenous renewable energy sector should be explored in a bid to deliver cheaper energy prices to homeowners and businesses.

 The SDLP spokesperson on energy made the call at the annual SDLP party conference in Armagh at the weekend when members backed a motion agreeing to adopt a wider vision on energy policy.

 Mr. McKinney, the SDLP spokesperson on energy, said the issue of fuel prices was uppermost in everyone’s mind, particularly in light of a recent PWC report highlighting housing and utility bills are squeezing incomes most of all and account for 26% of family budgets. Mr. Mc Kinney said the North must be established as an energy exporter, a vision the SDLP are calling on the Northern Ireland Assembly to share.

 “That solution is the growth of our indigenous renewable sector. The North is well placed to harness the potential of tidal and wind energy. However, if we are to embrace fully a renewable energy supply, we have to accept that in the short term this may be a costly vision. 

 “Significant upgrades to our current transmission and distribution infrastructure are needed. These necessary upgrades will be extremely costly in the short term but, if carried out, will lead to more affordable, clean and secure energy future.

 “The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment must work closely with the Department of the Environment and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to stimulate the development of renewable energy. All possible mechanisms must be deployed to create the right conditions for the growth of the renewable sector.”

The assemblyman reiterated the SDLP position it does not support frackingwithout the additional scientific investigations that must be carried out in order to justify further explorations.

 “We must approach this issue with a robust knowledge base – using the most up-to-date geological survey information. I believe fracking will not provide us the enhanced energy security or increased affordability.”


Levy cuts carrier bag numbers significantly – Durkan

22 08 2013

Mark H

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has today welcomed early indications of a significant reduction in the number of single use carrier bags dispensed in Northern Ireland.

Provisional Carrier Bag Levy figures for the first quarter indicate that 17.5million single use carrier bags were dispensed by retailers between 8 April and 30 June 2013.

Figures from several major supermarkets point towards a possible annual reduction of well in excess of 80% in those stores.

Due to factors such as seasonal variation, the Department of the Environment (DOE) is reluctant to use the data for a single quarter as a basis on which to predict the likely annual reduction for the entire retail sector. It intends to produce validated statistics, after the first full year of operation.

Although precise pre-levy bag use figures are not available, the Department estimates in the region of 300 million carrier bags were used in Northern Ireland last year.

Mark H Durkan said: “This is great news for the environment. Our streets and hedgerows, our fields and parks should no longer be places strewn with discarded bags. In many ways the public are ahead of government here, showing a great appetite for this legislation to be introduced. I commend people for their responsible attitude and willingness to come on board. They are making a personal contribution to addressing the threat of climate change and environmental damage. I very much urge them to keep up the momentum – keep reusing bags.”

Under the Single Use Carrier Bags Charge Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 retailers are required to charge at least 5p for each single use carrier bag supplied new to customers and pay the net proceeds of the levy to the DOE. The first online returns from retailers to the Department, for the months April, May & June 2013, were submitted in July.

The Minister added: “Retailers have played a big part in introducing the legislation as smoothly as possible. I congratulate them on that. I urge any business dispensing new single use bags, that hasn’t already done so, to register now at The process only takes a few minutes and will enable retailers to make the required returns to the Department.”

“No fracking for Fermanagh, no fracking for Northern Ireland, as things stand” – Durkan

13 08 2013

fracking- 14

 SDLP Environment Minister Mark H Durkan today stated that agreeing to fracking at present would be reckless and irresponsible.The Minister was responding to the David Cameron’s statement yesterday in favour of fracking.
Mark H Durkan highlighted that no decision should be taken until all facts and scientific evidence are established.He also re-assured the public in Northern Ireland that fracking could not take place in Northern Ireland without his say so.Mark H Durkan said: “At present there is no planning application for fracking in Northern Ireland. If and when any application comes in, it will be for me to decide, not David Cameron. I am not going to make any decision until all the facts and scientific evidence are established. To do otherwise would be reckless and irresponsible. Do we need to extract shale gas? Can it be done safely? Would it be done responsibly? These are the responsible questions. All facts are not in. The scientific evidence is far from being established. No fracking for Fermanagh, no fracking for Northern Ireland, as things stand.

“I am not though sitting on my hands here, simply waiting for a planning application to come in. I have asked my officials to get us to a position of best knowledge possible here. This means reviewing existing research, analysing new studies, studying case studies from other parts of the world and liaising with counterparts in other Environment Agencies in Britain and Ireland. Remember also, there is a big cross border issue here – shale gas beneath the surface will not follow the meanderings of a border above ground.

“So decisions based on fact, a process ensuring best possible knowledge is acquired, is my strategic way forward”.

Oxford University confirm the potential of Scottish tidal ener

11 07 2013

Islay Underwater-tidal-power-
RenewableUK today welcomed new research published by Oxford University, which highlights the huge potential of tidal power in the Pentland Firth. The report says that tidal turbines in the currents between the Scottish mainland and the Orkney Islands could generate up to 1.9 Gigawatts of energy, which represents almost half of Scotland’s entire electricity requirements.
The report is an extensive piece of research and calculates that the Pentland Firth is one of the best tidal energy sites in Europe. When other sites in Scottish waters are taken in to account, this points to the real possibility of marine energy playing a serious part in the energy future of both Scotland and the UK.
David Krohn, Wind and Tidal Energy Development Manager said: “Scotland’s potential for developing tidal power is amongst the highest in the world. While the Pentland Firth is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown, Scotland’s large coastline and archipelagos contain a number of significant sites. Kyle Rhea and Islay are currently under development and have received upfront capital support from the UK Government and the European commission respectively. The Crown Estate has granted leases for a further 14 sites across Scotland, including the extremely promising Cantick Head, Brough Ness and Lashy Sound sites. In addition, technological advancements made by the industry, such as floating platforms, allow us to extract more energy from tidal flows.
“The development of the world leading tidal energy industry in Scotland has been partly down to the consistent support it has received from the Scottish Government.This support has been based on the fact that a sizeable proportion of Scotland’s energy requirements can be sourced from the tides but also on the recognition that Scotland, and the UK more widely, can capitalise on the significant global opportunity by supplying skills, goods and services to tidal energy projects in other parts of the world”.

Attwood launches Rathlin Island European Marine Site Management Scheme

3 06 2013

Knocklayde from Rathlin

Rathlin Island and its seas support important nature conservation features including reefs, sea-caves and vegetated sea cliffs, as well as razorbills, common guillemots and harbour seals. These features are of such international importance that Rathlin is now part of a Europe-wide network of protected sites.

The Management Scheme, which was prepared by the Department of the Environment in close collaboration with the Rathlin Development and Community Association, will deliver enhanced protection of the seas around Rathlin by identifying how activities such as dropping mooring anchors on sensitive areas of the seabed could effect protected features and how these impacts could be minimised.

By protecting the island’s natural and important features including its wildlife, the Scheme will contribute to the sustainability of the local economy, as it is these features along with the Islanders themselves that make Rathlin such a vibrant location of both national and international importance. The environment and the people together are an intrinsic part of the island’s heritage.

The Minister said: “This scheme, which has been developed with and by the people from Rathlin, who will also play a pivotal role in its implementation, will protect the Island’s wonderful natural features, both on and offshore, and will also contribute to the sustainability of the local economy.”

He continued by saying that: “Tourism and fishing form an important part of the island’s economy and both depend on a healthy marine environment. I am confident that the Scheme will protect the island’s environment and enhance its economic well being.

“Rathlin and its waters are a great resource. The Marine scheme gives expression to that. Coming in the wake of the passage of the Northern Ireland Assembly Marine Bill only last week, it demonstrates the importance of our marine, it’s protection and positive development.”

Government can act to unlock renewable potential of Rathlin Island

17 05 2013

Knocklayde from Rathlin

Speaking after a Councillors meeting with the Rathlin Development and Community Association, Councillor Dónal Cunningham called for the Government Departments to recognize and work to alleviate the additional difficulties and high costs facing the development of a renewable energy project on Rathlin Island.

“Rathlin’s Community Renewable Energy Project proposes to install a 3 bladed 250kw wind turbine, will be the first community managed renewable energy project of its kind in the North. It will move the island further away from its reliance on fossil fuels and help develop Rathlin as a carbon neutral island generating electricity from renewable sources. Compared to similar sized projects on the mainland, the high costs of transport links to the island are likely to be a problem”

“This is an excellent project, which the Assembly needs to support. Not only does it present fantastic opportunities in terms of community empowerment it is a vitally important environmental project. It also offers the island community the opportunity to generate income and employment.”

“A recently published report by the Scottish Government indicates that by investing in clean energy projects on Scottish islands they could create thousands of jobs for the local communities. The report found that while there are many opportunities to exploit wind, wave and tidal resources across the islands, there are also cost obstacles to overcome. Taking that into account every effort must be made to allow the Rathlin Community to progress their project”

I congratulate the dynamism of the Rathlin Development and Community Association in particular the dedication to this project displayed by their Chairman Michael Cecil and wish them every success in this and other projects”

Global Wind Day

11 04 2013


On 15th June this year, thousands of people will celebrate Global Wind Day, the international celebration of wind power and its potential to change the world.

Global Wind Day takes place on 15th June and will include activities around the world, from open days at wind farms, to opportunities to support wind energy and its associated benefits. It also includes a call to donate to the work of Renewable World in East Africa.

In the run-up to the event, Global Wind Day is focussing on our wind-solar hybrid project in Tanzania, where renewable energy services are transforming the lives of vulnerable people in Songambele. You can donate in pounds or in euros to projects like these and fund our vital programme in East Africa.

We work with some of the developing world’s most remote communities – people who have no access to power – to provide renewable systems to improve; health, education, nutrition and opportunity, without adding to global climate change.

Access to energy enables communication and trade, supports the establishment of new income generating ventures and stimulates enterprise. Education is improved as children can study in the evenings, and schools can open later for adult education. Affordable energy improves health through the use of clean lighting and cooking sources, and because clean water can be pumped direct to households. Healthcare is more accessible because clinics can keep vaccines, HIV tests and snakebite anti-venom in fridges.