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Lower Newtownards Road Adjournment Debate 01/04/2008

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Mr Deputy Speaker I want to thank the Business Committee for recognising the importance of this matter and allowing this debate to take place. And I want to express my gratitude to the staff and members of the East Belfast Partnership Board who have done so much to help raise the need for this project to be delivered and especially those who are the volunteer members of the Board. I will come to this aspect a little later.
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Political Tourism Speech 19/02/2008

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Assembly Speech 19th February 2008

Mr Speaker 

The Programme for Government rightly has confirmed  growing the economy is the top priority for the Executive and this has been accepted by the Assembly.

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Assembly Debate on Enler Project

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Assembly Speech January 2008

I would like to pay tribute to Mrs Iris Robinson MP MLA for raising this issue within this adjournment debate.

The importance of this project to the area cannot be overestimated.

The deprivation need in the area has been acknowledged and the area has been designated as an area of need.

I want to declare an interest in the matter as I am a director of Landmark East, a charity organisation and an arms length company of the East Belfast Partnership.

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Attacks on Orange Halls

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Assembly Speech - 11th September 2007

Mr Speaker/Deputy Speaker

I was greatly suprised to hear some of Mr O'Dowds comments this morning.  He said that he had learnt more about the Orange Order from a five-minute radio interview than he had at any other time in his life.  He must think that Members on this side of the House are naive.  That statement makes me wonder what sources he uses for his speeches.

The motion reflects an important issue for the Protestant community.  The Orange Order represents that community's cultural identity and embodies Christian principles such as charity and tolerance.  Sinn Fein puts about a myth that the Orange Order comprises bowler-hatted bigots who just want to march down the road.  However, over generations, the Orange order has played a significant role in society, and its members have made important contributions.  Such members include: Dr Thomas Barnardo; William Massey, a former Prime Minister of New Zealand; Harry Ferguson, the inventor of the tractor; and Earl Alexander of Tunis, a First World War general.  Those people represent the calibre of person who underpins the character and ethos of the Orange Order and maintains its principles.

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Economic Task Force for Fermanagh, Omagh, Strabane, Dungannon and Cookstown District Councils

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Assembly Speech - 10th September 2007

Mr Speaker/Deputy Speaker

It is the priority of all responsible elected reprsentatives to see economic prosperity and the financial and other benefits that flow from a successful econmy being enjoyed by their constituents.  I empathise with Mr Gallagher in this regard.  And it is to be welcomed that this subject of economic prosperity is on the agenda today.

While I identify with the problems and have sympathy and well understand the issues he raises and have the same level of concern as him, I differ in how to address the issues and I support the amendment.

 

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Persistent Offenders

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Council Speech

It is the expectation of the public that when those who are strongly perceived to be a threat to the public either by their track record or on the recommendation of the police that the judiciary will acknowledge that threat and place the person in custody.

There was a public outcry when local magistrate released onto the streets a young east Belfast man with 109 convictions, 92 of them for burglary, in opposition to the compelling recommendation of the police and against a common sense approach. Especially when the person is arrested by the police leaving premises, a senior citizens care home, that he had no business being in.

It can only be said that when persistent offenders are brought before ˍˍˍˍˍˍˍˍ they and their lawyers must think it is their lucky day.

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Underachievement in Education

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Speech to the NI Assembly 

Mr Speaker/ Deputy Speaker

I want to thank Ms McIlveen and Mr Ross for putting forward this important motion.

This is a subject that, given the excellent promise and capability of our education system and the skills of the teaching profession, we should not be debating today. We should not need to debate this issue.

Underachievement in education has a negative influence throughout the whole of Northern Ireland but the statistics show it has a major depressing and dismal impact within the inner city areas. And I see the evidence of this every day in my constituency office or as I travel around my constituency.

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Workplace 2010

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Speech to NI Assembly

Madam Speaker

The sub-committee met under the prevailing circumstances of much work having been done on this matter and indeed that the letting of the Workplace 2010 contract was at an advanced stage. This situation placed constraints on the sub-committee members and indeed it could be considered that the brief was a very narrow one. 

I met also to within the circumstances that there was much need for investment in the public sector buildings and the recognition that in the effective delivery of public sector services it was necessary to have modern and efficient offices.

The Government has taken advice and the result of that advice is that the PFI option has been chosen. The members of the sub-committee did express concerns that within this context the officials supporting the work of the sub-committee would only be allowed to do so in support of current Ministerial policies.

Post Office Closures

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Speech to NI Assembly

Madam Speaker

I am indebted to my colleagues for putting forward this motion.

I fully understand and accept their concerns about the dramatic impact the proposals of Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling will have on the network of Post Offices.

The proposals to close many of these much loved facilities raise a great deal of emotion. In making his announcement Alistair Darling said, that the loss making post office network cannot be left as it is and it needs to be “rescued” – anyone with any sense realised this rescue plan meant taking out of circulation about 2,500 offices across the UK. Northern Ireland will face the axing of many of its local post offices.

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Report on Economic Challenges Facing the NI Economy

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Speech to the NI Assembly

In giving this report general support there is the recognition that the Northern Ireland economy and the economic structure are not fit for purpose. There is a wealth gap between NI and GB that is constant over many years. NI has a Gross Value Added (GVA) per head of around 80% of the UK average. Scotland, our closest neighbours are about average.

There have been changes in the NI economy, but in the opposite direction to the creation of the high added value economy which is the declared aim of the job creation agencies under the remit of DETI. Job creation is via a large number of jobs being produced at the low end of the chain; very little added value. On this basis closing the wealth gap, between NI and GB, even leaving aside the RoI, is unlikely. Productivity is 82% of the UK average over the years 1998 –2004.

The conclusion is obvious. Northern Ireland needs a much increased, export led private sector, with increased higher added value, higher productivity. The NI economy needs to compete in the global market place meeting the challenges head on, but on a level playing field.

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