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Visit Parliament Buildings this summer and enjoy a Tour, Morning Coffee, Lunch or Afternoon Tea! http://nia1.me/2o9
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The Comber Greenway (Adjournment Debate)

You can read the full Official Report on our website http://nia1.me/2o7

#nigreenways   #Comber   #Belfast   #northernireland   #cycling  
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Question Time: Health, Social Services and Public Safety Tuesday 30 June 2015

Health Minister Simon Hamilton acknowledged the growing demands on GPs and their clinics in answer to David McNarry during today’s Question Time. As a result there was a £15m investment in GP services this year, including provisions to recruit more GPs. A significant amount of the investment was also intended for GPs to modernise and expand their practices. Through various organisations and the trade unions, Mr Hamilton is in constant dialogue with GPs in an effort to hear their concerns and assist them in their work.

Alex Easton then expressed his concern about the future of the Northfield House residential care home in Donaghadee and its residents in light of the current consultation of Northern Ireland’s care homes. The Minister assured the Member that no permanent residents will be forced to leave their home against their wishes as long as their needs can be met safely and that no decisions have yet been made on the future of any of the other homes being considered as part of the ongoing regional review of statutory care home provision. While it has been earmarked for closure, the South Eastern Trust's proposals for Northfield House are subject to public consultation, and no decision will be taken pending the outcome of the consultation process - all responses will be taken on board and considered carefully. The Minister also assured that the health trusts have redeployment and workforce planning measures in place to ensure that no staff will lose jobs in the event of any closures.

The Minister also addressed Members queries on the Paediatric Centre of Excellence at Daisy Hill, funding for community and voluntary organisations, the Western Trust’s ‘Meals on Wheels’ service, the potential closure of Bangor Community Hospital and the independent living fund.
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Question Time: Finance and Personnel Tuesday 30 June 2015

During today’s Question Time, Gordon Dunne asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel, Arlene Foster, for her assessment of the impact of the weekly £2m fine for a failure to implement welfare reform on Executive budgets. The Minister declared that the continued non-implementation of welfare reform is jeopardising financial arrangements made in the Stormont House agreement and if the situation continues there will be “a significant detrimental impact on the ability of Departments to deliver public services” adding that “now is the time either for the parties around the Chamber to live up to the Stormont House Agreement or for Westminster to step in and deal with the welfare issue. Doing nothing is simply not an option.” The cost of failing to implement welfare reform is estimated at £114m this year, £196m in 2016-17 and £283m in 2017-18. As the welfare situation changes in the rest of Great Britain, the gap between us and the rest of the United Kingdom could grow even further.

Megan Fearon also asked the Minister for her views on the recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) memorandum warning western Governments against ‘needless austerity’. Mrs Foster feels that it is the rate of repayment of public-sector debt that is in question and, in that regard, the United Kingdom has room to manoeuvre; arguing that rushing to repay the debt too quickly may be counter-productive. The Minister feels that individual regions need to be considered on their own circumstances declaring “I believe that, when you are dealing with debt and the deficit, you need to have concern and regard for all the regions of the United Kingdom. I have commented previously that you do not just look at London and the south-east; you have to have regard to all the other regions of the United Kingdom” adding that “different regions of the United Kingdom have different needs, and that is where we really need to push ahead with the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury”.

Mrs Foster also answered questions on expenditure control limits, the Barnett Formula, the voluntary exit scheme and tax credits. 
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Assembly Community Connect Annual Networking Event 2015

On Tuesday 2 June 2015, Assembly Community Connect (ACC) hosted its Annual Networking event in Parliament Buildings, the theme of which was ‘Staying motivated!’ 

We had a fantastic turnout at this event (approximately 70 people), and we’d like to thank everyone who took time out of their schedules to join us. 

Find out more...
On Tuesday 2 June 2015, Assembly Community Connect (ACC) hosted its Annual Networking event in Parliament Buildings, the theme of which was ‘Staying motivated!’  We had a fantastic turnout at this event (approxim...
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Question Time: Enterprise, Trade and Investment Monday 29 June 2015

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, Jonathan Bell, discussed his department’s strategy for ensuring rural areas receive a broadband service during today’s Question Time. A £23.6m contract was awarded to BT in February 2014 for the Northern Ireland Broadband Improvement Project (NIBIP) aimed at bringing more choice and higher broadband speeds to all areas of the country.  The target for completion is the end of 2015. Recognising that NIBIP will not be able to deliver superfast broadband speeds to all areas, BT were also awarded a £17.1m contract for the superfast rollout programme which should bring superfast broadband services to a further 38000 homes in Northern Ireland. This project will not be completed until 2017 and it is too early to tell which areas will benefit from the upgrades. The Minister assured Barry McElduff MLA that he is doing the utmost to improve the service in West Tyrone where customers are growing frustrated and businesses feel that they are working at a disadvantage. Those affected can use a postcode checker on the NI Direct website to find out when improvements are coming to their area.

The Minister also described his efforts to promote the Causeway coast and glens as a key tourist destination. £13.4m has been invested in the area in the last five years to boost visitor infrastructure and tourism potential. The Causeway coastal route has been the focus of several advertising campaigns on both sides of the border. As well as the traditional attractions such as the Giants Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, new products such as Gobbins cliff path and ‘Game of Thrones’ filming locations have helped boost visitor interest in the area. When sporting events such as the North West 200 and Giro d’Italia are included, the Causeway coast has become one of the key areas of tourism in Northern Ireland.

During Question Time Mr Bell also answered questions on jobs created by Invest NI, a proposed border development zone, employment in Newry and the new jobs created at Denroy Plastics in Bangor.
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Free guided tours of Parliament Buildings​ are available this summer operating on the hour between 10.00am and 3.00pm.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vv2IOVHO5QU
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Sporting success highlighted at Parliament Buildings

The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission, in association with the Ulster Sports Museum Association, launched an exhibition in Parliament Buildings, highlighting many of our fantastic local sporting achievements.

The exhibition, ‘Celebrating the Past - Inspiring the Future’, allows viewers to experience our rich and diverse sporting heritage, including football, Gaelic football, rugby, golf and a wide range of other sports.

Mitchell McLaughlin MLA, Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly said: “I strongly believe that Parliament Buildings should show respect towards those the Assembly represents by reflecting and promoting our wider society.  Our sportsmen and women have shown themselves to be fantastic ambassadors over the years and have provided countless examples of bringing our society together to cheer on their efforts.  It is therefore entirely fitting that we should able to provide a platform to celebrate local sporting talent and achievement.  I am particularly delighted that this exhibition will animate the Great Hall over the summer months when we have many more visitors taking advantage of our regular public tours, all of whom will have the added opportunity to reflect on our proud sporting tradition.”   

One of this country’s greatest ever sporting heroes spoke at the exhibition launch as President of the Ulster Sports Museum Association. Olympic champion, Dame Mary Peters has a lifetime of sporting experience and is well aware of the significant contribution our small community has made at world, European and national levels. Mary’s pride in the numerous achievements of her fellow sports men and women was obvious when she said “It’s my dream that we establish a permanent museum to celebrate the many outstanding successes of our people in a broad range of sports”.

Best, Dunlop, McIlroy and McCoy are just some of Ulster’s sporting icons but Mary Peters believes that a sports museum will stimulate greater participation and produce even more world beaters; “Celebrating the past will inspire the future, boosting physical well-being and collective self-esteem” she said, adding “Our sporting achievements unite us and put our country on the world map for all the right reasons”.

The exhibition is on display in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings until 7 August 2015.

The exhibition coincides with the launch of regular public tours of Parliament Buildings over the summer months which operate each week day, on the hour, between 10.00am-3.00pm.

#NorthernIreland   #Belfast   #Tours  
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Enjoy Sumptuous Summer Dining On The Hill

This summer for the first time in its history, Parliament Buildings will throw open the doors of the elegant Members’ Dining Room to the public.

From Monday 6 July – 28 August you can dine in the refined splendour of the Members’ Dining Room and savour morning coffee, a three course lunch or traditional afternoon tea while admiring the beautiful surroundings of the Stormont Estate.

Find out more: http://nia1.me/2ny
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Question Time: Environment Monday 29 June 2015

Environment Minister, Mark Durkan, discussed the Environment Committee’s report on wind energy and how he will take on board its recommendations during today’s Question Time. The Committee began an inquiry into wind energy in November 2013 and published its findings in a report in early 2015. The Minister welcomed the report saying that “it makes a valuable contribution to the debate surrounding wind energy development” adding that “I have sought to take account of the report's recommendations in finalising my strategic planning policy statement (SPPS), which I will publish as soon as possible following its consideration by the Executive.” Some of the recommendations will be taken forward through guidance notes that the Department is preparing on the processing of wind energy development. Other recommendations such as noise assessment methodology and the minimum separation distance of turbines from homes require further research and public consultation which will take place as part of the fundamental review of strategic planning policy for renewable energy. The Minister also assured that he will work with the relevant authorities to ensure that recommendations that fall outside the remit of the Department of the Environment (DoE) will be given due consideration.

The Minister then updated the House on the current state of funding for non-governmental organisations in 2015-16. The budget settlement for DoE has had serious implications for grant-aided programmes that support key environmental processes. Mr Durkan has sought to limit the impact of cuts primarily through the use of £1.5m in carrier bag levy receipts. In April 2015 the Minister launched a workshop to determine the best way to invest residual carrier bag levy funds. Following the workshop, attended by 22 environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs), the natural environment fund (NEF) opened for applications. The application period closed in May and by mid-June, 21 ENGOs were notified of their successful application for grant funding.  Mr Durkan acknowledged that current funding arrangements are not ideal given their ad hoc nature with no long-term guarantees of sustained funding but maintained “I was not particularly pleased with the hand that was dealt to me in the Budget. However, I think that I have played that hand as well as I could. While the stakes are high for all those groups, I took the gamble and got a big win for them”.

Mr Durkan also addressed Members queries on recycling, local development plans, disposal of tyres and the transfer of functions to local government.
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Question Time: Assembly Commission Tuesday 23 June 2015

On behalf of the Assembly Commission, Pat Ramsey described the actions that have been taken since the unauthorised flying of flags from the roof of Parliament Buildings on Wednesday 3 June 2015. In order to facilitate the renovation of the fourth floor and roof of the building, access to these areas has only been available to the contractors responsible for carrying out the work. Access and egress to the area has been maintained in the event of a fire evacuation procedure. To prevent further recurrence the flag-raising mechanisms on the flagpoles were temporarily decommissioned to prevent flags being raised, access to that area of the roof was restricted and CCTV cameras were installed in the vicinity of the flagpoles. Additionally the Assembly's operational procedures relating to workmen's security clearance and the issue of contractors' passes will also now be subject to review as part of the wide-ranging review of security arrangements in Parliament Buildings to be undertaken by the Commission. In terms of determining who was to blame for the incident Mr Ramsey advised that a police investigation is currently under way and the Commission is not in a position to comment until it has been completed.

Caitriona Ruane then answered a question to the Commission regarding the equality impact assessment on the review of the policy on the flying of the Union flag at Parliament Buildings. On 17 June 2015 the Alliance party proposed the Union flag be flown on designated days. The DUP and UUP supported it while SDLP and Sinn Fein voted against it, and the motion passed. Further information on the equality impact assessment and the outcome of the Commission’s meeting can be found here.

Members of the Commission also answered questions on the language strategy, the gender action plan, and the Assembly’s Education Service.
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Communications Office Northern Ireland Assembly Parliament Buildings Ballymiscaw Stormont Belfast BT4 3XX
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The Northern Ireland Assembly is the devolved legislature for Northern Ireland.
Introduction
The Northern Ireland Assembly is the devolved legislature for Northern Ireland. It is responsible for making laws on transferred matters in Northern Ireland and for scrutinising the work of Ministers and Government Departments. The Assembly sits at Parliament Buildings, Stormont Estate, in Belfast. Members (MLAs) meet to debate issues; question Ministers; and make laws for the benefit of people in Northern Ireland. Each MLA represents her or his constituency, and there are 6 MLAs for each constituency.