Sunday, 17 July 2011

Robinson and McGuinness congratulate Clarke

First Minister Rt Hon Peter D. Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA have congratulated Darren Clarke on becoming the 2011 Open Golf Champion.

Mr Robinson said: "Darren's win at Royal St George's today is one of golf's greatest achievements. There is simply no more deserving or popular a winner than Darren. I along with all the people of Northern Ireland would like to congratulate him on becoming the Open Champion.

"Scotland may be the spiritual home of golf but Northern Ireland is unquestionably home to the world's best golfers. I once again would say to the golfing world to come to Northern Ireland to see for themselves why we are the home of golf's champions."

Mr McGuinness said: "It is simply staggering to think that we have produced yet another major winner. Only a matter of a few weeks ago we were congratulating Rory McIlroy on winning the US Open and today we are able to congratulate Dungannon's Darren Clarke on becoming the Open Champion.

"I cannot think of anyone who deserved to win a major more than Darren has. Over the course of the past four days and throughout his career Darren has conducted himself with a grace and quiet determination that is nothing short of outstanding. He is a tremendous ambassador and role model and it is fitting that like Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington he has now achieved the glory of being 'a major winner."

Foster congratulates Darren Clarke

Tourism Minister Arlene Foster has congratulated golfer Darren Clarke on winning the Open Championship.

Arlene Foster said: "Darren Clarke's stunning victory at the Open Championship at Royal St George's has once again put Northern Ireland firmly in the centre of the media spotlight for all the right reasons.

"Throughout his career, Darren has been an excellent ambassador for Northern Ireland and his success at the 140th Open is a well-deserved reward for years of hard work and dedication to his sport.

"During interviews that were broadcast all over the world this week, Darren has talked about how playing at Royal Portrush has been the perfect preparation for links golf at the very top level - and he is right. 

"Our golf courses are among the best in the world and our three Major winners - Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, and now Darren Clarke, have proven that Northern Ireland is the top golfing destination.

"I am determined that we will continue to showcase our golf tourism offering all over the world, because we have so much to be proud of."

Ni Chuilin congratulates Clarke on Open win

Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said: "This is a truly deserved win for Darren who has shown great character over the last few days. I offer him many congratulations.

"This has been a tremendous 14 months for local golf with Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy both winning Major championships. After a truly brillant performance over the last four days in what at times were dreadful conditions  Darren Clarke held his nerve to win. Well done Darren. And with Padraig Harrington's name already on this claret jug in recent years, this is superb for local golf."

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Robinson and McGuinness condemn rioting

First Minister Rt Hon Peter D. Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP, MLA have today condemned the violence at a number of flashpoints last night and appealed for calm.

Mr Robinson said: "As a government we are working together to ensure that Northern Ireland prospers and grows in strength. It is saddening to see Ulster in the international news for all the wrong reasons. Those involved in last night's violence and rioting provide nothing to society. Those manipulating the violence will not win. The overwhelming majority are determined to move forward."

Mr McGuinness said: "I visited Ardoyne on Monday and met with local people, community and church leaders. They made it very clear to me that they did not want to see any violence in their community over the Twelfth parade. It is disappointing that a small number of people chose to ignore their demand and instead went about attacking the police and damaging the local community. There were also a number of other violent incidents in Derry, Ballymena and Armagh."

The Ministers confirmed that they will be meeting in Stormont Castle tomorrow to discuss the recent violence and added: "Those involved in rioting must realise that it only results in damaging their local community. We would appeal for calm and ask everyone to think of the consequences of their actions." 

Thursday, 7 July 2011

McCausland restates his concerns about maintenance contracts

Housing Minister Nelson McCausland has restated his serious concerns over Housing Executive maintenance contracts.

The Minister said; "My concern all along has been to ensure tenants, whose homes are included in these contracts, continue to receive the high standard of service they are entitled to, and that taxpayers money is well spent. 

"I continue to have concerns about how maintenance contracts have been managed. I raised these concerns at the Executive meeting, and they are shared by Executive colleagues. I am also concerned about how the Housing Executive has dealt with this whole issue.

"My Department has commenced the forensic investigation into contracts which I announced on 1 July. The outcome of these investigations will determine if further action needs to be taken to ensure best use is made of public money.

"My preference is for an open and transparent contracts process rather than reassign the Red Sky contracts to adjacent contractors. I have been advised that the Administrator cannot provide assurances that he can maintain the existing contract until a new procurement exercise is completed. 

"I have also noted the position of the Housing Executive, which has provided my Department with some information regarding the reassignment of the contracts from Red Sky. I am, however, awaiting further clarification from the Housing Executive on the TUPE arrangements regarding the Red Sky employees and have asked for confirmation that robust and appropriate contract monitoring arrangements will be put in place.

"Taking all this additional information into account, reassignment of the contracts due to expire on 14 July is not the ideal option, but the only practical approach under current circumstances. I have written in these terms to the Chairman of the Housing Executive."

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster responds to OFCOM report on broadband speeds

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has said the recent OFCOM report on broadband speeds does not fully reflect the services available in Northern Ireland, which currently has the best superfast provision in the UK.
 The Minister said: "Almost £50 million has been invested in the telecommunications infrastructure as part of the Next Generation Broadband Project, which involved the introduction of new technology to increase broadband speeds, primarily for businesses users, across all of Northern Ireland - including Fermanagh.
 "The OFCOM report notes that Northern Ireland has the best superfast broadband services in the UK but omits this from the broadband speeds in the report. I will be writing to OFCOM to express my disappointment that the Report makes this important omission.
"Over the past 18 months, the Next Generation Broadband Project has seen BT invest nearly £29.8million in Northern Ireland's telecommunications infrastructure, with a further £16.5million coming from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI), and the EU under the ERDF Competitiveness Programme of £10.5million was invested in rural areas and £6million in urban areas. Also £1.5million has been invested from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) under the EU ERADF Rural Development Programme. This has attracted a further investment from DARD and DETI totalling some £2million.
 "OFCOM notes that the report does not include superfast broadband users in their data on speeds nor does it include radio, mobile or satellite broadband services all of which my department has made investments in to ensure everyone can get a basic broadband service across Northern Ireland. OFCOM advise that consumers should check with their Internet Service Provider to see if their speeds can be improved.
Arlene Foster added: "Our telecoms infrastructure is a tremendous asset for Northern Ireland which, can increase productivity and improve the competitiveness of the economy as a whole. Superfast services are highly available and I would certainly encourage consumers to switch.
"More can always be done and earlier this week I announced a further £500,000 of funding to support broadband technology trials and provision of access to high speed commercial services in rural areas.
"While the average speed of 4.3 Mbps for Fermanagh quoted in the report exceeds the minimum speeds being sought by the UK government under the Broadband UK project, we are working with them to ensure higher broadband services are delivered as widely as possible. In fact, the average speeds quoted for all of Northern Ireland exceed the 2Mbps target. I have consistently lobbied the Department for Culture, Media and Sports and BDUK to ensure that Northern Ireland gets its fair share of funding under this initiative to ensure higher speed broadband services are services are delivered as widely as possible.
Arlene Foster went on to say she had lobbied OFCOM on a number of occasions about the quality and coverage of mobile services in County Fermanagh and other rural areas of Northern Ireland.
The Minister added: "My Department has recently responded to an OFCOM consultation on proposals for auction in 2012 of spectrum considered critical to the efficient delivery of mobile services. My stance on this is clear - OFCOM must address regional disparity in access to 3G services by setting coverage requirements which are specific to Northern Ireland."

Robinson and McGuinness welcome Rory McIlroy to Stormont Castle, 30 Jun 11