Sunday, 7 September 2014

Robinson and McGuinness congratulate Frampton on Titanic Showdown win

First Minister the Rt Hon Peter D Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA have congratulated Carl Frampton on his win in tonight’s Titanic Showdown making him the IBF World Super Bantamweight champion.

The event in which Carl Frampton challenged Spain’s Kiko Martinez for the IBF World Super Bantamweight Title, was the largest boxing match ever to be staged in Northern Ireland. With an audience of over 16,000 people, a number of local boxers including Marc McCullough, Eamonn O’Kane, Jamie Conlon and Conrad Cummings took to the ring prior to the Frampton – Martinez bout.

Congratulating Carl Frampton on his victory the Ministers said: “Carl has dedicated his life to becoming world champion and everyone will be delighted that he has fulfilled that tonight. This was not just a great night for boxing but also for Belfast as images of the contest were beamed around the globe as our local boxers continue to deliver on the world stage.

“Winning a World Title is an exceptional achievement and being victorious on home soil in Belfast’s historic Titanic Quarter makes it even more special both for Carl and his many supporters. Carl has made considerable sacrifices to reach this level combining raw talent with an immense work ethic and we wish him continued success.

“We are very proud of his achievements and congratulate his manager Barry McGuigan and trainer Shane McGuigan for their contribution to Carl’s sporting career.”

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said: “Tonight’s world championship fight not only showcased the boxing talent of Carl Frampton, it also showcased Titanic Belfast to an international audience in over 90 countries. The purpose built arena with the iconic Titanic Belfast as a backdrop was a fitting stage for this much anticipated contest.

“And while Carl is our newest World Champion after his tremendous performance in the ring tonight, we have proven once again that Northern Ireland is a world beater when it comes to hosting major events.”

Congratulating Carl on his win, Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: "Carl had an excellent fight tonight against Spaniard Kiko Martinez and he is now the IBF World Super Bantamweight champion.

“Carl is now a world champion and continues on the North’s proud tradition of boxers with his 19th win of his professional career.

“I also want to pay tribute to Carl’s family, manager and trainer who also have played their part in tonight’s win. We know that boxing, and sport of any kind, can help to improve our physical and mental wellbeing. Carl is a role model that so many young men and women can look up to and everyone is the north should be proud of his achievements."

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Robinson and McGuinness congratulate McIlroy on Open success

First Minister Rt Hon Peter D. Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA have congratulated Rory McIlroy on becoming the 2014 Open Golf Champion.

The Ministers said: "We congratulate Rory on becoming the 2014 Open Champion. He has delivered a golfing masterclass over the last four days at Royal Liverpool.

"Having won three Majors, Rory now joins golfing greats Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to win three majors by the age of 25. Rory is an exceptionally talented golfer and with his strong work ethic, he will undoubtedly go on to achieve many more great wins in his career.

"Rory is a fine ambassador for Northern Ireland. We are all very proud of his achievements and hopefully he can carry this rich vain of form into the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in September."

Foster: Rory Open victory major boost to NI tourism

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster has said Rory McIlroy's record breaking Open Championship victory is a major boost to golf tourism in Northern Ireland.

Arlene Foster said: “Rory McIlroy's impressive victory at the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool has once again put Northern Ireland firmly in the centre of the media spotlight for all the right reasons. It was wonderful to see him lift the famous Claret Jug and become the first golfer in nine years to win the Championship 'wire to wire', having led the field after every round. He has also become the first European golfer and only the third player in the modern era - after Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus - to win three of the four majors by the age of 25. 

"Rory is a tremendous ambassador for Northern Ireland and today’s historic result will present even more opportunities to tell the world what makes this place so special. He said this week that bringing The Open Championship back to Portrush was the best decision the R&A has ever made - and of course I agree with him. It will be the biggest sporting event ever held here and will showcase our golfing tourism product to a wider audience than ever before.

“With the mouthwatering prospect of the Irish Open in 2015 and 2017, and The Open Championship possibly as early as 2019, things have never looked better for golfing tourism in Northern Ireland. With that in mind, we will continue to work hard to promote Northern Ireland as a ‘must play’ destination for both the serious and casual golfer.”

Friday, 11 July 2014

O’Neill announces technical decisions on Pillar 1 CAP Reform

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill today announced a series of technical decisions on the implementation of CAP reform from 2015.

Minister O’Neill said: “Following on from my announcement last month on the remaining key policy decisions establishing the broad CAP support framework, I am today outlining my decisions on a number of detailed technical matters which will form part of the overall farm support regime from1 January 2015

“These decisions were guided by the principle of ensuring a smooth and measured transition to the new Pillar I support regime and avoiding unnecessary changes where existing approaches are working successfully."

The Minister concluded: “Today’s announcements effectively conclude the decision making process arising from the CAP Reform agreement and attention will now focus on preparing for implementation.”

List of technical decisions taken:

1. The threshold for exempting businesses from the compulsory test which applies to those on the negative list (i.e. businesses that operate airports, railway services, waterworks, real estate services or permanent sport and recreational grounds) will be set at €5,000. Businesses receiving direct payments at or below €5,000 in a given year will not be subject to this test in that year.

2. No agricultural land in the north of Ireland will be designated as being naturally maintained in a state suitable for grazing and cultivation and, hence, there is no need to define the minimum agricultural activity that must be carried out on such land.

3. Agricultural areas will need to meet certain characteristics which will mirror current eligibility rules in order to be deemed as being maintained in a state suitable for grazing or cultivation.

4. The current framework relating to the conduct of non-agricultural activities on agricultural land will remain unchanged.

5. Date on which land has to be at the farmer’s disposal in order to claim direct payments will remain 15 May.

6. The minimum field size of a field (eligible area) that can be used for claiming direct payments will remain at 0.1 ha.

7. The maximum tree density for land to be eligible for direct payments will be set at 50 trees per hectare.

8. The list of tree species that can be used for short rotation coppice to be eligible for direct support payments will remain unchanged (i.e. from within the Genera of Alder, Birch, Hazel, Ash, Lime, Sweet Chestnut, Sycamore, Willow and Poplar).

9. The maximum harvest cycle for short rotation coppice to be eligible for direct support payments will be set at five years.

10. The Private Contract Clause by Sale option will be implemented.

11. Private Contract Clause by Lease option will not be implemented.

12. The Windfall Profit Clause option will not be implemented.

13. The value of Basic Payment Scheme entitlements already held by new entrants or young farmers which are below the regional average will be increased to the regional average value in the year of application when making an allocation from the regional reserve.

14. There will be no extension to the coverage of the Farm Advisory System beyond the mandatory requirements set out in EU legislation.

15. Those businesses on the negative list (see 1 above) seeking to demonstrate that they are engaged in significant agricultural activity must show that receipts obtained from agricultural activities represent at least one third of total receipts obtained in the most recent fiscal year for which information is available.

16. Agricultural activity for those on the negative list (see 1 above) shall be considered to be the principal business or company object of a legal person if it is recorded as a principal business or company object in the official business register (or equivalent), with equivalent evidence being required in the case of a natural person.

17. For the purposes of crop diversification (under greening obligations), the crop must be present (or its stubble/residue present to enable the original crop to be identified) during the entire period of 1 June to 31 July each year.

18. For the purposes of crop diversification, different seed mixtures will not be recognised as constituting separate crops. If a farmer grows more than one seed mixture, the seed mixtures will collectively be regarded as one crop.

19.The list of tree species that can be used for short rotation coppice for Ecological Focus Area (EFA) purposes (under greening obligations) will be from the Genera Alder, Birch, Hazel, Ash, Lime, Sweet Chestnut, Sycamore, Willow and Poplar.

20. The use of mineral fertiliser on short rotation coppice used to meet an EFA requirement will not be permitted. The use of plant protection products will not be permitted beyond the end of the second growing season post planting.

21. The nitrogen fixing crops that can be used for EFA purposes will be peas, beans and sweet lupins.

22. These nitrogen fixing crops used for EFA purposes may be grown on any area of arable land (i.e. no additional restrictions will be imposed). However, they must be grown in compliance with the requirements of the Nitrates Action Plan, Cross Compliance Regulations and any other regulatory requirement if they are to count for EFA purposes.

23. In a farm business where two or more young farmers, taken together, constitute the head of holding, then all such young farmers must meet the educational qualification requirements in order for the business to be eligible for the Young Farmers’ Scheme. Young farmers in a business who individually or in combination with other young farmers are not head of holding will not be required to meet the educational qualification requirements in order for the business to be eligible for the Young Farmers’ Scheme (provided, of course, there is another young person(s) who is head of holding and who possesses the required qualification). 

24. All media queries should be directed to the DARD Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or email: DARD Press Office. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715 440and your call will be returned.

Friday, 27 June 2014

#AskDE Twitter Q&A 26 June 2014 - Transcript of questions and answers

Education Minister John O'Dowd took over the @niexecutive twitter for a live Q&A on Thursday 26 June 2014.

Minister O'Dowd answered 22 questions over the hour. The full transcript of the Q&A is available below.

Education Minister John O'Dowd up next to answer your questions over the following 60 minutes. Follow #AskDE to keep track

Question 1 from @SarahC201
When is the new education campus in Omagh been built and why knock down the houses over there they could be used #askDE

@SarahC201 Construction begins January 2015 for 5 years. Existing housing needs to be demolished to make way for new schools #AskDE

Question 2 from @BionicIguana

@niexecutive #AskDE Why do we continue to allow religious indoctrination in publicly funded schools?

@Bioniclguana Schools deliver core RE topics and add to them as per ethos. Parents can withdraw children from RE class if they wish #AskDE

Question 3 from @MartyGlynn

Will the minister be releasing a statement with regards to the Bus Campaign. @niexecutive #busanois #AskDE#ÓBhéalAnChapaill

@MartyGlynn I am actively investigating how to resolve this matter #AskDE

Question 4 from @ColaisteFeirste

A Aire, an mbeidh réiteach ar Fheachtas Bus an Tuaiscirt roimh thús na scoilbhliana i Meán Fómhair? #AskDE #BusAnois

@ColaisteFeirste Tá mé ag iarraidh teacht ar réiteach chomh luath agus is feidir #AskDE

[NB Q4 is Irish version of Q3, both questions regarding bus service to Coláiste Feirste]

Question 5 from @conormccaffrey8

How do you justify destroying hard working teachers pension plans/life by changing the game 3 days before due to retire #AskDE

@conormccaffrey8 This is not a pensions issue but a redundancy issue. No final decisions yet made #AskDE

Question 6 from @Drumahoe31

Why when the Management Committee of a Vol. Playgroup requests to transform to Statutory status, do you refuse their request?#AskDE

@Drumahoe31 I consider each case on its own merits. Full rationale for decision here #AskDE

Question 7 from @Drumahoe31

Why was Millennium IPS able to transform Playgroup places (27/514) to statutory provision which we are told is against DE policy? #AskDE

@Drumahoe31 Full rationale of Millennium IPS decision here

Question 8 from @jrainey36
Have you any plans to put coding in the KS2 and/or KS3 curriculum? If so, when? #askDE

@jrainey36 The curriculum is flexible and schools can teach coding if they so wish#AskDE

Question 9 from @treacy_maria
#AskDE Will DE investigate prevalence of children with brain injury & explore how other DE globally support Educators training&SEN delivery

@treacy_maria No plans to investigate prevalence but appropriate support is provided for pupils with brain injury #askDE

@treacy_maria SEN teachers get specialised training to support & cater for pupils with range of complex needs #AskDE

Question 10 from @FermanaghTrust
@niexecutive when will you make announcement on which shared campus applicants have been successful? #AskDE

@FermanaghTrust I am currently finalising arrangements to announce successful bids#AskDE

Question 11 from @RicePUP
@niexecutive why continue with the closure of Newtownbreda High School when it doesn't make any sense whatsoever to do so?#AskDE

@RicePUP This is a new beginning which will ensure that current & future pupils have access to high quality education #AskDE

Question 12 from @seatzie
@niexecutive #AskDE do you not think splitting kids education based on religion is bit 19th C? how does society progress if segregated at 5?

@seatzie Parents have right to give preference for type of education they want for their children; a range of sectors are available#AskDE

Question 13 from @JFulton
What role do you see integrated education having in an inclusive and shared future?#askde

@1JFulton Integrated education will play a positive role in a shared future #AskDE

Question 14 from @maddyb50
Will the recent judicial review ruling lead to revision of Area Based Planning policy so as to meet demand for integrated education?#AskDE

@maddyb50 I plan to review internal guidance to ensure it is consistent with the judgment #AskDE

Question 15 from @SaveCGS
#AskDE Have you any response to the 7000+ people who signed a petition against the closure of the Collegiate Grammar School?

@SaveCGS Consultation on Collegiate/Portora proposal open until 14 July. Final decision after all info, including petition, collated #AskDE

Question 16 from @SPADE_ekn
@niexecutive when will Devenish College get their long awaited new build? It's been a decade and not a brick has been laid #AskDE

@SPADE_ekn New build for Devenish announced Jan 2013 to proceed in planning. Project planning ongoing #AskDE

Question 17 from @SPADE_ekn
And is it fair that we are being told that the new build can only come about if there is an amalgamation between Portora & Collegiate#AskDE

@SPADE_ekn Two build schemes not connected; Devenish will proceed whether Portora/Collegiate merger proceeds or not#AskDE

Question 18 from @allisonbreadon
#AskDE will Newtownbreda high school stay on the same ground. Or will it be moved?

@allisonbreadon Options are being examined for site for new amalgamated school #AskDE

Question 19 from @j_cask
@niexecutive Has anyone taken any responsibility for the failure of ESA? Or will this waste be continued to be swept under the carpet #AskDE

@j_cask I am preparing a paper for @niexecutive on the way forward #AskDE

Question 20 from @EybenKarin
#AskDE what is the Department's policy with regards schools that have closed and transferring asset for community use?

@EybenKarin DE is piloting projects to examine ways of transferring assets to the community #AskDE

Question 21 from @J_Cotts
@niexecutive #AskDE Why did you never meet with Newtownbreda High School, staff, pupils & concerned parents in the early stages?

@J_Cotts Yesterday the judge dismissed the case against amalgamation #AskDE

Question 22 from @VGreens
What does minister plan to do to address underachievement amongst working class, male, and protestant demographics? #askDE

@LVGreens @niexecutive’s signature literacy & numeracy scheme plus changes to school funding both targeted at disadvantaged children #AskDE

That's it from me. I wish everyone a happy, safe and enjoyable summer #AskDE

Monday, 23 June 2014

Submit your question directly to the Education Minister via Twitter

Education Minister John O’Dowd will be live on Twitter at 2:30pm on Thursday 26 June answering your questions.

You can submit your question now via the hashtag #AskDE

The Minister will respond to as many education-related questions as time permits via the @niexecutive Twitter feed.

If you are not able to be online at 2:30pm on Thursday to see the responses live, don’t worry. All responses will remain on the @niexecutive timeline and under the hashtag #AskDE. A full transcript will also be published on this blog.

So if you have a question for the Minister, please do submit it via #AskDE and the Minister will do his best to respond.

Users should submit no more than two questions each. This will enable as many people as possible to have a chance to take part and have their query answered.

You can also submit your question in Irish. Any Irish tweets that the Minister is able to cover in the hour available will be answered in Irish. These tweets will be translated into English in the transcript that will be posted here after the Q&A has finished.

The Minister will respond to as many tweets as possible in the time available. If your particular tweet is not responded to, it may be the case that the topic is covered by a different response, so do please read them all.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

O'Dowd hails cross border co-operation at INTO Conference

Education Minister John O’Dowd has spoken about the cross border co-operation that will drive improvements for learners across Ireland.

Addressing delegates at the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation’s (INTO) annual conference in Kilkenny, the Minister outlined some of the areas where progress is already being made and welcomed the commitment of INTO to contributing to improvements in educational standards.

Mr O’Dowd said: “Raising educational standards has been a clear priority for me as Minister and I know that it is a priority that you all share.

“I welcome the work that is being taken forward by my Department and the Department of Education and Skills to examine new and innovative ways of doing this. I am encouraged that our Cross Border co-operation continues to develop and there are a number of areas on which we can already see the benefits of this collaborative engagement.

“Many of you will have heard of the Middletown Centre for Autism, which is an all-island body, which supports children with complex autism, their families and educational professionals. The training that they have delivered to over ten thousand professionals in venues across Ireland has been very positively received.

“Whilst both education departments provide a range of services that meet the needs of the majority of children with autism, there are some children with the most complex forms of autism for whom traditional methods have not been sufficient. I am therefore delighted that Middletown is currently expanding its direct support for children from the Centre’s multi-disciplinary team of specialists.

“I believe that Middletown Centre has been making great progress in helping these children. Indeed, this has been endorsed by a joint inspection report that described the quality of provision provided by Middletown as ‘outstanding’.

“The Inspectorate is another area where there has been positive cross-border engagement.

“I am pleased that successful and productive inspector exchanges are ongoing between the Education and Training Inspectorate in the north and the Inspectorate in the south. Without exception, all of the participants, over the years, have spoken positively about the experience and the benefits that the programme had provided to them individually and to their organisations.

Mr O’Dowd also welcomed the news that two Higher Education Insttiutions in the south, Trinity College and Dublin City University, are considering reviewing their entry requirements for northern students.

The Minister continued: “I have said before that the current system used by universities in the south to admit pupils from the north is inequitable.

“I would actively encourage both universities to implement a more equitable solution that will enable northern students to compete on a level playing field and I hope this will encourage other universities in the south to follow suit.

Students from across the island of Ireland should have equality of access to Higher Education as a right.”

Finally, the Minister spoke of the current process of area planning in the north and stressed that, in certain areas, cross border solutions would be required. Mr O’Dowd said: “I am committed, through area planning, to ensuring that schools are at the heart of the communities they serve and are easily accessible to all pupils.

“This is the first time that area planning has taken place on this scale and it is clear that it is complex and requires careful consideration, co-ordination and pragmatism.

“It will also in certain areas require a Cross Border solution.”

In conclusion, the Minister thanked INTO for the work the Union was undertaking to improve the conditions of the teaching workforce and to help raise educational outcomes for all pupils.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

NIEA investigating extensive slurry spill in Ballinderry River near Cookstown

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) is investigating a report of an extensive spillage of slurry into a tributary of the ‘Ballinderry River’. 

The incident was reported via the Water Pollution Hotline (0800 80 70 60) this morning and Water Quality Officers were immediately on site, near Cookstown, Co Tyrone. 

The environmental impact has been assessed as high.

It has been confirmed that a significant volume of agricultural slurry, estimated to be in excess of 400,000 gallons, has escaped from a farm in the area. Some of the slurry has reached the Ballinderry River and potentially up to six kilometers may have been affected. 

NIEA investigations are ongoing into the circumstances and environmental effects of the incident, including that samples have been collected with a view to necessary enforcement action once the investigation is complete. 

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: “I am concerned that such a large amount of slurry has polluted the local environment here. The important thing now is for the problem to be addressed quickly and professionally. I welcome the fact that NIEA staff have acted swiftly here and I will be keeping a close eye on developments.”

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) Inland Fisheries staff have been made aware of this incident.

The source of the spill has been identified but as an investigation is ongoing the Agency is not able to provide further detail of the location.

All media queries should be directed to the DOE Press Office on 028 9025 6058. Out of office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Statement from Justice Minister regarding "on the runs"

Justice Minister David Ford has commented on the NIO scheme put in place for “on the runs”.

David Ford said: “The first I became aware of this scheme and the associated letters issued was after the Downey court decision and shortly before it became public. It was never introduced to me either before, at the point of devolution or since devolution in April 2010.

“Comments made by the Secretary of State in the House of Commons that letters have been issued since the devolution of justice are deeply disturbing. I have demanded a meeting with the Secretary of State and will be meeting her later this evening to clarify who has signed these letters.

“What I do know is that none of these letters have issued from the Department of Justice. What we don’t know is what the implications may be for prosecutions and for our crucial efforts to find political consensus on how to deal with the past. 

“It is important that the victims of this, and all the other atrocities, are remembered and sensitivity observed.” 

For all media queries, please contact the DOJ Press Office on 028 9052 6444. For out of office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer via paper number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

O’Dowd hails success of local pupils at Science and Technology Event

Education Minister John O’Dowd has congratulated local students who have been successful in the final of the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in Dublin.

Kyle Clarke and Conan Mulraine, students from South East Regional College, Bangor Campus, lifted the award for best entry from the north of Ireland with their project ‘Renewable production of ethanol bio fuel’.

Pupils from St Mary’s College, Derry; Ballyclare High School; St Mary’s, Limavady; Wellington College, Belfast; Portora Royal School, Enniskillen; St Fanchea’s College, Fermanagh; St Mary’s Grammar, Magherafelt; and Abbey Christian Brothers Grammar School, Newry, also picked up awards on the night.

The overall BT Young Scientist trophy, designed by Jowita Rogalska, a student from the Southern Regional College in Lurgan, was picked up by Paul Clarke of St Paul’s College, Dublin.

Congratulating the prize winners, Mr O’Dowd said:  “All students who made it to the finals should be proud of their achievements.  For those who have made it this far, this week’s exhibition is the culmination of many months of hard work at home and in school.

“I was impressed with the standard of entries and enjoyed meeting and chatting with pupils from local schools.  The enthusiasm they showed in their work was evident and is an encouraging sign as we seek to attract more young people to study STEM subjects.

“The pupils who made it here today are being recognised for their hard work; however I would also like to pay tribute to the school staff who have supported them over recent months.  These individuals have spent time to help and encourage their pupils and to instil a passion for learning which will stand them in good stead as they continue their studies.

“As it reaches its milestone of 50 years, the BT Young Scientist Event goes from strength to strength, helping encourage and challenge the innovators of tomorrow.  This is an important event that I hope will continue to grow in the coming years.”