Friday, 23 December 2016

Health Minister responds to GP-led care working group report

Health Minister Michelle O’Neill has today responded to the GP–Led Care Working Group report.

Michelle O’Neill said: “I have considered the report and recommendations of the working group set up to review GP-led care services here.  The report is clear - we need to take action now to address the challenges facing the service and I am pleased to accept its recommendations as signalling the direction of travel needed to ensure that everyone here continues to have access to high quality, sustainable GP-led services. 

“In ‘Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together’, I was clear that primary care is the bedrock of our health and social care (HSC) system.  As such, it must be central to the approach to reforming that system.  The recommendations made by the working group require action by my Department, the HSC, GPs and other health professionals and I will continue to work with all parties to make the working group’s recommendations a reality.”

The Minister said considerable progress has already been made against a number of the working group’s recommendations.   She said: “The working group recommended increasing the number of GP training places to 111 by 2019/20. I recently announced that we will reach that goal by 2018/19, a year ahead of the working group’s recommendation.

“I have also committed to increasing the amount of time undergraduate medical students spend in general practice, to encourage more young doctors to consider it as a career.  I have set out my plans to develop multidisciplinary teams working alongside GPs in primary care to help keep people well and out of hospital. 

“Investment in the Practice Based Pharmacist scheme is continuing, with over 50 pharmacists now employed by GP practices and a further 50 taking up post early next year.  By March next year, every GP practice will have a named district nurse, health visitor and social worker to contact regarding their patients." 

Concluding, the Minister said: “I also want to explore in more detail the way in which we provide GP services in the future and, as a first step, I plan to consult on the role of GP Federations in the New Year.”

Notes to editors:

1. In October 2015, the GP-led Care Working Group was established to consider how to address the pressures facing GP-led primary care services to ensure that they are able to meet the challenge of rising demand now and into the future. Its report was published on 23 March 2016.

2. The working group included representation from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), Royal College of General Practitioners, the Northern Ireland GPC, the Royal College of Nursing and Health and Social Care Trusts.

3. The key issues the group focused on were building a stable GP workforce, GP training, the structures and teams to support GPs, developing a sustainable out of hours service, innovation, infrastructure improvement, quality and integration of services, population health and wellbeing and improving patient experience.

4. The Minister’s 10 year vision statement Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together was published 25 October 2016.

5. For media enquiries please contact the Department of Health Press Office on 028 9052 0074, or email For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974 383 and your call will be returned. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt

Monday, 19 December 2016

Further document laid in Assembly Library

Earlier today (19 Dec) the Minister laid the attached document in the NI Assembly Library.

Notes to editors: 
  1. The document is available at
  2. The officials named in this press release and in the associated documentation are not available for comment.
  3. All media enquiries should be directed to the Department for the Economy Press Office on 028 9052 9604. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 2397 4383 and your call will be returned.

Sunday, 4 December 2016


First Minister the Rt. Hon. Arlene Foster and the deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness have expressed their condolences at the death of former News Letter editor Austin Hunter.
The First Minister Arlene Foster said: "It is with deep shock and sadness that I learned of the death of Austin Hunter.

"As a highly respected journalist for many years, Austin's professionalism and exemplary journalistic skills put him at the forefront of his profession.
"Austin was a man of deep integrity and objectivity who was respected by all who knew him or came in contact with him.
"My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Jean, son Simon, daughter Rachael and his wider family and friends at this sad time."

The deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness said: " I was very sad to hear about the death of Austin Hunter.

"Austin was a man with a wide range of communication and interpersonal skills and made a considerable contribution to the media and public relations industry here for over 40 years.
"This loss will be felt most by his family and many friends and I will remember them all in my thoughts and prayers at this time."
Foster and McGuinness express condolences at death of Austin Hunter

Monday, 28 November 2016

O’Neill and Sugden continue to champion the needs of all victims of domestic and sexual violence

Minister of Health Michelle O’Neill and Justice Minister Claire Sugden have co-chaired the Inter-Ministerial Group on Domestic and Sexual Violence which met today to re-affirm the Executive’s commitment to tackling domestic and sexual violence and abuse.


Health Minister Michelle O’Neill commented: “I welcome the convening of the Inter-Ministerial Group on Domestic and Sexual Violence and I am pleased to co-chair this Group with the Justice Minister.”


“We all know domestic and sexual violence and abuse can affect anyone in this society, and yet it still tends to be an unspoken, or even a taboo subject.  This violence and abuse not only impacts the victim but can also ripple out to the wider family circle and friends.


“A societal change is required and I know this will not be achieved by government working in isolation.  I encourage all stakeholders to partner with government in this task to ensure victims are supported and protected and perpetrators are held to account.” 


Minister Sugden commented: “I too very much welcome today’s Inter-Ministerial meeting and the opportunity it provides to engage with Executive colleagues as part of government’s ongoing efforts to address domestic and sexual violence in Northern Ireland.”


“The five strands of the ‘Stopping Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse’ Strategy provide a platform upon which the Executive will tackle the multi-faceted nature of these issues in a systematic and holistic way. 


“As Justice Minister, I want to ensure victims are empowered to report these crimes and ensure that they receive the support they need when they take that first brave step.  I also want to send out a clear and resounding message that these crimes are abhorrent and unacceptable and that is why I have committed to legislating for a new domestic abuse offence in Northern Ireland.”


The group was convened to coincide with the international ‘16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign’, which runs from 25 November to 10 December 2016.


The ’16 Days’ international campaign serves as a catalyst to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls encourage discussion about these important matters.  The more open these discussions are throughout society, the more likely it will be that victims are encouraged to disclose and seek the support and protection they deserve.  


The government funds a 24 hour domestic and sexual violence helpline with highly trained staff and volunteers who support victims to enable disclosure and signpost them to appropriate follow-on services.


The manager of the helpline delivered a presentation to the group focusing on the advice, information and support made available to victims and their families.


The Ministers commended the helpline staff and volunteers who provide victims and their families with immediate support and signposting to appropriate follow-on services.





Thursday, 17 November 2016



17 November 2016

Detailed below is an Executive Office briefing note on the Social Investment Fund (SIF).

1) The Social Investment Fund (SIF) is an innovative Government programme to tackle deprivation.  A total of £80m has been allocated to SIF projects across the province. These schemes are already making a positive difference.

2) They include 50 capital projects worth over £44million and 19 revenue projects worth £35million. The capital projects will make vital improvements to 115 premises across the local areas. The revenue projects focus primarily on employment/training support, early intervention services and educational support with others incorporating mental health services, social economy support, transport, fuel poverty and community capacity.

3)  Over £18.3million is being invested in projects to support people back into employment.  While none of the projects are completed yet, over 150 people have already secured full time jobs and credit their success directly to the SIF projects. 

One participant has spoken about how her children felt like they had a different mother since she has been on a placement.  Another person, now employed, was previously unemployed for 26 years, and said: ‘I would never have had the confidence to look for work, go for interviews or do up a CV without the support from the programme."
4)  The agreed model for delivery of SIF, implemented across all SIF zones, has been based around Steering Groups involving community/voluntary representatives and local political representatives. Opportunities were given to community/voluntary groups to apply for Steering Group membership, with the appointments made by OFMDFM (now the Executive Office).

5) The agreed model was decided upon after a public consultation process and details of how it would operate were fully disclosed and explained as SIF was taken forward.

6) The five main Assembly parties all took up places on SIF Steering Groups. The overriding political criticism of SIF has not been about the process but about the time taken to distribute funding.

7) The Steering Groups' role was to identify the most pressing needs in their areas and develop projects to help address them. OFMDFM then approved the projects. This model was adjudged to be better than a top-down approach where civil servants would have decided what was best for neighbourhoods.

8) As was explained all along, the lead partners for taking these projects forward were drawn from the Steering Groups. This helped ensure continued ownership of the projects by those who had originated them. The lead partners were chosen by a process of consensus within each steering group.

9) These lead partners receive some funding for their role in overseeing the individual projects. But the great majority of the funding for SIF projects is being passed to publicly procured delivery partners to actually deliver the projects.

10) Charter NI was one of the community/voluntary groups on the East Belfast steering group selected for specific lead partner roles – in Charter NI’s case for an employability initiative.

11) Reports that Charter NI has been given or is controlling £1.7 million of Social Investment Fund (SIF) money are creating a false impression.

The £1.7m allocation is for the employability initiative. Some £1.5 million of this funding is going directly to fund training, secure job placements and business start ups for hundreds of unemployed and underemployed people.  This is being delivered by GEMS NI. 

12) As Charter NI’s website explains, it has received grant-aid from a number of public bodies aside from TEO.  As part of the normal SIF process, TEO/OFMDFM carried out a check on the governance and financial management arrangements of Charter NI, to ensure its capability to manage public money.

This included a site visit, a review of the organisational structure including confirmation that a board is in place; there are appropriate management structures; a review of the financial and governance processes to ensure the necessary policies and procedures are in place and implemented to effectively manage and account for funding.  On site verification and governance checks will be ongoing throughout the duration of the project.

13) The employability scheme is in the process of being established by Gems NI. Calls from Opposition MLAs for the funding to be halted would halt this work, and jeopardise the planned support for unemployed people.

14) Demands to halt funding need to have a sound legal basis. Governments cannot withdraw funding simply on the basis of media allegations; or because politicians don’t like the outcome of disciplinary or personnel processes within organisations. It also appears to be being suggested that funding of the community sector or appointments linked to any public money should be subject to vetting processes based on police intelligence. Is this what Opposition parties are actually advocating?


Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Heathrow expansion is ‘good news’ for Northern Ireland - Hamilton

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA has welcomed the Government’s plans for a new runway at Heathrow.
Mr Hamilton said: “This is good news for Northern Ireland as Heathrow acts as a key route for access to London, mainland Europe and other important markets.  
Our connectivity to global business and inward tourism markets is dependent on the high frequency, economic and easy to use connections to international flights through a hub airport such as Heathrow.”
Notes to editors:
  1. For media enquiries contact DFE Press Office on 028 9052 9604. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.
  2. Follow us on Twitter @Economy_NI.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Executive will deliver for commerce and the North West

Greater collaboration, skills and innovation will ‎propel the economy to another level, deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness has said.

Speaking at a Derry Chamber of Commerce event, Martin McGuinness told guests he fully supports the work of the Chamber of Commerce and it is only right to celebrate the achievements of the business community in Derry and the North West.

He said the Executive is committed to strengthening the links between the public and private sector, between the Executive and our business community. 

The deputy First Minister said: "As an Executive we want to grow the economy and raise prosperity for all. 

"The tireless work of the Chamber and all the members are an important part of this programme of work. This Executive has demonstrated our commitment to the North West through our £7million support of the City of Derry Airport, the prioritisation of the £480million investment in the much needed A5 and A6 road schemes and also the ambitious project on the Old Waterside Station in Derry making it a new transport hub."

The deputy First Minister said the economy and availability of jobs would be a catalyst for change.

He said: "Our unemployment rate is now at its lowest level since 2008. We must not be complacent and although we have brought in more jobs than any time in our history, this Executive is committed to creating more and better jobs. As we move further into recovery, focus needs to shift to improving the productivity performance of the local economy by enhancing our skills, innovation and enterprise. 

"The availability of skills and the need to ensure a steady supply of labour into key growth sectors will be vital for the local economy which makes the development of the Magee Campus of Ulster University and continued engagement by the North West Regional College with business essential.

"I am determined to deliver and to move forward with the Chamber of Commerce and everyone who wants to make a positive contribution to create a strong economy and better future for all.”

Notes to editors:

Media enquiries to The Executive Office press office on 028 9037 8256. Out of office hours, please contact the duty press office via pager number 07623 974 383 and your call will be returned.

This is an automated distribution service - please do not reply to this email address.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Foster and Ó Muilleoir sample the best of Northern Ireland at the BBC Good Food Show

First Minister, the Rt. Hon. Arlene Foster and Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir have attended the BBC Good Food Show in Belfast. 

The show is taking place at the Belfast Waterfront from 14-16 October as part of a three-year deal which will see it return again in 2017 and 2018.  

Welcoming the event to Northern Ireland for the first time, First Minister, Arlene Foster said: “It is a great pleasure to welcome the BBC Good Food Show to Belfast for the first time during Belfast Restaurant Week and Northern Ireland’s 2016 Year of Food and Drink.

“Over 10,000 visitors will visit the Waterfront over the next three days giving us another tremendous opportunity to showcase everything that is good about Northern Ireland. Our Michelin starred restaurants, award winning food tours and Gold Star Great Taste Award winning products, all strengthen Northern Ireland's reputation for excellence in food production.

“Good quality food and dining are a vital part of any tourism experience and the staging of BBC Good Food Show here in Belfast gives local producers a tremendous platform to show off Northern Ireland’s unique food and drink heritage to potential new buyers and tourists alike.

“I look forward to welcoming the show back to Northern Ireland in 2017 and 2018 and I have no doubt it will go from strength to strength.”

Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir MLA said: “The newly extended Belfast Waterfront is the perfect location for the BBC Good Food Show. Today’s event is an excellent opportunity to showcase our award winning food and drink producers, placing the spotlight on talented local chefs and celebrated restaurants. For the past ten months we have been celebrating the different tastes and flavours from across the north and once again local companies have scooped awards at the Guild of Fine Foods Great Taste Awards and the Blas na hÉireann Irish Food Awards.”

Notes to editors:

1. Supported by Tourism NI, Invest NI and Food NI, the BBC Good Food Show is an integral part of the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink 2016.

2. The show will include demonstrations from celebrity chefs Paul Hollywood, John Torode and the Hairy Bikers coupled with tasting sessions with local chefs Paul Rankin, Danny Millar and Danni Barry. For further information please visit

3. Follow us on Twitter @niexecutive

Enniskillen BID to Boost Business

Communities Minister, Paul Givan MLA, has today welcomed news that businesses in Enniskillen have voted to establish a Business Improvement District (BID) in the town.


In an announcement made on Friday evening, businesses in Enniskillen have given the green light to the proposals and voted ‘YES’  to a BID that will give them a greater say in how their town is managed.


Welcoming the move, Minister Givan said: “Congratulations to all the businesses and stakeholders who have worked together with the local council to achieve this result which is very positive news.  By voting in favour of a BID, businesses will now help to deliver over £1.2m of additional investment, over the next five years, on projects led and managed by the business community within the Enniskillen BID area.  I congratulate everyone involved for their hard work in achieving this.”

Enniskillen BID is the last of six BID Pilots that have been receiving extensive capacity-building support and training through the NI BID Academy to vote yes to establishing a BID in their area.  The Academy, established and funded by the Department for Communities provided a structured training and support system for the BID Pilots to help them develop their proposals. 

Minister Givan added: “Through working with the Northern Ireland BIDs Academy, established and funded by my Department, Enniskillen BID and the other BID Pilots locations have received invaluable support from experienced practitioners who have overseen the establishment of successful BIDs in many other towns and cities in the UK.  I wish them all every success as they work to develop their areas.”



Notes to editors:


  1. Through participation in the Department for Communities Northern Ireland BIDs Academy, the Enniskillen BID has been working with local businesses and other organisations to develop ideas for moving forward. These ideas were presented in a BID proposal which was given the green light by BID participants in a ballot which closed on Thursday, 13th October.


  1. The pilot areas were: Ballymena, Belfast Cathedral Quarter, Belfast City Centre, Enniskillen, Newry, and Strabane.


  1. A BID is developed, managed and paid for by the non domestic sector by means of a compulsory BID levy which the businesses within the proposed BID area or sector must vote in favour of before the BID can be established.


  1. A BID is not a substitute for central or local government services but is a way additional funding can be raised. The businesses then decide how the additional funds are spent to strengthen their trading and market sector.


  1. Follow us on twitter @CommunitiesNI 


  1. For media enquires please contact the DfC Press Office on 028 9082 3909 or email For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.


Tuesday, 11 October 2016

We must support world-class sectors to become a globally competitive economy - Hamilton

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA has told the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce that a relentless focus on sectors of our economy that are already world class and those that could become world class is essential if Northern Ireland is to transform into a globally competitive economy.

Simon Hamilton drew a parallel with Team GB in the recent Rio Olympics and Paralympics where athletes and sports most likely to yield medal success were supported in terms of finance, training and technology.

Speaking at the Chamber event in Belfast the Minister said, "We are only at the beginning of the journey to become globally competitive.  It is a journey which won't be complete in a year.  It won't even be finished in five.  This is a decade long effort at least. 

“My Department is currently working hard at refreshing and renewing our Economic Strategy.  In essence it will be the road map that will, I hope, lead us to a time when Northern Ireland is once again punching above its weight on the international economic stage. It is my intention that the new Economic Strategy will be bold and ambitious and outline a vision of how our economy will look in 2030 and beyond. Having come through the downturn and made significant strides forward in re-balancing our economy, we now have the opportunity to push ahead and put in place a plan that will transform our economy for the better.

“It is a transformed economy that we must set our sights upon.  An economy where more of our companies have an international outlook and exporting goods, products and services outside of our region.  An economy where an increasing number of businesses realise their high growth potential and scale up from small to medium sized companies, employing more people in the process.  An economy where entrepreneurship and enterprise is endemic and reflected in a growing status as a start-up nation.  An economy where innovation is embedded in the DNA of every company.  An economy where government is business's biggest supporter, putting in place financial, infrastructural and policy support to ensure our economy thrives.  An economy where we build industries on the back of where we are genuinely world class in academic research.  An economy where our people possess the skills they need to improve their lives.  And – above all – an economy that works for everyone.”

The Minister concluded: "Being a globally competitive economy won't mean that Northern Ireland will become one of the biggest economies in the world.  But what it does mean is that we will have a well earned, totally justified, evidence based reputation as one of the world's most dynamic, innovative and high performing small advanced economies.

“I am immensely proud of the world beating performance of so many of our local businesses.  The fact that one in three London red buses are made by Wrightbus in Ballymena.  That one in ten of the cholesterol tests used in the world are made by Randox and that Moy Park produces 25% of Western Europe's chicken.  It is this sort of success I want us to build on in our new Economic Strategy.

“Only by concentrating our efforts on those sectors and sub sectors of the economy where we can truly shine on the international stage will we be able to breakthrough.  We need to ask ourselves what are we already world class at and what could we become world class at?  What are the areas of the economy where we have excellent research capability, large innovative companies, a superb SME supply chain and the requisite skills base?  Then we need to ruthlessly and relentlessly support those sectors towards even greater success.

“In many ways, what we need for our economy is to emulate the ethos of Team GB in the Olympics and Paralympics.  Team GB identified the sports and the athletes who were most likely to produce medal success.  They then invested heavily in the people, their training and the technology they used. 

 An economy our size can't succeed in every sector.  But we can be world class where we are already strong and where we are showing promise.  Like Team GB, we shouldn't be afraid to support those sectors that can make our economy globally competitive.

“This is not an easy task by any means.  There will be doubters.  And there will be challenges along the way.  But I am convinced that using all of our talents and supporting the sectors most likely to succeed, Northern Ireland can transform over time into a genuinely globally competitive economy.”

Notes to editors:

  1. For media enquiries contact DFE Press Office on 028 9052 9604. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.
  2. Follow us on Twitter @Economy_NI


Economy Minister comments on Fujitsu restructuring.

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA has commented on the restructuring of  the Fujitsu business throughout Europe including its operations in Belfast and Londonderry.

He said:  “This is a worrying time for staff at Fujitsu in Belfast and Londonderry. 

I have spoken to Fujitsu management today and intend to engage with senior decision makers in Japan in the days and weeks ahead to emphasise to them the highly skilled workforce that exists in Northern Ireland as well as the competitive costs and strong Government support that makes our region a good place for their company to continue to invest in."

Notes to editors:

  1. For media enquiries contact DFE Press Office on 028 9052 9604. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.
  2. Follow us on Twitter @Economy_NI


Saturday, 8 October 2016

Foster and McGuinness on side for official opening of redeveloped Windsor Park

First Minister, the Rt Hon Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness tonight attended the opening of the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park.

The Ministers were guests at an Irish Football Association (IFA) official opening and watched home team Northern Ireland take on San Marino in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match.

The IFA received £28.75 million from the Executive towards the stadium redevelopment which now has a seating capacity of 18,500.

Speaking ahead of the match First Minister, Arlene Foster said:  “It is a privilege to be here this evening to mark the official opening of our National Stadium at Windsor Park.

“The transformation has been remarkable and Northern Ireland, along with first class fans, now has a truly first class venue as its home of football.

“The Northern Ireland Executive’s contribution of £28.75 million has helped deliver this magnificent outcome and I congratulate everyone involved in the development of our new National Stadium.

“There is no doubt that this Summer’s Euro 2016 finals were transformative for Northern Ireland football and this wonderful new facility is reflective of our pride and ambition to take Northern Ireland to the next level.

“I have no doubt this magnificent new stadium will see many great sporting occasions in the years to come.”

The deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness said: “In France this summer Michael O’Neill and his team proved they were a class act both on and off the pitch and I’m delighted they now have a world class stadium to match.

“The Executive’s investment of nearly £30million will reap massive social, economic and cultural benefits. Tonight’s opening completes the second part of a three stadia Programme for Government commitment and I look forward to Casement Park coming to fruition during this Assembly term.

“Sport has the ability to break down barriers on and off the pitch and the IFA deserves great credit for its tireless efforts to rid sport of sectarianism, racism and homophobia.  Their work goes beyond the gates of Windsor Park and ripples out into wider society building friendships and the community. The financial support we have provided towards this stadium is an investment in a more inclusive, shared society.”

Also attending the official opening Sports Minister Paul Givan said: “This new state of the art Stadium marks a new and exciting beginning not only for the Northern Ireland Football team but for the whole community. This is a very special and proud day for all those who have worked tirelessly to turn the vision of a National Stadium into a reality.”