Sunday, 31 January 2016

Ní Chuilín: Sign Language classes vital to parents

Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has visited sign language classes at Jordanstown School.

The classes, which are funded by DCAL, are for parents of Deaf children. The courses offer the parents the opportunity to study British Sign Language (BSL) Levels 1 and 2.

The Minister said: “As 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents, I am delighted that my Department has been able to assist with providing these vital classes.

“It is widely accepted that the key years for language acquisition for all children is 0-2 years and early intervention to teach sign language in this time span is fundamental to improving educational prospects.

“After meeting with Emma Rogers, whose son is Deaf, I felt it was necessary to help these parents to be able to communicate with their children.”

Parents have previously raised concerns that, aside from costs of classes, Further Education Sign Language classes are not always appropriate as they preclude parents from attending due to the difficulties with childcare.

The Minister added: “The DCAL funding also helps to provide crèche facilities for all of the parents’ children to enable both parents, where applicable, to attend the classes. The crèche includes specialist one-to-one care where their Deaf child has other special needs.

“I hope all the parents completing these courses have enjoyed them and have no doubt that they will benefit immensely from them.”

Anne Magee, School Principal said: " I am delighted that Jordanstown has been able to host these DCAL funded Sign Language classes for parents. I should particularly like to thank the Minister for her personal interest and support. It is so important that parents are equipped to communicate with their deaf child from as early an age as possible. I am also proud that both qualified deaf tutors of the Level 1 and 2 classes are former pupils of this school. They are a source of inspiration to our current pupils."

Notes to Editors:

Media enquiries should be addressed to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Communications Office by telephoning 028 9051 5047 or email DCAL Communications
. For out of office queries please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715440 and you call will be returned.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Culture Minister announces funding for Museum of Free Derry

Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has announced funding of £500,000 for the Museum of Free Derry project.

The Minister made the announcement during a visit to the construction site, which is located at Glenfada Park in the city’s Bogside.

Construction work commenced during the summer of 2015 and the DCAL funding complements additional funding to the £2.4 m project which has been previously announced.

Making the announcement the Minister said: “The Museum of Free Derry is a unique project which will tell the story of the recent history of Derry. It is situated right at the heart of where the traumatic events of Bloody Sunday took place and will vividly portray the impact, trauma and division of ‘the troubles’ directly, through education and the exploration of the root causes of the conflict.

“As the first museum to deal directly with ‘the troubles,’ it will also play a significant role in the ongoing debate around how events of the conflict should be suitably remembered and recorded. I have no doubt that it will contribute immensely to the tourism and economy of the city and the wider north-west. I commend the Bloody Sunday Trust and the co-funders of the project for their support for what is an integral part of our shared future.”

The project is due for completion in June 2016.

While in the city the Minister also visited the site of the Daisyfield Playing fields which are being re-developed as part of a major investment led by Derry and Strabane District Council.

Speaking at the site the Minister said: “This is an exciting development which will transform this part of the city. I am keen to support this development and I have agreed that my Department should work with the Council on the refurbishment of the existing full size soccer pitch and to replace the existing three-quarter size grass pitch with a new three-quarter size 3G pitch.”

Notes to editors

The Museum of Free Derry Project is being financed through a cocktail of funders, the largest of which is the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Media enquiries to DCAL Communications on 028 9051 5046 or email DCAL Communications: Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 99 715440 and your call will be returned.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

In 2016 we can deliver the global potential of our food and drink industry – Foster and McGuinness

First Minister, Arlene Foster MLA and the deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA today said they are more determined than ever to support and grow the food and drink industry in 2016.

The Ministers attended an event in the Ulster Hall showcasing a range of local produce as the opener for the Year of Food and Drink 2016.

Formally recognising the array of awards and accolades achieved by the food and restaurant sectors in Northern Ireland, First Minister, Arlene Foster said: "The quality of our food is a major reason why people come to Northern Ireland. Food tourism already generates over £350million per year to the local economy, but I believe there is significant room for further growth.

“Tonight’s event gives us the opportunity to unashamedly restate that Northern Ireland’s food and drink heritage is not just unique, but among the finest tastes and flavours to be found anywhere in the world.

“As the next 12 months of food and drink experiences unfold, there will be no better time for locals, visitors and global markets alike to enjoy a true taste of Northern Ireland.

"The Year of Food and Drink 2016 is a very exciting initiative and hugely important for Northern Ireland. As we showcase, advertise and enjoy our finest and tastiest produce all through the year, I believe Northern Ireland will perform very well as the destination of choice for food and drink."

The deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness said: "Food and drink is an important element of our tourism proposition and global pitch. This £2.75million initiative will assist everyone involved in the food and drink industry to take our influence to another level. It is an important element of our ambition to build and develop a £1billion tourism industry by the end of the decade.

“We have a wealth of high quality, safe and wholesome foods available to the processing, food service and retail sectors. Our produce has world leading traceability and safety controls and is produced on farms with a strong track record in quality assurance systems and high animal health and welfare standards. This makes our produce very attractive to the global market.

“We must drive quality, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship which will increase employment capacity in the food and hospitality sectors. I urge everyone with a role to play to do everything they possibly can to support this initiative to develop, enhance and promote the food and drink product at home and abroad.”

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell added: “More and more people are choosing Northern Ireland as a business and tourism destination and we have continued to see the tourism sector grow, sustaining jobs and creating new business opportunities. Food is a major reason why people come here and tourists spend over £350million per year on food and drink alone. Northern Ireland is a foodies’ heaven and the Year of Food and Drink provides an excellent opportunity for both locals and visitors alike to experience and learn more about food and drink and perhaps try something new which reflects the different regions here.”

The Year of Food and Drink initiative, with a different theme for every month, is aimed at putting food and drink at the heart of the visitor experience.

The initiative is being led by Tourism Northern Ireland and involves a wide range of partners and key organisations in the food and drink industry.

Notes to editors:

1. Guests also heard from TV presenter and food critic Nigel Barden and BBC Good Food Show representative Laura Biggs. The BBC Good Food Show Northern Ireland will commence a three year run in Northern Ireland in October.

2. The BBC Good Food Show will take place 14-16 October at Belfast Waterfront. The show will bring its winning food and entertainment format to Northern Ireland, alongside the already established event that take place in Scotland, London, Harrogate and Birmingham.

3. The Year of Food and Drink initiative, with a different theme for every month, is aimed at putting food and drink at the heart of the Northern Ireland visitor experience.

4. For more information go to:

5. Media enquiries to OFMDFM press office on 028 9037 8119. Out of office hours, please contact the duty press office via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

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Sunday, 10 January 2016

O’Dowd congratulates winners at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition



10 January 2016


O’Dowd congratulates winners at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition


Education Minister John O’Dowd has congratulated local students who have won awards at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in Dublin.


St Patrick’s High School, Keady, County Armagh won the award  for ‘Best Northern Ireland School’ as well as  ‘BT Northern Ireland Best Project’. Their project, entitled ‘Power Down to Power Up’, was entered in the Social & Behavioural Sciences category at junior level and the group also received 2nd Place in the Social& Behavioural Junior Group for their entry. A second project entered by the school entitled ‘An investigation into how foam reduces spillages in liquids’ in the Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Sciences category at junior level was also highly commended.


St Catherine’s College in Armagh received the ‘BT-Best Project in Irish’ Award for their project ‘Eiseapláinéid a Fhiosrú’. They were also highly commended for the same project in the Chemical, Physical& Mathematical Sciences category at intermediate level. A second project from St Catherine’s College was also highly commended - ‘Irish dancing is a sport, not just a hobby’ in the Biological and Ecological category at junior level.


Other awards were presented to the following local schools:


  • St Killian’s College in Antrim picked up 3rd Place in the ‘Technology Junior Group’ for their project ‘Speed Alert Shamer’ and they were also highly commended for their project ‘Distance Diagnostics’ in the Technology category at junior level.
  • Rathmore Grammar School, Belfast   were highly commended for their project ‘Dry Your Eyes’ which was entered into the Biological & Ecological category at intermediate level.
  • Ballymena Academy  were highly commended for their project ‘Apollo 10D’ which was entered into the Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Sciences category at intermediate level.
  • South Eastern Regional College-Bangor Campus were highly commended for their project ‘Investigating the antibacterial effects of honey’ in the Biological & Ecological category at senior level.
  • St Mary’s College Derry were highly commended for two projects in the Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Sciences category for their projects ‘Investigating the effect of reheating pasta on the rate of digestion of its starch by amylase’ at intermediate level and ‘Investigating the effect of various dietary supplements on the activity of lipase in digesting fat’ at junior level.



Congratulating  all the prize winners, including the BT Young Scientist and Technologists of the Year, Maria Louise Fufezan and Diana Bura from Loreto Secondary School in Balbriggan, the Minister said: “I have been very impressed with the standard of entries and also by the enthusiasm and depth of knowledge shown by all students who have taken part in the Exhibition. You should be proud of what you’ve achieved.


“I congratulate the students from St Patricks High School Keady who won the award for the best northern project and best northern school.


“I also offer congratulations to all of the schools who won awards including St Catherine’s College, Armagh for the best project in Irish.”


The Minister added: “It is important to recognise not only the hard work of the pupils, but also the support and dedication shown by school staff in assisting students to bring their projects to the exhibition. Such support is a crucial element in the development of young people and I commend teachers, classroom assistants and other school staff in all the local schools that made it to the finals event in Dublin.


“Finally, my thanks go to BT for sponsoring and hosting the event once again. There is no doubt that the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition helps nurture a passion for STEM subjects in young people. In many cases they continue their studies and go on to choose a career path in STEM, an area with many opportunities and which is crucial to future economic prosperity.”


Notes to editors:


  1. The Department of Education’s ‘Education Works’ campaign encourages families to play, talk, read and count with their child and to ‘Get Involved Because Education Works’. Watch out for the ads on television, radio and outdoor locations. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit for more information.

    Watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel:
  2. See photos from the Department of Education in our collection at
  3. Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office Tel: 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours, contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 99 715 440, and your call will be returned.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Ministers meet on flood response

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill and Regional Development Michelle McIlveen today co-hosted a high-level meeting to discuss the ongoing response to the recent significant flooding.


The meeting, held at CAFRE's Loughry Campus in Cookstown, was also attended by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan.


Representatives from Rivers Agency, Transport NI, NIW and the local councils joined the Ministers to discuss and review the multi-agency response to help communities impacted by flooding in the last few weeks. The Ministers explored measures to enhance flood protection in the future and also considered strengthening the multi-agency approach.


Minister O'Neill said: "For the vast majority of people, the multi-agency response, involving Rivers Agency, Transport NI, NIW and the councils worked well. However, there remained some areas which were hit hard, where communities were isolated and homes and businesses damaged. While the weather will always be volatile, we are determined to do all in our power to ensure that disruption is kept to an absolute minimum.


"Today, we looked at where more could be done to reduce the risks of flooding in the future. As Rivers Minister, I intend to seek resources to use to improve our flood protections where necessary. Also, next week I will announce details of a new grant scheme to help people protect their homes from flooding.


“However, I believe the solutions are to be found through a co-ordinated approach both at Ministerial level and on the ground at agency level. I am sure this view was shared by everyone around the table."


Minister McIlveen said: "This was a positive and useful meeting which has reinforced the fact that agencies, including my own TransportNI, have been working round the clock and in severe weather conditions to try and help the public who have been affected by flooding. 


“My key priority is to identify any immediate remedial works that need to be carried out on roads which have been flooded to ensure they are opened as quickly as possible.  As well as carrying out emergency repairs, I will be seeking to identify longer-term measures to address any issues with the roads infrastructure.”


Minister Durkan said: “Over recent years we have seen much heartache for homeowners dealing with the aftermath of flooded homes. Flooding can no longer be termed as a one off or once in a hundred years. It is happening on a regular basis. It is important that government ministers and local councils work in a joined up way to tackle the problem and help those most severely affected to get back to normal. Working with and through councils, I have already ensured that practical and financial help is delivered to those most in need as early as possible. We have a £1000 grant available to assist homeowners in ensuring their homes are habitable as quickly as possible.


“Today’s meeting though provided the platform to share ideas and plan for the longer term. I welcome the fact that we agreed a positive course of action which will help in dealing with flooding.


“I would also urge people to keep an eye out for elderly and vulnerable neighbours and check they are safe in their homes when there is severe weather."


The Ministers heard updates from all the agencies on the efforts being made by agencies and councils to tackle the impact of the flooding.


They were told that water levels in Lough Neagh are controlled by means of flood gates at Toome, at the head of the Lower Bann river. All five gates at Toome have been fully opened to vent flows from 10th November 2015.‎ It will take a period of time for Lough Neagh levels to fall when weather conditions improve.

The public is asked to report any flooding incidents to the Flooding Incident Line on 0300 2000 100 which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A member of staff will then contact the appropriate agency on your behalf.


Notes to editors


1. Water levels for Lough Erne and Lough Neagh are published every working day and can be viewed at

2. Electricity Supply Board (ESB) is currently passing maximum flows from the Erne system at Cliff hydro electric station.

3. Water levels in Lough Neagh are controlled by means of flood gates at Toome, at the head of the Lower Bann river. All five gates at Toome have been fully opened to vent flows from 10th November 2015.

4. It will take a period of time for Lough Neagh levels to fall when weather conditions improve.

5. Residents and business owners who think they are at risk of flooding can view the Rivers Agency flood maps to access information, which will help them understand the possible impact. The flood maps can be viewed at:

6. 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 715 440 and your call will be returned.