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Showing posts from October, 2014

I Love Larne

An inoffensive title, certainly not one intended to generate the kind of publicity a BBC Northern Ireland show on the town of Larne elicited this week. I only saw part of the production but it was enough for me to question its purpose. Having worked in Larne in the 1980's (sudden realisation of just how long ago that was) the almost Super 8 quality of the production reminded me of those home movies found in someones attic and televised with a Gloria Hunniford voice over. The Larne I know from my past experience and from my current role on Mid and East Antrim Council is a vibrant manufacturing town with a rural heartland and lots of ambition and potential, not the backward backwater presented by the programme. I look forward to the next Larne production selling the real town.

What does first look like?

There are occasions in life when someone states their objective is to be first. When my children came home from their exams and I asked them how they had done the answer “Ok I was the first one finished” didn’t always fill me with confidence. Rory McIlroy is well known for finishing first. In the course of a golf competition he will play around 270 shots and will win by 1 or 2. That’s a difference of less than 1% between being first and second. That 1% will at times be genius or just sheer talent. But, having the talent to make that 1 shot count doesn’t matter in the race to be first unless the other 99% is right. Rory started to get the 99% right many years ago, people will remember him as a young boy chipping golf balls into a washing machine on the Gerry Kelly show. That’s when Rory got his first 5% or 10% right. On occasions I hear the desire expressed to be first in local government but like Rory and golf being first in local government will depend on getting the basics right. W…

Time to start the recovery

The announcement of the closure of the JTI factory at Lisnafillan has come as a great shock to employees, the local community and wider Northern Ireland society. Despite the threats of EU Regulations which would severely impact on the particular production at the plant and the ongoing growth of cigarette smuggling no-one really believed that such a large multinational could be forced out, not only of Northern Ireland but bringing to an end cigarette production in the United Kingdom. Clearly the impact of these threats has been much greater than expected. For the employees there is the knowledge that the first redundancies will not take effect until May 2016. In that lies a significant challenge for Government at all levels, how do we provide the support for employees to take advantage of any new employment opportunity that may arise including retraining? How do we create the circumstances to attract new major employers to the region? How do we reduce the burdens on existing business…

The Sinn Fein Agenda

When Gerry Adams suggested recently that Sinn Fein would be happy to see the Assembly collapse and new elections called he clarified the Republican agenda and the shift in strategy which has occurred in the past few years. The outworking of the St Andrews agreement was in reality a political version of the cold war strategy of mutually assured destruction; both the DUP and Sinn Fein had it in their gift to undermine the structures of government but only to the detriment of both. With Paisley and McGuinness at the helm both sides gave the impression of wanting to make the structures work to the benefit of Northern Ireland, they did so well at creating this impression they became known as the “Chuckle Brothers”. The well-known consequences of this tag were the tremors created within the DUP which led eventually to the demise of Paisley as First Minister and leader of the party. Less well recognised or commented upon were the tremors within the Republican movement. A movement driven …

Ecos Centre

Ballymena Borough Councillors have received a verbal briefing that a further £300,000 is required to correct deficiencies in the roof of the Ecos Centre despite the building being only 14 years old. Significant additional investment to make the Ecos Centre suitable for economic use is already planned. Currently Mid and East Antrim District Council is undertaking due diligence exercises in relation to transferring functions such as car parks. These exercises are being undertaken to ensure that such services that are being transferred are at no additional cost to the ratepayer. I expect this process to move on to consider the wide range of properties and services provided by the existing councils to maximise the savings that can be delivered. There are many issues in relation to the Ecos centre which require close scrutiny including what return the ratepayer could expect from any further investment and whether such investment is justified. Serving over 135,000 citizens and with an expec…