Archives For Ballymena
Ian Paisley MP has this week welcomed the news that a significant number of local projects have benefited from the Big Lottery Funds’ ‘Awards for All’ programme.
There were in fact eight different groups across Ballymena, Ballymoney and Ballybogey who were successful in their applications to the scheme.
In Ballymena the North Ballymena Community Cluster received £6527. The Community Cluster represents and supports a number of voluntary and community groups in the north Ballymena area. They are using the grant to run a series of activities that will bring older people together such as lunches, gardening, arts, crafts and away trips.
The Ballymena Substance Users Support Group were awarded £8511. The group supports people affected by drug and alcohol misuse in the town. The grant is being used for training that will increase the support they can provide to the group’s members, equipment and activities such as cookery classes.
Mr Paisley commented “Substance abuse is something that we do everything we can to eliminate from the area and we have a responsibility to protect users and help them to overcome their addictions. The Support Group are an exceptionally worthy recipient of Big Lottery funding.”
The Ballymena Inter-Ethnic Forum were also awarded over £8000 to help them with the services they offer to the ethnic minorities in Ballymena. The project will provide bi-lingual interpreters to signpost members to support and information services, as well as supporting the group’s users to integrate into the local community.
Rasharkin Community Association received £3596 to help them provide a range of social activities for local residents. They are using the grant for a programme of events, which will include hip hop dancing, floral art and table tennis, which will be promoted at an open evening to mark the community centre’s re-opening.
Ballymena Academy also received £8000 to go towards purchasing new outdoor gym equipment that will be accessible to pupils, parents and the wider community.
Two grants were also awarded to Ballymoney organisations and one in Ballybogey.
Fuse FM is a community radio station in Ballymoney who were awarded £10,000. The grant is to be used to bring local people together through two fun days, one in winter and one in summer as well as a Scottish ceilidh.
The town’s Bowling Club also received £10000 to go towards improvements to the club building to allow wider community use, while the Ballybogey over 50’s Club received £9318 to provide classes and social outings for older people in the community. The grant will specifically cater for trips, craft and community classes as well as a monthly luncheon club.
Ian Paisley added “I cannot stress enough how important a role the Big Lottery Fund play in allowing these wonderful programs to function. The services that these grants afford the people of North Antrim are truly priceless and once again my gratitude goes out to both the lottery and the group co-ordinators who display such invaluable dedication to their local communities through these various initiatives.”
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley was this week awarded the Northern Ireland MP of the Year Award at the Political and Public Life Awards held in Westminster on Thursday evening.
The ceremony, sponsored by Asian Voice was hosted by Keith Vaz MP in Westminster. MPs were nominated by readers of Asian Voice, the largest readership of all the ethnic minority papers across the United Kingdom. The award was presented to the MP by the Leader of the House of Commons the Rt Hon. William Hague MP.
The Political and Public Life Awards, now in their ninth year, are to recognise outstanding contributions by both politicians at all levels of governance as well as those who have excelled in their careers in the public eye.
Previous winners have included the Prime Minister David Cameron MP as Politician of the Year, X-Factor winner Sam Bailey as Breakthrough Woman of the Year as well as Civil Rights Leader Reverend Jesse Jackson and News Anchor Moira Stuart who were both awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Rupanjana Dutta of The Asian Voice explained “The Political and Public Life Awards represent our modest effort to honour a number of outstanding individuals from different communities, walks of life and diverse political persuasions who serve society in their own special way, and who contribute significantly, in whatever they do, towards making a better world today and for the future. These awards are given annually to individuals who have made a special impact in the preceding 12 months, ranging from international politicians to individuals who have made a big difference in their local communities. It is the ninth year the awards have been presented and as in previous years, the competition for awards was extremely strong.
Speaking after receiving his award the MP commented “I’m extremely humbled to receive such an award, especially as it was voted on by members of the public. Having seen the names of previous winners I was very surprised when my name was announced. As MPs our biggest responsibility is to ensure that all sections of our community are represented regardless of background. Having dealt with over 25,000 constituents in my Advice Centre in the past term I would hope that the people of North Antrim would say that I have succeeded in doing just that.”
Keith Vaz MP who hosted the 250 guests at the ceremony in the Members’ Dining Room of the House of Commons commented “I am delighted that Ian has won tonight’s coveted award of Northern Ireland MP of the Year.
This annual ceremony, held in the House of Commons, celebrates the very best in political and public life, and Ian has made an incredible contribution over the last year. He is a much deserved winner after so much hard work, and I am proud that we had the opportunity to recognise his achievements.”
Mr Paisley added “We as Northern Ireland MPs face very unique challenges that the rest of the House wouldn’t be familiar with given our recent past. To be recognised in this capacity is something I cherish greatly.”
Braid Amateur Boxing Club welcomed a knockout visitor – former world champion Barry McGuigan – to its Ballymena clubrooms last week.
The former world featherweight champion-turned-promoter created a real buzz when he visited the club’s Ballykeel base.
“Braid ABC was set to host a visit last year to mark the club’s 10th anniversary, that visit had to be postponed and we had felt that the visit would not take place,” explained Braid head coach John McLeister.
“Barry, true to his word, contacted the club through Ian Paisley, who has always been an advocate of the club, and within a few days, Barry made the journey to Ballymena.”
Barry spent time with the coaches and the boxers and watched as club Boxers Corey Bradshaw, Anthony O’Rawe and Chris Richmond sparred boxers from the Canal Boxing Academy in Lisburn.
McGuigan, who now trains and promotes world bantamweight champion Carl Frampton, was on hand to give the boys tips and advice during the workout and spoke highly of the talent on display.
Mr Paisley commented “It was such a pleasure to welcome Barry to Ballymena. We discussed several months ago about finding a time for Barry to come up to the Braid and its great that we’ve managed to make it happen. This was a special night for the club, the boxers, myself and I trust Barry. He stayed for a lot longer than he had to and it we are very appreciative that he did so.”
Former Ulster bantamweight Senior Champion Anthony O’Rawe was one of the boxers Barry spent time with and clearly saw the potential that he has.
Corey Bradshaw a 16 year old champion welterweight boxer also had Barry in his corner and Barry described Corey as “something special” which will give the local boxers a great lift.
“Barry spent more time with the boys than any of us anticipated, it wasn’t long before he had the coaching pads on and was drilling instruction to Anthony on the pads, whilst watching Corey and Chris sparring,” said Mr McLeister.
A presentation was made on behalf of the club by its youngest member, Jamie Beverland from Cullybackey. Barry was in no hurry away and openly discussed Carl’s training and sparring programme and informally shared memories of his early career and encouraged the boys to stick at it and train hard.
“It was great to be in his company and I know the lads were very inspired by the visit,” said John.
“Ian Paisley, who co-ordinated the visit on behalf of the club and who has always been a fervent supporter, spoke highly of the club which is always good to hear.
“Ian took time out of his busy schedule and used his political influence in a practical way, ensuring that the boxers had a special night to remember.”
“The club is only too grateful to both Ian and Barry for spending time in our Club and with the team,” added John.
I have been officially notified this morning that the Tesco store on Church Street in Ballymena and two other stores in Belfast are to close on 15 March. This will effect 16 employees.
I understand these closures are part of 43 closures being announced across the entire UK as a result of profit share loss in the companies annual returns.
Ballymena’s large flagship store at Ballykeel is “fine” according to Tesco whom I spoke with this morning. The closure of the express store is a blow to city trade in Ballymena town centre that is finding it increasingly difficult to attract new businesses and keep the town centre thriving. I am calling on civic and business leaders to meet with me and discuss ways to improve the offering that Ballymena can boast. Obviously anything that potentially damages the town centre must be avoided and anything that promotes it must be encouraged.
I understand that the 16 employees in Ballymena will be offered the opportunity to re-deploy across the company.
The North Antrim MP has dismissed government announcement to introduce plan packaging on cigarettes as “a con on public health.”
He said, “This standardised packaging measure has been announced in the guise of being a health measure yet there is not a shred of evidence that a single life will be saved by the measure. This is the UK over-regulating an already heavily regulated industry and makes a mockery of evidence based regulations and taxation policy.
“Furthermore it is a dream come true for the counterfeiters who will now be able to concentrate on making one rip-off package instead of a host of designs that were previously copied.
“I’m all for regulating this industry given the dangers associated with smoking. That is not in question nor is my commitment to public health. But let’s not con people into the false belief that this is a health measure when there is no evidence to say that plain packs will save lives, that is just ridiculous. However the government has set its mind to doing this and it is regrettable.
“I have warned the impact these measures will have on the industry and just this week we have seen that over-regulation from Europe and the UK seal the fate of JTI in Ballymena with the loss of 1000 manufacturing jobs, all on the pretence that these regulations will stop people smoking.
“They have certainly stopped British manufacturing jobs but the same products will now be made outside the UK and continue to be sold here. I think most can see through the nonsense of such a policy.
“I fear two further things as a result; that the timeframe to close JTI instead of being stretched to mid 2017 could in fact now contract to 2016 thus creating more pressure on the local economy and secondly that the regulation brigade will now turn their attention to sweets, confectionary, drinks and foods, to try over-regulate and control these products also. “
On Thursday I attended on behalf of parliament the official memorial and wreath laying ceremony for the first Member of Parliament to die in the Great War on 6 November 1914. It was a very poignant ceremony and was attended by members of the O’Neill family. It took place at the Great War memorial window in Westminster Hall. Mr Speaker preceded and Lord Eames conducted the religious ceremony.
Wreaths were laid on behalf of parliament and the family.
22 MPs lost their lives during the Great War of 1914-18. I was aware that the MP for what was then Mid Antrim (now North and East) was one of those members, as his family plaque and coat of arms is immediately under the gallery as you enter parliament. He was in fact the first member to give up his life in the war.
Arthur O’Neill was born on 19th September 1876 and was the son of Baron Edward O’Neill. His political career at Westminster began in 1910 when he succeeded is uncle Robert Torrens O’Neill as the Member of Parliament for Mid Antrim, a post that he held up until his death. His son was Terence O’Neill. He of course went on the be Northern Ireland’s Prime Minister in the Stormont parliament and whom my father challenged in 1969 over his leadership of unionism. The current North Antrim seat is made up of Captain Arthur O’Neill’s former seat.
It was exactly 100 years ago to the day when Captain O’Neill was killed in Belgium on the 6th November 1914 on Klein Zillebeke ridge on what was one of the most critical days of the first battle of Ypres, as the Germans sought to gain control of the Channel Ports.
The circumstances of his death bring home the horrors of war. He had helped give cover to his squad and was dashing back to them when he was shot along with his colleague. He rolled around injured on the ground and gave more cover to his colleague who was rescued. Germans then came upon Oneill as he lay wounded and one officer stood over him and shot him three times. It was murder on the battle field.
At the memorial service I read a letter sent to his family that Lord Rathcavon let me read detailing his murder is was appalling and a great reminder of the awfulness of war.
Captain O’Neill joined the 2nd Life Guards in 1897 and prior to the Great War he fought valiantly in South Africa, being awarded both the King’s Medal and The Queen’s Medal with three clasps for his bravery between 1899-1900.
I found an extract from the Ballymena Observer dated the 20th November which talks of Captain O’Neill’s death. The letter is written to the family of 2nd Lt W.S Peterson from his fellow soldiers to deliver the news of his death. The following is taken from the letter:
“Our brigade, the regiment itself, were known to stay in the trenches longer than anyone else. Your brother died with two other officers of the regiment, Major Dawney, commanding and Captain Arthur O’Neill, in driving the Germans back; they accomplished this work and in so doing actually saved a great defeat of our arms; the fact is recognised by the General. I heard – I do not vouch for the truth of it – they killed 16 Germans before they were killed.”
It is obvious from the descriptions of his death as well as his decorated military career that Captain O’Neill was a leader of men both on the battlefield and in politics.
I found a biography of Captain O’Neill in the House of Commons library which was a description of his character at the time of his death.
“He was greatly valued for his amiable and stainlessly upright career. If he was less widely known, it was because his modesty and intelligence and sweet temper made less display of the vigour and firmness which he showed later, not only in the South African war and his political life, but also in the patriotic organisation of his native Ulster”
Lest We Forget
Ian Paisley MP met with the Department for Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy this week to discuss the now almost annual flooding problems on the Toome Road and Kells areas of Ballymena.
The meeting was proposed by Mr Paisley in order to plan for and think about radical solutions to this problem.
The minister chaired the discussions in his offices at Stormont and a cross departmental representation of public officials from DRD and DARD were there including the Rivers Agency and NI Water and Transport.
The department is already in the process of laying new pipes in parts of the area to take the increase in water flow. Importantly the minister has, as a result of the problem, commissioned a study of the flooding issues that, weather permitting, will be completed this year. The study will assess a number of proposals and cost them so as people can see what the options are available to the government.
Mr Paisley has welcomed this study and has been given the terms of reference and urged that the minister visits the area to meets with those who have to cope with the problem.
“A flooding group is in place and I certainly believe that in emergencies and for the purpose of management this matter ought to have one point of contact. The matter is currently split between two departments and proper management is essential.
Good work has been done to put in place a sandbag store at Wakehurst but other, more radical solutions must be considered. This may mean blighting some housing but I accept that can have major implications. I will certainly feed into the report and look forward to a proposal emerging.”
Today Ian Paisley MP accompanied by Mervyn Story MLA met with the new CEO of Moy Park Janet McCollum at the Portadown HQ.
The MP said, “Poultry production is incredibly important to the Northern Ireland agriculture base and North Antrim farmers make a magnificent contribution to the industry. One of Moy Parks four UK bases is in Ballymena and it is important for me as the Member of Parliament and Agriculture spokesman in Westminster to ensure that this key plant continues to play a leading role in the industry.
“Indeed over the next few weeks as we move towards the Christmas fresh turkey production, Ballymena will play a key part in UK production delivering the best fresh turkey to consumers.
I want to see this industry flourish. I want to ensure that local farms that need to expand production houses are facilitated with quick and progressive planning approvals and that opportunities to increase business come to all of North Antrim. It is essential that environmental waste issues and the cost of energy is further addressed and solutions found. Much of that falls to others but the impact on the industry is extensive.
” I will be working with the industry to ensure its continued success as a flagship producer in Northern Ireland”