Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Civic Endeavour Awards

The Civic Endeavour Awards has been in existence some 15 years. The Awards have a number of categories, - Service in the Field of Voluntary Community Work, Service to the General Public, Humanitarian Services, Arts and the Environment, Young Person of the Year and the Mayor's Special Award.

The nominations come from all parts of the Borough. A committee decides on the winner of each category followed by a celebration dinner held in the Town Hall. This is a very special event, as each winner is invited to bring along 6 friends or family. During the evening a citation is given to each winner followed by the presentation of a beautifully framed scroll.

To me the dinner is one of the highlights of the council calendar year. It is special, it is for people who do so much within our community, often without recognition.

Since the awards began I have successfully nominated 16 residents to various categories. This as been a pleasure as I have shared with them their excitement of this very special evening.

I hope that each year more and more people will think about nominating someone they know who is worthy of such recognition.

Welcome to the Green Road Community Centre

I was delighted to be present at the opening of the Green Road Community centre. This project took only 8 months to complete and is a credit to all involved. It represents an investment of more than £450,000. Many local groups are already booked into the system and using the new, bright and welcoming surroundings. I know that it will make a real difference to many providing a real hub for the community.

My best wishes to everyone, who manage the centre, use the centre there is no doubt that it is a real plus for the area.

Chaos looming in the Planning Service

As Chair of the Council’s Planning Committee I have expressed serious concerns about moves to drastically cut the number of professionals in the planning service. This proposal appears to be emerging because of a shortfall between the cost of the service and the income from planning fees.

As someone who has frequent disagreements with the planning service some may find it strange that I now find myself supporting the planners. But there appears to be little logic in the proposals, which are emerging from the Department of the Environment for very drastic staffing reductions in the service. The argument for cuts appears to be that there is now a funding shortfall between the cost of the service and the income from planning fees. That simply does not make sense. While there is logic in reducing the cost to the public purse by taking account of fee income it should not be the absolute factor in determining numbers. The planners perform a vital service to our society in that they take a balanced view on new developments. I may not always agree with their decisions but at least it gives us a process to ensure that there is an opportunity to take account of the views of the local community. Without their involvement we would be entirely at the mercy of the developers.

Ironically the cuts are being imposed by the current Finance Minister Sammy Wilson despite his caution last year when he was the Planning Minister and had stated, “in the face of a global economic downturn, it is widely acknowledged Planning Service has a key role to play in supporting the economy of Northern Ireland. There fore it is essential that we retain the appropriate level of experienced staff to both facilitate economic recovery and support it as it occurs.”
In my opinion these are false and hollow words in fact meaningless.

I would be quite happy to see a proper review of the size and functions of the planning service and indeed would welcome this. However these proposals make no attempt whatsoever to do this. There is no assessment of current workloads and how these compare with other areas. My understanding is that the Northern Ireland case load as well above the recommended level of 150 cases for the rest of the UK. Neither is there any analysis of the consequences of the staffing reductions - in particular what will be the impact on the time scale for considering planning applications and the implications of this for the hard pressed building industry. Also what are he longer term implications when hopefully the economy starts to pick up again and the number of planning applications increase?

These reductions are proposed by the Department of the Environment just one year before the Department hands over planning to local Councils. I am also very suspicious about the timing of all of this. The Department of the Environment is drastically cutting staff just before they hand over the service to local Councils. The Department will doubtless then wash its hands of the serious practical implications and leave it to Councils to pick up the pieces. That is entirely unacceptable. As a Councillor very closely involved with planning I certainly want to see the transfer of planning powers to District Councils. But if we are to do the job then we must have a fit for purpose planning service to support us. Disaster looms if we inherit an emasculated and disillusioned workforce and I for one will simply not accept this.

I would be more than happy to see a comprehensive review of the size and function of the planning service as part of the transfer to District Councils with Councils being fully involved ion that process. But the present proposals of the Department of Environment to quite arbitrarily reduce staffing numbers without consultation and without any analysis of the consequences were utterly unacceptable and indeed given the impending transfer of responsibility to Councils verged on sharp practice.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Freedom of the Borough

It was with enormous pride and honour I was involved with the Freedom of the Borough presented to the Royal Irish Regiment this month by the Council.

The men were inspected on the West Lawn of the Town Hall complete with bands and their mascot Irish Wolfhound, Brian Boru.

The men marched through the town to tremendous applause and respect. Everyone realising that these young men would shortly be redeployed to Helmand province later this year.

The greatest cheer went up when they played their special march - Killaloe.

My best wishes go with the regiment and for a safe return to home.

Education Minister Difficulty with Sums

Education Minister’s mathematical skills stop at “division”

The issue of cuts to funding for preparatory departments and the activities of our wayward Education Minister were discussed at this week’s council meeting. The mere fact that this is being discussed at council level indicates the level of bad feeling across the community towards the Minister and her agenda.

Speaking during the debate, I stated that I thought she should be called - rather than Caitriona Ruane - Caitriona 'Ruin' because she does what she wants, when she wants and listens to no one. Reason flew out the window.”

Addressing the Minister’s most recent campaign against preparatory departments – and her decision to cut their funding by one third, I continued, the extra costs to the education system just don't make sense. She doesn't do addition and subtraction although she is very good at division.

Her policy as far as I can see is to destroy education in Northern Ireland.

Choir of the Year

As the Councillor who refused to allow a grant for Ballyholme Primary School be rejected.

I called on Council to reconsider their decision particularly as at times money seems to be able to be found for various projects when necessary.

I was delighted that very quickly after this meeting Council were able to grant aid the school their request.

So, congratulations must go to Ballyholme Primary School for winning the BBC Songs of Praise Primary School of the Year.

They competed against over 200 schools in London, winning £1000 for musical equipment for the school.

Well done to everyone involved and once again congratulations.

Problem - what Problem?

Buck Passing at it’s Best

“The residents of Bangor West have experienced another dose of road closures. There is no doubt that travelling by road in this area will be challenging.

The reason for this latest closure is quote “the proposed storm and foul sewer to be constructed will serve a new development of domestic units on the Bryansburn Road.”

Now we come to the interesting part. Once again the Planning Service approve an application, in total isolation. I have no problem with new storm and foul sewers being constructed. My problem is that the Planning Service do not appear to take issues such as major road disruption into their considerations.

As a conclusion to all of this, traffic is being diverted down the Brunswick Road, again total madness. This road had a primary school, several businesses and the local chapel, which will have services, weddings and funerals. It is a narrow road, where people do park outside their own homes. I do not think that the person who decided to send the volume of traffic there is in this area down the Brunswick Road can live in the area or know anything about it.

Problem? Not the Planning Service, not the Roads Service? Just another example of the men in grey suits making decisions with little or no coordination between departments.

New Mental Health Facility

Cllr Mrs Marion Smith welcomed the £9million adolescent mental health inpatient facility at Beechcroft, on the Foster Green site in Belfast. This facility will provide much needed accommodation for adolescents between the ages of 13 – 18 with mental health problems; as well there will be accommodation for over night accommodations for parents.

This announcement will make a real and lasting difference to all within the mental health sphere. It is an example of investment in the health and social care services.

The accommodation will provide 18 en-suite single bedrooms, day rooms, dining rooms, quiet areas, therapy and educational facilities and outdoor recreation.

This new unit will make a very real and welcome difference for those young people using this service.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Visible Women - Winners

I was excited and very pleased that the Women in Local Councils award this year went to the Visible Women event organised by North Down Borough Council and Ards Borough Council.

At the gala dinner held in Newcastle Co Down the winners were announced and it was with great pleasure, the Mayor, along with my colleagues and self went forward to receive the trophy.

We were all delighted and feel that although the award was received by us, the staff from both councils had a major role in the organisation and smooth running of the successful morning, our thanks must go to all who helped.

Successful Visible Women Event

Visible Women is a conference organised by two councillor colleagues and myself.

It was an idea developed several years ago and has since become on of the highlights of the year within both councils. It is an event to celebrate and motivate local women while at the same time each year we raise considerable amounts of money towards various charities.

This year, our speakers included Dr Janet Gray MBE winner of the World Disabled Water Skiing Championship in three disciplines. Kate Hoey MP Labour Minister from Northern Ireland, Grainia Long Director of the Chartered Institute of Housing in N I and Joanne Stewart of the Institute of Directors in Northern Ireland.

Over 250 women from all spheres of life attend, and such is the demand for tickets, we work on a waiting list.

Already we have started to think about this year’s conference to be held as usual in November and look forward to as successful event as the previous ones have been.

I must thank the staff who work so tirelessly to make such a success for everyone involved.

Bayburn Historical Trail

The Bayburn Historical Society unveiled two new panels marking out the route of the local Bayburn Trail.

The idea behind this initiative was to promote the history of Crawfordsburn and Helen’s Bay and is a 4 mile trial with 16 points of historical interest.

This was a project I have been involved with for a number of years by helping progress the scheme through North Down Borough Council. I was delighted, as the local councillor, that after a few delays the panels were funded and designed by the North Down Borough Council.

The panels will provide invaluable information for the many walkers who will gain an insight into our wonderful heritage.

Close it, Lock it, Check it.

As Chair of the local District Policing Partnership I was delighted to take part in the launch of a new domestic burglary initiative.

This involved the help of the local Bloomfield’s shopping Centre by using their trolleys. Attached to every shallow trolley was a specially designed panel, with the message ‘Motorists have you locked your Car’.

Every year the DPP undertakes work with the local community and domestic burglary is consistently highlighted as a concern. It is something which the DPP are committed to proactively tackling with the local police and as a result we sought to identify new methods of getting the message across to local residents. Hopefully our campaign will help prevent people becoming a victim of crime, whether it is in the home or from your car.

New Mental Health Facility Welcomed

I welcome the statement made by Minister McGimpsey on a £9million adolescent mental health inpatient facility at Beechcroft, on the Foster Green site in Belfast. This facility will provide much needed accommodation for adolescents between the ages of 13 – 18 with mental health problems; as well there will be accommodation for over night accommodations for parents.

For too long young people with mental health problems have been housed in wards with adults or the facilities available to them with regard to mental health have been a serious problem for, not just the health service, but to parents and relations of those in need of specialist care. As well, for too long those the mental health service have been neglected and under funded.

This welcome announcement will make a real and lasting difference to all within the mental health sphere. It is an example of investment in the health and social care services.

The accommodation will provide 18 en-suite single bedrooms, day rooms, dining rooms, quiet areas, therapy and educational facilities and outdoor recreation.

This new unit will make a very real and welcome difference for those young people using this service.

Why Smoke - it's a one way road?

I would urged smokers to take the first step towards kicking the habit on No Smoking Day 2010, taking place to day, Wednesday, March 10. Begin in a positive mood and tell yourself – I can give up smoking."

This year’s theme of ‘Break free - we can help’ offers a positive message to those thinking about taking a stand against this all too common addiction.

With approximately 2,300 people dying each year, smoking is the greatest cause of preventable illness and premature death in Northern Ireland. This is an issue that, unfortunately, will afflict many families.

While helping people to quit is vital, we also need to ensure that the young people within our community aren’t sucked into this dangerous habit. I often wonder do smokers not realize that when you are standing or sitting near them they is often a stale cigarette smoke smell lingers on their clothing and breath.

This goes far beyond expense, bad teeth and affecting your senses of smell and taste – there is a shocking array of medical implications to boot.

While a commonly known consequence of smoking is lung cancer, it also contributes to a frightening variety of other illnesses, including cancers of the stomach, cervix, kidney, and pancreas. Anyone who has watched and cared for a relation or friend die from any of the mentioned cancers would not wish the harrowing process on their worst enemy, so my question is – why smoke?

For those who still have no desire to quit for the sake of their own health, it might be worth considering that the World Health Organisation has estimated that passive smoking kills nearly 600,000 people each year across the globe.

While surveys have shown that the majority of smokers would like to give up, the addictive nature of nicotine can make it difficult. The key is to seek help, be it at your GP surgery, pharmacy or community centre.

Take the first step to day - it won't be easy but and this is a big BUT, you and you alone can make your health – and the health of those around you – top of your agenda.”

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Is it Miss Ruane or is it Miss Ruin? Education in total Disarray

I have expressed grave concern about what the Minister for Education, Miss Ruane sees as the increasing disarray in our education service. Her comments were prompted by the latest debacle when the Minister Caitriona Ruane announced that it would not now be possible to establish the new Education and Skills Authority - the ESA - by the target date of 1st January 2010.

Pointing out that this was just the latest example of the Ministers inability to come to terms with the realities of her responsibilities Cllr Smith said, “The problems being created by the complete shambles of the transfer system are already well known. Parents are increasingly being upset and confused by what is going on. Schools in this area at both secondary and primary level have been left in a very difficult position of trying to balance the legitimate expectations of parents with the advice they are getting from the Department. The Minister is becoming increasingly strident in her attempts to bully schools into accepting her dictates - and that is what they are - about the way she wants to run the system. She is entirely overlooking the fact that much of the advice being issued by her and her Department has no legal foundation. The existing education legislation quite clearly allows grammar schools to take into account the aptitude and ability of pupils and they are doing nothing unlawful in spite of her propaganda to the contrary. Under our present system it is up to her to persuade the NI Assembly if she wants to change things.

Equally worrying is her inability to bring forward the legislation to set up the new Education and Skills Authority - ESA- which will replace the Education and Library Boards and several other existing bodies. The creation of ESA represents a major upheaval of the whole education service but one, which was generally accepted as being necessary. Work on its creation has been ongoing for some time and was one of the major reorganisation issues to be tackled when the Assembly was first established. Doubtless there were important points of detail, which had to be sorted out, but the fact that this has not happened is a sad reflection on both the Minister and the Assembly.

As part of the announcement the Minister has indicated that the Education and Library Boards and other bodies will remain in existence in the meantime - but with significantly reduced membership. This is simply a face saving exercise and it would have been much simpler to extend the life of the existing bodies. It will be interesting to see how she strikes an acceptable balance with these new proposals.

Also she does not make any mention of our own South Eastern Education and Library Board and presumably she proposes to continue with Commissioners. That is a real opportunity lost. Leaving aside whether or not the Board should have been suspended there can be no doubt that in the interests of some sense of democracy it should now be reinstated in the new format. That is particularly so given that I understand there is now an acceptance by virtually all Board members that they would work to ensure that the issues which led to the original suspension of the Board would not reoccur.

I have every sympathy with the unfortunate position in which the staff of the Education Boards and other bodies now found themselves. She still believed that there was a need for the new Education and Skills Authority to be established as soon as possible and hoped that all concerned would continue to work towards this stressing that It is in the interests of everyone that this new body is established. What is really needed is an outbreak of common sense by the Minister the Executive and the Assembly to ensure that our entire education service does not drift into a state of complete chaos which could undermine the good work of our schools in making the best possible provision for their pupils. .

I suggest that the problems in the education service are but one example of the increasing ineffectiveness of Ministers and the Assembly to resolve issues. This did not auger well for the whole community. One example - and I stress it was only one - was that, at the very last minute, there appeared to be problems in taking forward District Council reorganisation. This again was a matter where there was broad agreement and which had been under consideration for some considerable time. Indeed in this case most of the detailed problems had been resolved and she was at a complete loss to understand why entirely practical and sensible proposals were now apparently being stalled.

Taking action on disability - could do better

I very much welcome International Day of Disabled People, taking place on December 3as an opportunity to mobilise action within the North Down community to achieve full and equal participation in society by those with disabilities.

I feel that this day is an excellent opportunity to flag up and promote an understanding of disability issues, the rights of persons with disabilities, and the gains to be made from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of their communities.

While globally almost one in ten people is a person living with a disability, Northern Ireland has a higher percentage of disabled people than anywhere else in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland – more than one in five of the population.

Disabled people are amongst the most marginalised in our society, many of whom continue to face barriers to their participation in their communities and often stigma and discrimination,” Cllr Smith said.

Traditionally disabled people are expected to see their impairment as their problem, something they will have to make the best of and accept that there are many things they cannot do. That is the past and I look forward to a future where everyone is equal . It is essential that we continue to work towards a shift in attitudes - in many instances we have a society which erects barriers that prevent those with a disability participating and restricts their opportunities. I work with a number of groups within North Down and have the greatest respect for what they have achieved to date which has been through their hard work and perservance. I recognise and welcome that in many areas we as a community have made some strides for example, buildings being adopted to be wheelchair friendly, step down buses, footpaths lowered, shopping centres and shops giving easier access, toilets more readily available. However, we still have a long way to go in providing equality and dignity for all of those who have a disability.

International Day of Disabled People (IDDP), adopted by the United Nations to raise awareness of the inequalities experienced by people with impairments, has been celebrated world-wide since December 3, 1981.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bits and Pieces on Crawfordsburn and Helen's Bay

Crawfordsburn Country Club

How very sad to see the contents of Country Club being sold at auction. Even the very floorboards were lifted and doors removed. The furniture and fittings all fell under the hammer. I have no problem with furniture being auctioned off but when it comes to pure vandalism on such a scale this fine and honourable Club House must have reached an all time low in it’s history.

We still wait what will be happening to the site and rumours abound. What ever happens the new owners must be very aware that many are keeping a watchful eye on any proposals put forward. Following the stinging attack on the Planning Service by the Management Board and the reversal of the Planning Service opinion, I think the Planning Service will also be very mindful of the village strength of feeling.

We await the outcome, whatever it will be, the message is loud and clear any proposal must be in character with the village and consideration must be taken of the views of residents.

The Fence

Another sage of bureaucracy is that of the fence which has been erected behind Chimera Wood facing onto to the Country park.

The residents acted as ‘keepers’ of the Park, they kept a careful eye on what was happening behind them. The collected rubbish from the pathway and kept the area clear and tidy.

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency in their wisdom declared that they were erecting a fence to protect their property against the residents, who might e.g. fall when moving from their property onto the Park property and submit a claim. The residents were accused of stealing land. They were accused of dumping rubbish.

A small group of residents along with myself met with representatives from NIEA. I am well used to meetings and have sat through many where my patience has been sorely tried. However, at this meeting I think the civil servants forgot those two words – civil and that they were servants of the public.

The fence has been erected taking up time, effort, and a large amount of taxpayer’s money and to what end? A good question… I am still waiting for a common sense answer. Petty bureaucracy – petty with a capital P.

Bayburn Trail

For several years now I have been working with the Council to have Bayburn Trail signs erected with the guidance of Robin Masefield. It has had a few hiccups, with plans being lost and tracking down lost details.

However, all that is past and I am very pleased to see 2 of the signs erected. My thanks to the graphic department of the Council and I know that many will gain pleasure from using the signs as a guide to what we call the Bayburn Trail.

Crawfordsburn Primary School

The dangerous traffic situation at the Primary School was something I held a meeting about some 12 – 15 years ago. I have over that period of time had meetings with the Road Service, the South Eastern Education and Library Board, the PSNI – you name it I have had everyone I could think of visit the site and try to find an answer.

Last year I invited the Chief Executive from the South Eastern Education and Library Board to the school and along with the Headmistress, Mrs Moffett we watched the traffic chaos during the morning drop off.

Somehow we struck it lucky and there was actually some spare money in the SEELB budget. The outcome, things moved quickly, plans were drawn up and hey presto during the summer we have a new entrance and exit. Unfortunately the work did not begin just as quickly as we would have hope and things were somewhat difficult for a few weeks in September.

I think everyone will agree that the new internal drop off for parents and buses is much safer. There are still a few minor issues to be completed but it just shows keep trying and somewhere along the line things come right.


In the October Planning Schedule, the Crawfordsburn Inn application for the 3-storey car park and 6 new bedrooms – had 220 objections.

15 – 19 Seahill Road Craigavad - demolition of existing dwellings and erection of 20 units. had 189 objections

19 and 21 Meadow Park – demolition of existing detached dwellings and garages and replace with 5 detached dwellings – had 67 objections

These three applications were deferred for further consideration and all three have returned with the opinion of Approval. Makes me wonder, what’s important in decisions Planning Service dictate or resident’s opinion.

Also contained within the schedule were 2 items seeking retrospective permission – guess what – permission was granted. So build what you like and then ask permission – I am told by the planning Service that it is at the owner’s own risk. But, looking at the odds other than a letter telling you that you really should not have done this, obviously it is worth the ‘risk’

Over 60's Benefit Entitlement

Over 60s benefit entitlement ‘as simple as a2b’

I am concerned that every week thousands of people over 60 in Northern Ireland miss out on their share of unclaimed benefits and urged older people to visit the Access to Benefits website and find out what you may be entitled to receive.

The A2B website is an invaluable tool for working out what people should be getting, in terms of benefits. Even if you aren’t computer literate, ask a trusted family member or friend to help you out.

It is a very simple process that could make a world of difference to the lives of thousands of pensioners. At least £50 million per year goes unclaimed by over 60s in Pension Credit alone in Northern Ireland.

This is an innovative not-for-profit service which works by asking you to answer a series of simple and anonymous questions, which will allow the website to calculate what you’re entitled to receive.

One of the major barriers to benefit uptake for older people is the sheer size and complexity of the benefits system. However, there is also the issue of stigma. I would emphasise to all over 60s that, having worked all your life and contributed to the ‘pot’, the uptake of benefits is a right – not a matter of charity.

In light of the current financial crisis and the sharp increases in electricity and fuel costs the pressures on people who are threatened by poverty is brought into sharp focus. Fuel poverty is a much greater problem in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the United Kingdom with 24 per cent of households unable to heat their homes to an adequate standard. That is why Access to Benefits is so important.

Ensuring that older people gain access to their full entitlements may be crucial this winter. The A2B site provides details of organisations which deliver benefits and provide advice and information about benefits and it contains links to claim forms on other websites. The benefit calculation is completely anonymous and all data is held securely.

Visit the website for further information, and to calculate your entitlement –

National Adoption Week Supported

I commended the work of adoptive families following the launch of National Adoption Week

Currently in its twelfth year, National Adoption Week has been very successful to date. Launched officially by my Party colleague and Minister of Health, Michael McGimpsey MLA, at a special event in Hillsborough earlier this week, I wish to commend the organisers of this initiative for all they have achieved so far, and wish them all the best in their endeavours.

National Adoption Week provides an opportunity for adopted children, adoptive parents and prospective adopters to celebrate the success and rewards of adoption in Northern Ireland.

The special week, set aside in November, also encourages individuals and couples to think about applying for adoption and making a difference in a child’s life. The rewards from giving a child of any age, and from any background, a home and a chance in life are priceless,” the UUP councillor said.

I am encouraged by figures announced by the Department of Health which revealed that 64 children were adopted from care during the year ending March 2008, however I feel this number can be substantially increased through greater public awareness.

The role of National Adoption Week is also to provide information to those who have put their child up for adoption, and support for families who have adopted. Invaluable assistance is available through the National Adoption Organisation and at

Accessible entrance to the Front of the Town Hall

For too many years now I have been seeking an entrance to the front of the Town Hall for those who have mobility problems and have quite frankly been shown to the side door, in my opinion this was nothing more than an insult.

The first time I noticed this was watching guests entering the Town Hall for a wedding and one of the guests was in a wheel chair, her options were either be lifted up the steps, with men struggling to carry the wheelchair or have someone push her to the side door. I was appalled.

This was not a one off situation and has happened whenever someone has problems going up the steps to enter.

Several years ago I put forward a notice of motion that modifications be made to the entrance to give everyone the right to enter by the front door.

Unfortunately this took some time as the plans had to be submitted to the Environment Agency and the Planning Service, as well there were problems with the authorisation of the ramp but at last these have been approved. My grateful thanks to the Officers from the Town Hall who persevered with the plans and as well who had to listen to my nagging!

I was delighted to hear that the plans were approved at the Planning meeting and that there will now be two front entrances, which can be accessed by persons in wheelchairs. A ramp will be positioned from the car park with a resting area for wheel chairs.

Permission has also been granted for one designated car parking space beside the ramp and the good thing is that there is sufficient money within the estimates for the work to be carried out. I look forward to the work beginning next summer and that it will be carried out as quickly as possible.

Needless to say I am thrilled that this will now become a reality and that in future our Town Hall will be accessible to all via the front entrance.

Friends of Bangor Community Hospital

As a Former Chairman and Founder of The Friends of Bangor Community Hospital we were pleased to report that we have had a successful year in fundraising.

The Friends are a small group of volunteers who over the years have raised almost £120,000. All of the money has gone towards making our hospital more comfortable in so many ways. We have provided equipment for almost every department within the hospital. This has ranged from chairs, tables, desks, carpets, trolleys and a hydraulic couch. In fact if an item was needed the Friends were more than happy to provide the finance. We have also been indebted to the many individuals and groups who have taken such an interest in The Friends and in our community Hospital. They have donated much-needed funds which help provide the many items of need.

During the past year we were very sad to learn of the death of the Chairman Mr Raymond Gordon. Raymond had a wonderful sense of humour and gave of his time without question to the needs of the hospital.

A few months ago, Miss Barbara Grant, who was a founder member and Vice Chair, stepped down from Committee. Barbara brought to the table a wealth of knowledge and experience and will be sadly missed.

In April, as part of our fundraising, we arranged Gardeners’ Question Time. This was a popular event with many and proved to be not only an evening of fun but at the same time provided for those present and the BBC listeners a great deal of knowledge following the questions.

This year, our Annual General Meeting will take place in the Community Hospital in the Upper Seminar Room at 7pm on Monday 16th November 2009.

Alcohol Awareness Week

I am urging people in the North Down area to ‘think about what you drink’ as we prepare for Alcohol Awareness Week, which begins on Monday, October 19.

This is an opportunity for people to take a long, hard look at their alcohol intake. It may even be worth keeping a ‘drink diary’ across the week to work out how many units you’re taking in – perhaps without even realising.

There is widespread concern that excessive alcohol consumption is an integral part of the modern culture of the United Kingdom and alcohol abuse appears to have reached epidemic proportions.

The guidelines on lower-risk drinking recommend men do not drink more that 3-4 units daily (drinking about two pints or two cans of normal-strength lager or beer on a regular basis) and women do not drink more than 2-3 units daily (regularly drinking about a large glass of wine or three single measures of spirits).

Drinking above these levels can increase your risk of heart disease, breast cancer, liver disease, stroke and other diseases. Drinking above lower-risk guidelines can also impact on your ability to get a good night’s sleep and affect your general health.

My Party colleague, the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey, recently informed Assembly Members that the staggering and unacceptable total of 286 people died as a direct result of alcohol in 2008. He also noted that alcohol is 62 per cent more affordable today than it was in 1980.

There is also the issue that alcohol consumption – especially heavy consumption – is a significant factor in criminal and disorderly behaviour. Over three quarters of weekend arrests are alcohol related with violence becoming synonymous with weekend closing times at pubs and clubs.

The cost of alcohol is clear in social, health and policing terms. One only has to watch some of the TV adverse on dangerous driving through alcohol, one of the most poignant is the young happy couple sitting on a wall, when a stupid careless driver kills the young man and leaves the girl in a wheel chair - take heed this is not fantasy!

However, alcohol abuse does not only manifest itself outside clubs at closing time-it is all too easy to get into a routine of regular drinking which is above the lower-risk guidelines.

There are agencies to help those who have become alcoholics and as well those who feel they need help and support to overcome what is a disease. Some find that keeping a drink diary for a week is easy and highlights just how much a person drinks, whether it is being out for a meal, having a night cap, or even at times through boredom while watching TV. The diary can really make you stop and think about whether you ought to be cutting back – and there’s no better time than now, during Alcohol Awareness Week.

Alcohol can have a devastating effect on family life, it can ruin careers and most of all in the present economic times it is a sheer waste of money.

Breast Screening Saved my Life

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and like many I knew this, but it was something at the back of my mind. I have friends and colleagues and very close family members who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and all have come through with flying colours. But again, I think as a woman the thought of breast cancer was something I knew about, read about, watched the TV adverts but always suppressed the reality of it in my thinking.

How stupid, cancer is a disease which knows no boundaries, neither age, gender, colour, creed or social standing. It is indiscriminate, silent and cruel.

On 20th August I had my usual busy day and between 2 appoints I had written in my diary 12.50 Mobile Clinic Breast Screening, Bangor Community Hospital. I had no thoughts on this other than, must remember to attend as I always have every 2 years.

A few days later we visited the family in England and I never once did I wonder what my screening result would be? We returned very late because of flight delays on a Sunday evening. As always I opened my mail even thought it was 1.30am. One of the brown envelopes changed my life and neither of us had much sleep that night.

The letter was from the breast screening clinic in Linenhall Street Belfast giving me an appointment for Tuesday 1st September, while it did say 4 out of 5 appointments were given the all clear, I should being someone with me. I knew something was wrong I never had had this call before and I just prayed please don’t let me be the number 5.

We arrived at the Linenhall Street clinic, my first impressions sitting in the waiting room was, that it was small, cramped and a bit soulless. However a very kind and gentle Marie Curie nurse called me and introduced herself and spoke to me with great calmness. I was handed a wire basket thing with some sort of a gown. We then walked to an even smaller waiting area where the changing cubicles were. On being told to change into the gown, stripping from the wait up and put my clothes into the basket and wait with the others I would be called. I took one step into the waiting area, a tiny little space with seats tight together where there were about 5 ladies all sitting in these modesty gowns. I simply froze and backed out – I could not enter the room. I asked could I wait in the changing cubicle and the nurse realised I was becoming upset said to do whatever I was comfortable with.

I waited in this modesty cape; then when called, walked up and down a corridor carrying my wire basket all the time, saw the doctor, back down the corridor. Waited then called for screening and a biopsy. Down the corridor again, the biopsy was carried out twice with the second one being very painful, so much so that I cried out. Back down the corridor and at last changed into normal clothes. The nurse called me to see the doctor and when I asked her did I need my husband, her answer of yes confirmed all of my suspicions. Approximately 1 hour after arriving, we sat in silence while being told the results which were I had breast cancer. There were no violins playing in the background, no clash of thunder, just silence I just sat and cried. What do you say? The position was explained. Our journey home and the next few days are difficult to remember.

I can only say I do not know what happened to me regarding the modesty gowns, they ‘freaked me out’ I simply could not handle that I walked about the corridors, in this gown, carrying a black carrier ‘shopping basket’ containing my clothes, while others presumably staff walked about in their clothes. I felt as if I had a bell around me saying unclean. This may all sound melodramatic – but my stomach simply turns when I see that particular pattern or the gown. I would have felt much better being in my own top. In the letter for the appointment it could be asked that you wear something which could be easily removed or at least give the choice of wearing your own simple top or their gown.

The next few nights I think we averaged 4 hours sleep; I wandered about the house during the night made cups of tea and sat looking out the window. I though about my life, my husband and my beloved family, darkness brings out many demons.

My appointment for surgery was Monday 7th September and I was admitted into Ward 8 on the Sunday.

We arrived at the hospital and I was feeling very nervous and ‘uptight’. However, the nurses were kindness themselves they got me settled. Later on the consultant arrived, followed by the anethist with both explaining in detail what would happen the next morning. They made sure I understood everything quite clearly and left me feeling more reassured.

Monday morning I woke, just feeling my stomach was churning and my nerves were beginning to take over. But, again, the nurses calmed me, and I was given the pre operative pills to sedate me.

I do not remember the journey to the operating theatre nor the return trip. When I recovered I was in no pain, feeling a bit woozy and my husband waiting at my side. Apparently I was talking rubbish – (some might say what’s new). Later I was able to sit up and enjoy some tea and toast. But I have to say at teatime the scrambled egg was not quite the colour of scrambled egg I knew and was a bit tasteless. So not much was eaten.

Next day I was up and allowed home in the afternoon. Following this we had to wait for 10 days for the result of the biopsy.

On Thursday 17th September we arrived at the hospital. I felt great, tired but feeling really good within myself. The consultant sat us down and explained what had taken place during the operation and unfortunately some of the cancer had ‘escaped’. I needed to be re admitted on Sunday 20th for further surgery on 21st. I cried through this interview and was on a real down for the rest of the week. Once again, very little sleep for either of us.

At the end of the interview with the consultant, I was handed the usual letter for my doctor in the infamous brown envelope. I told him not to bother sealing it as once I was in the car I would read it and then pass on to my doctor. I feel that if the letter was about me I had a right to see what it said. But then – not everyone wants to know. I am afraid I did.

By now I knew the procedure pre the operation so Monday morning I was very tense. The seditatives I think I fought against because remember the journey to theatre very clearly. I remember moving on to the operating table and thinking – this is very narrow I hope I don’t fall off! However, later I woke in the recovery room, crying and not really knowing why. The doctor in charge talked to me wiped my tears away, dosed me with more morphine and that was me out to the world.

I remember hearing voices and it was 2 of the nurses talking to me when I was back in my bed, saying my husband would be up soon. I still had my eyes closed and was not fully conscious but they washed my face, tidied my hair and even put a little lipstick on me. I felt so much better and was deeply touched by their care.

Ten days later we return to hear the outcome of the second operation. The consultant advised that I might need chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy. Once again, the tears flowed and I was really in depression. However, I worked it out in my mind if this was what I needed to ‘lock the door’ I would have the 6 months chemotherapy, whatever I needed I would take. I visited my hairdresser who was extremely kind and understanding, and he arranged I would come in after hours to have my hair taken away and a wig fitted. For a woman this is probably the worst time during the whole process, you have part of your breast removed, if not all and then lose your hair. It needs great courage to face and over come this.

We saw the oncologist the following Wednesday and again, he very gently talked us through everything. The outcome was on his advice I would not need chemotherapy but a course of radiotherapy plus hormone tablets would be necessary.

I simply could not believe what he was saying and we both pressed him on was this course sufficient.

Once again our journey home was one of tears – but this time of relief.

During this whole process it was a roller coaster of emotions, of tears of fears of very deep troughs of depression. It is as difficult for husbands as it is for wives and at times even more so. I was lucky Stanley was with me every step of the way, he helped me through some very low moments, I think we kept worrying about each other. But I realise not everyone has a husband or close relation to rely upon and they have my deepest admiration.

From day one I have also been acutely aware of the kindness and the dedication I have received from everyone, from the consultant, doctors, nurses, who held me while I cried and the very cheerful physiotherapist who made sure I did my exercises.

This care was not just to me, I watched while in hospital the nurses handle some very difficult situations, with the same attention and care.

I am now recovering and still very tired, but when I think back to a few weeks ago how my life changed and how much has been achieved – I stand in awe and admiration of the health service. Everyone was helpful, kind and treated me with dignity and respect. The Marie Curie nurses – are simply angels. The hospital staff I could not have asked for better care. (Apart from some of the food particularly, the scrambled egg and the green soup which was ugh!) .

Another important aspect of recovery is the many who have contacted me, sent cards etc. again I am taken aback by the kindness. But overall I must thank the many individuals and groups who prayed for me again, this played a major role in my recovery.

Cancer is as I began is an indiscriminate, silent and cruel disease. But improvements have been made and continue to be made on the treatment of breast cancer. I have met many women during my procedure who have gone through the much worse than me. All have offered help and advice and I don’t think we really realise just how many women breast cancer affects, and how many women simply get on with their lives – to the full, following surgery.

All I can say is a very simple thank you to everyone, and I feel as if my life has been handed back to me.

None of this would have been possible with such good results if I had not gone for my mammogram and I cannot express forcibly enough that every women must attend – quite simply I would never have discovered the lump and this procedure saved my life.

Proposed Cuts to the PSNI

Speaking on the proposed £17 million cuts from the PSNI,and as Chair of North Down District Policing Partnership, I am quite clearly stating that, following a meeting with the Security Minister, the Acting Chief Constable and the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board we have media reports revealing that the PSNI annual budget may be cut by £17 million. We have been assured that improving front line visibility and the effectiveness and efficiency of the service is a priority, however North Down DPP are concerned as to the proposed cuts.

Since North Down DPP was formed in 2003 we have received ongoing requests for an increased police presence and increased patrolling across North Down. It is with caution that the DPP view this announcement. Whilst the DPP welcomes the focus on front line policing which we believe is essential to reduce the fear of crime and provide reassurance to the community, there is concern that the savings will be taken from other essential areas. Again for over 6 years the DPP has received reports from the residents of North Down that communication with the victims of crime and community safety are essential to provide information and assistance. Similarly crime investigation and the need to remove criminals from our streets is a priority. The DPP await further information on the proposed cuts but would urge all those in the Policing Board, PSNI and Northern Ireland Office to place the safety and reassurance of the people of North Down above financial savings.

Education Chaos created by Education Minister

As an Ulster Unionist representative on North Down Borough Council, I have quite clearly stated, that the onset of a new school year has been marred by the continuing chaos inflicted upon schools and parents.

Children who have just entered P7 have only two months to settle in before being faced with an unregulated transfer test. This is an unnecessary and unwanted burden to put on children, parents and teachers.

Parents within our community tell me they feel that they have been cut adrift and betrayed by the Minister.

Teachers are in the same boat – facing yet another year with no clear way forward, thanks to the Education Minister’s refusal to acknowledge the need for a workable replacement for – rather than abolition of – the 11 Plus.

The Minister is deluded if she thinks she has created a less stressful environment for children approaching transfer. No one knows what’s going on. Teachers and governors have also been abandoned by the Minister, who has no interest in supporting them in these very trying circumstances, she appears to be governed by a dogma or mantra of self righteous denial on the stress and confusion her blinkered actions which are hers alone are creating within to our education system.

Local primary schools deserve better than to be abandoned by the Education Minister. She warned that the Sinn Fein Minister’s threat against teachers and governors who took the responsible decision of assisting and supporting children who will be sitting the transfer tests was “shameful bullying”.

I for one am proud of our education system. We consistently out-perform other regions across the UK, but the Minister wants to sacrifice that success to pursue for her own divisive agenda.

The Ulster Unionist Party lobbied hard in an effort to prevent this chaos. We recognised the need keep the 11+ in place for a short time, to give certainty to parents, children and teachers, and replace it with streamlined tests that put less pressure on children.

We have a system of which we should be proud, but which we acknowledge needs reform. It is simplistic and false to blame educational underachievement on academic selection – these problems do not begin at 11 plus, but rather start at 11 minus.

Given that a House of Commons Public Accounts Committee Report in 2006 said that ¼ of children in Northern Ireland leave primary school without a firm grounding in the basics of literacy and numeracy, the Minister should be addressing the real problem within our education system.

Interview with local newspaper on my appointment to the Patient Client Council

Question:Could you just explain a bit more about your background in the health service and politics.

My Answer:Health issues are absolutely central to my involvement with politics. Indeed it was my involvement with the campaign to save the Banks Residential Home in Ballyholme which brought me into the political scene.
As a result of that campaign I realised that if you wanted to get things done then you really did need the backing of the local political interests. Once elected to North Down Council in the early 1980’s I became heavily involved with the establishment of Bangor Community Hospital and also with early rationalisation in the service when I encouraged the amalgamation of two local trusts to form the Ulster Community and Hospitals Trust. I went on to become a non-executive director in that Trust. So you will see I have been heavily involved with the health service for a lengthy period and have a great affinity for it.
My first priority in my political life is to look after the interests of North Down - and that has always included health issues. As a local councillor I have a wide range of contacts throughout the local community and have dealt with their concerns on a wide range of issues - including planning housing and environmental issues.
This new appointment will help to ensure that full account will be taken of any concerns which local people have about health and social care in the area.

Question: How did you get appointed to the PCC? Who is it made up of?

My Answer: I have had a great interest in the reorganisation of the health service and always took the view that sensible reorganisation was both inevitable and necessary. The old system had become virtually unworkable with its large number of often overlapping Trusts Boards and Councils Through that interest I was always aware that the old health councils would be replaced with one central body which would be charged with looking after the
interests of patients and other users of the service.

The appointments to the new Patient and Client Council were publicly advertised and I applied. Appointments were made on the merit principle in an open competition. That process involved a detailed application form and an in depth interview
to test candidates knowledge of what was involved and their commitment to that. I was delighted that I came through that intensive process successfully.
The PCC has a management Board made up of locally elected representatives, members of the community and voluntary sector, interested members of the public and trade unions. The membership of the Board is drawn from across Northern Ireland and meets in public on a monthly basis across Northern Ireland.

Question:What experience do you bring to your new role?

My Answer: As a district councillor I have extensive practical experience of dealing with a wide variety of issues of concern to local people. I pride my self in dealing promptly with any issue raised with me. Equally important I find that I can satisfactorily resolve most of those issues - although I know from experience that you simply cannot satisfy all of the people all of the time! At a very practical level I chaired the complaints procedure committee in my capacity as a non-executive director on the old Ulster
Community and Hospitals trust. That gave me a very valuable insight into the nature of complaints and how to ensure that they were dealt with satisfactorily. All of this experience, focused as it is on the needs of local people and communities, will help me to make a positive contribution to the work of the new Council.

Question: What are your priorities or targets in your new role?

My Answer: This is a new body and the first step is to get it up and running effectively.
We will then need to look at how best we can create working links with individuals and communities and health care bodies. That will involve working closely with those in health and social care on a professional basis. Our main objective will be to find ways of ensuring that members of the general public have a clear way to express any concerns or views they may have on health and social care.
I would be anxious that we get to that stage as soon as at all possible - but we must have adequate structures in place otherwise there will be no clear focus on the issues which concern people.

Question: What are your thoughts on the health service¹s new structure in Northern Ireland? How will the health service benefit from a regional board rather than district authorities?

My Answer: Doubtless there will be teething problems as the new structures start to bed in as they are after all of a fairly fundamental nature. I have however no doubt that change was needed in rationalising a completely unwieldy
structure which involved far to many bodies which often tended to overlap with each other. There was also a clear need to rationalise the number of acute facilities which we had in Northern Ireland. It is important to stress that while there has been centralisation, the new structures also provide for district level provision.
A major improvement in the health service’s new structures is the Patient and Client Council. The Council, for the first time, provides a powerful voice for patients, carers and their families from all over Northern Ireland.

Question: What are the weaknesses in health services in the North Down area?

My Answer: With no acute provision in the North Down geographical area we must ensure that the facilities in the Ulster Hospital are adequate to meet the needs of the area and there have always been some concerns about this.
Question: What areas do you feel most strongly about?

My Answer: Another area of particular interest to me is that we have a significant number of elderly people in the area and we must ensure that there are adequate facilities to meet their needs particularly in relation to support for carers.
We really do need to look very hard at this latter issue.

Question:What is the future of Bangor Community Hospital? How will it be affected by the new health centre planned for the town?

My Answer: As I indicated earlier I have a very strong personal interest in Bangor Community Hospital. I am absolutely confident about its future as a support facility for the major hospitals in Belfast - particularly the Ulster. It will continue to play a key role in taking the pressure of those acute hospitals both with regard to minor injuries and a range of less acute treatments. There is for example thought being given to the creation of a facility to support patients suffering from strokes. We must however always
bear in mind that the role of a community hospital is to support and supplement the work of the larger acute facilities which have the range of expertise required to deal with major medical issues.

Question:What are your thoughts of the previous Eastern Health Council? Any plans to continue its work?

My Answer: The previous Eastern Health Council - like its counterparts elsewhere in Northern Ireland did much good work in looking after patient interests.
However like the rest of the health service there were too many bodies to enable them to have the impact needed at central policy level. The new body will build on the work undertaken by the old councils and in my view will give that work a much greater focus

Question: With the focus of the PCC on the whole of Northern Ireland, how
difficult will it be to discuss local matters and deal with local issues?

My Answer: The PCC certainly has a regional role to play and that is a major strength in the new structures but importantly its work will be also be informed by local people with local issues. The Board of the PCC are already discussing the setting up of local committees. These groups will be made up of local people, and will ensure that the PCC has a credible local presence across Northern Ireland.

Question: When and where will PCC meetings be taking place? Are they open to the public?
My Answer: The membership of the Board is drawn from across Northern Ireland and meets in public on a monthly basis. The July meeting will be held in our own area and the venue and agenda will be posted on our website www.patientclientcouncil closer the time.
These meetings are an opportunity for the PCC Board to hear concerns from local people about health and social care services in their area. The members are committed to listening to people’s views and making sure they are heard by those making decisions. The PCC provides an opportunity for patients, careers and their families to be directly involved in health and social care. This can only mean better care and better outcomes for everyone.

Question:How can patients with any concerns contact you or the PCC?

My Answer: The PCC will eventually have a regional HQ in Antrim and 5 local area offices based in Belfast, Broughshane, Lurgan, Omagh and Newtownards.
The offices in Antrim and Newtownards will open later this year. In the meantime the Council already has skilled and professional staff to help people make a complaint and or assist in issues raised by the public. Anyone with concerns should telephone 0800 9170222 or alternatively please contact our Belfast office at
The Patient and Client Council
1st Floor Lesley House,
25-27 Wellington Place
BT1 6GD.

My own role along with my fellow Board members would be to oversee the work of the Council and in particular to ensure that it deals effectively with all issues brought to it's attention by the public. I will of course have a particular interest in any problems relating to North Down. As a local councillor I have always made myself freely available to local people and anyone with a concern regarding the new arrangements should feel free to contact me.
My telephone number is 02891 461739 and my e mail is -

Monday, July 20, 2009

Operation Snapper

As Chairman of North Down District Policing Partnership I have voiced my support for a PSNI initiative to help deal with the issue of underage drinking and its impact on anti social behaviour.

Operation Snapper, as it is known, is Police lead and is designed to stop underage drinking and help reduce associated anti social behaviour. It stands for Support No Alcohol in Public Places through Partnership, Enforcement and Regulation. The enforcement campaign will run in the Bangor and Holywood area over the Summer to tackle underage drinking in public areas.

Throughout the year, North Down DPP holds a number of meetings in public and meets with numerous community groups to establish their views on crime and policing. We use this information to agree policing priorities and monitor local police performance to ensure the delivery of a policing service, which meets community needs.

One concern that is regularly raised is that of underage drinking. In the last North Down DPP survey, 51% of local people raised the issue of underage drinking as an issue in North Down. The Northern Ireland average was 49%. Similarly anti social behaviour is raised at nearly every meeting in public and consultation event. We have also found that reports of underage drinking and anti social behaviour tend to increase during the good weather, which we all want to enjoy. The DPP regularly met with groups of young people and are aware that not all young people are the same but this is an issue that we need to work together on; and especially in relation to the impact that this has on the residents of the Borough.

Government have recently published an Action Plan designed to prevent, reduce and address young people’s drinking. It is an issue which we all have a part to play in tackling – whether that be through policing, through education , or through promoting greater social responsibility.

The DPP is fully supportive of this initiative and calls on local people to support the police.

District Policing Partnership highlights Violence in the Home

In my role of Chair of the District Policing Partnership, at our recent meeting, one of the speakers I welcomed was from the North Down and Ards Women's Aid.

This is a topic which I feel is not discussed or highlighted as it should be, I get the feeling that people are not comfortable with the subject. I would hope that I can help in some small way bring this to the attention of as many people as possible and seek help from those who can give some positive help.

The figures are astounding, domestic violence affects one in four women and one in six men across Northern Ireland in their lifetime. At present the PSNI responds to a domestic incident every 22 minutes across the Province.
In North Down, there were 862 reported incidents in 2007/8 and 709 in 2008/9. Remember these are reported incidents there are many more not reported.
There are three times as many domestic violence related crimes as drug offences and the same statistics were similar compared to car thefts.
This is a very serious problem within our community, domestic violence has no respect for socio economic groups, age or gender.
Behind these figures are incidents of real tragedy, homes broken up, women left to cope with children, with little or no money to manage. Domestic violence is a crime, and the PSNI along with organisations such as Women's Aid are a god send for many. However, this is not an issue to be politely discussed at a meeting and then forgotten about. I have written to Minister McGimpsey to seek assurance that domestic violence is given true recognition on just what this crime does within a family and how best suffering, physical, financial, and mental can be addressed - with urgency.

Pensioners living in cold and damp homes

Pensioners living in bungalows in the Bloomfield estate in Bangor are being forced to live in Housing Executive homes which are no more than a disgrace.
I was approached by the Community Association to write to Minister Ritchie to highlight yet again the plight of the pensioners. There is a real need for urgency to make these home habitable - winter is not far away and the residents fear that they face living in cold and damp homes for another year.
I have written to the Minister making it very clear that the living conditions are unacceptable and funding must be found.
I have given my assurance that I will help the residents in their fight for an acceptable standard of living. In this day and age, for our pensioners, is that so very much to ask for?

Granny of the Year

Once again I was approached to organise a celebration event in the Town Hall. This was for Mrs Nora Teer who won the Granny of the year Competition run in aid of the Special Olympics Ireland. Despite some tough competition Nora's fun loving personality shone through and in the final held in Belfast Nora entertained the audience and judges alike to take the title.
Nora and her family raised £230 in aid of the Special Olympics County Down as part of the charity's Changing Lives 2009 campaign.
It is my pleasure to be a friend of Nora, her husband and family and to arrange tea with the Mayor, Alderman Leslie Cree which was for Nora a very happy event.
Nora's title Granny of the Year was well deserved.

Celebrating 10th Anniversary of SADI

I was pleased to arrange with the Mayor Alderman Leslie Cree a reception in the Craig room, the Town Hall to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the organisation - SADI.
Support Awareness Drugs Initiative was formed during my year as Mayor and I was delighted to be invited to one of their first fund raising events. This was a coffee morning in the home of Agnes Smylie who formed the group in memory of her son John who died from a drugs overdose.
During the 10 years SADI has provided a valuable role in helping those with drug related problems. But, I am sad to say that Agnes died some years ago. However, her memory lives on and she was fondly remembered during the reception held in the Town Hall where many of her friends and colleagues were present.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

New Appointment to Patient Client Council

I am very pleased that through the public appointment process including an in-depth interview I have been appointed onto the newly formed Patient Client Council.

The Council will have responsibility for providing a strong and effective voice for users of the health and social care throughout Northern Ireland.

I have always had a very close interest with health service provision, from my early days in leading the campaign regarding the Banks Residential Home. This along with my involvement of the Bangor Community Hospital and a former non executive director of the former Ulster Community & Hospitals Trust and a member of the Personal & Public Involvement sub committee, all provides me with a firm grounding in being able to provide an effective role in the Patient Client Council.