Planning for the future

 

just makes sense

“The entire process has been so stressful. If we knew what was involved we would never have started it.” These are the words of Julie and David McGowan. They have been fighting to obtain planning permission for an extension to their family home in North Down for almost a year.

Under the reform of public administration, the Department of Environment transferred powers to 11 new super councils in Northern Ireland on the 1st April this year. These replaced 26 existing councils in Northern Ireland and as part of their remit, the super councils inherited new planning powers, previously held by the department of environment.

But according to the McGowan family, the transition has been far from smooth.

Julie said: “When our third child came along we were faced with the decision of either upsizing or extending our family home. We have always been really happy where we are and didn’t want the hassle of moving so we settled on an extension. We had no idea what was in store and the time we have spent on the planning process would have been better spent on searching for a bigger home.

“The problem seems to be with the transfer to the new super-councils. Where before planning powers lay with the DOE now you have to apply to your local council. When we researched the planning application process we were advised to wait until the new super councils came into force as it would be “more straightforward.”

Julie added: “It has been anything but.”

According to the NI Direct, government website the reform of public administration stipulates that the changes to planning allows local councils to shape how their areas grow and develop. It also states that this is the most significant change to the planning system in more than 40 years but claims that the responsibility is shared by the department of the environment and the local councils. Herein lies the confusion seemingly.

Following the advice they had received, Julie and David approached their local planning officer for Ards and North Down as instructed after the 1st April this year. As far as they were concerned this was the first point of call in order to get their planning application underway. They were told that although the transfer of planning powers to local councils had officially taken place, it wasn’t fully implemented yet and their application should be referred to the DOE. When contacted, the DOE responded to the McGowan’s application by stating that planning powers have been devolved to local councils since the 1st of April this year and therefore their application should be submitted to their local council.

So who is responsible for local planning and where is the transparency for the public?

Under the reform of public administration in Northern Ireland, the decision to move planning powers from the DOE to local councils was “designed to make planning a speedier, simpler and more streamlined process. They will make it easier for people to access and take part in the planning process and help deliver faster and more predictable decisions.”

The McGowan family beg to differ.

Public protocol for submitting a planning application appears to be quite straightforward. According to the website, local councils are now responsible for “the vast majority of planning applications.” All applications are seemingly; “categorised as local, major and regionally significant, with councils responsible for determining all local and major applications. Each council has established a planning committee to consider and decide these applications, however not all applications will come before the planning committee for decision.

The council will publish a Scheme of Delegation that will set out which applications will be dealt with by the planning committee and which will be delegated to officers. The applications that are likely to come before the committee for decision may include large developments, contentious applications and those that receive a number of objections.”

Having read this, Julie approached her local council planning officer again, quoting the appropriate instructions: “I read all of the information carefully and it seemed clear to me that our application would be categorised as a local application and therefore it would be delegated to officers.

“But we have since been told that the scheme of delegation is yet to go ahead but our application is likely to have to go before the planning committee and this may take up to a year. As far as we can understand, only contentious, large or applications with objections need to go before the committee. All we want is an extra bedroom above our garage and a garage conversion. It’s hardly contentious.”

When contacted, the planning officer for the McGowan’s local council Ards and North Down said she: “could not comment on individual applications but the public need to be patient. The transfer of planning powers is an ongoing process but one that will ensure a simpler and speedier application process in the long run.”

A spokesperson for the DOE said: “The department of the environment can confirm that planning powers for local planning applications have now been fully transferred to local councils and the process is now complete. Anyone with planning queries should contact their council planning office.”

The McGowan family are not satisfied with these statements and say: “This is simply not good enough. We undertook the idea of extending our house on the pretence that getting planning permission would be much more straightforward with the new super councils. I know it was a long, drawn-out process in the past. The DOE and our local council are just passing the buck with this now. Change is always good in theory but in practice this is a mess. We are a family left in limbo with no idea whether our application will be approved eventually. We should’ve just moved house.”

It would seem that although the reform of public administration was designed to make public services simpler, it has only served to make things more complicated and frustrating for the public.

Lafferty double sees off Finland

lafferty

Northern Ireland have taken a massive step towards qualification for Euro 2016 after a 2-1 win over Finland at Windsor Park.

Kyle Lafferty’s first-half double was enough for the hosts as they held on to record their fourth win in five games in Group F.

Michael O’Neill praised the mentality of the players in recording another victory.

O’Neill said: “I’m delighted. I had drilled into the boys that we needed to stay focused throughout the game.

mon
Michael O’Neill’s fortunes have turned around in this campaign

“Finland came with a plan but yet again we stuck to our game and got a huge win here in front of our supporters.”

The away side started positively, playing possession-based football in defence and midfield but with little end product.

This style of play almost landed Finland in trouble as a simple square ball landed the Finnish defence in trouble and sent Jamie Ward through on goal. The Derby County winger fluffed his lines and sent his shot wide of the target.

It was a let-off for the Finnish but it gave Northern Ireland the impetus that this game was there for the taking.

As we’ve so often seen in the last few games, Lafferty was to be the hero yet again in front of goal for Northern Ireland.

His opener came in the 33rd minute. An Ollie Norwood free-kick was cleared to Niall McGinn and his flick-on header was met by a sweet volley from Lafferty. The sweeping finish found the bottom corner and Windsor Park erupted.

crowd laff
The Windsor Park crowd was at their brilliant best

Five minutes later, Northern Ireland made it two. Some fantastic work down the right by the impressive Conor McLaughlin led to a cross and the imperious Lafferty headed home, bringing his tally for the campaign to five goals.

The game was transformed, as Finland looked stunned by the quickfire double. At half time, the mood in the stands was that of jubilation. Surely Northern Ireland couldn’t throw this away?

Captain Steven Davis was replaced through injury at half-time and the Finnish controlled the opening stages of the second half, wrestling back control in the midfield.

Again, they struggled to create chances but with time against them, the away side threw everything at Northern Ireland.

Lafferty heads home his second
Kyle Lafferty heads home his second

Their late flurry was to be rewarded as Berat Sadik turned home in injury time, despite suspicions of offside.

It made for a nervous last two minutes as Finland committed men forward in search of a draw. But Northern Ireland held on with the Kop at their backs.

Table-topping Romania visit Windsor on June 13, a win there and we can surely start dusting off the French phrase books for next summer.

Harry’s Shack Restaurant review

According to Virginia Woolf; “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well.” Last week I visited the almost infamous Harry’s Shack.

Harry’s Shack is a very suitable name for the restaurant which opened its doors to the public in August 2014. Situated at the gateway to the beautiful Portstewart Strand, the ‘Shack,’ slips in perfectly with the beautiful  beach setting. So much so it feels like it was always there.

Inside you enter into a welcoming and laid back setting. I automatically was brought back to my time in St Kilda, a little sea side town in Melbourne. The restaurant is simple yet effective. It is there to provide good food for those who enjoy spending their time at Portstewart Strand.

Owner Donegal man Donal Doherty, is not new to the restaurant business. His father owns the famous ‘Harry’s,’ restaurant in Donegal.  No doubt connecting the two restaurants by name, Donal wanted to continue the success of Harry’s into Harry’s Shack. And success he has had if you count his restaurant being awarded best ‘new comer 2014/2015′ with his Chef, Derek Creag,h also being awarded Chef of the Year.

The menu is simple but  far from boring and it offers more than just the usual, ‘pub grub,’ . All food used is freshly grown local produce and you can tell the food tastes fresh, clean and light. After a beautiful three course meal I didn’t come away feeling lethargic or thirsty, a feeling I get after eating out in most restaurants.

The menu has variety but it is simple and allows the customer to see and know where their dinner is coming from. Food options range from baby turnip soup, pickled veg with goat’s cheese, pulled chicken leg on cos lettuce with soft hen eggs in a crisp shallot with buttermilk dressing, beetroot salads, sage and pumpkin risotto, brown butter shrimp and a variety of fresh fish of the day, with produce coming from Greencastle Harbour, County Donegal.

Although no wine list is on offer, Harry’s shack is licenced for BYO creating an even more relaxed atmosphere. There is no doubt this restaurant is worth the visit.  From great food to excellent staff it would be worth your while to check it out. They also liaise wonderfully with the public through their very active Facebook page. For more information see https://www.facebook.com/HarrysShack  or contact Donal or any of the staff on 028 7083 1783. Harry’s Shack, 118 Strand Road, Portstewart Tel: 028 7083 1783 to see what all the fuss was about.

Football Racism

Aston Villa Players on Kick it Out strips
Aston Villa Players on Kick it Out strips

 

The number of reports of discrimination in English football have risen in the past year to 184.

The anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out have reported a 35% increase in the period August-December 2014.  This compares with the same period in the 2013-2014 football season when there were 136 grievances received by the organisation.

The breakdown of these complaints shows that racism and anti-semitism were the most common forms of abuse recorded.

The complaints received came from every level of English football, from grassroots to premier league, and involved top footballers as well as fans.

At a sweeping majority 60% of the discrimination that was reported originated online, in social media.

While these figures may at first give the impression that football discrimination is on the rise, both the Football Association and Kick It Out are treating these figures as a positive sign. It is believed that the increase in the number of reports of discrimination denotes a growing refusal to accept bigotry in football. Moreover, it is thought that this increase demonstrates that people are less tolerant of prejudice generally and more willing to come forward and complain about incidents.

However, Roisin Wood, the director of Kick It Out, said that she believes these numbers “barely scratch the surface of a widespread problem”.

These figures are released in the same month that the Metropolitan Police are investigating an alleged racist incident involving Chelsea fans in Paris and while the British Transport Police are making inquiries about a separate incident involving Chelsea supporters on a train to Manchester.

Lord Herman Ouseley, Kick It Out chairman, said that “Major improvements have been made over the last 30 years” but that the incident in Paris “reminded people that such things still go on below the radar.”

Lord Ouseley went on to point out that these problems are not solely the responsibility of those in football: “there is a persistent problem, there is prejudice in society, which is being increased by the anti-Europe, anti-immigrant, anti-benefit scroungers drip-drip in politics.”

 

 

 

Stewart Lee Review

stewart lee

“Comedy is the new opera” Stewart Lee quipped at the outset of his new show, referring to his Grand Opera House surroundings. He might just be right too. Lee’s brand of comedy is dramatic, intense and, at times, beyond his audience.

 

Throughout the ninety minute set Lee effortlessly kept everyone laughing. However, underneath the mirth, omnipresent, lay a didactic, challenging style. Lee is unforgiving of ignorance and regularly broke from his set to goad punters (not unkindly) for failing to grasp some of his more cerebral allusions.

 

I imagine that many English comedians may find playing Belfast a daunting experience, there must be something of an internal struggle about whether or not to mention the troubled past and present of the city you’re standing in. Lee had no such reservations:

“Unlike you I don’t live in a culturally divided war zone. I live in Hackney.”

 

The locals rewarded him for his frankness time and again; there was no shortage of spontaneous applause. But then perhaps this was not your average Belfast audience. As Lee pointed out, if all the Guardian readers of Belfast were in the Grand Opera House  who was going to smooth over any pub brawls.

 

Lee’s intelligence is palpable; nothing leaves him speechless or gag-less. When improvising, which he did frequently, you didn’t see the struggle for material register on his face.

 

This comedian’s greatest talent is for building seemingly endless and meaningless hilarity only for the punch-line to hit you entirely unexpectedly.

 

However, the most arresting aspect of a Stewart Lee show is his vitriol. The stand-up’s capacity for hate is far-reaching, no one is too big or too small and he has no fear of making enemies. If he has you in his sights and he doesn’t respect you, watch out: I’m looking at you Michael McIntyre.

 

Lee’s latest show is yet another work of artistic brilliance. But it isn’t for everyone; this is exclusionary comedy for an intelligent, sharp, liberal minority. Lee uses this show to talk about the world as he sees it, his understanding of it and, often, his utter exasperation with it. You can tell Lee really couldn’t care less whether he has universal appeal or not, he won’t put on a front; his satirical meanderings, his irony, his fury are who he is. This isn’t a character, or an act, this IS Stewart Lee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Council’s and Ratepayers Clash over Bills

Figures from the Department of Finance have shown that up to 350,000 households in Northern Ireland have been affected by increased rates due to the formation of the super councils.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton has said that the people affected will be able to get a discount and that he will address the increases which are a direct result of the creation of the new councils.

Mr Hamilton said: “Differences have built up in the level of district rates chargeable by the old councils and those that will be chargeable under the new larger councils”.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton has said there is help for ratepayers
Finance Minister Simon Hamilton has said there is help for ratepayers

The executive has put aside £30 million to assist ratepayers.

The SDLP’s Alex Attwood has previously said that more help is needed for ratepayers. Mr Attwood said: “The consequence of convergence is that the rate burden will change within the new council areas. If anyone is pretending otherwise they are not being fully honest with people.

“Thirty million was secured by me to help that transition, and if hard figures are coming in that say the burden is even greater than people might have anticipated, then there should be a budget discussion in order to help people to ensure there is no further burden placed upon them.”

The SDLP's ALex Attwood has criticised the lack of assistance for householders
The SDLP’s ALex Attwood has criticised the lack of assistance for householders

The District Rate Subsidy scheme only applies to domestic and non-domestic ratepayers in certain areas and the only exceptions are public bodies and social housing landlords where rates are already standardised.

Mr Hamilton continued: “The scheme will be of most benefit, however, to the 23,000 Lisburn, Castlereagh and North Down ratepayers falling within the new boundary of Belfast City Council, as well as around 30,000 ratepayers in Fermanagh that will be served by the new Fermanagh and Omagh Council.

“Typically, an average domestic ratepayer in these areas will receive a discount of around £40 or £50 off their rate bill this year.

“Castlereagh ratepayers who are moving into Belfast will, on average, get a discount of around £90.”

26 district councils have been replaced by 11 super councils
26 district councils have been replaced by 11 super councils

An elderly couple from Loughbrickland, who are under the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council have seen their rates rise due to the new super council.

Mrs Graham said: “There are just so many bills to face it’s hard to cope to sometimes. I know there is a scheme to help but it will probably not make much difference. The councils need to think about the community when they decide to do these things because some of us just can’t afford any more bills”.

A spokesperson for the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) said: “The new councils are free to strike whatever rate they consider appropriate to meet their new expenditure needs.

“DFP expects that, where there is a significant disparity between the existing councils that are coming together, the new district rate will be struck at a level that lies between the existing district rates but DFP cannot control this in any way.”

Northern Ireland’s 26 district councils were replaced by 11 larger, super councils on the 1st April 2015 and while they continue to provide the same services as the previous councils they also have a number of new powers and responsibilities.

These include:

  • Off-street parking (except park and ride)
  • Local economic development
  • Community planning process
  • Control of alterations, extensions and demolition of listed buildings
  • Conservation area designation and management

Van Gaal accuses his players of complacency after Everton defeat

Manchester United witnessed another defeat on Sunday (26th April) after losing 3-0 to Everton. The match, held at Goodison Park inflicted a second Premier League loss on Louis van Gaal’s side.

While the game ended in defeat for Manchester United, van Gaal must have been glad that he would not suffer the same fate as his predecessor. David Moyes was famously sacked last April, only ten months into his job, following a 2-0 defeat against Roberto Martinez’s team.

While Manchester United went into Sunday’s match as favourites to win, Gary Neville believes that Everton’s win was aided by a clear, well thought out game plan. He said; “Roberto Martinez prides himself on being a possession manager but today he resigned himself to sitting off a little, and playing a little deeper”.

Martinez celebrates Everton's goal
Martinez celebrates Everton’s goal

Goals from man-of-the match James McCarthy, John Stones and Kevin Mirallas gained Everton their biggest victory against United since October 1984.

28069B6C00000578-0-image-a-8_1430125497394
Kevin Mirallas scored Everton’s final goal in their 3-0 triumph over United

Mark Jardine, a Manchester United supporter was at the match. He said: “They (Manchester United) had the majority of ball possession but Everton counter attacked well. Our defence was bad and Everton got an early lead when they scored in the first five minutes”. He added: “It was all downhill from there for United”.

While supporters of the Red Devils are still behind their team, Louis van Gaal accused his players of complacency. He said: “It is the first time that I have seen our motivation, inspiration and aggression was not so high as the opponent”.

Marouane Fellaini missed a golden opportunity to equalise seven minutes into the game. He blazed from over 20 yards but his presence on the team meant United’s attacking sense was predictable. This was highlighted just before half-time when Everton scored for the second time. At half-time van Gaal changed his approach replacing Fellaini with Radamel Falcao. Juan Mata was also substituted at 63 minutes by Di Maria. Mirallas heightened Manchester United’s misery when he scored at 74 minutes, Everton’s third goal.

Manchester United were labelled 'toothless' after their performance on Sunday
Manchester United were labelled ‘toothless’ after their performance on Sunday

The match showed that United need to up their game and the absence of centre midfielder, Michael Carrick exposed their lack of pace up-front.

Safety of North West 200 questioned as injured spectator in critical condition

North West Crash Victim airlifted to hospitalA spectator and rider were airlifted to hospital after a crash involving three motorcycles at the Vauxhall International North West 200 on Saturday.

The crash happened on a straight section of the course between York corner and the Mill Road Roundabout in Portstewart during the opening Superstock race. The injured spectator, Violet McAfee, a mother of one was hit by a bike whilst standing in her neighbour’s driveway.

She was airlifted to Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital as was injured rider Stephen Thompson from County Antrim. Both are now in a stable condition.

Austrian racer Horst was also involved in the accident and received treatment in nearby Causeway Hospital in Coleraine. The third rider, Dean Harrison from Bradford escaped injury and was able to take part in the afternoon races.

Picture taken by spectator seconds after crash

GoPro footage from one of the bikes has since been released in which the bike can be seen clipping a curb and skidding down the road. The Superstock race was subsequently cancelled.

The crash has somewhat overshadowed Carrickfergus motorcyclist Alastair Seeley’s achievement of matching the late Robert Dunlop’s record of 15 wins at the event.

Alatair Seeley matches NW record wins

The Tyco BMW racer took two victories on the 8.9 mile triangle course fending off stiff competition to win both the Supersport and the Superbike races. Seeley lost out on a hat trick to Lee Johnston in the afternoon’s Superstock race. Whilst Belfast’s Jeremy McWilliams won the Supertwins race.

The feature Superbike event could have been Seeley’s chance to exceed Dunlop’s record by securing a sixteenth win but the final race was cancelled due to hazardous weather conditions as winds of up to 40mph swept in from the north coast.

Saturday’s accident has once again raised questions about the future of the road race as many argue it is simply too dangerous as over the years 18 riders have died taking part.

However after the practice sessions last Thursday TV personality and motorbike racer Guy Martin criticised the track saying there were too many safety chicanes making the track boring to race.

Martin apologised to race director Mervyn Whyte just before the fateful race on Saturday morning saying the chicanes were, ”a necessary evil.” Whyte was  quick to correct him calling them a ”requirement” helping ensure the safety of participants.

Whyte described Saturday’s crash as a ”freak” incident and promised that a full investigation will be carried out.

‘The New council of Newry, Mourne and Down have ambitious hopes to lead and serve a district that is prosperous, healthy and sustainable.’

On April 1 2015 the councils across Northern Ireland changed into what is now known as ‘Super councils.’ The council numbers went down from 26 councils to 11 councils. This is conveyed in the diagram below:

A map of Northern Ireland's new council areas
A map of Northern Ireland’s new council areas

The councils would still retain the same powers as previous councils but now with additional powers. A number of functions which were previously delivered by the NI Executive department are now in the hands of the council these include:

  • Local Planning Functions
  • Off-street parking
  • Local economic developmement
  • Community development (will transfer in April 2016)
  • Urban regeneration (will transfer in April 2016)

See link http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/local-government-reform

In this article I am going to look at Urban Regeneration in the new council area of Newry, Mourne and Down District council.

Newry, Mourne and Down District council is the third largest council area in Northern Ireland with a population of 171, 500 people and a coastline of 100 miles approximately. The council has ambitious plans for its future but claim their biggest challenge is establishing a new organisation and providing seamless change. The next four years of the councils strategic planning is crucial. It will be in this time that they want to deliver and make a real difference to the economic, health, educational and environmental well being of the district.

Last week I spoke with the new Economic Development and Regeneration officer at Newry and Mourne District Council, Sandra Magee. She explained more to be the plans of regeneration for the new Newry, Mourne and Down District council.

‘This is a new era for the district as a new council Newry, Mourne and down district council which was established following the amalgamation of Newry and Mourne District council with Down District council’, said Mrs Magee.

She explained that it is an exciting time for the district but also very challenging. ‘Although recent economic data points to recovery which is well underway and real opportunities for the future economic prosperity we have significant number of areas of social deprivation.’

“Regeneration” is more than just tackling disadvantage across the area said Mrs Magee. ‘It is about making improvements to business premises a concrete aspect of tackling visual disadvantage but we have 5 themes to get in there and cover the nitty gritty. Our council is very lucky to have many assets such as the beautiful natural environment, strategic location on the Island of Ireland and impressive built heritage which we must capitalise on them.’

The Five themes for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council are:

  • Theme 1 Economic Development
  • Theme 2 Tourism Development, making promotion
  • Theme 3 Urban Development & Events & regeneration
  • Theme 4 Rural development and regeneration
  • Theme 5 Culture and the Arts.

The Diagrams below convey examples of how the New council of Newry, Mourne and Down hope to achieve this regeneration:

 

                         Strengths Weaknesses
· Strategic importance of location North/South economic corridor and eastern Seaboard· Strong entrepreneurial tradition·Outstanding natural beauty of the area

·         Availability of wide range of outdoor activities

· Strong agricultural and fishing tradition

·Diverse cultural offering

·Several key cultural assets and active local arts communities

·Good cross border linkages

·Poor connectivity- roads broadband·Business networks fragmented·  Aging workforce

· Natural resources not creating business opportunities/jobs

· Lack of strong, identifiable brand for the region

·Some areas of disadvantage still remain

· Over reliance on domestic and Irish visitor market

· Lack of cohesion of cultural sector and few links with tourism

· Contribution of culture and arts to the economy not recognised

 

                         Opportunities Threats
·Strategic opportunities at warrenpoint & Kilkeel Harbour·Business support for growing businesses· Collaboration with invest NI & Tourism Ireland to attract investment

·Use of the Diaspora, local business champions

· Engagement for colleges & schools

· Mournes as a tourism destination

·Location for outdoor/adventure tourism & food tourism

·Community asset transfer model

· Public/private cultural and tourism partnerships

·Strong cross border linkages and partnerships

·Slow economic growth·Competition from Belfast and Dublin for new investment·Reduced public spending resources

·Currency fluctuation creates uncertainty

·Development pressures

·Political legacy need for rural regeneration

·External negative perceptions of border area as area to invest and visit in

·Concern that much of the focus will be on the ‘Newry’ part of the new council

Below is an example of Newry, Mourne and Down District’s Council Strategic plans:

By 2019, we will have:

  1. Become one of the premier tourism destinations on the island of Ireland;
  2. Attracted investment and supported the creation of new jobs;
  3. Supported improved health and wellbeing outcomes;
  4. protected our natural and built environment;
  5. led the regeneration of our urban and rural areas;
  6. Advocated on your behalf specifically in relation to those issues which really matter to you;
  7. Empowered and improved the capacity of our communities; and
  8. Transformed and modernised the Council, providing accessible as well as value for money services.

 

There is no doubt Newry, Mourne and Down District council are conveying their ‘super’ powers already with their ambitious goals. Regeneration is a huge element in obtaining these. Mrs Magee said, ‘It is important that we achieve these goals but even more important is that we are able to sustain them.’

Given the councils strategic development plans for the future of the district if they ‘were’ able to achieve and maintain these goals then Newry, Mourne and Down District Council will undoubtedly be a ‘Super Council.’

For more information on Newry, Mourne and Down District council please visit the below links:

http://www.newrymournedown.org

Newry Address:
Monaghan Row, Newry, BT35 8DJ, Northern Ireland
Council: 0300 013 2233
Planning: 0300 200 7830
Email: info@nmandd.org

Downpatrick Address:
Downshire Civic Centre, Ardglass Road, Downpatrick, BT30 6GQ

http://www.doeni.gov.uk/index/local_government/local_government_reform

 

NHS gets the ‘Stitched Up’ treatment

Stitched Up

‘Stitched Up’ is a topical play tackling relevant subject matter at a time when the NHS is dominating the headlines.

As I collect my ticket at the usually quiet Riverside theatre in Coleraine it is clear from the number of people in the foyer the satirical drama by Northern Irish playwright Rosemary Jenkinson has caught people’s attention. A recognisable face from BBC’s drama ‘The Fall’ is no doubt giving ticket sales a helping hand as Richard Clements plays Aidan, a disgraced surgeon in the touring production.

As the show starts the reassuring beep of a life support machine can be heard throughout the dark auditorium and as the lights slowly build a surgeon can be seen at work through a dimly lit gauze. The stillness of the operating room is established and creates a stark contrast to the, at times, manic action of the following 75 minutes.

Clements plays a surgeon facing unwanted media attention after leaving a pair of scissors in a patient during a rushed surgery. Meanwhile his wife Kate, played by Roisin Gallagher, is distracted by the success of her campaign to demolish Belfast’s infamous peace walls. Repercussions occur when the introduction of a third character lying on the couple’s kitchen table, ”like a Sunday Roast” forces Aidan to make a split second life or death decision.

Making his directorial début for C21 Theatre Company, http://c21theatrecompany.com Stephen Kelly’s style is considered, as staging and technical nuances compliment elements of the script in conveying current pressures faced by NHS staff. At one point the disgraced surgeon stands at the front of the stage facing the media backlash and fielding questions thrown at him from recorded voice-overs playing through speakers in the auditorium.  All of a sudden the audience are no longer bystanders as they become the faces of the public putting the doctor on trial.

The play invites the audience to question the staged elements, the truths, and the fictions behind the portrayal of current issues in contemporary society as the couple’s individual experiences challenge Kate’s belief that, ”All publicity is good publicity.”

‘Stitched Up’ certainly gets a few chuckles but a slight dependency on the use of bad language for easy laughs may offend some audience members.