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.

 

Successful Day at the Omagh Rugby 7s

On Saturday 25th April, Omagh Academicals Rugby Football Club hosted their annual Seven’s Tournament.

27 teams from across Ulster competed in four leagues.  The Omagh Accies first team defeated their Omagh 2nd XV counterparts, to win the Campbell Cup.

Omagh Accies XV, Campbell Cup Winners

‘No Woman No Try’, a team of other Omagh players, won the third tier trophy on offer, the PJ Ryan Cup.

No Woman No Try, PJ Ryan Cup Winners

Dungannon took the Watterson Cup back to Stevenson Park, while the ladies of Cooke won the ladies competition, which was hosted for the first time in the tournament’s history.

Dungannon RFC, Watterson Cup Winners
Cooke RFC ladies, Ladies Cup Winners

Visiting teams such as Enniskillen, Clogher Valley, Dungannon and City of Derry joined Omagh Academy and a mix of competitive and social sides from the host club including ‘The Mexicans’, who stood out in their new colours but fielded in their 19th season. The team was captained by Keith Givens, who has played in the team since their first outing in 1996.

The day not only included rugby, but also a beach volleyball tournament, an inflatable bar, DJ and a hot tub which players enjoyed in the beautiful weather.

Beach Volleyball at the 7s Tournament

The evening, which had a lot to live up to, following the great day the many players and spectators had enjoyed, did not disappoint. The Logues played to a packed rugby club and the high spirited Accies celebrated the end of a great season, with the 1st XV winning Kukri Qualifying 2 league, gaining promotion to Qualifying 1 and also making it to the final of the McCall Wylie Junior Cup played at Ravenhill. The 2nd XV won the Crawford Cup and the club has been nominated for the Ulster Branch Club of the Year award.

The club are looking forward to their “off-peak” period with a pre-season tour of Munster planned and the return of the mixed-tag tournament which never disappoints.