All posts by Alicia Clarke

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.

Super Councils for Dummies

The reform of local government in Northern Ireland sees the replacement of the 26 districts created in 1973 with a smaller number of super districts.

The review process began in 2002 with proposals for either seven or 11 districts made before it was suspended in 2010. On March 12 2012 the Northern Ireland Executive published its programme for government which included a commitment to reduce the number of councils in Northern Ireland to 11. The first elections were on May 22 2014.

From April 1 2015 the new councils took over. The new councils provide the same services as previous councils however they have a number of new powers and responsibilities which are outlined in the table below.

Planning

· Local development plan functions

· Development control and enforcement

Roads

· Off-street parking
Local economic development

· Start a Business Programme and Enterprise Shows

· Youth entrepreneurship (such as Prince’s Trust and Shell Livewire)

· Social entrepreneurship

· Investing for Women

· Neighbourhood renewal funding relating to enterprises initiatives

Local Tourism

· Small-scale tourism accommodation development

· Providing business support including business start-up advice, along with training and delivery of customer care schemes

· Providing advice to developers on tourism policies and related issues

Heritage

· Small-scale tourism accommodation development

· Providing business support including business start-up advice, along with training and delivery of customer care schemes

· Providing advice to developers on tourism policies and related issues

Urban regeneration and community development

· Small-scale tourism accommodation development

· Providing business support including business start-up advice, along with training and delivery of customer care schemes

· Providing advice to developers on tourism policies and related issues

Other services

· Small-scale tourism accommodation development

· Providing business support including business start-up advice, along with training and delivery of customer care schemes

· Providing advice to developers on tourism policies and related issues

There are two overriding key benefits to the reform of councils in Northern Ireland.

1. Improved service provision

Councils are being given new responsibilities and a broader range of powers. Combined with partnership working with other Departments and agencies operating in their areas, this will make councils stronger, more effective and flexible to local need. They will be able to better co-ordinate service delivery and avoid duplication, leading to more efficient, high quality services.

2. Long-term cost savings

The potential long term financial benefits are substantial as amalgamating 26 councils into 11 brings with it economies of scale. The costs and benefits of reform are currently being examined to take account of the 2015 programme timetable, the sector’s Improvement, Collaboration and Efficiency proposals and the current economic climate in which reform is now being taken forward.

Councillors have been reduced in number from 582 to 462, each receiving an allowance of £14,200 a year. Those members who hold office such as mayor, deputy mayor or committee chair will also receive a special responsibility allowance.

The following table outlines the new council areas, their location and their electorate.

Council

Where

Who

Fermanagh and Omagh

All of Co. Fermanagh and parts of TyroneBorders Donegal, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan

Electorate of 74,414

Derry and Strabane

Includes Co. Londonderry and Tyrone

Borders Co. Donegal

Electorate of 92,593

Mid Ulster

Includes part of Co. Londonderry, Tyrone and Armagh

Borders Monaghan

Electorate of 86,591

Causeway Coast and Glens

Includes part of Co. Antrim and Londonderry Electorate of 88,654

Mid and East Antrim

Part of Co. Antrim

Electorate of 89,832

Antrim and Newtownabbey

Part of Co. Antrim

Electorate of 84,996

Belfast

Belfast City

Electorate of 323,567

Lisburn and Castlereagh

Many of the outer suburbs of Belfast

Electorate of 83,369

North Down and Ards

 

Ards Peninsula, most of Stangford lough and the southern shore of Belfast Lough

Electorate of 102,313

Newry, Mourne and Down

 

Includes Southern Co. Armagh and Co. DownBorders Co. Louth and Monaghan Electorate of 107,233
Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Includes parts of Co. Armagh and Down

Electorate 124,996

Map showing the 26 old  local government districts in Northern Ireland
Map showing the 11 new local government districts in Northern Ireland
Map showing the 11 new local government districts in Northern Ireland
Map showing the existing and new local government districts in Northern Ireland
Map showing the existing and new local government districts in Northern Ireland

If you are unsure as to your new council area and electoral ward, enter your postcode here.

There are fears over minority communities in the new council areas as Stormont’s two main power blocs tighten their grip on local government.

Ten out of the 11 new super councils are dominated either by unionists or nationalists consolidating the green and orange politics of the province. This has given rise to fears that local level politics could cement the divisions which have been evident at Stormont.

Belfast is the only council which remains ‘hung’ where Alliance holds the balance of power between unionists and nationalists.

David Ford, Alliance MLA has said, “As the new councils will have more responsibilities, it is imperative that councillors move beyond the orange and green tribal politics and towards a more inclusive style of governing,”

“Councillors must work together to deliver the best possible services for ratepayers, and council positions must be fairly distributed.”

Arnold Hatch, President of the umbrella councils body, the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA), said: “The large parties tend to dominate, whether it’s the west of the province with Sinn Fein or the east of the province with the DUP. That has been the case.

“But at the same time 99% of the decisions which councils have to take are done on a consensual basis and my firm belief is that if councils are given real responsibilities they will knuckle down to that work and these petty arguments over positions will diminish.”

Bill White, chair of polling organisation LucidTalk, said: “I think it is arguable that the boundaries for the new Belfast council were designed in such a way to ensure it would remain a hung council – as predicted by ourselves and many others.

“I think the hope was that there would be more hung councils, in Causeway Coast and Glens, for example, and Mid and East Antrim, but that has not turned out to be the case.”

An interactive map highlighting the difference between the old and new council areas can be found here.

QUB SWOT Fashion Show 2015 a Massive Hit

On the 9th March the annual SWOT Fashion Show took place in the Whitla Hall, in Belfast.

Students Working Overseas Trust is a charitable society run by fourth year medics at Queen’s University Belfast. The students raise funds and take them to the third world when they travel to work overseas during their six weeks summer elective.

The show featured music, dance routines, on-trend fashion, raffle prizes and an auction including tickets to see One Direction. The hosts were Shane Todd AKA Mike McGoldrick and the queen of UTV, Pamela Ballantine.

Pamela Ballantine and Mike McGoldrick

I was so lucky to be there as I left getting my ticket until the last minute, meaning there were none left! My better half did a bit of sweet talking and eyelash fluttering to the organisers and I had a ticket!

As it really wasn’t my boyfriend’s scene and he was snowed under with work, I had to bite the bullet and go alone. I was doing my best “air of confidence” impression until I couldn’t find a seat and had to walk around stopping occasionally to ask “is this seat taken?” Eventually I found space beside a lovely couple who took me under their wing and I could relax.

The event was outstanding and it’s not just me who thinks so! The show won Charity Event of the Year in the Union of Students in Ireland Awards.

Union of Students in Ireland Awards, SWOT Fashion Show wins Charity Event of the Year 2015

The student medics had been juggling rehearsals, placement, lectures and exams since October and it was clear to see the time and dedication they had put in. I can honestly say that the hard work definitely paid off!

The lectures threw some shapes on the catwalk and rugby boys took on GAA boys in a topless dance off. The interval was filled with tasty treats that the medics had baked and there was more than just tea and coffee on offer for those who fancied something stronger to set them up for the after party at the Speakeasy.

The rugby boys take on the GAA boys

The event raised an incredible £32,533 and this coupled with other fundraising efforts will undoubtedly make a huge difference to the wellbeing of individuals overseas.

I am already looking forward to next year’s show and will definitely make sure I get my ticket early. I strongly recommend you do the same!