Archive for February, 2011

Momentum Steps Up on Coastguard Campaign

North Down’s MP, Lady Hermon, today welcomed a cross-party delegation of MPs to the Coastguard headquarters in Bangor as part of her campaign to save Northern Ireland’s only remaining Coastguard Centre.

The Department for Transport is currently consulting on its proposals for the modernisation of Coastguard services, which could see Bangor losing out to the Coastguard Centre in Liverpool.

Speaking from Bregenz House, the home of N. Ireland’s Coastguard, at the conclusion of the visit, Lady Hermon said: “I greatly appreciated the support today (Monday) of other MPs - Jim Shannon of the DUP, Margaret Ritchie, Leader of the SDLP, and Naomi Long of the Alliance Party – when we visited Northern Ireland’s only remaining Coastguard Centre at Bregenz House in Bangor.

The meeting with Coastguard staff and a senior representative of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency was very useful indeed, and ran much longer than anticipated.  With the representative of the Agency choosing to spend most of the time in an adjacent room, Coastguard staff were free to respond frankly and in detail to the questions we MPs posed about the modernisation proposals.  As a result, we collectively felt much better briefed and are now in an even stronger position to persuade the Shipping Minister, Mike Penning MP, that Northern Ireland cannot be the only part of the United Kingdom left without a Coastguard Centre.”

Having invited Secretary of State Owen Paterson, the Shipping Minister and other key political players to visit N. Ireland’s remaining Coastguard in Bangor, Lady Hermon continued: “Mike Penning MP is due to visit Bregenz House later this week, when I will be pleased to have the opportunity to introduce him to both the First and Deputy First Ministers.  Whilst that meeting is scheduled to last only an hour, I suspect that it too will run over schedule, particularly as the Secretary of State will also be attending.”

“We know we have a fight on our hands to save Northern Ireland’s last remaining Coastguard Centre in Bangor, but it’s a fight that has brought together the collective will of the various political parties here.  Together, we are fighting to win”, she concluded.

February 17th, 2011

Penning’s Coastguard Visit Postponed

Speaking from the House of Commons late last night, North Down’s MP, Lady Hermon, reflected on the sudden turn of events, which have caused the postponement of Shipping Minister Mike Penning MP’s and the Secretary of State’s visit to Bregenz House in Bangor, the home of Northern Ireland’s only remaining Coastguard Centre.  With resignation in her voice, she said:

“Most regrettably, my plans for the Bangor Coastguard staff to explain the unique features of their work in N. Ireland to Shipping Minister Mike Penning and Secretary of State Owen Paterson on Thursday have now been thwarted by unexpected circumstances, one tinged with considerable sadness.

Immediately, after visiting the Coastguard in Bangor, the Secretary of State and Mr Penning had planned to visit the Belfast Harbour Commission.  Tragically, however, the Belfast Deputy Harbour Master, Michael Evans, lost his life in the awful Cork air crash last week, and his funeral is expected to take place on Thursday.  In these very sad circumstances, I can well understand why Mike Penning and Owen Paterson felt it inappropriate to proceed with their scheduled visit to the Commission on Thursday.

In addition, Mr Penning’s office has advised me that the Tory Whips refused to allow him and the NI Secretary of State off the Whip on Thursday.  At present, the House of Commons is in the process of so-called ‘parliamentary ping pong’ with the House of Lords over a key piece of Government legislation to reduce the number of MPs and also to introduce Alternative Voting (AV) for Westminster elections. 

Since the House of Lords made significant amendments to this very important Bill over the last couple of weeks, the Coalition Government is now determined to reverse these this week, before Parliament’s half-term recess.  I suspect that it is a game of numbers in that the Government wants as many of its MPs as possible voting against the Lords’ amendments in order to persuade the unelected House that the will of the Commons should prevail. 

Both Government Ministers have, however, assured me that their visit to the N. Ireland Coastguard Centre in Bangor will take place at the earliest possible opportunity.  Let’s hope the Whips don’t intervene next time. 

Despite these changes, I’m very pleased the visit to Bregenz House by the First and Deputy First Ministers is still going ahead on Thursday as planned.”

February 16th, 2011

MP Reflects on Visit to Donaghadee Lifeboat Station

Following her visit on Sunday to the Donaghadee Lifeboat Station and a trip afloat the all-weather Lifeboat, Saxon, North Down’s MP, Lady Hermon, reflected cheerily:
“I am full of admiration for the work of the RNLI, and felt really privileged – and very safe – going out with the crew of the Donaghadee Lifeboat last Sunday.  I enjoyed the experience so much that disappointment swept over me when we reached the harbour again, all too soon after leaving it!
“Saxon” is a hugely impressive Lifeboat with a highly-motivated and dedicated crew, and so it’s wonder the weather couldn’t dampen my spirits.”

February 10th, 2011

Hermon’s Tribute to Ranger David Dalzell

North Down MP, Lady Hermon, has paid warm tribute to her young constituent, Ranger David Dalzell of 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, who was tragically killed on 4th February 2011 as a result of an operational accident while working in Check Point RANGER in Nad-e Ali, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Speaking from her Bangor Constituency Office, Lady Hermon said: “I was profoundly upset when I heard the awful news that David (affectionately nicknamed ‘Diesel’) had been killed in a tragic accident in Afghanistan.  Even though he had only been in the Army for a relatively short time, ‘Diesel’ Dalzell had quickly been identified as a first-class soldier. 

The fact was, and remains, he absolutely loved his job in the Army;  he had true grit, where neither age nor fear were barrriers to his courage.  As his Commanding Officer said of David, “his bravery never wavered under fire.”  
To his parents, Gordon and Susie, his sisters Kelly, Catherine and Rachael and his brothers Gareth, Mark and Stewart, I send my deepest sympathy at this time of terrible grief, loss and heartache.  He will be sorely missed by all who loved and knew him best, and his devoted family, friends and Army colleagues have every right to be enormously proud of this outstanding young soldier.”

February 10th, 2011

Disposal of Portavo Reservoir Delayed

In conjunction with an on-line petition and the first of a series of public meetings, organised by Councillor Andrew Muir, to muster support in opposition to Northern Ireland Water’s proposal to sell-off Portavo Reservoir, North Down’s MP, Lady Hermon, has now received correspondence confirming that “…due to some minor outstanding legal issues which need to be resolved, NI Water has decided to defer placing Portavo Impounding Reservoir on the open market in 2011/12.”

Reflecting upon her letter from Mr Bill Gowdy, the Acting Director of Engineering Procurement for NI Water, Lady Hermon said: “Whilst I obviously welcome the additional breathing space for Portavo in terms of its proposed sale, I’m intrigued and a bit mystified by Mr Gowdy’s acknowledgement that this stay of execution …‘may provide an opportunity for interested parties to discuss the various options surrounding its sale.’

If all of us, who so strongly oppose the disposal of several of North Down’s reservoirs, including Portavo, are stymied by NI Water in our efforts to prevent such disposals, I cannot help but wonder whether, in light of Mr Gowdy’s words, we should actively canvass the RSPB and/or the National Trust to acquire Portavo Reservoir with its beautiful surroundings.”

Lady Hermon concluded: “Meantime, I’m awaiting a response from the DRD Minister Conor Murphy, whom I’ve urged to take our North Down reservoirs off the ‘For Sale’ list, because their disposal could have an adverse impact on our future water supply.  We saw all too starkly, during the recent prolonged and very bitter spell of wintry weather, that household water supplies were not secure.  We cannot tolerate a repetition of that misery for so many.”

February 10th, 2011

Hermon Continues Fight to Save Coastguard

There are positive signs that the campaign to save our Coastguard service is gathering pace.  Having called upon key political players and others well-placed to help keep Northern Ireland’s only remaining Coastguard in Bangor, North Down MP Lady Hermon is encouraged by significant signs of support, but she also warns that the fight is still on.  Reflecting on recent developments, she observed: “I recognise that we still have a tough battle ahead to retain this essential life-saving service but, along with other key players, we are fighting to win.”

Her campaign began last December on the same day as the UK Minister for Transport, Mike Penning MP, made a Written Statement in the House Commons announcing a 14-week consultation on proposals for the “Modernisation of Coastguard Services”.

Speaking from Westminster, the North Down MP said: “I’m delighted that both the First and the Deputy First Ministers have accepted my invitation to visit the Coastguard at Bregenz House in Bangor to see at first-hand the stirling work carried out by its extremely dedicated and efficient staff.” 

Correspondence to Lady Hermon from Vice Admiral Sir Alan Massey, the Chief Executive of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, has confirmed that he will also be flying over from England to attend this particular visit.  Referring to his attendance, the North Down MP commented: “Sir Alan can certainly expect to be put under considerable pressure from the First and Deputy First Ministers, and from me.  I sense that across the political spectrum, we in Northern Ireland are resolutely determined to keep our last remaining Coastguard Centre in Bangor.”

After that visit, the momentum will be maintained as Lady Hermon explained, saying: “I’m particularly looking forward to welcoming to Bangor the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson MP, along with the Transport Minister.  Since I expect our Secretary of State always to be the champion for Northern Ireland at the Cabinet table, I obviously expect him to also be at the forefront within Government, demanding the retention of the Coastguard service in Northern Ireland.”

February 3rd, 2011