Archive for March, 2011

‘Hold Firm’ on Coastguard Says MP

“As a norm, attendance by MPs at Westminster Hall debates is not particularly good, but that certainly could not be said of last Thursday’s debate on the modernisation of the Coastguard Service.

Instead, there were so many MPs present that not everyone had an opportunity to speak during the 3-hour debate.  From Northern Ireland, both Jim Shannon MP and I were present and, between us, all the main arguments favouring the retention of our sole remaining Coastguard Centre in Bangor were made.”

Reflecting upon the intense debate during which every MP spoke passionately about his or her Coastguard centre, Lady Hermon concluded:  “What was particularly striking was the Shipping Minister, Mike Penning’s, complimentary remarks about his visit earlier this month to Bregenz House.  He described having had a ‘wonderful trip to Bangor’, where he had ‘a breath of fresh air’ with the submission of a brand new set of proposals from Bangor’s Coastguard.

Although the Minister emphasised that no decisions about closures had been made or would be made, until after the end of the consultation period on 5th May, Jim Shannon and I definitely felt much more encouraged by the tone and content of Mike Penning’s speech at the end of the Westminster Hall debate.

I’m convinced that the presentation of new proposals by our Coastguard staff in Bangor marked the turning point in the fight to retain N. Ireland’s Coastguard.  We must now hold firm, and continue to win the argument.”

March 31st, 2011

MP Reflects on Coastguard Visit

“Shipping Minister Mike Penning seemed to be in good form when he arrived along with the N.I. Secretary of State at Bregenz House last Wednesday afternoon, and he certainly left in even better form.  Not only had the discussions with the Bangor Coastguard staff been friendly and open, but Centre Manager Richard Newell and his colleagues had also managed to play a blinder, so to speak, by presenting the Minister with a brand new set of proposals for the modernisation of the UK’s entire Coastguard Service.
Their alternative proposals, well-researched and exceedingly well-presented, gave Mike Penning a solution – not a headache – about how best to update the country’s Coastguard Service and build its resilience to meet 21st century demands.  Sitting beside him during the presentation, it was obvious to me that Mr Penning was positively impressed and clearly delighted to welcome ‘as a fresh breath of air’ these new proposals presented by Richard and his team.

As for the six-week extension for submission of written responses to the consultation, I’m fairly relaxed about that.  I say so because the original closing date of 24th March 2011 happens, by complete coincidence, to be the same day as the dissolution of the current N.I. Assembly at Stormont.  During the ensuing six-week election campaign, the Northern Ireland Office and the Government at Westminster will have to observe a period of ‘purdah’, making no comment on local matters.  So, even if the Shipping Minister had good news to announce regarding Northern Ireland’s remaining Coastguard Centre in Bangor, he could not have returned to Bregenz House to do so.
Now, with the newly-announced closure date for submissions fixed for 5th May, which also is the date of the Assembly Election, ‘purdah’ will finish at midnight that night.  I’ve made it abundantly clear to Mike Penning that we would be absolutely delighted to have him back in Bregenz House to give us good news.  My invitation was warmly extended last Wednesday and, following the presentation of the new proposals then, I am definitely much more hopeful that he will be able to deliver a good result for Northern Ireland.”

March 17th, 2011

MP Reflects on Dorrian Anniversary

“I can scarcely believe it is now six years since Lisa Dorrian was killed and then so cruelly ‘disappeared’ by those responsible. Extraordinary anguish continues to be caused to Lisa’s loving family by not yet having her remains located and not being able to have her funeral.

Mercifully, police inquiries still continue, ably supported by forensic experts, and so her parents, sisters and the wider family remain dignified in their painful wait for the return of Lisa’s body for a proper Christian burial.

Again, on this anniversary of her disappearance, I would appeal to the conscience of anyone with information that could bring Lisa home to please ring the confidential Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 555 111. Her family really need an end to their agonising wait, and an end to this terrible living nightmare.”

March 3rd, 2011