Other NI News In Brief

Eastern Promise

NI Tourism Minister Arlene Foster has encouraged Chinese travel companies to promote NI as a tourist and business destination. The Minister was speaking in Shanghai, where she is leading an Invest Northern Ireland 26 company-strong trade mission. "The World Tourism Organisation predicts outbound tourism from China will soar to 100million by 2020, making it the leading single source of tourists worldwide. Our aim is to attract a share of this fast-growing travel market," the Minister said, pictured here at the Tourism Ireland event at the Shanghai Tang Café with Susan Li, Tourism Ireland, China.

QUB Hit By Fees Protest

Some students were this afternoon staging a sit-in outside the Queen's University Vice-Chancellor's office in protest at proposals to increase tuition fees. However, the Students Union told the BBC that it was not supporting the protesters.

Bomb Alert 'Hoax'

A controlled explosion has been carried out during a security alert in north Belfast. A number of homes were evacuated after the police were alerted to the incident in the Heath Lodge Drive area, off the Ballygomartin Road, shortly after 8am on Tuesday. The Army bomb squad made safe the device, which was later declared a hoax.

Park Life In Focus

Belfast City Council's fourth annual Parks' Photographic Competition will offer a share of a £1,000 prize with three new categories: People and events, Focus on and Built heritage. The prize money, sponsored by Bloomingdale Nurseries, will be awarded for the best photographs in each category and in addition there will be award for the best photos submitted by under 16-year-olds. Organiser, Alice Blennerhassett, said: "Thousands of people use our parks each year and Parklife provides them with a chance to show us what they enjoy most about them. We have had some wonderful photos in past competitions, and although they are all taken by amateurs, some on mobile phones, the standard has been so high we have sought the advice of professional photographers to choose the winners," she said. See: www.belfastcity.gov.uk/parks

Kidnapping Slammed
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The SDLP West Belfast Councillor Tim Attwood has said a family in Andersonstown have been left traumatised following a 'tiger kidnapping' at the weekend. "This is sure to have been an extremely frightening and traumatising experience for this lady and her family. Those responsible for this kidnapping and robbery are ruthless, calculating criminals. The gang have probably planned this for some time and this is even more unnerving for the victims. I appeal to anyone with any information about this reprehensible act to bring it to the police. This is far from a 'victimless crime', a strike against a multinational company; a young family has been terrorised in their own home and that is completely unacceptable," he said, noting: "I would also encourage people to be vigilant, especially coming up to Christmas and urge the PSNI to liaise with business owners and keyholders and to educate them as to how they can minimise the risk of suchlike attacks to their employ."

Spreading Knowledge

The NI Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew has announced that the Manure Efficiency Technology Scheme (METS) has re-opened. She said that METS, a capital grant scheme delivered under the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013, provides financial support for specialised slurry spreading equipment. "The METS will help farmers invest in technology which supports efficient and environmentally sustainable farming practice by promoting greater nutrient efficiency," she said. "It will operate under specific selection criteria which will reflect the primary objective of maximising the environmental and productive benefits from the equipment funded under METS. At the end of the application period, applications will be scored individually and those awarded the highest marks will receive funding from the £1.25million available."

London Hears NI Welfare Message

Thwe Stormont Social Development Minister Alex Attwood has made his third visit to Westminster to champion the case for Northern Ireland as it faces major reforms to its welfare system. Speaking after a frank discussion with Welfare Minister, Lord Freud, Alex Attwood said: "This was the most frank and plain speaking meeting to date. I made it explicit that the welfare cuts and changes would have a deeply damaging impact on many people already in need in Northern Ireland. I put it squarely to Lord Freud that the British Government has to acknowledge the different circumstances in Northern Ireland, potentially made more difficult by the economic situation in the Republic of Ireland where 40% of our exports go," he said.

Playzone Welcomed

The East Belfast Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle has welcomed confirmation that funding for the Ballymac Centre Playzone Afterschools Club has been extended until March 2011. "The parents and children who benefit from Playzone have been waiting on this confirmation of funding since May 2010. There were serious breakdowns in communication between OFMDFM and the Department of Health on this matter which has caused significant distress and anxiety for our local community. Playzone staff were unsure of contracts and working parents could not make long term plan for childcare. I am glad that I was able to play a part in the campaign that secured this much needed funding until May 2011 and am extremely pleased at this outcome," he said, noting that the First Minister's Office needs "to deliver on its commitment to have a Childcare Strategy and lead department in place by the end of this year so that we can avoid risking more vital services of this nature going to the wall".


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