Other News In Brief

O'Neill Updates Fishermen On Protection Measures

Minister Michelle O'Neill today met Strangford pot fishermen to discuss future fishery management in the Lough.

She told fishermen that officials from DARD and DoE have had recent informal meetings with senior officials from DG Environment to discuss proposals for a revised management regime for Strangford Lough which allow pot fishing to continue in the Lough but meet obligations under the Habitats Directive.

Minister O’Neill discussed alternatives with fishermen such as a fishing permit scheme inside Strangford, and working together on the construction of reefs. She said Department officials and the Commission have agreed a series of actions considered necessary by the Commission to properly address their concerns and to maximise the potential restoration of Modiolus reefs in the Lough. Inevitably these will lead to change for commercial and leisure users of the Lough.

Minister O'Neill said: "This is a serious matter which my Department shares with the Department of the Environment. I have today met fishermen to discuss some of the implications, explained that it is necessary to make additional closures, and asked that they work together with Seafish and my officials to draw up a proposal for alternative employment which meets our conservation objectives and Commission expectations. I welcome the constructive approach from the fishermen today. We are going to work together to bring forward a further restoration plan and I hope they will be involved in much of the work. Moving forward we will also engage with the Ulster Wildlife Trust to include their objectives."

Ford Commissions Review Of Courts Estate

Justice Minister David Ford has accepted the assessment by independent inspectors on the condition of court venues across Northern Ireland.

The Minister has commissioned the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) to develop an Estate Strategy in response to today’s report by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland on the adequacy of the court estate.

David Ford said: "This report sets out very clearly the size of the challenge ahead in providing high quality and accessible court venues, suitable for victims, witnesses and dependants, in a challenging economic environment.

"I agree with the recommendation that an affordable and appropriate Estate Strategy should be developed and I have commissioned staff in the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service to take forward that work.

"An efficient court estate plays a vital role in the administration of justice and today’s report makes clear that the facilities for court users vary considerably from place to place. That is not a situation that I can allow to continue indefinitely."

The inspection report sets out 10 recommendations for improvement and an action plan is being developed against these recommendations.

New Smart Grid Initiative Announced

Companies with an interest in sustainable electricity and Smart Grids are invited to participate in an R&D programme involving demonstration projects, it was announced by EirGrid and System Operator Northern Ireland (SONI), the operators of the grid in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The power system of Ireland and Northern Ireland is changing. In 2020 it is expected that the electricity system across the island will have one of the highest levels of installed wind, as a percentage of system size, in the world. This change poses significant operational challenges for grid operators and new innovative technical solutions will need to be developed and implemented in the coming years. It is against this backdrop that EirGrid and SONI have issued this invitation.

EirGrid and SONI believe that working with companies on new concepts/solutions and technologies will play an important role in facilitating increasing amounts of sustainable energy and the emergence of Smart Grid technologies. To this end, a transparent process has been developed for enabling demonstration projects and the system operators are seeking expressions of interest from those who would like to be involved.


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