30/04/2009

Other NI News In Brief

Mexico Off Limits To Holidaymakers

Travel agents across Northern Ireland are this week facing an influx of customers hoping to reschedule holidays and honeymoons after some of the main tour operators axed flights to Mexico over the swine flu outbreak there. Concerned couples began contacting travel agents yesterday after Thomas Cook and Airtours suspended all outbound flights to Cancun until May 5 and are making plans to fly holidaymakers home. A short time later Thomson and First Choice Holidays also announced they have grounded their flights to May 8.

'Pay Up' For Terror, Dodds To Tell Colonel

DUP MP Nigel Dodds wants to lead a delegation to Tripoli, saying it is "vital" Libya faces up to its responsibilities over compensation for victims of the IRA. The move comes after the Libyan authorities paid $1.5bn into a US compensation fund for the relatives of terror attacks. During the Troubles, Libya supplied guns and a large quantity of explosives to the IRA. The Executive Minister is hoping to meet Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi as he believes "it is absolutely vital that Libya is made to compensate the victims of Libyan-inspired and funded terrorism".

EC Elections Loom

Nominations for the forthcoming European elections opened this week with would-be MEPs having until 7 May to submit their names. The election takes place on 4 June. Northern Ireland has three outgoing MEPs - Jim Allister, Jim Nicholson and Bairbre de Brun who are allstanding again. By Thursday, seven people have declared an interest.

Taxi Tax Announced

People hiring a taxi from the terminal at George Best Belfast City Airport are to be charged a £1 surcharge. From Thursday, motorists - or taxis not based at the airport - will not be able to drop off or collect passengers outside the terminal. But taxis based at the airport will still be able to collect passengers at the door with the £1 surcharge being passed on to customers.

Water Still 'Free'

Water charges in Northern Ireland should be deferred for another three years, NI Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy has proposed. The minister has circulated a paper to his executive colleagues proposing they continue to fund investment in the water service from the general budget. He wants the funding to continue until 2012 and then be reassessed.

Voluntary Sector Reviewed
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The NI Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie has this week addressed a meeting of the Joint Government and Voluntary and Community Sector Forum. She highlighted the need for strong and strategic leadership in the sector during this time of economic hardship: "I want to congratulate the voluntary and community sector for their determination and resilience in continuing to provide much needed services to the community during this unprecedented economic downturn. The importance of the role of the voluntary and community sector is clearly recognised within the Executive. As Minister with lead responsibility for the voluntary and community sector my vision is for a vibrant sector that provides a voice for the disadvantaged in society, helps to provide services to communities, strives to be lean and fit for purpose and continues to innovate and professionalise - indeed a modern sector for a modern age," she said, noting that officials and representatives from the voluntary and community sector have been reviewing the existing framework for relationships between Government and the sector.

'Titanic' Belfast Contract Awarded

Patton Construction has been awarded a £44m contract to build the new Belfast Metropolitan College within the city's Titanic Quarter. The Ballymena company will be responsible for the design and build of the new college to a complete turnkey specification. Patton Construction staff went on site last week, with the scheme scheduled to finish in August 2011 and supporting around 400 construction jobs.

Eco-Roofing For Portstewart Strand Centre

A specialised ZinCo green roof system from a sustainable roofing specialists, Alumasc, has been chosen for the new National Trust Visitor Centre at Portstewart Strand in County Londonderry. The National Trust is Northern Ireland's largest conservation charity and the Strand, nestled amongst a two-mile stretch of award winning beach and sand dunes, has been designated an Area of Special Scientific Interest and a proposed Special Area of Conservation. Donnelly O'Neill Architects of Belfast were challenged with a design brief that was strict in its requirement. The roof needed to be sympathetic to its surroundings and in keeping with the environmental ethos upheld by the National Trust, whilst the exposed location of the centre also presented the problem of wind erosion.

(BMcC/JM)

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