Committee Celebrates Townlands

Where do you call home? Is it Aughadarra? Could it be Ballymaguigan or maybe it’s Clatterknowles?

These were just some of the questions on the agenda at the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure major seminar at Parliament Buildings to promote and raise awareness of townland names.

Speaking before the event, Committee Chairperson, Barry McElduff, MLA, said: “This seminar is an important initiative aimed at highlighting the significance of townland names and also at holding government departments to account in terms of the promotion of townland names.

“They are a hugely important part of our heritage. People are massively interested in place, where they are from and their local identity.”

Mr McElduff, of the townland of Aghagogan, continued: “It is important not only to preserve townland names but to actively promote them within local communities. Townland names are in the common ownership of the entire community and all traditions. Everyone shares a great passion for them and they are an important part of our shared heritage.

“Many of our primary schools do excellent work in this area, as do sports clubs and community groups. District Councils play a significant role too in promoting their usage. ”

The seminar attracted experts from across Northern Ireland who highlighted the cultural and historical significance of our local townland names and why their preservation is crucial to maintaining and further strengthening our local communities.

The Armagh Rhymers will be celebrating townlands through the medium of verse, while women’s groups from Dromore and Termonmaguire in County Tyronewill be telling stories of their communities with a dazzling display of traditional patchwork quilts.
This event took place on 17 June in Parliament Buildings, Belfast – in the townland of Ballymiscaw.

Struggles For Newly Qualified Teachers

Teacher recruitment and employment came up again in Enniskillen as one man suggested that newly qualified teachers were forced out of the country to find work because so many retired teachers were ‘subbing’ and keeping young teachers out of jobs.

Ex-teacher Tommy Gallagher, SDLP, said there was a problem when teachers took early retirement but there was nothing to stop them from coming back into the profession.
He said: “The individual school, the employer, can choose to bring those teachers back in to cover an absence. The difficulty is the number of young teachers on the unemployment register is rising all the time.”

He went on to say that the Department of Education should take steps to stop teachers who have taken retirement from coming back into jobs that could be filled by newly qualified teachers.

Tommy Gallagher thinks the Department haven’t acted strongly enough to protect the jobs of newly qualified teachers. What do you think?

Level Playing Field Needed In Teacher Recruitment

The question of teacher recruitment was raised in Enniskillen. It was implied that the current recruitment process can be unfair to young teachers.

Stephen Farry felt it was important that local authorities did have a hand in the recruitment process but it was important to ensure parity in the recruitment process. He said: “The critical thing is ensuring there’s a level playing field and there isn’t a closed shop in relation to schools going back to teachers they’ve known before.”

He also added that there was an ‘over-supply’ of trainee teachers and with a dwindling number of pupils, there was an imbalance between supply and demand, leading to challenging times ahead for teacher recruitment.

Do you think that there is sometimes a ‘closed-shop’ in teacher recruitment? Also, what do you think of the future of teacher training and recruitment if there is an over-supply of trainee teachers?

Community Leaders Need To Tackle Racism

One audience member in Enniskillen speculated that as the economy worsens that people’s frustrations will grow and anger will manifest itself in more attacks on migrants and ethnic minorities.

Tom Elliott, UUP, said that in such situations, community leaders are needed to influence people’s actions and behaviours on the ground. He didn’t believe that government itself would do anything but added that but politicians must actively work in the community to make the situation better:
He said: “It is about working together. There is a responsibility on us to do something locally and we can do that and help in community areas.”

Pat Doherty, SF, condemned any such attacks and echoed Tom Elliott’s statement that it is best tackled on a local, community level, saying: “The answer isn’t always a law and order answer. It’s the attitude of community, the attitude of councillors, and the attitude of MLAs. It’s how you change the attitude of society that will stop all this.”

Do you agree with the panel that these attacks are best tackled on a local level?

Increase In Racist Attacks In Rural Areas Needs Tackled

One person in Enniskillen was concerned that the trend for racist attacks has increased in rural areas. He asked the panel what had been done to safeguard migrant workers and ethnic minorities from these attacks.

Tommy Gallagher was aware that violent racist crime was on the increase in places like Fermanagh as all of Northern Ireland becomes more culturally diverse. He said: “At Assembly level, we need to work much faster on the shared future strategy that we have because we are facing a more diverse society. Progress on that is very slow and I think that’s a pity.”

Maurice Morrow said that his own borough council area had seen the sharpest rise in population due to immigration but he had noticed a decline in racist crime. He went on to condemn racism, saying: “We all deplore racist attacks. There is no place for them.”

Have you noticed an increase in racist attacks in your area? What do you think of Tommy Gallagher’s claim that more money is needed for community groups and activists on the ground to promote good relations in a multicultural society?

Clarification Over Planning Laws Sought In Enniskillen

The issue of gaining planning permission to build on your own land was raised again in Enniskillen. Tom Elliott mused that he’d be a rich man if was given a pound for every time he heard of the issue. He did sympathise with the person who asked the question though and suggested again that people west of the Bann, who have differing needs than more urban areas, should have different rules with regards PPS21.
Maurice Morrow said that although PPS21 isn’t perfect, it is ‘getting there’. He also commended the Minister for acting to ensure Northern Ireland’s countryside remains unspoilt but felt that there should be circumstances under which people could build on their own farmland.

Have you tried and failed to get planning permission on your own land as a result of PPS21? Do you agree with Lord Morrow that the Minister should be commended for his work so far?

Most Embarrassing Moment As An Mla

Collectively, our Members struggled to remember anything particularly embarrassing that has happened to them as an MLA, but they all agreed that life in the public eye would require a thick skin, and they wouldn’t recommend the job for anyone who was easily embarrassed.