Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is supporting‘The Right Side of Outside’ campaign launched by WalkNI, which aims to encourage more positive behaviours outdoors.
It is hoped this behaviour change will ultimately ease some of the main problems in many popular outdoor parks and scenic spaces in Northern Ireland.
Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Newry, Mourne and Down has seen large numbers enjoying its outdoor areas and scenic expanses. Whilst this interest in the outdoors is extremely positive in facilitating the opportunity for people to exercise, it has generated significant issues that are negatively impacting local beauty spots, with issues such as littering, dog waste, irresponsible car parking, livestock worrying, disturbance to wildlife, overcrowding and damage that can be caused by wild camping and wildfires.
Protect our Beauty Spots
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Laura Devlin said, “Whilst it is great to see so many people getting out and about looking after their health in these unprecedented times, it is also important we protect our beauty spots.
“I am asking that everyone plan ahead for their visit to our stunning region and come with the intention of bringing their litter home. If you have a dog, please ensure it is kept on a lead and clean up after it. Be mindful that when car parks fill up, it often leads to people parking wherever they can find a space, and this often results in blocking access to emergency services or to a farmer’s field.
“The majority of visitors are considerate but unfortunately there are still a small number who are not. I want visitors to enjoy the outdoors, but they must respect the environment and the local residents. As COVID-19 regulations continue to change visitors must adhere to the current guidance.
Do Your Part
“The Right Side of Outside campaign will roll out over the coming weeks, with the first campaign message focusing on littering, an issue that WalkNI recognises is widespread throughout the country. The main message is to bring your litter home with you. Some outdoor areas don’t have bins and if they do they can quickly overfill. Also, items such as apple cores and banana skins can be a real danger to wildlife, so the message is, please take your litter home.”
The campaign is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and is being driven by a wider group of organisations currently being affected by these issues. To find out more about the campaign or discover tips to help you make the right choices outdoors, visit WalkNI’s Blog or search #RightSideofOutside.
Praises as Pupils Send Powerful Message on Domestic Violence
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has praised pupils from St Mary’s High School in Downpatrick for their efforts to raise awareness of domestic violence.
The school has been working with Women’s Aid on a special project to shine a light on the many issues faced by women and girls in today’s society.Their efforts include the release of a song and video, which is not only raising awareness, but is raising funds to support those affected by domestic abuse.
Speaking after a visit to the school, Michelle O’Neill said: “I was delighted to meet with the girls from St Mary’s in Downpatrick today to hear about their efforts to help tackle the abuse faced by so many women and girls across the community. They are a talented group of young people and their work to raise awareness of these crucial issues is very moving and incredibly powerful.
“The abuse, inequality and misogyny faced by women and girls of all ages is a brutal reality of our society. And, sadly, very many experience violence in their everyday lives. It is a problem that requires everyone’s urgent attention and action.
“As an Executive, we have committed to working together on a strategy to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls. But everyone has a responsibility to do all they can to help change attitudes and behaviours. The inspirational pupils at St Mary’s have done just that and I applaud them for the impactful and sensitive way they have dealt with this issue.
“I also commend the school for bringing this subject to the fore and supporting the students to tell the story.”
Given the ongoing Covid-19 measures in place across the schools community, the song was produced by recording individual voices and layering them to create the final version.
The deputy First Minister said: “Our schools and young people have had such a tough time throughout the pandemic. But they have innovated and adapted to do great things. It is wonderful to see how St Mary’s have used a creative approach to deliver this important message.”
St Mary’s Principal, Rosemary McLaughlin, said: “The Board of Governors and staff of St Mary’s High School are very proud of the girls who have used their talents in a positive way to highlight injustice in our society. The efforts they have made will really make a difference to Women’s Aid.
“We are an all girls’ school; and we recognise the need to empower our young women. We want to ensure that the girls know there are organisations out there that can help the victim and the perpetrator. As a school, we discussed the impact that the national lockdown had on women when the message was to stay at home. During lockdown, the increase in domestic abuse and violence against women was well documented by the media. Women’s Aid will now be able to use the much needed resources from this project to support families in the locality.”
Please Give Our Fire Crews Space to do Their Job
The Health Minister Robin Swann has paid tribute to firefighters from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) who are currently tackling a serious blaze in the Mourne Mountains.
NIFRS has declared a major incident and is escalating its operations in the area to bring the fire under control. A large number of resources will be in attendance and NIFRS has appealed to the public not to travel to the area, in particular Trassey Road, Bloody Bridge, Tollymore Forest and Donard Car Park.
The Minister said: “I’ve been shocked and deeply concerned to see the pictures of this devastating fire spreading across the Mournes. I have spoken to NIFRS Chief Fire and Rescue Officer Michael Graham to pay tribute to the crews.
“Our firefighters are working hard in extremely challenging circumstances and I want to thank them on behalf of the community for their bravery and commitment. They are taking huge risks to bring the fire under control and make the area safe.
“I would appeal to the public to help NIFRS in their vital work by avoiding Newcastle and the Mournes and allowing the crews to do their job safely and effectively. They must be able to get fire appliances, equipment and firefighters there as quickly as possible, so please do not drive to the area unnecessarily. The public should also avoid gathering or walking in the area. The ongoing incident in the Mournes is not a tourist attraction nor a photo opportunity. Spending long, tiring hours away from family is part of the sacrifice of our emergency services, who work to keep us all safe. Please help by giving our fire crews the space to do their job.”