A new Active Travel programme entitled Leading the Way has just been launched for employees who work in Newry and Downpatrick. It aims to encourage more people to commute to work by walking, cycling and staying active if working from home.
Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity, will work with a number of workplaces to help them embed active and sustainable travel into their organisation, by supporting employees to commute more actively or become more physically active at home. Leading the Way is delivered by Sustrans on behalf of the Public Health Agency and funded through the COVID-19 Recovery Revitalisation fund from the Department for Infrastructure, Department for Communities and Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in partnership with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
As Northern Ireland begins to ease restrictions and learns to live with impact of COVID-19, many employers are considering how they can support their staff to return to the workplace safely. Staff from workplaces including Daisyhill and Downe Hospital, South Regional College, NI Fire and Rescue Service and the Council can take part in in a wide range of free activities. These include online training sessions for beginner and returning cyclists such as Bike Ready webinars, and when regulations allow cycle training, led rides and walks and e-bike try outs.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Laura Devlin said, “We are delighted to deliver this exciting Active Travel programme in partnership with the Public Health Agency and Sustrans and working with the local organisations involved. Our employees have a desire to return to a new and improved ‘normal’ following the COVID-19 lockdowns and the Leading the Way programme will help us all be more active, which can only be a positive outcome for both health and the environment.”
Significant Step Forward
Sustrans Director, Caroline Bloomfield said, “It is a significant step forward for workplaces in the Newry, Mourne and Down District Council area to invest not only in their employees’ health and wellbeing but also to address issues such as sustainability and air pollution. These workplaces are indeed leading the way and we hope other organisations will follow suit.
We have been working with the Council and recently undertook an online public consultation on how active travel could be improved in the district. We had an overwhelming response which shows there is a thirst for change and look forward to working with the Council and its residents in a greener recovery post pandemic.”
Research shows that commuting more actively can benefit both physical and mental health, in turn resulting in happier and more productive staff. The Leading the Way programme has been delivered successfully in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry since 2014. Employers have found that workforce active travel has increased by 5.1%, cycling has risen nearly 5%, car use reduced by over 10% and physical activity recorded in a 2018 study showing a 9.1% increase in respondents taking at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
For further information about the Leading the Way programme please visit here.
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.”