Northern Ireland’s First Minister and leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, spent a day in Lisburn this week with education and economy top of the agenda.
Mrs Foster, who has been no stranger to the Lisburn area in recent weeks, said she had enjoyed meeting people and was delighted with the reception she had received in the city.
The DUP leader said there were a number of concerns that had been raised by local people during her visits to the city, with education being at the forefront of many peoples’ minds.
“We did a walkabout in the market last Tuesday and the response has been very good,” said Mrs Foster. “It was really lovely to meet with people and the issues raised were nothing out of the ordinary.
“Education is a huge issue that keeps coming up. I have spent time visiting schools and I know there are a whole range of issues in that area, particularly budgetary issues, sustainability, leadership and being able to have more control over schools.
“Parents are very concerned about the education of young people and they want to see change.
“There is an immediate pressure around budgets and that is something we will have to deal with very quickly after the election.”
The First Minister also said that the economy is a serious issue in Lagan Valley, especially given the recent closure of the McGrath Group and the threat to jobs at BHS.
“I understand having spoken to people close to the McGrath Group that people have been offered jobs by other companies in the area,” continued Mrs Foster.
“Retail is of even more concern. There is a need to look at Lisburn as a whole. It is not just about an individual retailer.
“One of the strengths of some towns has been independent retailers who offer something quirky and different.
“We have come full circle. At one time we were trying to attract big names and now the strength lies with local retailers.
“It is about creating a destination and encouraging people to come to the Lisburn area for the day.”
Mrs Foster said that she was also certain that the hope of bringing John Lewis to Sprucefield was not dead. “I took the case against the Department of the Environment and was successful,” she continued.
“I assume the new Minister will decide on it but it is not a lost cause. I have no doubt that people are very frustrated but I think there is still an interest there.
“Sprucefield is a very strong offering. Any time I go there it is very, very busy.”
During her time in Lisburn Mrs Foster she visited the Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum in Lisburn to see the Queen’s 90th Birthday exhibition which has just opened.
The Mayor, welcomed the First Minister to the Museum, and stated his appreciation of the Queen’s long life of dedicated duty.
“As the Princess Elizabeth, the Queen made her first visit to Lisburn to meet youth organisations in Wallace Park 71 years ago,” he said.
“The Council hopes local people will visit the display at the Irish Linen Centre.”
, which is now open. The exhibition is part of the Council’s tribute to the work and steadfast service of Her Majesty,” he concluded.
Alderman Porter welcomed the First Minister to the City and praised the Queen’s long service to the nation and the specially created exhibition that illustrates her life and Lisburn’s royal associations.
“The Council has been very honoured to have had so many special royal visits to Lisburn and it is very fitting to see these illustrated in this attractive museum display,” said Alderman Porter.
The Queen’s 90th Birthday Exhibition in the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum is open Monday to Saturday 9.30am to 5.00pm and admission is free-of-charge.