Northern Ireland motoring giant Colin McNab confirms retirement


Colin McNab, Group Operations Director at Northern Ireland’s largest car retailer, Charles Hurst, has confirmed his retirement.

Colin, who has worked in the local motor trade for almost 50 years, joined Charles Hurst in 1974 as an apprentice before quickly rising to a range of senior positions.

At 25, he took his first senior position within the Renault business, becoming branch manager for Charles Hurst Renault in 1985 and, by the age of 29, was promoted to the position of Franchise Director in 1989.

A Fellow of the Institute of Motor Industry since 1980, Belfast-born Colin was appointed Group Operations Director in 2012 and in 2016 brought home the UK Lifetime Achievement Award at the prestigious Car Dealer Awards after being praised for his services to the industry at an event attended by more than 600 top motor industry representatives.

One of Northern Ireland’s largest employers and largest investors, Charles Hurst employs more than 800 staff across eight sites throughout Northern Ireland, and in the Republic of Ireland, and is regarded as one of the region’s best business success stories.

The Top 100 company was founded in 1911 and its headquarters in Belfast is located on a 30-acre retail site, making it the largest automotive park in Europe.

Aflac celebrates one year in NI ahead of targeted recruitment goals


Aflac Northern Ireland (Aflac NI), a subsidiary of Aflac Incorporated, a leading Fortune 500 company, has officially marked its first year in Northern Ireland. The company has opened a new state-of-the-art hub at Belfast’s City Quays 2 and confirmed that with 65 employees now on board, it is well ahead of its three-year target to recruit 150 local tech staff by 2023.

A leading provider of supplemental insurance helping protect more than 50 million people in the United States and Japan, Aflac established its Northern Ireland footprint in October 2019 with the support of Invest NI, opening its first global technology innovation centre. The new office helps power the company’s international business, delivering world-class technical expertise and innovative, emerging solutions to increase information security and support the needs of customers.

Officially marking a full year since establishing an initial temporary office at River House in Belfast, Aflac NI has signed a 10-year lease with Belfast Harbour for more than 11,000 square feet of premium office space at Belfast’s City Quays to establish a Global IT and Cybersecurity Innovation Centre.

Aflac NI marked its achievements and its latest milestones as part of a global high-tech virtual celebration, incorporating executives, staff and stakeholders from Northern Ireland and the United States. Northern Ireland Economy Minister Diane Dodds also joined the celebration.

Aflac NI is continuing to recruit ambitious, talented staff at a variety of levels to support its growth and remains focused on developing a highly creative and dynamic workplace culture. When fully operational, the premium jobs created at Aflac NI in areas including mobile and cloud development and intelligent surveillance technology will contribute around £7 million in salaries to the local economy.

Established in 1955, Aflac currently employs around 4,700 employees in the U.S. and 11,000 globally. In addition to being recognised as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in America for 20 consecutive years, last year, Fortune also included Aflac on its list of the World’s Most Admired Companies for the 19th time.

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Sporting Legends Join Forces to Launch Lidl Northern Ireland Sport for Good 2020 Campaign


A host of sporting legends including Paralympic swimmer Bethany Firth MBE, Commonwealth pommel horse champion Rhys McClenaghan, national record-holding runner Ciara Mageean and women’s field hockey international Katie Mullan, have joined forces to launch this year’s Sport for Good campaign, in partnership with Lidl Northern Ireland.

Launched in 2019, the Sport for Good programme is designed to encourage and support young people to make the most of the physical and mental benefits of sport participation.

With 1 in 4 young people in Northern Ireland struggling with their mental health*, participation in sports provides young people with a boost to social skills, self-esteem and body confidence as well as a life-long support system of friends and mentors.

School may be different this year, but sport doesn’t have to be, which is why this year’s Sport for Good programme aims to put participation in sport top of the class with secondary school pupils.

Representing an investment of £120,000 by Lidl Northern Ireland, this year forty secondary schools across Northern Ireland will be selected to receive £3,000 worth of vouchers to secure essential sporting equipment for their school, helping power the next generation of sporting heroes and encouraging more young people into sport.

The Sport for Good initiative forms part of Lidl Northern Ireland’s longstanding ‘Community Works’ programme which first launched in 2014. Committed to providing local support, Lidl Community Works has engaged with over 750 community groups to date and raised more than £420,000 for local charities and community groups, including charity partner NSPCC Northern Ireland.

The Sport for Good 2020 programme is the latest initiative by Lidl Northern Ireland to support communities across Northern Ireland. In October, the retailer announced a second extension to its charity partnership with NSPCC Northern Ireland to 2022 and committed to an increased funding target of £600,000 in this time. Initially established in 2017, the partnership has delivered more than £400,000 worth of funding to date in support of the vital services that NSPCC Northern Ireland delivers across the region.

New South Lake Leisure Centre safely opens in Craigavon


The new South Lake Leisure Centre opened safely to the public and in line with current public health guidelines today, Monday 2 November 2020.


The expansive state-of-the-art facility is home to a brand new 50-metre, eight-lane swimming pool and 1,000m2 gym – the largest on the island of Ireland – and is now open seven days a week on a pre-booking basis for everyone to enjoy.


As one of the most significant recent investments in health, fitness and wellbeing in Northern Ireland, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council have opened this landmark facility in Craigavon, with a future-proofed model to meet the needs of a growing population and increased demand for a range of leisure, amateur and professional sporting enthusiasts regionally.


However, as some restrictions on the use of the facility are in place in line with public health guidelines, advanced booking is required to safely access the gym and to enjoy lane swimming in the pool at this time. All other facilities will remain closed temporarily and until coronavirus restrictions are lifted.


Construction of the multi-million-pound transformative build project got underway early in 2018, creating 500 jobs on site during construction. Additional employment opportunities have also been created in a range of areas.


Located overlooking the stunning Craigavon Lakes, the impressive sports and leisure provision also features a multi-court sports hall, squash courts, a dedicated group cycle studio, dance studio, a health and wellbeing suite and an on-site café in a cutting-edge building specifically designed for people with disabilities providing accessibility for all users.


Last month, the Council appointed leading local service provider and social enterprise incredABLE to operate the new café and a suite of hospitality services at the new centre. The café is now open for takeaways only and until current restrictions are lifted.


Café incredABLE @ South Lake will occupy a prominent position on the ground floor within the expansive, multi-access reception area and will be an integral part of the complex.

Council awards contract for hospitality services at South Lake Leisure Centre


Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has appointed leading local service provider and social enterprise incredABLE to operate the new café and a suite of hospitality services at the new state-of-the art South Lake Leisure Centre.


The new Café incredABLE will occupy a prominent position on the ground floor within the expansive, multi-access reception area and will be an integral part of the new multi-million-pound complex which is scheduled to open next month.


Occupying more than 230 square metres and boasting spectacular views over Craigavon’s South Lake, the new café will operate daily with a full all-day menu including refreshments, snacks and hot and cold food. However, under current public health guidance, only takeaway food and drink will be available for a temporary period.


The contract award, which was made following a competitive procurement tender process, will support the creation of up to 12 jobs.

Lidl Northern Ireland Charity Partnership With NSPCC Blossoms


Lidl Northern Ireland has announced the second extension of the retailer’s charity partnership with NSPCC Northern Ireland. The partnership will continue until 2022 with Lidl Northern Ireland increasing its fundraising commitment to a staggering £600,000 in support of NSPCC Northern Ireland’s vital services across the region.


Established in 2017, the partnership has delivered fundraising of more than £400,000 for NSPCC Northern Ireland through a range of activities and initiatives driven by Lidl Northern Ireland staff members across 39 stores and supported locally by Lidl’s valued customers.


One of the NSPCC’s most demanded services in Northern Ireland is the Speak Out Stay Safe Schools programme. Thanks to supporters like Lidl Northern Ireland, last year the NSPCC’s Schools Service reached over 33,500 children across Northern Ireland, communicating their right to be safe from abuse and neglect. Although the NSPCC cannot currently visit schools, they continue to work on innovative ways to get these important messages to pupils.


The renewed partnership and funding commitment could enable the recruitment, training and support of 125 Childline volunteers across the charity’s two Childline bases in Belfast and Foyle. It will also support trained practitioners at the NSPCC’s three service centres in Northern Ireland to provide crucial support to children and families recovering from abuse.


To recognise World Mental Health day on Saturday 10th October and the outstanding work that the NSPCC do for young people across Northern Ireland, Lidl Northern Ireland has launched a special seasonal bouquet to promote positive mental health. Priced at £3.99, with £1 from every sale going directly to NSPCC Northern Ireland, the stunning bouquet features LA lilies, yellow chrysanthemums, pink germini and lavender and is available in all 39 stores across Northern Ireland from now until Sunday 11th October.

Apple embraces 5G in its newest iPhone series


In the face of all the gloom, there was at least some sense of ‘normality’ last week after Apple kept to its promise and finally revealed its new iPhone 12 series to the world. The launch may have been a month late but still worth the wait and with some surprising albeit unexpected innovations announced.

It also coincided with the release of Deloitte Ireland’s Digital Consumer Trends 2020 report which shows just how powerful smartphones are in our lives, with a third of us now checking our phones a staggering 58 times a day on average.

Deloitte also reveal that the majority of us are now using our mobile phones more than ever before and for an increasing number of uses, including banking and working from home.

Given that more than 90 percent of us now own a smartphone, it’s definitely worth checking out what’s the latest with Apple.

For a start, all four new phones will be Apple’s first to work with 5G networks which means you can enjoy all the new and old functions faster and with more reliability depending on where you are. Most networks now have 5G available but the coverage really does vary and often by postcode.

Apple promises that 5G will bring a new level of performance for downloads and uploads, higher quality video streaming and more responsive gaming.

The new suite of phones also vary in size. There’s a smaller “Mini” with a 5.4 inch screen which dwarfs its previously smallest SE version and a larger “Pro Max” device which with a 6.7 inch screen which is significantly larger than the late “Plus” model. The standard “Pro” model screen moves up in size from 5.8 inches to 6.1 inches.

As expected, camera performance has been improved again and all devices have got thinner once more, this time by a tenth.

Most interestingly, and perhaps the most surprising, is that Apple’s new phones won’t be coming with either a charger or headphones. Not because they don’t require them, it’s because Apple have left them out to help them do their bit for the environment…

So will the latest Apple series change your life? Probably not. But if you’re a serial upgrader, you will probably enjoy greater speeds, better pictures and video along with that nice ‘new’ feeling.

The 5G-ready element is noteworthy. However, we all might have to wait a bit longer before we can get that full 5G experience. It’s happening, just not so quickly because of issues around planning.

Belfast was one of the first cities in the UK and Ireland last year to get 5G through the EE network, but until the roll-out moves forward with more gusto among all the operators, 4G will continue to dominate, and for most people will continue to serve them well.

Before this latest Apple launch, around 16 percent of UK consumers said they were planning to upgrade to a 5G smartphone in the next year and the mobile networks will now be hoping that this iPhone will spur thousands more people to make the leap. In the meantime, what Apple’s latest innovations will do is to encourage more people to upgrade from what they have. For example, the iPhone 11 range should become more attractively priced for many.

The iPhone 12 range starts at £699 for the Mini and goes up to £1,099 for the Pro models, though the latter now includes 128 GB of storage. Apple also launched a new £99 version of its smart speaker – the HomePod Mini – which supports a wide range of voice commands though the trumpet sounds around this one were not so loud.


Rainbow Communications secures Microsoft Silver Partner status


Northern Ireland’s largest independent cloud telecommunications and IT provider, Rainbow Communications, has been accredited as a global Microsoft Silver partner, putting it in the top five percent of companies in the world which holds the award.


The Belfast-based company, which has more than 100 staff, secured the award following a rigorous audit of its operations by Microsoft which determined its top ranking for providing the best solutions for its customers.


Its newly-acquired silver status puts Rainbow Communications ahead of its competition, demonstrating a specific, proven skill set to clients alongside high quality, consistent delivery. It also means its staff are now part of Microsoft’s global network and support hub, sharing resources, training, and best practice advice.

£20m premium parking facility opens at Belfast’s Grosvenor Road


A new premium multi-storey parking facility officially opened this week on the Grosvenor Road in Belfast City Centre as part of a £20 million investment.


The new state-of-the-art facility, which has 575 car parking spaces, was opened by Value Car Parks, part of the McCausland Group of companies, which is also marking its 100th year in business.


The development also includes 7,000 sq. ft of new Grade A office space which will be occupied by the group at 19-35 Grosvenor Road on the site where the business was originally established.


The McCausland Group said it was confident that the investment would provide a vital boost for Belfast city centre during what continues to be a challenging time for the local retail, hospitality and tourism economy.


The twelve-level facility promises a new, efficient and more spacious design which includes wider spaces, driveways and ramps and with no obstructing bollards for a more user-friendly and accessible experience. To complement other measures across the city and Northern Ireland, the facility also includes charging points for electric and hybrid vehicles.