Hello and welcome to my brand new blog!
Every Monday I'll be telling you about what is coming up in our print edition of the Gazette, which is out on Tuesday morning. It's a chance too for our readers to give us some feedback and I look forward to hearing from you – details of how to contact us so are at the bottom of the page.
I've been the Editor of the Ulster Gazette for just over a year and I'm very proud to be in charge of one of Armagh's long-standing institutions. Another important part of the city's fabric is making the front and back pages of this week's edition.
I have been speaking to the principal of the Royal School, Armagh, Mr Graham Montgomery, about whether or not they plan to continue with the controversial AQE transfer test this year. There has been political opposition to the exam being held and a number of schools have decided that they will use alternative criteria instead of the test.
Many of this year's P7s have prepared for the exam and Mr Montgomery feels that those children deserve not to have their work wasted.
“The young people were ready for the test in November. They are certainly ready for the test in January and we want to get on and get the test done,” he told me.
“We think those children deserve an opportunity to have their day and to have what is a fair and objective academic assessment carried out.”
I went through the transfer test myself back when the Eleven Plus was still in existence. It wasn't easy and I was lucky enough not to have a global pandemic disrupting my schoolwork. I can sympathise with any child who is feeling stressed about sitting an exam in the current climate.
No matter what your opinion on academic selection, every child taking the exam deserves our best wishes. If your child plans to take the test or maybe you've pulled your child out of the exam, let us know.
The Royal School also feature on our back page too. Our sports reporter, Niall Crozier, has been looking how the city's rugby club, and the school's first XV, have been coping after a year without sport as the coronavirus pandemic affects almost every aspect of our lives.
Of course, nowhere is that felt more keenly than in our hospitals at the moment, which are at breaking point. At the weekend there were calls for off-duty Southern Trust staff to help at Craigavon and Daisy Hill Hospitals as the facilities endured their busiest 48 hours since the start of the pandemic.
The situation across the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon borough was described as “dire” by our Lord Mayor, Cllr Kevin Savage, who is recovering having suffered a “mild” bout of the virus himself. It seems that nobody is safe from the illness and that is why it is so important that we all do our bit to help the NHS at these testing times.
Elsewhere in this week's Gazette, as the Alliance party attempt to have it banned in Northern Ireland we have been talking to a leading member of the Armagh and Tynan Hunt to get their take on what has been described as “cruel” and “barbaric”.
Our Deputy Editor, Richard Burden, has been talking to man who was attacked by a dog in the Keady area and who is pleading with dog owners to keep their animals under control at all times.
And with the recent cold weather, one local councillor has been complaining about how grit boxes in Markethill and Hamiltonsbawn have not been replenished, making roads treacherous. Cllr Paul Berry says it has affected carers, couriers and postmen. I've had a similar problem where I live and I'm sure the condition of our roads is in has affected many of you. It'll not be long until the age-old problem of massive potholes rears its head again – maybe it already has near you!
Let us know what you think, or if there is a story that you think we should be covering. There are several ways to contact us – call our office on 028 3752 2639 and we'll get back to you; email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send us a private message on either Facebook or Twitter.
Don't forget as well that we are regularly updating our website as well with the latest breaking news and exclusive content, including a gallery of your snow pictures which you can see by clicking here.
PS – congratulations and fair play to local woman Carolyn McKinney, who features in our sport pages for setting the women's record for the Mourne 7 7's in winter conditions – you wouldn't catch me at that in the cold weather!