Sunday, 29 June 2008

Bushmills War Memorial Exhibition July 2008

The exhibition will commemorate the men and women from Bushmills and district who gave their lives in both world wars.

There'll be displays of photographs, personal stories and medals of individual service persons, along with memorabilia honoring local hero, Rifleman Robert Quigg VC.

Dunluce Parish Centre
Priestland Road

Friday July 11 - Thursday July 17
10:30am - 7pm
[except Sunday 2pm-5pm]

Refreshments available
Admission: Donation to Parish Building Fund

Robert Thompson - WW1
Glenda Rodgers - WW2

2007 Exhibition - pt 1 - pt 2
Bushmills War Exhibit
Bomber Crash at Giant's Causeway in WW2
Bomber Crash at Giant's Causeway

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

New Rathlin Ferry Operator 4

I wonder how many Moyle councillors had read John Dallat's questions prior to Monday's meeting or had consulted with their party headquarters. Did any of the councillors or council officials participate in the evaluation of the tenders? Have Dallat's questions been answered in detail or have they been put on hold?

Has CMAL leased the MV Canna to the new operator yet or are there still some outstanding matters to be resolved?

What is the name of the replacement ferry for the MV True Light? Why has the latter been removed from the contract? Is the Maritime and Coastguard Agency satisfied that with the arrangements that are to be put in place in a few days time on July 1?

Do any Executive ministers have plans to travel to Ballycastle or to Rathlin prior to July 1 on June 26*? If so, what sort of reception can they expect from Rathlin islanders? The islanders in Cape Clear don't seem to be too happy with the ferry operations put in place there by Minister O Cuiv.

Eamon O Cuiv and the Cape Clear ferry controversy(pdf file) - Rathlin is part of the 33 member Irish Islands Federation.

As this process has involved several ministerial departments presumably the full Executive, under the terms of the Ministerial Code, will have given the project its full blessing.

*Apparently the new Rathlin-Ballycastle interconnector is being officially switched on at 1pm tomorrow, according to my source in McCuaig's Bar. Could it coincide with another event? ;)

My attention has been drawn to the new operator's 'correction' to the flyer distributed by the binmen. It seems that a second correction will be required as the timetable and the number of crossings don't, er, coincide. Who are the cowboys and cowgirls down at the DRD who are 'managing' this smooth transition? Click images if you dare to look :)

Jim Allister MEP: Freeze Rathlin ferry handover


Did I just say second correction? The replacement for the troubled MV True Light has been added to the muddled website; it's the MV Ossian of Staffa from Iona. There has been a direct substitution of name on the timetable and a failure to note that this is a, er, slower boat. It does 14 knots and carries 65 passengers but these may be reduced for the Category D(?) waters of Rathlin Sound. Conor Murphy's anticipated 20 minute crossing will now be a more leisurely 30 minute plus.

The blunder is unlikely to have been made by Mr O'Driscoll as he was spotted on Cape Clear today by one of the 'hostile' natives. Perhaps he was explaining to his guests the trials and tribulations of ferry ownership. Might these guests have been there to sort out a little problem of a lapsed certificate for the recently impounded Naomh Ciaran 2 or could they be linked to tomorrow's special event on Rathlin Island. No doubt all will become clear - eventually.

Has someone from the DRD or DFP been deliberately feeding Minister Murphy duff information? The listed information from the successful tenderer should have been included in the, er, tender documents to be scored - not 'finalised' now. That said such relevant information might have been hard to come by considering the fact that the MV True Light didn't pass MCA muster. Should the MV True Light/O'Driscoll tender even have made it as far as the scoring process? Presumably the report from the NIAO will indicate whether or not the DFP and DRD ministries are fit for purpose. I should imagine that CalMac's lawyers are keeping a close watch on developments.

The documents creating great interest are: Schedule A, Schedule B and Schedule C.

Discussion on Slugger O'Toole - search word 'rathlin'.

Murphy's Law: "Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way"

Just keep on digging - the photos

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Dad - In Memory


Life is for the living

So you always said

But you never told us

What happens when you're dead

But that you couldn't advise

Instead you helped us live our lives

And as long as we keep your memories near

It's like you're always here

With you our hearts will always remain

Even through the pain.


Saturday, 21 June 2008

New Rathlin Ferry Operator 3

I've uploaded a copy of today's News Letter story on the Rathlin ferry contract for the benefit of islanders who don't have ready access to the paper. [Just click on the image to enlarge it]

This story looks even more intriguing than events surrounding the recent Ian Paisley jnr saga. It involves Ministers, civil servants and consultants from Stormont in Belfast, the Dáil in Dublin and Holyrood in Edinburgh. Viewers of earlier accounts on the blog have come from these cities as well as from Cork and Glasgow.

Martina Purdy, in the Devenport Diaries, has solved one mystery involving Rathlin Island and Conor Murphy, Minister for Regional Development, but perhaps she should have taken off her shoes, put on a pair of robust boots and dug a little deeper.

The DRD spokeswoman claims that 'detailed consideration' was given to the relevant aspects of the bids. Did this include the relatively simple process of googling with words and phrases such as 'o'driscoll', 'cape clear', 'o cuiv' and 'dáil'? My googling brought up some of the links and quotes in the two earlier threads. Presumably politicians, journalists and other ferry operators may well have done the same; they'll also have used 'rathlin ferry operator'.

The spokeswoman refers to an improved level of service but what happens when the mv Canna is out of service for a few weeks for its annual overhaul? Is there an equivalent back-up? My conversations so far indicate that there isn't.

Much has been made of the catamaran. Is the £1.2m capital spending in the ISNI documents linked to it? The £6.3m is linked to new ro-ro ferries. What sort of a catamaran would you get for £1.2m and how useful would it be in the treacherous tidal conditions that exist between Ballycastle and Rathlin?

Going through [a tide rip] can be an exhilarating experience in a well found boat of adequate size but more often a frightening one in an open boat, particularly when the stream is running against the wind. The waters really roar as they tumble round the boat's gunwhale.

Perhaps Ministers Murphy, Dodds and Empey should reflect on the answers that will be produced for Tuesday's questions before they commit themselves further to this project. If it disintegrates the main losers are likely to be the islanders who depend on this lifeline ferry.


Some more disturbing news from Ciaran O'Driscoll's newish ferry operation in the South-West:

Cape Clear News 17th June 2008

Tidy Island:

Some of our readers will have received notice of the removal from service of the Naomh Ciaran, the State subsidised lifeline ferry, recently, which occasioned the notice. This was because the addition of a larger crane to the boat brought into doubt her stability and she was impounded by the Marine Survey Office.

I understand that she is expected to be back in service tomorrow morning.

Did he make changes to the ferry without notifying the Marine Survey Office? Is a prosecution pending? Presumably our own Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) will/may be making a careful note of these events now that they will be responsible for O'Driscoll ferries here. MCA is an agency of the Department of Transport under Minister Ruth Kelly.


Here are some commitments from Paul Priestly, DRD Permanent Secretary, in the department's corporate and business plans:

DRD is a strong and capable organisation. But we recognise that we need to continue working hard to build the Department’s capability for the future. To this end, over the next 18 months the Departmental Board will lead a Change and Improvement Programme – which we have called the ‘3Cs Programme’. It is about ensuring a Capable, Committed and Confident DRD – a department which:

• has the Capablity in terms of competence and capacity to achieve its objectives;
• is Committed to delivering improved public services; and
• has staff who are Confident in their own abilities and those of their colleagues – including their managers.

I've looked for a mention of £1.2m capital spending on the Rathlin ferry and £6.3m on Rathlin ro-ro ferries - alongside the figures for other infrastructure spending - but could only find this:

• an enhanced ferry service for Rathlin Island by 2009

Why such coyness about a lifeline ferry service? It would seem to be at odds with DRD transparency and accountability requirements in the context of Civil Service core values: integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality.

Joanna Tuffy questions Eamon O Cuiv re.ferry services in West Cork.

Ciaran O'Driscoll's West Cork Coastal Cruises seeks Leader funding for boat. Funding awarded.

Adds June 23

I've just checked out the passenger carrying status of the Naomh Ciaran 2. Marine Survey Office, Dublin, records show that the certificate expired on April 26, 2008, for trips around the Fastnet lighthouse (summer 50/winter 50) expired on October 28, 2007, for trips between Baltimore, Schull and Cape Clear (summer 100/winter 0) and the ferry's name is missing from the June listing. I spoke to MSO and was told that the (impounded) ferry has been given clearance to operate whilst the paper work is being updated. And I thought maladministration was a condition that afflicted Ian Paisley jnr

New Rathlin Ballycastle ferry timetable

It would appear that the fares have doubled in price. The current fares are £10 adult return, £5 child return; the new ones £10 adult single, £5 child single.

The mv True Light has a ten minute turn around time. Is this sufficient to offload passengers, load new passengers and cover safety aspects of the trip?

For some curious reason the True Light's name does not appear on the flyer. Is a different boat to be used now? If there was a change, when did it take place? Are there implications for the claims made during the tendering process?

Is inappropriate political pressure being brought to bear on CMAL to lease the mv Canna to the new operator, Rathlin Island Ferry Limited?

Adds June 24

My political and journalistic sources tell me that Crockard Communications is assisting one of the parties to this affair.

Crisis management • Supporting you when things go wrong

So who's in trouble?

New Rathlin Ferry Operator 4

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Mount Druid Vintage Rally at Ballintoy in June 2008

An interesting fun filled day for all the family in a spectacular setting. The largest show of vintage and classic vehicles in the area includes a show of vintage and classic tractors and cars, stationary engines, motor cycles and other displays.

Enthusiasts will marvel at the working threshing and other displays. Teas, BBQ, Tombolas and Various Stalls.

Photos from 2008 rally

Friday, 13 June 2008

New Rathlin Ferry Operator 2

Conor Murphy, Minister for Regional Development, issued a press release about changes to the Rathlin ferry operation on 21 April 2008 and I blogged the story a week later. I updated the blog on June 5 following rumours on the Causeway Coast that all was not running smoothly; I'd also cross-checked these stories with political and media contacts and googled the names of some of the people involved.

“This is a significant step forward in the development of Rathlin Island. The number of visitors using the ferry service has been steadily increasing and a new fast ferry can only help to stimulate this even further.

”The Department has secured the continuing use of the roll-on/roll-off ferry, the MV Canna, to provide vehicle and freight services. The Canna is owned by the Scottish company, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited and will be leased to the new operator.

The new catamaran, to be commissioned* by Mr O’Driscoll, will be available for service in summer 2009. Until then, the enhanced timetable will be provided by the MV Canna and a smaller mono-hulled vessel, which can carry up to 38 passengers on the 20 minute crossing.

The Rathlin Development Community Association was consulted during the tender specification stage. Their Sustainable Tourism Strategy called for more comfortable passenger services on the route to attract more tourist visitors to Rathlin.

The Department is working towards a date for handover of the contract of 1 June 2008.

Why the delay? CMAL told me today that the lease for the MV Canna has yet to be signed. What other parts of the operation have yet to be completed, including those that were supposedly in place prior to the submission of tenders? Tendering was handled by the Central Procurement Directorate in the Department of Finance and Personnel, Peter Robinson's former ministry.

Will the intervention of the Northern Ireland Audit Office further delay the process? I understand the new proposed date of commencement is July 1.

*Is Mr O'Driscoll paying for this ferry or is funding coming from the DRD budget? Was the following information from INVESTMENT STRATEGY FOR NORTHERN IRELAND (ISNI 2) 2008 - 2018 made available by CPD during the tender process?

Rathlin Island passenger ferry £1.2m 0 £1.2m
Rathlin Island roll on roll off ferry £6.3m 0 £6.3m


Senator Michael McCarthy, Seanad Debate, Thursday, 15 May 2008:

I raised a point in this House approximately two weeks ago regarding the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and contracts it was offering in respect of ferry transport services from offshore islands to the mainland. I raised the issue regarding west Cork in particular, where the European TUPE regulations on the transfer of undertakings to guarantee workers’ rights and protect their standards were removed from one such contract. However, the Northern Ireland Administration offered a contract in respect of the Rathlin Island ferry in which the same clause was inserted. Has the Leader given consideration to my request to allow Members time to debate this issue with the Minister in respect of ferry contracts?

How secure are the Rathlin ferry TUPE undertakings? Have the current ferry staff agreed terms with the new ferry service operator? Have the jobs for the additional ferry, the mv True Light(?), been advertised and filled?

Senator Michael McCarthy similarly condemned the government’s failure to protect the employment rights of Cape Clear ferry workers. Senator McCarthy stated, “It is my opinion that the real culprit is Minister O Cuiv and his department whose negligence has created this loophole and put the crewmen’s jobs in doubt.” He added that Irish workers’ rights must be protected regardless of whether their work is carried out on land or sea and accused the Minister and government of failing miserably in this case.

What was the name of the boat submitted by O'Driscoll in the first tender? Did he own or had he leased it? How many passengers was it legally permitted to carry at that time?


Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy went to Rathlin Island today [30 July 2007] to listen to residents' concerns.

The Rathlin Development and Community Association (RDCA) presented the Minister with a policy document developed by the Irish Islands Federations

News Letter. 18 June 2008: Probe into tendering contract of ferry run


Questions to the Minister for Regional Development

1. Mr Dallat (East Londonderry):

To ask the Minister for Regional Development if all interested parties who tendered for the Rathlin-Ballycastle Ferry Service were aware of the £1.2 million additional funding announced in the budget.

(AQW 8193/08)

2. Mr Dallat (East Londonderry):

To ask the Minister for Regional Development if the relief vessel for the MV Canna on the Rathlin-Ballycastle Ferry Service has a passenger carrying certificate.

(AQW 8194/08)

3. Mr Dallat (East Londonderry):

To ask the Minister for Regional Development if the successful tender for the Rathlin-Ballycastle Ferry Service included a safety management plan.

(AQW 8195/08)

4. Mr Dallat (East Londonderry):

To ask the Minister for Regional Development if he is aware of any safety concerns relating to the past record of the successful tenderer for the Rathlin-Ballycastle Ferry Service.

(AQW 8196/08)

5. Mr Dallat (East Londonderry):

To ask the Minister for Regional Development if he is satisfied that the successful tenderer for the Rathlin-Ballycastle Ferry Service has in place all requirements, including (i) a ticketing system; (ii) international safety management documentation; and (iii) an environmental plan, in keeping with the tendering process.

(AQW 8197/08)

Does the Minister have any plans to visit the island prior to July 1?