Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Has DRD 'Lost Control' of Rathlin Ferry Service?


DRD Committee December 10
Rathlin Island Ferry Contract: Briefing on the Independent investigation (Closed Session)

What have they got to hide?

Murphy's Milk Float
New Rathlin Milk Delivery Service

And [Ciaran O'Driscoll] said that he could not understand why politicians were "incessantly" interested in the ferry contract and service when most of the islanders had not made any complaint.

It's not often that politicians get 'blamed' for working too hard. They, like Ciaran, are able to read the stories and documents that have been posted on the internet so it's hardly surprising that they should question the relevant Government ministers and issue statements to the media.

Folks who live in tight knit communities on a small island will be reluctant to make complaints; those who have complained may have done so anonymously.

Mr O'Driscoll also expressed annoyance that someone had "blown the whistle" to the authorities ...

Why shouldn't folks take issues of public safety and possible breaches of the law seriously?

There were nine passengers on board, all local.

Are locals not to be treated with the same care and attention as everyone else? Has Mr O'Driscoll forgotten the commitment he gave in his tender not to carry passengers and dangerous goods on the same sailing?

A DRD spokeswoman said: "The department was made aware of this incident and has been informed of the MCA report."

Has the department of reticence and docility acquired a copy of the dangerous goods declaration that should have accompanied the red bowser on October 24? Has it contemplated or applied sanctions of its own?

Also, is it satisfied that the operator has adequate procedures and finance in place to provide for pensions, death in service benefits and redundancies as specified in TUPE communications between this operator and the previous one?

Adds November 19

Warning on ferry service viability

Published Date: 19 November 2008
Insufficiently rigorous assessments of the viability of a ferry service between Ballycastle and Campbeltown in Scotland were carried out before a substantial amount of money was spent upgrading the harbour at Ballycastle, according to an Audit Office report.

Development of Ballycastle and Rathlin Harbours - NIAO report

When will they ever learn? Perhaps John Dowdall should have accepted Jim Allister's advice rather than acquiesced(?) to a series of DRD in-house investigations.

Is it possible that the DRD hasn't carried out a viability assessment into the use of Mr O'Driscoll's proposed Vessel B, a catamaran, on the Ballycastle-Rathlin route? What is the current status of this catamaran? I'm told that his new catamaran for the Co Cork Cape Clear route is still in the Arklow Marine shipyard even though it was due to go into service on January 1, 2008.

Mr O'Driscoll said work was already in motion to allow people to pay in sterling from next week

It seems the motion hasn't passed; the online website payment is still in euros* (November 24 December 2 December 8) - and the required company details are still missing. Is an apology to First Trust Bank in order too?

Adds November 24

Almost another month has almost passed and Paul Priestly, DRD Permanent Secretary and chief accounting officer has not circulated a revised timescale for the release of the report into the three investigations. The first estimate of the end of September was far too optimistic as three four governments, two Stormont departments, a local council and several companies were involved.

Priestly was also invited to describe the legal relationship that exists between DRD and publicly subsidised RIFL. Has the position of PS been 'decommissioned'? Has the PS been made redundant? A clear-as-mud answer has been provided by no less than the Minister himself, Conor Murphy.

A fourth Government has now entered the fray in the form of Jim Fitzpatrick, Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport at Westminster. Jim has supplied improved but still not complete copies of passenger certificates for the Canna and the St Sorney. Perhaps someone can explain why documents which are in number sequence and have the same form number should be differently worded - and list two different 'operators'. I should imagine that expert witnesses might query other discrepancies.

A question to Nigel Dodds from George Savage for answer on December 5, most probably in advance of the completion of the three internal investigations into the Rathlin ferry contract and related matters:

To ask the Minister of Finance and Personnel to detail (i) how many court proceedings have been brought against the Central Procurement Directorate (CPD); (ii) who brought proceedings against CPD; (iii) the legal costs; and (iv) the compensation costs paid out.

Documents and photos can be viewed here and here and earlier stories on the blog can be found with a 'ferry' search.

* ibooking layout modified from Euros to Pounds: 09 December 2008 08:25:03

[I'd like to remind an anonymous emailer of John Dallat's five questions that were answered by Conor Murphy on June 26, 2008. This should reassure the emailer that questions are being asked on an 'ecumenical' basis.]