Monday, 28 April 2008

New Rathlin Ferry Service Operator

Rathlin Island is to get a new operator for the ferry service in June.

Ciarán O'Driscoll of Cape Clear Ferries has been awarded the contract by the Department of Regional Development following the failure of an earlier tendering process.

In a statement from the Department officials they said none of the applications for the five-year contract were "economically advantageous".

Despite receiving "a number" of tenders since competition opened in April the Department abandoned competition on November 29. [2007]

The MV Canna will continue in use and eventually will be joined by a catamaran which will reduce the journey time from forty five minutes to twenty minutes.

CalMac, the former operator, is naturally disappointed that it has lost out in the latest tendering process.

CalMac Managing Director Lawrie Sinclair said: "Caledonian MacBrayne believes that through the service offered in recent years, which has seen significant growth, we have established a track record as a safe, reliable, and dependable ferry operator and we are grateful to the island community on Rathlin for their cooperation and assistance over the years.

"We also believe we submitted a robust bid which would offer significant improvements for the island and its community."

The ferry service receives a government subsidy. The subsidy in 2002 appears to have been around £200,000; by last year it had risen to £443, 000; and the new operator will receive about £4 million for a six year contract.

Adds 05.06.08

There would appear to have been a few 'hiccups' in the south-west:

Let’s hope, for the sake of the Rathlin Islanders that the new ferry operator does a better job of sticking to the terms of the contract and also maintaining the ferry than he has done in the waters of Roaring Water Bay.

In a little over a year he has been fined twice for breaching the contract and we fully expect further action in the very near future.

Perhaps the UK government is better at enforcing regulations and less inclined to try to wash its hands and pass the buck than our Destruction of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

The Cape Contract was delayed “to improve the efficiency of the tendering process”, despite the delay neither tender was “satisfactory”, but perhaps the Minister/king or his advisors expected this result and just may be it allowed them a route into talking to only one of the contenders and perhaps the delay in actually signing that contract, when it had been “given” to the current operator had something to do with facilitating changes from the original proposal, and perhaps the need to hold the vote for the Monitoring Committee Island Reps at a time when it was certain that the majority of the younger voters weren’t on the island, might just have had baring on the election of two people with a singular lack of knowledge of the ferry or its operation and possibly with personal reasons to curry the operators favour; I couldn’t possibly comment.

Still less could I comment, though I must remark on the possibly coincidental circumstance, of the new Sherkin ferry contract being delayed “to improve administrative efficiency”. Maybe the DCRGA are just trying to be consistent?

The one thing I will comment on though, is that there are many in the community of Cape Clear who are a lot less happy to travel this winter on a ferry, which seems to have chronic maintenance problems, has had its crew reduced and is under investigation for an overloading incident, which wasn’t its first since March.

The rumoured €50,000 fine for taking the Naomh Ciaran off service to run trips to the Fastnet, if true, isn’t much comfort to us as the gale wails around the houses and we wonder: when our goods will come in from the creamery, or whether we will be able to leave the island, or our loved ones return, safely.

McCarthy Condemns Government ’s failure to Protect Cape Clear Ferry Workers

Slugger O'Toole update - post #7

History of the MV Bruernish

MV Bruernish I'm told featured in the tendering process yet it's passenger carrying certificate was withdrawn on Feb 16, 2007 - according to ICAS records, sometime before the commencement of tendering.

Rathlin Ferry Service Operator 2

Thursday, 10 April 2008

When DUP Politician Met An Irish President

The year was 1991 and the Democratic Unionist Party was in no mood to extend the hand of friendship across the border.

A problem arose when Co-Operation Ireland invited a delegation from Moyle District Council to meet President Mary Robinson. The meeting was arranged for September 19.

James Rodgers DUP (back row, 1st from left) was one of the nominees and he was delighted to go as he appreciated the President's earlier decision to resign from the Irish Labour Party when the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed over the heads of the Unionists.

Peter Robinson, DUP MP for East Belfast said: "Our view has always been that there should be no formal contacts of this kind until the Dublin Government drops its claim to our territory."
The DUP's deputy press officer, Nigel Dodds, was unable to confirm whether the Rodgers had been officially expelled, but said they should have used official party procedures to air their grievances.
Councillor Rodgers defended his position by recalling: "There were DUP councillors who met NIO ministers when the ban was in place and there was no action taken against them. I would expect to be treated the same."

The councillor blotted his copy book even further by later proposing that the council invite the President to visit the district.

Fast forward to 2008 and all has changed utterly. Ian Paisley, who'd once shunned a DUP council member for greeting a southern President who'd supported the Unionists, now finds himself sharing an office with SF's Martin McGuinness, attending meetings of the North South Ministerial Council and rolling out the red carpet in Ballymena for An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Blot on the Landscape 2

No planning permission was sought to encage the old fisherman's cottage at Black Rock adjacent to Runkerry House and Arlene Foster, Minister for the Environment, has decided not to enforce the rules. You'd have thought that the owner could have secured the cottage and left the path around it accessible for local fishermen.