Friday, 28 November 2008

Mad Hare Day in Mosside

First Minister, Peter Robinson

It's a battle a day, Peter!!

First Minister joins the Committee

What a foal am I?

Peter with the Jack Horner Playgroup

Daniel demonstrating the
ancient art of horse-shoe tossing

David Healy, George Best and Joey Dunlop
Peter with Joey's widow, Linda, and George's sister, Barbara

The 'reimaging' of Mosside has been directed by the Mosside Development Group. Moyle District Council is one of the funders yet, of the two councillors I spoke to, one had heard nothing about this ceremony and the other only heard about it by accident. Was the invitation issued too late or did council officers fail to give councillors adequate or any notice?

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.]

Monday, 17 November 2008

Community Policing and Defective Tyres

Community Police Sell Out!!

We were told some months ago that Moyle District Command Unit (DCU) had the largest number of community police officers pro rata to other areas in N. Ireland. This has recently been cut, as I have highlighted, and we were told that these officers would be dedicated to routine community calls and setting up all sorts of initiatives with the youth, elderly and all types of other groups.

These officers are now dealing with front line response calls and I can see no indicatives in place where community policing has improved the position in Moyle DCU. I am hesitant to use this term. As far as I am concerned, there is no Moyle DCU any more; it's simply 'H' District.


Front line police car with defective tyres

Kevin McAuley

Independent member of Moyle DPP

Adds December 1

PSNI, DPP and the need for 'corporacy'.

The purpose of the District Policing Partnership includes the need to encourage the public to co·operate with the Police. Mr McAuley’s actions are more likely to foster a mistrust of Police rather than to encourage engagement.

I would ask that you address the unhelpful press release through the DPP and consider measures to ensure that whilst we can all hold differing opinion, corporacy is maintained in developing partnership working. Perhaps a meeting with you and Mr McAuley would allow some clarity of position.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Ballycastle Marconi Radio Group Launch New 70cm Repeater



A new 70cms repeater at Ballycastle forest (GB3KK) came live on the 23 May 2008 which was developed and placed on scene by the Marconi Radio group. The work on this was commissioned by the Marconi Radio group and carried out by club member Michael Kaskoush.

The repeater transmits on 430.975 Mhz and receives on 438.575Mhz with a CTCSS tone of 110.9Hz, its locator is IO65WT with a LAT of 55.191845 and a LONG of -6.243352. Full details can be found at This allows communications on the band between North East Antrim right across East Londonderry and out towards Inishowen, Co Donegal.

The repeater also links into Campbeltown all the way up the mull of Kintyre to include parts of the Isle of Arran, all of Islay, Jura and Gigha, and also parts of the Scottish Mainland. This is its natural RF coverage area. However, it is now linked 24/7 hrs to the Ireland conference server via echolink which brings coverage from all over the world right into a small hand held radio which you can carry with you while walking within the RF coverage area of the repeater.

This has brought a whole new dimension to Ham radio in that it is now possible to talk all over the world from a small hand held radio from anywhere in the area. Countries connecting to the Ireland server include the USA, Australia, Japan, Germany, UK and, indeed, anyone who has a call sign world wide can register.


Kevin McAuley

Friday, 14 November 2008

"Moyle Memories - 50 years and beyond"

On Thursday evening, November 20th at 7:30 pm in the Antrim Arms Hotel Ballycastle, Impact Printing will launch their latest publication; an album of old photographs of Ballycastle and the surrounding District of Moyle.

The author, Danny McGill of Ballycastle has collected over 200 photographs from family albums and local collections. Presented in the form of an old album, he has added notes to many of the images, providing us with an insight into past events which were at risk of being forgotten.

There will be a display of photographs and artefacts to peruse while refreshments are being served. Danny will then give a short illustrated talk before signing copies of the book which will be available for purchase at a special ‘launch’ price.

Everyone is welcome to attend what should be an interesting evening.

Does anyone know what’s going on here?

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Santa's Grotto - Breaking News

In another surprise announcement, the Department for Reindeer Development confirms rumours that Santa's sleigh has been taken over by the elves.

A spokesman said, "There is absolutely no proof that Santa's sleigh was ever able to complete all the work in one night, or indeed that it was capable of carrying the amount of parcels needed. You have to think of elfin safety.

"Accordingly, it is being replaced by a 2001 Renault Megane Scenic with a winter carrying capacity of 50 elves. This service improvement has been authorised by the Merry Christmas Agency.

"The present delivery service will now operate longer hours, but most children will have to wait several days to get their presents. We do not think this is significant. The Department agreed this new timetable in consultation with the Reindeer Driver Carers Association.

"We can also confirm that Santa Claus submitted a bid to run this new service, but it was deemed non-compliant as we suspected his beard was false.

"A rival consortium of elves put in a bid and this was accepted, although no formal contract is in place. The new operator assures us that all performance and reliability criteria were met in their previous operation to carry Humpty Dumpty, and the problems were out of their control. The winning bid includes provision of a new multi runner sleigh which is scheduled for completion in 2009. It is currently being constructed in the Peter Pan Coachworks in Never Never Land.* This is being supervised by Captain Christopher Robin Hook."

We contacted Santa's Grotto for comment. Rudolf was not available, but Prancer and Dancer indicated that it was more than likely that redundancies would follow.

Reports are already in that a number of elves have been seen wearing cut-down pieces of Santa's familiar red and white uniform. An elf, who did not want to be identified, told us that they have to wear these, since this is all that Scrooge, the Big Fairy in the Department of Fairies and Pixies, would provide....

*Second star on the right and straight on till morning.

Late news

It seems the likely cries of the children have just been too much for the Department of Fairies and Pixies. A spokeswoman said late last night that this shambles had nothing to do with it: "Those boyos over at the Department for Reindeer Development couldn't run a bath. As for elfin safety, that's really a matter for the Department of Elves, Troggs and Imps. Santa has been heavily sedated."

The Department for Reindeer Development has advised that all letters addressed to Santa will now be opened by elves.

The Shoemaker and his wife have also expressed relief that the elves had been deployed elsewhere, as it is thought that the quality of their work had diminished to a dangerous level.

"Cobblers!!", a very annoyed elves' spokesperson said to Reindeer Monthly, "I'll nail that lie if it's the last thing I do".

Later News

Dr Nose from the Ministry of Elf has finally admitted that some senior elves have been afflicted during the past few months by a condition known as Pinocchio Syndrome. The condition had largely gone unnoticed by viewers of Dormant Live due to the customary wooden delivery at the Despatch Counter. The nasal extension had also come as a bit of a surprise as there's been no crack at Dormant for months.

It can also be revealed that other governments have conspired with Dormant to stop media editors reporting the outbreak. It was claimed that disclosure would alarm children unnecessarily.

And there's more. A large container of whitewash has fallen on Santa's new computer and, as there were not enough back-up records, many children will go without presents this year. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Truth said, 'I blame the children.' 'Why?' asked a reporter. 'That's my job; that's what I'm paid to do,' said the spokesperson.

- 0 0 0 -

PS A big thank you to all those who assisted in the compilation of this Christmas tale. I wouldn't be surprised if it's translated into Irish for the benefit of folks in Cape Clear. Perhaps our friends in emara News could do the needful ...

The Santa's Grotto story is excellent.

I do hope that the Department for Reindeer Development hang their heads in shame.

What will I tell my children when Santa does not make it to my house this year?

Still recovering from the laughing fit :D

Signed: ballywhatsit

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Alex Blair's "Ireland & the First World War"


Tuesday 25 November


The First World War (1914-1918) was called the “Great” War and it was a colossal event. Great numbers of young Irishmen went to fight. They were Protestant and Catholic, Unionist and Nationalist and from all over the country. Many were from Ballymoney and District and they fought and died on battlefields across Europe, most notably at the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916. Mr Blair will deal with these traumatic events and outline the effects the war had on Ireland, and especially on the local area.

Admission £1 (includes refreshments).

Friday, 7 November 2008

Rathlin Island - Planters and Gales

The following Northern Ireland Assembly question from Daithi McKay, SF MLA and Slugger Awards 2008 winner, looks remarkably like a plant:
To ask the Minister for Regional Development to detail the work he has carried out in relation to Rathlin Island since taking up office.

(AQO 1052/09)

Why would Conor Murphy, Minister for Regional Development need to put out a 'good news' story on November 10? Might it have anything to do with the gales that have swirled around DRD and DFP since questions were asked about the ferry tendering process and its outcome?

Investigations were to have been completed by the end of September; this was put back to the end of October and I've seen no announcement of a third date.

There has also been relative silence on the proposal for the reintroduction of the Ballycastle-Campbeltown(-Ayrshire) ferry.

Adds November 9 & 10

Compare and contrast, line by line, the passenger certificates for the Canna and the St Sorney. Who was/were responsible for the alterations? Were these alterations officially noted? Has an obsolete pre-2007 style of certificate been used for the St Sorney? Why is its operator not named as Rathlin Island Ferry Limited?

The current [Canna] passenger capacity is limited to 27 plus two cars (or one lorry) in winter ..

If there were no alterations why was passenger capacity increased to 50?

Adds November 11

Conor Murphy replies to supplementary question by Mervyn Storey but still no news of a publication date for the three investigations report:

the complaints have not come from the islanders, and the islanders have not sought reassurance on the issue

So, the unheralded visit by Gerry Adams, Murphy's party leader, on September 11 was on a different matter?

“Combined with the need to enhance the tourist infrastructure and raise the profile of the new high-speed ferry, Sinn Féin remains focused on the needs of RathlinIsland. The visit of Gerry Adams last Thursday signals our continued commitment in that regard,” Councillor [Cara] McShane said.

I suspect the three Governments, Ministers and officials, at present, would rather lower the profile of the St Sorney, the passenger only ferry.

Despite the documents that are currently in the public domain there has been remarkable docility by the islanders, the mainstream media, (most of) Moyle District Council - and the Scottish government.

YouTube video: "If the minister chooses to answer"

The DRD press webpage remains 'tight-lipped' but a spokeswoman told the News Letter 'that she expected the report and the department's response to it to be published before the Assembly's Christmas recess'.

Rathlin in the Euro Zone?

O'Driscoll: "While it was being set up with the First Trust Bank in Northern Ireland ..."

The 'blunder' has nothing to do with the bank; the on-line booking system is provided by and this company will bill customers in the currency specified by its client.

Has the Committee for Finance and Personnel passed the buck?

Regular photo and document updates
here and here.
Click on image and then move cursor over new image to read sticky notes.