Saturday, 24 October 2009

Not Marconi's Cottage - The Sequel

The historic cottage on the old coalyard premises at 40 Carrickmore Road, Ballycastle, has been reduced to a pile of rubble.

It would appear that BTW Cairns, the estate agents, Povall Worthington, the architects, and elements of the mainstream media have misled the public about the historic nature of the site. Was the buyer informed or did the buyer check the site's real history?


Located on the County Antrim coastline near Ballycastle, a two storey replacement dwelling is proposed on this dramatic 18 acre site.

A floor area of 2,500sqft is proposed and glazed facades provide excellent views over the surrounding sea & coastline. Image five shows the existing cottage property.

This property has received much attention from the media, being featured in numerous newspapers & online, including the Belfast Telegraph, Irish Examiner & BBC News.

BBC: "It was the Irish home of a wireless pioneer and has now gone on the market for £400,000. .. Just the spot for an inventor to quietly tinker with electromagnetic waves [Quite. Is this an advert or a news item?] .. The site has full planning consent for a replacement home [Ah, yes. So the Planning Service gave permission for the demolition of a building of global significance? Surely not]

UTV: "The seafront home on Northern Ireland's North Antrim coast was owned by the family of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Guglielmo Marconi and it was from there in 1898 he sent transmissions to the nearby Rathlin Island." [attributed to Press Association]

David Young, Press Association: "The seafront home on Northern Ireland's North Antrim coast was owned by the family of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Guglielmo Marconi and it was there in 1898 he sent transmissions to the nearby Rathlin Island.

Sitting on the rocks at Ballycastle with a spectacular view out to sea, the property was always expected to fetch a hefty price, but with its added historic significance the selling agent believes it will reach upwards of £400,000."

Irish Examiner: "Broadcast it far and wide, Marconi Cottage is for sale on Antrim coast .. Up for sale near Ballycastle, in north Co Antrim, is Marconi Cottage, a 19th century seaside stunner with a direct link to the great man of wireless, radio inventor Guglielmo Marconi."

So what will be the next mainstream media headline? "Roads Service Allows 'Public Road' To Be Sealed Off"? "Private v Public Space on the Causeway Coast - Winners and Losers"

Monday, 12 October 2009

Moyle Council - Party in the Parlour?

Although Moyle District Council has a chairman rather than a mayor it does have a Mayor's Parlour. Occasionally the chairman is mistakenly referred to as the mayor, even by the office holder. I understand some councillors retire to the Mayor's Parlour for a 'snifter' after the conclusion of formal council business ie to wet their whistles.

I'm told that members of a political party assembled in the Mayor's Parlour recently, presumably for some sort of social gathering even though such facilities, presumably, are not designated for party political purposes. Perhaps councillors and/or officials can provide some clarification.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Stormont and the Mystery of Room 401

Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust
The Thursday Club
Room 401

We contribute regularly as speakers on Common Purpose training programmes, and corporately Stratagem is represented on the board of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust by Katherine McDonald and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce Council by GrĂ¡inne Walsh.
Stratagem, We are Northern Ireland's First Dedicated Lobbying Company

I should imagine that few people will have heard of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust (NIABT).

As an independent, neutral and self-financing educational charity, NIABT organises programmes for Assembly Members and Business representatives involving exchanges, seminars, visits and fellowship placements.

NIABT looks more like a networking club for parliamentarians and businessmen than a charity, an old boys and girls club. Have any of its members, past and present, or their clients received government funding or been awarded or sought government contracts?

The Charity Commission/Charities Act 2006 definition of charitable purposes

Charitable purposes can be grouped under four main headings: the relief of financial hardship; the advancement of education; the advancement of religion; certain other purposes for the benefit of the community.

In all cases it is essential that the purposes are also for the public benefit. This means it is for the benefit of the community (or a significant section of it). ...

In general, a purpose is not charitable if it is mainly for the benefit of a named person or specific individuals. It will also not be charitable if the people who will benefit from it are defined by a personal or contractual relationship with each other. For example, if the beneficiaries are related or connected to the person who is setting up the charity, or where they are defined by common employment or by membership of a non-charitable body, for example, members of a professional institute.

Is NIABT self-financing as claimed? According to the membership form, business fees range from £50 to £1,250, depending on company turnover. I can find no mention of fees for the Munificent Seven Parliamentarians or for the Trades Union representative who sit on the NIABT's Board of Trustees. Also, I can only see three of the seven names on the MLA Register of Interests.

Mr Butler: Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Since devolution, a total of £45,299·45 has been spent on visits by MLAs on behalf of the Assembly Commission, the Assembly Business Trust and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

So the taxpayer makes a contribution to the 'self-financing' NIABT. Does the Trust pay for the use of Room 401 and any associated administrative services or is that also billed to the taxpayer?

The NIABT Newsletter III contains the following reference to Declan O'Loan, member of the Board of Trustees and North Antrim MLA:

As part of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust’s Fellowship Programme, Declan O’Loan MLA spent a day at Mivan Ltd., specialists in bespoke interiors, property development and contracting.

Declan found the experience to be very worthwhile, commenting that ‘It gave [him] an excellent insight into a very successful company at the high end of the construction industry’. Declan has expressed an interest in undertaking further Fellowship schemes.

The membership form asserts that NIABT is non-partisan and non-lobbying yet there would appear to be excellent opportunities for, er, lobbying.

Adds October 9

There would appear to be opportunities for hospitality too. Imagine not knowing whether you're in Belfast or Birmingham - without the Charltons on a leash :)

Northern Ireland Assembly Business Trust

Rt. Hon. Lord Mandelson, First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, Lord President of the Council
Birmingham, 06 February 2009

Mr Speaker, Minister, Members of the Assembly, Ladies and Gentlemen, first let me begin by saying how honoured and chuffed I am to be here.
I loved my time here and always wanted to return.
It was Harry Truman, who advised “If you want a friend in politics get yourself a dog.”
And some of you may be disappointed, or perhaps - depending on your own memories of meeting them - a little relieved to see I’m not joined tonight by Bobby and Jack, the two dogs that accompanied me for so much of my time here as Secretary of State.

Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust - Roles and responsibilities of the NI Assembly - a one day conference

SPBE, the Scottish version of NIABT.