Wednesday, 30 December 2009

DRD, Translink and Beyond Beyond the Pale

Zones of Inequality

The Department for Regional Development (DRD) currently has a Public Transport Reform Consultation,
Equality Impact Assessment document [pdf format] out for consultation.

3.10 .. to provide additional transport services across our vast rural communities in line with the Minister’s objective of tackling regional disparities and promoting
equality of service.

Perhaps the Minister ought to have a look at the iLink 'smart' card scheme:

iLink is the new integrated smartcard from Translink which provides unlimited day, weekly or monthly bus and rail travel within 3 specified zones across Northern Ireland.

The Pale or #1 Zone is essentially Belfast. Those who wish to venture out into the jungle north of Glengormley are in Beyond the Pale or #2 Zone. Those with more money than sense have entered Beyond Beyond the Pale or #3 Zone as they've sped beyond Antrim. The zones are Belfast centric and Translink have provided
a simple calculator to help the traveller work out how much they will be stung.

A card for unlimited daily travel in the comfort of #1 Zone costs £5, for a little less comfort #2 Zone costs £9 and for the rocky road/track experience #3 Zone costs £15.

To get a measure of the inequality Derriaghy to Dundonald and back via the Belfast City Hall is a distance of about 22 miles for £5 in #1 Zone. The less fortunate who do the three mile round trip from Holywood to Cultra are in #2 Zone so they may have a cheaper option than the £9 one. Give a thought for those circling the 11 miles Coleraine triangle all day long, clockwise or anti-clockwise, for the princely sum of £15.

Folks in Derry/Londonderry are paying up to three times as much for a similar but possibly worse public service. Forty years ago there would have indignant protests against such blatant discrimination but not now.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Mallow, County Cork, and the Pig Farmer

Nevin's tale about the whiskey factory reminded me of an encounter my friend Marie and I once had in Co Cork.

Many years ago on my first trip to Ireland (1992) I was driving down around Mallow with my friend and we were trying to find a farm. And why we were actually looking for this particular farm was that my friend Marie and I had stopped at the East Clare Heritage Centre to do some research into her family history. At the centre we were told about the farm and that descendants of the family (that Marie was related too) still farmed there.

So off we drove to search out this farm, and getting hopelessly lost, we saw a pig farmer and stopped to ask more directions to the farm. The more he tried to explain the less we understood (mostly due to his accent and decision to keep giving us the shortest way to the farm). In the end he said, “What the hell I’m not doing anything?” and got in the back of the car to guide us there. We certainly knew he was a pig farmer - from the smell in the back of the car I was really sure he had a couple of pigs under his coat! - and opened all the windows but he guided us to the farm and wouldn’t stay and let us drive him back, choosing to walk back instead!

The owners of the farm walked out their door and we assumed just to see who had arrived at their home, but we were greeted with, “So you be the girls from Australia!” Apparently the lady at the East Clare Heritage Centre that we had originally spoken to had phoned ahead and told them to expect us. We were flabbergasted. They immediately took us inside where we found they had laid a table of tea and sweets in preparation for our arrival!!

Marie still keeps in touch with her distant family and, honestly, if the farmer hadn’t helped us I’m sure we would never have found the place. I’ve never forgotten the help this farmer gave us so I know that the tourists you helped will always remember what you did.


Jennie Fairs.

NALIL co-ord, AU

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Rathlin and Cape Clear Ferry Problems Continue

The Department for Regional Development (DRD) in Belfast and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (DCRGA) in Dublin as well as other government agencies cannot be too comfortable with the negative publicity that continues to surround Rathlin Island Ferry Limited (RIFL) and its sister company, Tithe Saoire Chléire Teo, in Cape Clear, Co Cork.

News emanating from DCRGA sources indicates that Tithe Saoire Chléire Teo is pulling out of the Cape Clear Ferry contract from 28 February 2010. I understand that RIFL may also be facing an industrial tribunal in the spring. I'm told that the DCRGA could find itself in the High Court in 2010 following a legal challenge to another ferry contract award.

The much vaunted Rathlin Express catamaran seems to have spent much of its time tied up in Rathlin harbour; it's also been to Moville twice, Coleraine once and on recent overnight trips to and from the Arklow dockyard where it was built. Perhaps proper assessments should have been made prior to the acceptance of a tender about the suitability of such a vessel for the year round operation on the turbulent waters of Rathlin Sound.

One year on and the Committee for Regional Development has yet to scrutinise the December 2008 report into certain aspects of the awarding of the Rathlin ferry contract. Perhaps the hold-up is caused by the associated EU Commission inquiry into the same contract. The December report has been found not to be water-tight so that could also have added to the delay. Some of the documentation being processed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Department for Transport looks a bit dodgy to say the least. Shadows on copied documents would indicate that perhaps key information has been deliberately blanked out. Perhaps all will become clearer when the EU Commission and the CRD have done their work.


This story has also been published in emara News.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Bushmills and the Whiskey Factory

It was an icy cold day today. I needed some food supplies and I didn't know how treacherous the roads might be so me and Finn set off for Bushmills on the tractor. Conditions weren't too bad and it seemed a thaw had set in.

A car coming from the direction of Bushmills pulled up ahead of us. A side window was lowered and a young man of oriental appearance spoke:

Is this the road to the whiskey factory?

No. There's nothing of interest that way.

Well I suppose there might be the odd illicit poitín still on the foothills of the Antrim Hills but I wasn't going to tell him one of Northern Ireland's closely guarded secrets, was I?



I tried giving him some directions but after a few attempts it was obvious that he was only getting more confused so, to coin a phrase, I said, "Follow me". After a six-point turn and nearly getting stuck on the banking he and his companions followed me to the town.

When we reached the distillery car-park, I pointed to the whiskey factory, he gave me the thumb's up and we waved each other good-bye.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Freedom of Information Disclosures not Fully Redacted

Back in September 2008 I blogged a story about Government officials' inability to properly redact personal details from documents that are released following Freedom of Information requests.

For example, the Department of Culture Media and Sport placed online some documents it had released that related to the Giants Causeway World Heritage site. DCMS removed the personal information following a request submitted by Jim Allister MEP but the information had by that time found its way into Google cache. After a follow-up request DCMS arranged with Google for the cached material to be removed from the public domain. That you might imagine should have been the end of the problem. But no.

The DCMS material in PDF format is currently visible in the National Archive's web archives. When you open a document the correspondence appears with the personal details blacked out. However, when you click to view the PDF document as a text file the personal details are there for all to see!!

Update April 20, 2011

It seems the electronic redaction 'disease' has reached epidemic proportions :L


Thursday, 17 December 2009

NALIL Blogger on Route 66

I've just passed another milestone - my 65th birthday!! I thought I'd try out one of my new found freedoms/privileges this morning - pensioners rates. The admission charge to one of our local attractions is adults £2, pensioners £1. So I put my £1 coin on the counter and proudly boasted that I had just become a pensioner - well, officially anyway. She reached the coin back and said, "Here's your birthday present!!". Isn't that nice?

Two days ago I got a call from Agnes, one of the local members of NALIL - see banner above. Could we meet to celebrate my special event? I got a real surprise when I arrived at her home this morning. Agnes had contacted other members of the group in secret and, when I opened the box, inside were cards from members in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well as from here in North Antrim. I was gobsmacked. I'm often at risk of having my gob smacked but that's another story! Many thanks to one and all.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Bushmills - Kiss the Causey

New road signs in the Scots tongue are sprouting up in the western end of the Kingdom of Moyle. I notice that some local folks are using Scots words in their online social network messages, probably not knowing the words' origins. It'll probably be awhile before these newly translated names find their way into the satellite navigation systems :)

Dictionary of the Scots Language

Irish dictionary online

The Isle Road runs south from the Whitepark Road to the Islandranny Road, passes close to Islandcorr and Araboy Isle and ends up in the Islands of Carnmoon. This sign is at McKenzie's Cross, at the junction of the Isle and Straid Roads. Inch is Scots for a small island. The Irish form is Bóthar an Oileáin.

The Feigh Road runs north from Dunseverick School on the Whitepark Road to the Causeway Road. I've not heard this road called Plantin Road. The A2 running north out of Bushmills - up the Plantin Brae - passes through 'the Plantin', a plantation of trees on the Dundarave Estate. The Irish form is Bóthar na Faiche (faiche = lawn, green)

The Causeway Road runs from the Smuggler's Inn on the Whitepark Road round by the Giant's Causeway, Dunseverick Castle and back on to the Whitepark Road. Causey is Scots for a causeway. The Irish form is Bóthar an Chlocháin.

to kiss the causey, to 'come a cropper', to meet defeat

causey clash, --- tales, street talk; gossip

cawsey dancer, 'a gadabout, one who is continually in the street'

Runkerry Road loops off the Causeway Road by the miniature railway station. Swelch is Scots for a whirlpool and Heidlan for a headland or point. The Irish form is Bóthar Rinn Chaorach (Rinn Chaorach (?), 'headland of sheep')

Castlenagree Road runs north from Twaddle's Cross on the Straid Road up the east side of the Dundarave Estate to the Whitepark Road at Ballyallaght. The Irish form is Bóthar Chaiseal na Graí (Caiseal na Graí, 'the stone-fort of the horse stud') Cuddy is Scots for donkey, ass or, occasionally, a small horse.

"Ye're a bonnie pair," as the cuddie said when it saw its lugs in the mill-dam.

A cuddy's gallop's sune done.

Clogher Road runs east from the Castlenagree Road across the Straid Road and on to the Isle Road. Stany is Scots for stony. The Irish form is Bóthar an Chlochair (Clochar, 'stony ground, stone building, convent' or Cloch Óir, 'stone of gold')