Monday, 23 February 2009

Northern Ireland Audit Office and 'Absolute Privilege'

My attention has been drawn to the following item from today's business in the Northern Ireland Assembly:

[Minister of Finance and Personnel]

A Bill to confer absolute privilege on certain reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland; ...

Absolute Privilege
An absolute defence to an otherwise defamatory statement because of the venue or context which the statement was made.
Why would NIAO or, indeed, any Government department need such powers? What about the human rights of a whistleblower or a complainant in the recent investigations in-house report carried out by the Department of Regional Development, a report more or less endorsed by the NIAO? Has Dormant become a Comedy of Errors in many acts? Do its departmental committees serve any useful purpose?

In its mission and values statement NIAO wishes to encourage 'propriety in the conduct of public business'. How would impropriety encourage propriety?

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Department of Regional Development and Interference with the Royal Mail

Interference with mail - Postal Services Act 2000 Sections 83 and 84

The Postal Services Act 2000 sections 83 and 84, see Stones 8 - 24243 and 8 - 24244, create offences of interfering with mail. Section 83 is aimed at persons engaged in the business of a postal operator and creates an either way offence. Section 84 covers any person and creates a summary only imprisonable offence. Both sections cover intentional delaying or opening of a postal packet and intentional opening of a mail bag.

If you receive a letter at your place of work that is addressed to someone who used to work there do you readdress it, return it to the Post Office or take a chance with the Postal Services Act 2000 (Section 84) and open it. Such a letter mysteriously winged its way to the Department of Regional Development (DRD) but its existence was brought to the attention of the intended recipient.

Following an FOI request, a senior DRD official asserts that DRD received the letter/correspondence from the sender at a meeting on December 8, 2008. I'm told that the sender has no such recollection.

Unfortunately for the DRD, the recipient discovered that lesser DRD officials had been in discussion with Calmac about the contents of the letter prior to December 8.

The timeline goes something like this:

1. Letter addressed to recipient on 10 11 November 2008

2. Email sent from DRD to Calmac on 13 November 2008

3. Email sent from Calmac to DRD on 13 November 2008

4. Email sent from DRD to Calmac on 13 November 2008

5. Email sent from DRD to Calmac on 19 November 2008 when a DRD official refers to 'copies of correspondence'. Was the letter perhaps faxed to DRD?

6. Letter allegedly given to DRD by sender on 8 December 2008

Perhaps it's worth revisiting the DRD website to review its core values:

A number of core values underpin the culture within which the Department works to fulfil its mission. These are:

  • Integrity
  • Honesty
  • Objectivity
  • Impartiality

We hope to finalise the vision and values by December 2008.


It seems David Ford is asking the Minister to look into his crystal ball:

7. Mr D Ford (South Antrim):

To ask the Minister for Regional Development what time the last ferry sailed from Ballycastle to Rathlin on Mondays and Fridays in (i) September; (ii) October; and (iii) November, in 2008 and 2009.

(AQW 5364/09)

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Don's Email from Melbourne, Australia

Don is a NALIL member; he has ancestral roots in North Antrim; and he wrote the following email in response to comments and support from other members:

Gee, your messages were lovely and your thoughts & actions by just responding, Elwin, Judy & Rebecca were very special, I’ve already spoken to some people who have been affected in some way or another and in sharing and talking let them know that the Networking of Caring people and their prayers and good wishes are extended to them, it’s one of the positive joys of having instant contact around our little globe.

I live in the suburban area of the City of Melbourne and thank God am situated some 2 hours drive away from the closest area of impact although my work takes me well into ALL of the area that have been devastated, without exception I’ve either driven through or worked at all of the areas in the past 6 weeks, in fact I will be driving into them again on a 4 day work trip next week [Feb 16th].

There are so, so many heartbreaking and devastating stories coming out, things that no parent or child should ever be exposed to in their life-time, my personal feeling is numbness and gob-smacked, that all of us, living in first world countries in the 21st century have to endure this, I might add however that the Aussie spirit is alive and well however. Everything that is humanly [and bureaucratically] possible is happening to help and assist all in need as far as sustenance and temporary living quarters, the logistics that have taken place are sensational however long-term emotional needs still will be a big thing.

I’m writing this email on Tues night [Feb 10] @ 2000 hrs our local time and it’s not yet over, some fires have been contained but spot fires are still a nightmare and confirmed deaths are now 183 [read, one hundred and eighty three Mums, Dads & Children]. It is so unfair.

Latest Local Link:,21985,25033819-661,00.html

Or Front Main Page:

Again, our friends who I shared your thoughts with [and I know all of you guys in NALIL think the same] were touched and some were agog that you knew and told me to tell you all “THANKS”

Best Wishes as Always

Don in Melbourne AU

Boston Globe - bushfire images

GOOGLE Victoria Fires Map

Australian Red Cross Victorian Bushfire Appeal 2009

NASA image

The Age - Our Darkest Day