Friday, 31 December 2010

Bushmills - Kiss the Causey 2

Some new signs have appeared since I blogged on this topic a year ago. The Ulster-Scots forms appear underneath the official names and some of the latter were introduced in rural areas in the 1970s; townland names have been reinstated in addresses. Irish forms for Moyle District Council [pdf file] have been compiled by the Northern Ireland Place-Name Project. The Dictionary of the Scots Language is a useful source for Scots spellings.

DSL gives Raw, Rau for a line of houses. MDC has a translation of the street name: Corrán Mhic Giolla Dhuibh. It's based on the presumption that Huey derives from an older Argyllshire name Macilghuie. MDC refers to a Robert Huey, a Bushmills grocer mentioned in the Ordnance Survey, but I think Dr David Huey, a Bushmills doctor who came from Ballynarry Upper, to be the more likely origin. Huey's Corner is at the junction of Priestland Road and Dunluce Road.

MDC: Bóthar an Chairn Bhodhair is based on Bóthar, 'road' and Carn Bodhar, 'deaf carn'. Staunin is Scots for standing and this would relate to a standing stone rather than to a cairn, a heap of loose stones.

The Haw is a minor name in the townland of Curramoney, parish of Billy. It also appears twice as a townland name in north-east Donegal. MDC: Bóthar na hInse - It seems to be a variant of haugh, a Scots 
word for flat ground beside a river.

DSL:     *m.Sc. 1996 John Murray Aspen 4: 

ahint thir hills
in amang the riggs an dykes,
haughs an howes,
there’s bits and bittocks

Perhaps Haugh Road would be more appropriate than Hawthorne (as in bush).

MDC: Bóthar na Sráide is based on An tSráid, 'the street/village'. Straid is a minor name in the townland of Croaghmore, parish of Ballintoy; it also appears as an element in the nearby townland of Ballinastraid.

DSL: Strade is a variant of straid as in astride a horse. I can't see a connection with Straid, the place-name.

Heavily in the sadle I  strade , And all the day on him I rade

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Portcaman 2010 - Bushmills Folklore & History Magazine

Click images to enlarge

"Buy the book to see more great photos and stories
on sale at Causeway Books, Spar and newsagents in Bushmills"

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Ballycastle - Carrickmore Road - Vital Discovery - 1789 Document

Public Colliery Road
click on image to enlarge

Celebration Walk
Wednesday, December 29 @ Noon

Christmas Cheer for supporters of the proposed "Celebration Walk" along the old 'Colliery Road', Ballycastle, on Wednesday, December 29, at Noon.

Danny McGill, one of Ballycastle's historians has been undertaking detailed and thorough research through property deeds along the 'Colliery Road' now known as Carrickmore Road.

As many of you know there are numerous historical maps and photographs of this road continuing unhindered past the 'Old Salt Pans' at a time when the road was known as 'the tram road' for the fact that it was used as such to access the mines and ports along the shore.

Danny told me today that one of the property deeds he examined contained a clause which will be of great interest to all who still travel the road by car or on foot.

The property in question was the Salt Works near the Salt Pans Rocks and the document is dated 1st May 1789 (PRONI reference D.O.D.509/773 carefully copied verbatum by Mrs Jayne McGill many years ago).

The description of the property boundaries includes the following phrase:

"...with all the ground lying between the great road and the sea, lying between the backside wall of the house Davis Boyd now lives in and the road leading from the public colliery road into the east gate of the saltpan yard."

In 1789, the tram road, salt works, coal pits, iron ore mines and shipping ports were all in operation along the shore from the Quay to the foot of Fair Head, so a public accomodation road was in full use by all the inhabitants and continued so until landslips over recent years have covered the road in places making it temporarily impassable for wheeled traffic.

Links to earlier articles

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

[click images to enlarge]

Have a thought also for those struck down by illness and for the families and friends of those who are no longer with us.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Junior Council of Social Service - Coleraine

Junior Council of Social Service - Coleraine                                                            

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Bangor: Save the Maritime Search & Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Northern Ireland

Facebook link @ 
Invite your Facebook friends to support this worthy cause


  1. The only Co-ordination Centre in N.I. must remain.
  2. Local Knowledge of SAR Professionals is essential.
  3. Over 1150 people assisted or rescued this year alone!

Troubled Waters
Ballycastle Chronicle
Thursday, 16 December 2010

Bull point Rathlin as viewed from the McHenry Farm Ballintoy.

Local people have reacted angrily to the news that Northern Ireland's only Coastguard control base could be closed as part of public spending cuts.

The Bangor centre is one of 19 across the UK which could face major changes under Government cut-backs.

The news was described as 'worrying' by Ballycastle boat-owner and Community Rescue Service member Chris McCaughan.

He has seen Coastguard presence in Ballycastle diminish from 24/7, full-time cover and said these further potential cuts are coming at a time when North Coast waters are busier than ever.

He said: "Any sea-faring people will be very worried when they hear about such closures. There used to be a great Coastguard presence in Ballycastle with 24/7 coverage and bad weather watch at Torr Head and Rathlin Island but that is all changed now.

“Everything is radio linked now but you cannot beat having the coverage on the ground or at sea!

“We have more sea traffic around Ballycastle than ever before so more cover and a dedicated boat is what we need.

“The fact is now there is more action and less of a presence than ever before."

Chris, a former auxiliary Coastguard Watchman in Ballycastle said it was sad to see the service provided by the Coastguard being 'run-down' as he described it.

“You can't beat local knowledge and people on the ground. Everything is subject to cut backs now and that is very sad."

The Coastguard headquarters in Bangor runs operations from Lough Foyle to Carlingford Lough and has dealt with more than 700 incidents so far this year.

Other related stories:

BBC: NI coastguard centre could close

UTV: NI coastguard station faces closure

Belfast Telegraph: Safety fears over coastguard cuts

News Letter: Closure threat to NI coastguard centre

Soteria UK and Soteria Ireland: Privatised helicopter search and rescue services

Scotsman: New £7bn [Soteria] helicopter rescue service on hold

Celebrating Ballycastle's Industrial Heritage

Reclaiming Colliery Road?

[click image to enlarge]

This postcard clearly shows Colliery Road, an accommodation road, continuing on past Coalyard/Old Saltpans Cottage. The cottage is in the centre of the card; it overlooks one of the four or more saltworks on this short stretch of the north Antrim coast. One of the other saltworks is at Carrickmore, further along the road towards the distant Fair Head.

Perhaps it's time Moyle District Council and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency reviewed the status of this old road in the Ballycastle Coalfields Area of Special Scientific Interest. It's a very popular route for walkers and the saltworks might well feature in the proposed Atlantic Salt Trail.

NIEA: Our aim is to protect, conserve and promote the natural environment and built heritage for the benefit of present and future generations.

Our vision is that we will have a healthy and well protected environment and heritage in Northern Ireland which contributes to the social and economic wellbeing of the whole community.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Ballycastle - Greenlight Gateway - Making a Positive Difference

My old friend Danny McGill tells me that Greenlight Gateway in Ballycastle can now transform empty wine bottles into works of art and these can be converted to cash, cash that will benefit the tremendous work of Greenlight Gateway. If you can assist this or any other project please contact them at their premises on Leyland Road, Ballycastle.

Making a difference in the community through helping these young people achieve a sense of worth in recycling, organic vegetable plot, garden centre and coffee shop.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service Main Award Committee Chair and former broadcast journalist Martyn Lewis CBE said,

“Outstanding volunteer groups across the UK all too often go without recognition for the truly amazing work they do, despite the vital part they play in helping bind our communities together. It’s a great pleasure to celebrate the efforts of Greenlight Gateway with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and help raise awareness of all they do for the benefit of others.”

It's heart-warming to be able to report that making a difference in the community can be for the benefit of others, not just for oneself.

As an aside, a Facebook friend tells me she's looking forward to a White Christmas - and when the white is finished she'll start on the red!!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Portballintrae Salmon Green - Bulldozed

Updated January 18, 2011

The coastal strip that contains Salmon Cottage, the Ice House and the Salmon Green together with the adjacent lands on the seaward side of Beach Road lies within the village’s statutory development limit.  Paragraph 20.3 of NEAP confirms that the settlement limit has been kept tight despite the pressures for development  “because otherwise the charm of this small fishing port would be compromised or lost”.  

Other features, although not explicitly referred to under Designation PEL 01 but which nevertheless contribute to the quality and character of the proposed [Bushfoot] LLPA include (i) the historic  landscape incorporating Salmon Cottage, the scheduled Ice House and the Salmon Green; (ii) the area’s contribution to the landscape setting of Portballintrae; and (iii) the important public views afforded by the open character of the area within which the appeal sites are located.

I have not been convinced that the intended safeguarding of the scheduled monument and its use for storage purposes, although important, would represent an exceptional circumstance that warrants redevelopment of either the Salmon Cottage site or part of the Salmon Green for  residential purposes.

Such a  course of action, if permitted, would destroy much of the intellectual understanding of the village’s historic fishery complex including the functional setting of the monument notwithstanding the nature of the design concept as illustrated on the submitted plans.  In my judgement, the balance must fall in favour of maintaining that understanding and, as a consequence, I find that the first draft refusal reason based on PPS 6 Policy BH 1 is sustained in each appeal case insofar as it relates to the integrity and setting of the Ice House. .. PACNI report 2006

Is the planting of a hedge around the site not contrary to "important public views afforded by the open character of the area within which the appeal sites are located"?

Another project in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. And a Ministerial reaction. Another very curious business further along the Antrim coast. And another for those who want to look on the Blackside. I wonder what all these stories have in common.

Conveyance between Dundarave Estates Limited and Megan Carol Sweeney 
Dated 30 April 2009
Registry of Deeds 17 July 2009

2. The Purchaser for herself her executors administrators and assigns of the premises hereby conveyed hereby covenants with the Vendor and its successors in the to the Vendor's other hereditaments and premises situate in Portballintrae capable of being benefited by this covenant as follows:-
2.1      not to develop the premises hereby conveyed in any manner,
2.2      to maintain the premises hereby conveyed in their current state,
2.3      to use the premises hereby conveyed as open land as amenity to the premises comprised in the First 2005   Conveyance and the Second 2005 Conveyance,
2.4      not to fence the premises hereby conveyed.

How do the recent erection of a hedge around the boundary of the property and the bulldozing impact on the terms of this conveyance?

Coleraine Borough Council Planning Committee - 11 November 2008

The opinion of the Planning Service was to approve the new plans for the Salmon Cottage site. What consideration was given to the views and recommendations expressed by the PACNI Commissioner? A motion to recommend refusal was narrowly defeated by the Planning Committee.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Ballycastle and the Mystery of Coalyard Cottage

A Very Curious Business

[Click images to enlarge]

The mainstream media mistakenly presented the former Coalyard/Old Salt Pans Cottage on Carrickmore Road, Ballycastle, as a Marconi residence.

Ms McMath stated that this application was recommended for refusal due to the application being contrary to Policy CTY1 no justification for the replacement of this vernacular building and 5 of PPS14, no justification for the replacement of the building, worthy of retention and unacceptable visual impact. .. Moyle Council Minutes 31.03.08

Some months later and two days before Christmas 2008 what appear to be the same plans were nodded through Moyle District Council in a bundle of plans recommended for approval; three days before New Year Coleraine Planning Sub-Office granted official approval. I wonder if the Council has subsequently changed its procedures so that there's no re-occurrence of such a practice.

The architectural sketch shows that the existing stone wall on the south side was to have been retained/refurbished yet it was tumbled and a new concrete wall was erected and stone clad instead.

The Northern Ireland Environmental Agency had to intervene when rocks were removed from the foreshore.

According to Coleraine Chronicle, November 25, 2010 a Roads Service representative said: "We have given the builder temporary and courteous approval to make the site safe. He assured me it wouldn't be permanent. I can confirm that as of today (Monday) with further conversations it is his intention to remove the barriers this week". What about the more permanent looking heavy metal gates that straddle this public road? Were they erected and closed before or after the Roads Service gave approval for the road to be blocked? Will they be removed too? [They've been removed]

The photo shows that the road has been blocked off at the edge of the garden wall with a landscaped embankment. Was Roads Service approval sought or given? Should a public agency wish to restore part of the old tram track on the Fair Head side to make it a little more accessible for walkers there is now apparently no provision for vehicular access.

There are a series of ancient saltworks on the foreshore alongside Carrickmore Road; one of them is located at the north-east corner of this property. There's a strong possibility that these could form part of the proposed Atlantic Salt Trail and become an additional key tourism feature in Moyle alongside Bushmills Distillery, the Giants Causeway and Carrickarede Rope Bridge. Have Moyle District Council and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board made contingency plans, including access arrangements, to facilitate this prestigious European project?

Where were the guardians of this Area of Special Scientific Interest whilst the above works were in progress?

Added December 3

Access to the countryside is primarily the responsibility of District Councils but I sometimes wonder if Moyle Council is more likely to facilitate restriction of access than to act in the wider public interest.

Councils can create new Rights of Way by agreement with owners or by order. I'm told that the road now known as Carrickmore Road was formerly known as Colliery Road and that this accommodation road serving the collieries and saltworks ran at least as far as Carrickmore. It's marked on the 1830s OS and earlier maps. A short part of this road just past Coalyard Cottage/Old Saltpans is covered by a landslip. I'm told that there is at least one style across a fence on the road to Carrickmore. I'm also told that the new landscaping which acts as a barrier on the road has created a significant degree of anger locally.

Will the possibility of Ballycastle being on the prestigious Atlantic Salt Trail be contained in the report to council on December 13? The Council meeting begins at 7 pm. I'm told that one of the saltworks is adjacent to Colliery Road at Carrickmore.

Moyle Council has just forwarded an NIEA response to the alterations:

This office has never received a consent application for this, although planning permission was granted for the redevelopment of the house at 40 Carrickmore Road in 2008 ( Planning Ref: 2006/0256/F ). The house itself is outside Ballycastle Coalfields ASSI, although the designation surrounds it.

The response makes no mention of the action NIEA intends to take with regard to this and related matters, some of which have been recorded in NALIL blog and other places.

Added December 4

The Ballycastle Stuff Facebook link has brought new readers to this story from home and abroad; it also provides an opportunity for a exchange of views on public v private access, vagaries of the planning process, the role of elected representatives and the ability of public agencies to enforce regulations.

Added December 14

Access along Colliery Road

Earlier articles: 'Marconi Cottage' Gaffe; Not Marconi's Cottage - The Sequel; Not Marconi's Cottage III; Some PR History; Stone Cladding.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Rathlin Ferry Saga - the Mac Cormaic Letter, 14 August 2008

Rathlin Ferry Saga - the Mac Cormaic Letter, 14 August 2008

Tithe Saoire Chleire Teoranta Accounts for 2001 and 2002. Can Dublin and Belfast civil servants explain why the figures for 2001 are not identical in each for the same accounting year period? Can DCEGA (formerly DCRGA) explain why this discrepancy is not reflected in its endorsement of the ferry operator? Was the detailed scrutiny of these accounts not part of the tendering processes in both Dublin and Belfast? Is Dublin submitting the current tenders for the new Cape Clear contract to rigorous financial and other important checks?

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Bushmills and Rathlin Island on Wheeler's World Tour

Northern Ireland is stunning. We had been blessed with sunny weather making all these outdoor shoots much more enjoyable.  We are staying in Bushmills, which is home to the famous whiskey, so obviously I was hung over this morning. We spent some time checking out old castles and hiking around the cliffs.

Check out Kyle Burton Wheeler's photos from the North Antrim coast including a magnificent aerial view of Ballintoy harbour.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Rathlin and Cape Clear Ferries III - Believe It or Not

[A Fáilte Ireland website]

The directors of Rathlin Island Ferry Limited (RIFL) continue to have problems with the accuracy of detail on their Antrim and Cork ferry websites:

They surrendered their contract on the Cape Clear route earlier this year and even though the website shows they've since merely operated a summer service the snaphot claims 24/7/364.

"Even some locals were impressed that they could depart at 0645 from North Harbour [Cape Clear] and be in Belfast at 10***."

The first Manx2 flight from Cork Airport arrives in Belfast George Best Airport at 1030 so that rules out air travel. Baltimore to Belfast via Dublin is 322 miles so that means an average road speed of over 100 mph. No doubt An Garda Síochána and the PSNI would be impressed at such a turn of speed too!!

"New Contract is being tenderd for by four companies. It is due to be awarded during November 2010 and the new operator commences on Dec 1st. 2010**."

If the contract is out to tender how would the directors know how many tenderers there are? I can find no mention of this information on the DCEGA website but the Department has released the statement that it issued to RnaG:

"Tá 4 tairiscint i gcomhar seirbhís farantóireachta Chléire faighte ag an Roinn agus tá siad á mheas faoi láthair.  Tá an Roinn ag súil le cinneadh a dhéanamh sa chás go luath".

The 20 minute Rathlin Express catamaran crossing on the Rathlin route has finally been downgraded to 25 minutes but the actual times are often in the range 30-35 minutes. shows that current speeds are down to around 11-13 knots. Lady Iona, a similarly designed catamaran, achieves speeds of over 20 knots in Scottish waters.

Added November 19

Links on websites are always worth a look. West Cork Islands looks like a public information site but the opening page gives no clues to its ownership; a domain search sheds the following light:

     Created on: 2010-04-03
     Updated on: 2010-11-16
     Expires on: 2011-04-03
     Registrant Name: CIARAN O DRISCOLL
     Contact: Ciaran O Driscoll
     Registrant Address: North Harbour, Skibbereen

Even though the site was updated on November 16 there's a link on the Cape Clear Island page to the Naomh Ciaran II ferry, now apparently just a summer service, but no mention of the main government subsidised year-round service

** According to emara News DCEGA has postponed the start of the new 8-year contract until January 1, 2011.

*** The visitors and locals will be equally impressed with the speedy alteration to the website!!

.. they could depart at 0645 from North Harbour and be in Belfast at 10.45. (Not 10!)

However, according to the Cape Clear Xpress flyer, the first sailing each day is at 10.30, not 06.45. The 24/7/364 claim has also disappeared into the ether. Perhaps the Rathlin Express catamaran crossing time should now be altered from 25 minutes to a more realistic 35 minutes.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

McVicker of Ballynaris and Ballylough

Letter from Leslie Burke

Hugh McVicker was my great-great grandfather. He was born in 1834 and died Oct.14, 1921. He is buried at Ballyrashane Presbyterian Church. He died at his residence, Ballynaris.

In 1901 he, a stone mason, lived at 8 Ballynarry Lower. His niece Fanny Getty and her infant daughter Annie May lived with him and his 2nd wife Eliza/Elizabeth. In 1911 he lived at 9 Ballylough More, according to the census records. His first wife was Jane Moore. She was born in 1834 and died Dec. 13, 1886 at 52 years of age. She was from Scotland. They had 4 children that I know of. 

Annie McVicker was born in 1860 and died April 11, 1935 at 74 years old. She married Henry McCandless who I believe was also from Bushmills and they had 1 son, Walter McCandless. There are references to his family in my grandfathers letters to Sarah. 

Sarah McVicker was born Oct. 31, 1867 or 68 and died in 1953 at the age of 84. She came to the US alone on Mar.28, 1883 when she was 16 and lived in Philadelphia. Annie was already here. Sarah married Daniel Connor, whose family is also believed to be from Bushmills, had 5 children and he died. She then married my great-grandfather Joseph William McLean approx. 1900 and had 6 more children. 

Samuel McVicker was born in 1870 and died in 1946. He had 3 children. 

William McVicker is the only son I don't have info on. Either he or one of his sons ended up in Liverpool, NSW, Australia. We have photos, news clippings and letters from there. 

I don't know if Hugh had children with his 2nd wife Elizabeth. She is believed to have been quite a bit younger than him. I don't know when she died either. She sent Hugh's death notice to Sarah. In one of the census records it says there are 9 children. I don't know who they are or if they were Elizabeth's before she married Hugh.


If anyone can add to Leslie's knowledge please email NALIL blog at the address on the right panel.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Department for Regional Development and Press Freedom?

Whatever you say, say nothing

The following email exchanges are between Paul Priestly, the then Permanent Secretary at the Department for Regional Development (DRD), and Brian White, the Director of DRD's Ports and Public Transport Division. Is it common for editors and journalists from the mainstream media to be offered Ministerial or Civil Service 'guidance'?

26 August 2008 11:54


The attached Newsletter article appears to conflate a number of (hopefully) separate issues in  a rather unhelpful way.

Is  there a case for the Minister, me or Anne writing to the editor in an effort to untangle the issues or should we have Sam McBride in for a briefing to try and build his understanding, or are we better to say nothing? 


26 August 2008 13:24


I am not certain that Sam McBride or the Newsletter are looking for helpful explanations or to diffuse the story. To the contrary, the fact that the headline is rather more lurid than the story, presumably betrays the editorial stance. 

The issues in the article fall within the range of those which are subject to investigation and I think that we are best saying nothing until  the various investigations are complete. The danger otherwise is that we say something  that turns out to be incorrect or is in some way at odds with  the outcome of  the  investigations. 

It might also appear that we had been trying to pre-empt the investigations. 

You had indicated last week that, once the Assembly returns to business, we would need to be ready to  receive queries and questions about the Rathlin contract. In general, I think that our best course will be to  refuse to go into detail while investigations are being conducted. It would be hard to sustain that line if we had  recently briefed the Newsletter. 


26 August 2008 13:37


Thanks.  On reflection, I agree. 



Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Belfast Harbour Sponsorship of Belfast Media Group Organised New York Conference on June 9 - 10, 2010

Meanwhile, I hear the SDLP-leaning press in Belfast is having another pop at the Board of NI Water. ... Máirtín Ó Muilleoir
Belfast Harbour Commissioners are appointed by Conor Murphy, the SF Minister for Regional Development, so why is Belfast Harbour sponsoring a project which has such close links to Sinn Fein?

Belfast Harbour responses to a series of questions:

1] What was the total expenditure by Belfast Harbour on this conference?

A: Principal sponsorship for the New York, New Belfast conference amounted to £20,000 exc. VAT. An additional cost of £900 was generated through the provision of Belfast Harbour branded delegate bags to organisers of the conference

2] Has Belfast Harbour participated in or financially supported other events organised by Belfast Media Group in the past five years? If so, please list.

A: Belfast Harbour had two delegates in attendance (free of charge) at one session of the City of Quarters Conference in March 2010. This session was held in the Harbour Office and the event was facilitated as part of our annual corporate responsibility programme. Previously Belfast Harbour Office played host to Belfast Media Group’s Top 40 Under 40 Awards. It was one of 104 events staged hosted by Belfast Harbour that year within the 2008 corporate responsibility programme.

3] Can you please provide copies of correspondence between Belfast Harbour (or its representative) and the conference organisers which relate to this event?

A: Please see attached copy correspondence as requested, all of which is in email form.

4] Can you please provide copies of correspondence between Belfast Harbour (or its representative) and the DRD Minister and his officials/staff which relate to this event?

A: No such correspondence exists.

Here are some quotes from the Ó Muilleoir-Belfast Harbour emails:

p4/26 Contracting arrangements - can't write a [£20,000] sponsorship cheque to Belfast Media Group and need an apolitical solution. 01/12/09 9.00am

p3/26 Contracting solution for these not-for-profit events - Make out cheque to our charitable arm Nuachtain Charities, to the Irish Echo, or directly to New York New Belfast Conference which will have its own bank account 01/12/09 9.29am

p6/26 Need you guys to decide on sponsorship - best suggestion is .. that sponsorship cheque is made out to 'New York New Belfast conference' 15/12/09 11.53am is registered to Belfast Media Group so why didn't Belfast Harbour maintain its apolitical stance?

Ó Muilleoir has been appointed as an additional non-executive director (NED) to the Northern Ireland Water Board in the 'community confidence' category. Who decided to make this additional appointment, when was it decided and were the Commissioner for Public Appointments and the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland informed of the change? The names of the new NEDs were announced on June 30 yet the Ó Muilleoir letter of acceptance is dated July 1.

Paul Priestly, the suspended DRD Permanent Secretary, was a speaker at the Belfast Media Group organised New York conference; he was also involved in the selection of the NEDs. Was an interest declared?

CCNI reply: "The Consumer Council found out about the appointment of the additional NED to the board of NI Water on 30 June 2010."

Monday, 13 September 2010

Police Service of Northern Ireland - More Manpower Statistics Have Gone AWOL 2

The Police Service of Northern Ireland stopped publishing the Patten comparative establishment figures in December 2009 and the monthly update of full time equivalent numbers [pdf file] for each of the ranks has belatedly just been published for September. The snapshot shows that the figures were last published for May 1. There is a deficit of about 400 constables compared to the Patten recommendation for a peace-time service.

[click image to enlarge]

Perhaps the following queries put to the Policing Board for Northern Ireland, the PSNI watchdog, have had an effect:

"Further to our conversation of September 2, 2010, I'd like PBNI, in its scrutiny role, to address the following issues:

1. The Patten Establishment figures were removed from PSNI monthly manpower statistics in December 2009. Why was this done? Can the figures be restored as they are a useful indicator of deficits in certain ranks.

2. The monthly manpower statistics have not been upgraded since May 1, 2010. Is the failure to maintain updated records not a breach of the ICO Model Publication Scheme?

3. Should student officer numbers be included in the total of regular officers or should they be listed underneath this total?"

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Northern Ireland Water - Missing Executive Team Minutes - Departure of David Gilmour 2

Updated 7 December

UPDATE 12 September

On August 28, I drew attention on the Slugger O'Toole blog to some aspects of the 'restructuring' of the management of Northern Ireland Water.

The Executive Team became the Executive Committee on November 16, 2009, the day of the ‘get used to it’ remarks. The number of senior staff regularly attending Executive meetings appears to have been severely pruned from about 10 down to 6.

The Executive meets on the first and third Monday of the month. The minutes from July to October 2009 ran from 6 to 9 pages but in November they were trimmed right back to 2. This means a significant reduction in information made available to the public. The Executive minutes were not published online after November 2, 2009, but have now been reinstated after their absence was brought to NIW's attention ; the Board minutes are still missing.

Did anyone know when the post of Commercial Director was made redundant and whether or not NIW followed the correct redundancy procedures?

The Commercial Director post was abolished with effect from 1/1/2010. The decision and process were tested with an external legal adviser and found to be legally compliant. .. Malairt

David Gilmour, who held the post of Commercial Director, brought the news about contract extensions which raised MacKenzie’s antenna on August 10. His name as an attendee last appears AFAIK on the Executive minutes on November 2. His linkedin profile seems to have been taken down within the past few days but remains in Google cache.

In his presentation to the Northern Ireland Water Forum in May 2009 he said that he expected £19 m savings by year end, some way ahead of the Assembly target, and during the course of the year, in association with Mellor, had nearly halved the expenditure on consultants.

He admitted that their information system on ordering had been woeful but expected the tried and tested Oracle P2P eordering system to be live by the end of June 2009.

So what has all the fuss been about and why were Gilmour’s services disposed of? Will his role in the procurement debacle and the nature of his departure be examined by the Public Accounts Committee?

Added September 21

Who attended the September 2, 2009 meeting in addition to Conor Murphy, Paul Priestly and Laurence MacKenzie? Were any of the other NIW stakeholders represented or even informed? NIW claims to have no minutes of this meeting and a response from DRD is expected shortly. The gathering, supplemented by 'food and beverages', is referred to in NIW Executive Team minutes some days later:

It was established that the Alliance contract was giving some smaller contractors cause for concern.  Laurence MacKenzie acknowledged that NIW must deliver efficiencies but said that a balance needed to be made with regard to timeframes if this was to be done correctly
Water Stakeholders Partnership Agreement October 2008

Where was the September 2 meeting held? 
James Street South’ Restaurant at 21 James Street South, Belfast BT27GA. 

Who attended this meeting? 
Minister Conor Murphy, Laurence Mackenzie, Paul Priestly, Lian Patterson and Stephen McGlade.

Can I please have a copy of the minutes of this meeting?

This was an informal lunch meeting. No minutes were recorded.  

Nicola Brennan article in "Internal Auditing"

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Finn on the Park - Causeway Coast

[click images to enlarge]

Portbraddan at the west end of White Park Bay

Friday, 3 September 2010

Down on the Farm -Two Days in September

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Northern Ireland Water Fiasco - Committee for Regional Development - September 1, 2010

CRD met with Conor Murphy, the DRD minister, Malcolm McKibbin, temporary DRD Permanent Secretary, and Gary Lamb, head of the DRD's NIW Shareholder Unit, on Wednesday, September 1 for an update on the NIW story.

The Hansard report has now been published; it's been added to the Scribd collection.

Perhaps the BBC recording of the committee session could be added too as was the case for the PAC July 1 session.

Added September 5

Northern Ireland Water - Second Internal Audit, January 2010.

The first draft was published on January 15, followed by other drafts on January 21 and 22 with the final report on January 27. A review published on February 10 has been added to the Scribd document.

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A recent independent review was commissioned by the Chief Executive into the appointment of Contracting Out LLP to assist with the Steria contract termination. That review highlighted that the appropriate internal and external Shareholder approvals, as required by the delegated authorities set out in the financial delegations policy, had not been obtained. This applied to both the award of the framework contract to Contracting Out LLP under a single tender action ‘STA’ and the framework schedule for subsequent work in relation to the Steria exit.

Friday, 27 August 2010


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"I can't believe we're about to reply and he writes again", said a senior member of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland in 2003 as others are suddenly spurred to action!!

So much for equality and a shared future and all that stuff - some citizens are more equal than others :)

Mind you, despite all the scurrying around, conversations with the Department for Social Development - with or without a particular purpose - led to ECNI saying NO to the MP for West Belfast:

The Commission considers on the basis of the evidence obtained in the course of its investigation, that the procedure to define neighbourhoods was not a policy but simply a definitional tool.