Monday, 31 May 2010

Something Nasty in the River Bush 2?

Moyle Council Official Replies

"Council has no responsibility for dealing with water pollution incidents. This lies with NIEA.

I responded to the request made by Cllr X at the Moyle District Council meeting of 24th May and visited the River Bush at Bushmills on the morning of the 25th. I confirmed that foam was present on the surface of the river.

On returning to the office I contacted a member of NIEA staff who advised me that the Agency had already received and investigated a similar complaint. My understanding was that no significant incident, if any, had occurred.

Cllr X was advised of this on the 26th."

Portrush Raft Race 2010

BBC's Alan Simpson and Gerry Kelly

Caravans Threatened By Gorse Fire At Ballycastle

The fire service is dealing with a major gorse fire at Silvercliffs Holiday Village in Ballycastle which is situated on a mature 28 acre park, partially wooded,  commanding breath-taking views over Ballycastle Bay and enclosed by the cliffs of Fair Head and Rathlin Island.
The fire started on the cliff face under the caravan site and is being tackled by over 25 firefighters with appliances from Ballycastle, Ballymoney Portrush and Kilrea in attendance.

The fire quickly spread, according to a eye witness, from the caravan site and many caravaners close to the cliff edge feared for the safety of their vans and lives.

The fire service is still tackling the blaze at 1830 hrs this evening [Monday, May 31] which has seen some of the North Coast’s most treasured wildlife and natural habitat destroyed; The fire is thought to have been started deliberately.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

HMS Gannett and Rathlin Island

Kevin McAuley

Two Calls in One Day

Busiest 24 hours for HMS Gannet's search and rescue team
May 27, 2010 [source: Royal Navy via shepherd dot co dot uk]
In the mist and drizzle of a shrouded West Coast of Scotland the Royal Navy's helicopter search and rescue duty crew of HMS Gannet have had their busiest 24-hour period of the year so far with no less than five call-outs. ....

What was then to become a very busy evening kicked off in earnest at 1600hrs with a call to effect a medical evacuation from Rathlin Island off the coast of Northern Ireland. Having embarked on the sortie, the crew was then recalled when the casualty was transferred by other means. ...

Barely an hour later though the alarm sounded once more and the helicopter was airborne at 2205hrs bound for Rathlin Island again, once more for a medical transfer to Coleraine Hospital on the mainland. The crew touched back down at Prestwick at 0030hrs the following morning.

After managing to catch some sleep, with just quarter-of-an-hour of their 24-hour duty remaining, an emergency call came in at 0845hrs and the Sea King was airborne at 0850hrs and heading for Campbeltown to transfer a casualty to Glasgow.

Added May 31

A man who suffered a heart attack on Rathlin Island on Sunday afternoon was airlifted from Rathlin by members of the Royal Navy SAR Sea King Helicopter based at HMS Gannet in Prestwick to Causeway Hospital in Coleraine. Picture Steven McAuley/Kevin McAuley Photography Multimedia

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Moyle District Council - A Disorderly House 2

Ballymoney and Moyle Times

Perhaps this recently published quote** from The Northern Ireland Code of Local Government Conduct needs to be enforced:

11. You are expected to work responsibly with fellow councillors for the benefit of your whole community. You should therefore abide by any council procedures or standing orders and you are expected to promote an effective working environment within your council. You should show respect and consideration for fellow councillors at all times.

Added May 26

It would appear that the row in the council has finally led to a change in the councillor's entry on the MDC site. The image from Google cache shows him as a SF party member; the website from today lists him as an Independent and SF is no longer the largest party in the council. This is likely to have some implications for the rotation of chairs and vice-chairs.

Why has MDC distributed the following email*** which is dated May 21? The email was sent by a visitor to a Ballycastle business person and has now been forwarded via an MDC email address on May 24 to a range of parties including the Department of Social Development. Does this not represent a conflict between public and private interest?

May I take this opportunity to thank the people of the town and the area in general for the warm welcome we received during our stay in the week running up to the nw200 races. The people of Northern Ireland are a credit and should be justifiably proud of themselves. The friendliness and courtesy we received was outstanding and as regular travellers to the IOM TT and other big race meetings it is a refreshing change to be treated so well and not feel that you are being ripped off for transport accommodation and food/ drink.As a group we have already commited to next year and i will certainly be recommending Ballycastle as our base. I'm not sure if you will remember our chat in the bar regarding your concerns about the proposed opening of  a Tesco supermarket in the lovely town of Ballycastle . For what its worth, I feel the inevitable loss of small businesses and the closing down of the high street to save a few pence on a pint of milk will be a sad loss for a town who's community spirit is clearly evident when you walk down the main street.

[** Related Blog item updated May 26]
[*** The email has now appeared in the June 2 edition of the Ballymoney and Moyle Times. The Ballycastle businessman is named but there's no mention of the controversial circulation of the email via a Moyle Council address or who submitted the email to the newspaper ... June 1 edit]

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Something Nasty in the River Bush?

Photos 2 and 3 were taken at 3pm just below the Walk Mill waterfall and the others were taken at 7pm a short distance above the Bushmills Salmon Fishery Station.

Added May 24

Still an extensive film of foam just above the fishery station at 11am on Monday morning. There has been a report of a discharge into the river but this has not been confirmed by NIEA. There is also a suggestion that the heat and low water levels could have led to plant debris floating downstream and being churned into a foam by the Walk Mill Fall.

Added May 25

Picasa Photostream Album: photos from May 23 and 25 - including slideshow.

Added May 26

The Moyle Council official who was to have checked out this River Bush issue on Tuesday morning has yet to report back. What exactly is floating on the river surface?

Click on images to enlarge.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Grandfather McCarl and a Boarding House Romance

April of 1910, James Walter McCarl, age14, was a newsboy on the street. This was the time when he was trying to decide on what to do in life and his father suggested he go to school. His father, Robert Newton McCarl, was a foreman at the Pennsylvania Glass Sand Company in Mapleton, Pennsylvania. His mother, Mary Alice Henderson McCarl, was a homemaker.

Shortly afterwards, James left his Mapleton, Pennsylvania home for Washington, D.C. at age 15 where he could get an education.. His father could not afford to pay for his schooling so he had to work. His first job was selling antiques but he was too clumsy. Then he got a job as an assistant street car conductor and started high school at night at Emerson Institute and finished High School in 1917. He had started working at the Library of Congress in September 1916 and then was assigned as a librarian to the Reading Room in July 1917.

When I, Rebecca McCarl Rogers, was just a young teen, maybe 13, Grandfather began to tell me about J. Edgar Hoover. I thought he was talking about President Herbert Hoover and, since he realized I was confused, he stopped telling me. I have since heard others in the family say that he knew J. Edgar Hoover in Washington.


Rebecca McCarl Rogers
[roots in North Antrim soil]

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Rathlin Island Ferry Limited - An Unexpected Revelation

Slugger O'Toole May 17

I had a rather unusual encounter the other day with Ciaran O Driscoll, one of the directors of Rathlin Ireland Ferry Limited. He was obviously a bit agitated. He was anxious to impress on me that my stories about company operations in Co Antrim and Co Cork were too negative. However, I don't do press releases of the 'positive' style that sometimes appear as media news items and badgering a blogger isn't necessarily a smart move.

Part of the exchange went something like this:

Ciaran: "How's X?"

Me: "Not too bad but she's missing Ballycastle."

Ciaran: "Well, she could still have been here if Y had cooperated ..."

He may have some difficulty explaining the meaning of this revelation at the forthcoming industrial tribunal. I understood that Y's departure came about when the business and engineering management position occupied by Y was made redundant shortly after the change of ferry operators due to alleged financial difficulties.

Is the management of the new operator up to the standard of the previous one? Who is in charge when the directors are absent for weeks at a time, working either hundreds or thousands of miles away? Who is supervising the maintenance of the ferries? Would the ferries have spent less time out of service and the repair bills have been greatly reduced if the previous arrangements had been maintained? If the Department for Regional Development's Strangford Ferry service requires professional maintenance management why not the Rathlin one? Do DRD and MCA have the necessary expertise and will to monitor and regulate the Ballycastle-Rathlin ferry operation?

Added May 21, 2010

Section 21 covers minimum manning levels as well the training and minimum qualifications for the Master and crew. Annex 3 covers staff induction and familiarisation training.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Irish Islands Federation AGM on Rathlin Island

Click image to enlarge or here

This will be the first time the Irish Islands Federation (IIF) has had its AGM in Northern Ireland. Rathlin Island is the only Northern Ireland member of the 33 member federation. IIF is part of the European Small Islands Federation (ESIN) alongside the Scottish Islands Federation (SIF).

the overall theme of the seminar is the advancement of a cooperative ethos between governments and national and local agencies.

IIF has received funding from the DCRGA, the predecessor of Ireland's Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs (DCEGA) [site update?] but there are, as far as I know, no links to the Northern Ireland Executive. The Executive is to be represented by Gerry Kelly, an OFMDFM junior minister, rather than Conor Murphy, the DRD minister who has been drafting a Rathlin Island policy.

SIF contains representatives from several Scottish councils but when I mentioned this meeting to a member of Moyle District Council I was told that it had not been mentioned at council meetings. Moyle councillors usually sit on community associations that are in receipt of public funds but this does not appear to be the case with the Rathlin Community and Development Association (RDCA).

there will also be talks on the Small Ferries Project

The Small Ferries Project is a joint venture by agencies in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Will lessons have been learned from a series of problems that have arisen in recent procurement processes and do those involved in this venture have sufficient maritime experience [here and here]?

The Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs will be represented by Seamus Mac Giolla Choil and Aodhán Mac Cormaic

Will their associates in DRD and CMAL be in attendance? Will the directors of Rathlin Island Ferry Limited be present? I'm told that Cape Clear Island will be represented. This should lead to an interesting exchange of views between both sets of islanders followed by an exchange with civil servants. Cape Clear formerly had the use of the Naomh Ciaran II but the DCRGA sold it off to a private operator, an operator who subsequently withdrew from the route. Might Rathlin Island find itself in similar dire straits?

Added May 14 - noon

Online booking is available via but not via the RIFL website? Why not?

Added May 18 and 19

RIFL ibooking ticketing link still missing yet Black Hart and Cork Sea Safari appear to be working normally. Why has the link been removed? Is an online booking system not part of the contract? Was it not scored in the procurement process?

Friday, 7 May 2010

Moyle District Council - A Disorderly House?

MV MDC - A Vessel Without A Rudder?

Model Publication Scheme for District Councils, Northern Ireland

Policies and procedures for the conduct of council business

Procedural standing orders, internal guidance about the division of responsibilities between committees, delegated authority, policies on communications between councillors and members of staff

The Northern Ireland Code of Local Government Conduct

Working relationships with other councillors

11. You are expected to work responsibly with fellow councillors for the benefit of your whole community. You should therefore abide by any council procedures or standing orders and you are expected to promote an effective working environment within your council. You should show respect and consideration for fellow councillors at all times.

Northern Ireland Act 1998

Standing Orders

(1) The proceedings of the Assembly shall be regulated by standing orders.
(2) Standing orders shall not be made, amended or repealed without cross-community support.
(3) Schedule 6 (which makes provision as to how certain matters are to be dealt with by standing orders) shall have effect.

Coleraine Borough Council

Council Policies & Procedures (inc Standing Orders)

The Council's policies, procedures and Standing Orders which apply to committees, sub committees, Council officials, their agents and subcontractors, and elected members. These documents define the way the Council carries on its affairs.

Moyle District Council

Reviewing and updating standing orders, standing financial instructions, a scheme of delegation and supporting procedure notes/manuals, which clearly define how decisions are taken and the processes and controls required to manage risks

While Moyle District Council does not operate a system of standing orders ....

Absence of Standing Orders leads to Moyle in a muddle.

FOI: Standing Orders for District Councils in Northern Ireland

Added May 10

MDC council meeting tonight but no agenda has been published.

"Model Publication Scheme:
  • Timetable of council meetings
  • Agendas, officers’ reports, background papers and minutes of council committee and  sub committee meetings

This will be the information that is required to be publicly available under local authority access to information rules."

Added May 11

MDC Agenda for May 10 has been published AFTER the meeting was held! I'm told that the agenda is delivered by hand to Councillors on the Thursday prior to the Council meeting so I see no reason why it shouldn't be published on the website the same day.

PS The April 12 minutes, ahem, should be published today.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

From Ballycastle To Bexley


For this special lecture, Daniel McGill of the Ballycastle Historical Research Group will travel from Northern Ireland to give an account of how the Boyd family came to build Danson in the 1760s. From Jean Boyd, a Huguenot of Bordeaux, to John Boyd, Baronet of Danson Hill, this talk will be illustrated with portraits and documents which record the family’s participation in the 18th century triangular trade, the source of their wealth – sugar and slaves.