Sunday, 30 December 2012

Causeway Hospital Campaign

[click to go to CHC website]

Mission Statement:

The CHC is a group of professionals and community residents interested in and concerned with the sustainability and long-term viability of Causeway Hospital.   We are determined to ensure that both citizens and visitors to the area receive skilled, appropriate and timely interventions to meet their health needs.

 To this end we will:

1. Press for the maintaining of acute services at the Causeway Hospital, and especially the retention of:

A 24 hour A & E Unit supported by essential specialisms in Medicine, Surgery and Laboratory Services.
A Consultant- led Maternity Unit
Local In-patient Psychiatric Services

2. Carefully monitor recruitment to posts at the Causeway Hospital and ensure that staffing resources are equitably spread between the hospitals in the Relevant Trusts’ area.

3. Participate in all consultations relating to Health and Social Care.

4. Take any further action necessary to protect the range and quality of work achieved by the Causeway Hospital.

5. Work with Local Council, Health Trust and key partners to ensure the retention of agreed services at Causeway Hospital.

6. Counteract any further perceived threats to the Hospital.

7. Make information available to the general public.

Edwin Poots - Health Minister

Despite what you read in the paper the future of Causeway Hospital is not absolutely secure. If you feel strongly that it should be maintained as a major acute hospital with 24/7 A&E then please, print a copy, cut across where indicated and either:
  • write your own letter of support to Mr Poots to arrive before 15 January.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Bushmills Local History - Portcaman No 8, 2012

[click images to enlarge]

The magazine is on sale in McLaughlins, Carleton's and Speers' Causeway Books in Bushmills.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Ballycastle - ECOSAL Visit Northern Ireland

ECOSAL Visit Northern Ireland

By ecosaladmin - Posted on 09 Juillet 2012
From 17 to 21 June 2012, the UK ECOSAL team of Mark Brisbane, David Cranstone and Michael Fradley visited former salt working sites around the coast of Northern Ireland and held meetings and discussions with leading local historians, archaeologists and other experts about the industrial heritage of this part of the UK.
Starting along the north coast near Londonderry and working their way around via Coleraine, Portstewart, Portrush and Portballintrae to Ballycastle, the team saw the surviving evidence for 17th, 18th and 19th century salt production sites. This included the well-preserved features at Ballycastle where local historian Danny McGill has put together a very good case for carrying out archaeological investigations followed by preservation and presentation of the remains through the ECOSAL Salt Route and other means. Working with Wes Forsythe of the Dept of Maritime Archaeology at the University of Ulster at Coleraine, an archaeological survey of the features associated with Colonel Boyd’s salt works and coal mine at Ballycastle is now underway. This will include the recording of one of the only iron salt pans surviving in situ in the UK (see photo).
The team went on to look for evidence of other sites (some known only through historical documents) at Glenarm, at sites to the east of Bangor, and along the coast east of Strangford Lough as well as at sites around the Lough itself, such as at Portaferry. Another site visited was the medieval castle of Dundrum, which according to documents had a salt works in the nearby bay below the castle in the early 13th century. Unfortunately, no traces of the exact site of these salt works survive.
The team also visited Queen’s University in Belfast to discuss the evidence for medieval and post-medieval salt production in Northern Ireland with leading experts including Professor Mark Gardiner.
The visit was highly successful and added yet more evidence to the increasing number of salt working sites around the Atlantic coast of the UK that are being recorded in the ECOSAL database. The number of sites recorded now exceeds 500.
The visit also provided an important opportunity to discuss the aims and objectives of the ECOSAL Project with potential supporters and to develop ideas about ‘Traditional Salt Working - the Atlantic Route’, how it will be implemented and maintained, and which sites could be included on the Route.
Photo 1: On a rather wet day, David Cranstone, Wes Forsythe, Mark Brisbane, Michael Fradley and Danny McGill examine the remains for one of the salt works at Ballycastle, Northern Ireland. [Photo by Nevin Taggart].
Photo 2: Examining the very well preserved remains of the iron pan used for salt boiling at the Ballycastle salt works. [Photo by Nevin Taggart]
Photo 3 and inset (4): The probable location of the former salt works at Portballintrae. Aside from traces of wall possibly associated with an 18/19th century salt works, there is also the tell-tale evidence of the name of the house on the left (see inset). Photo by Mark Brisbane

Added December 26

ECOSAL puts Ballycastle on the map [pdf file]

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Flowerfield Arts Centre - Exhibition - December 8 to January 19

[click images to enlarge]

December 8 [3pm-5pm] to January 19

An artist’s collective exhibition featuring work by, amongst others, 

Annette Hennessey, Brian Connolly, Martha Ullmann & Gavin Hutchinson. 

The show  promises to be a lively showcase of figurative sculpture and small  
bronzes,  paintings, prints and more. Collectively the artists are all based 
locally but  enjoy an international profile. Their work includes public 
commissions  and represents Irish art on a world stage.
 All of the artists are involved in teaching.


Monday - Friday :: 9 am - 5 pm
Saturday :: 10 am - 1 pm
Gallery closed :: Dec 24 - Jan 2

Gavin Hutchinson

Brian Connolly

Annette Hennessy

Brian Connolly

Gavin Hutchinson

Do I look a little anxious? 
Many folks would if they were told they were about to be 'hung'.

Added December 7

John Watt, a character amongst characters, enjoying a preview of the 
Flowerfield Arts Centre Exhibition which begins tomorrow, December 8. He was gathering 
some material for his "Watts About" column in the local Chronicle. There was a little time for 
reminiscing with Anthony Toner, the centre assistant manager and John's former boss.

Added December 12

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Rathlin Ferry Saga and the Pensions Ombudsman 2

How secure are the Rathlin ferry TUPE undertakings?

Observers of the Rathlin ferry saga may have noted the following exchange in the Northern Ireland Assembly on Tuesday past:

Mr Storey: I thank the Minister for the part of his answer that related to the Rathlin ferry.  Obviously, it is important that that ferry continues to operate in a way that benefits, first and foremost, the people who live on the island, and, secondly, those who wish to visit.  Will he tell the House what information he has about an ongoing dispute between Rathlin Ferries Ltd and a pension company*?

Mr Speaker: The Member must finish his question.

Mr Storey: Has he had any discussions with Rathlin Ferries Ltd about that issue, given that it was in the ombudsman's report back in August 2012?

Mr Kennedy: I am grateful to the Member for his supplementary.  He will realise that this is a somewhat delicate matter and that I am not at liberty to go into substantial detail.  I understand that discussions are ongoing between my Department and the operators, and I hope that we can get the matter resolved.

* Rathlin Ferries Ltd is the Calmac subsidiary that operated the Ballycastle - Rathlin ferry service until the end of June 2008 - it still exists. As far as I know, Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd - Duedil company report [free registration] - is not in dispute with a pension company; it failed to put in place all of the TUPE agreement until after the RIFL crew member had died and it waited for 4 years before accepting responsibility. The Ombudsman's report, which was released on 1 August 2012, provides much of the detail.

The highlighted text in the Minister's reply raises several issues. If Stormont ministers were following the Westminster best practice they claim to be following, the Minister would be chairing the Departmental Board in the company of his senior civil servants and independent board members ie 'understanding' would not be the apt term. I've looked at recent Departmental Board minutes, minutes which have been truncated to little more than action points, and I've been unable to find anyone being delegated to act on the Ombudsman's August 1 deliberations, deliberations that ordered action within 21 days.

Ciaran O'Driscoll, a RIFL director, and Danny Kennedy, DRD minister 2011-

Conor Murphy, DRD minister 2007-2011

How long do these discussions have to take? I flagged up the problem in Has DRD 'Lost Control' of Rathlin Ferry Service? in November 2008:

Also, is it [Department for Regional Development] satisfied that the operator has adequate procedures and finance in place to provide for pensions, death in service benefits and redundancies as specified in TUPE communications between this operator and the previous one?

Would no action have been taken by the Minister and his department if the (London based) Pensions Ombudsman had not acted as he did? Senior civil servants have been intimately involved in this saga for well over four years yet they've failed to take their responsibilities seriously. The 21 day deadline has long since passed so why are the issues still just at the discussion stage?

Stephen Farry, DEL minister 2011-

Is there also a role for Stephen Farry, the Employment and Learning Minister [inc TUPE], to ensure that this matter is resolved rather than prolonged?

The Pensions Ombudsman’s determination and short reasons 

The complaint should be upheld against Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd because they failed to make appropriate arrangements when Mr McCurdy’s employment was TUPE transferred from Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) to Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd.

Added November 12

I wonder will this serious matter get a mention; I wonder if it's even on the agenda.**

Added November 16

CRD Q&A session on ferries begins 5 mins in Part 3. There were no 'deep dive' queries from MLAs about the Rathlin ferry service even though the disgraceful behaviour of the DRD and others re.TUPE implementation was flagged up to four committee members, two of whom asked questions during the session though not all may have been present.

Assembly Question to DRD minister: AQW 14568/11-15 
Tabled Date: 21/09/2012
Answered On Date: 03/10/2012

Daithí McKay: "To ask the Minister for Regional Development to detail how many visitors to Rathlin Island used the ferry service in each year from 2000/01 to date."

Minister: "... My Department does not hold the specific information on the number of journeys undertaken by Rathlin Island residents prior to 1 April 2008."

Has the Department lost the figures that were submitted by the former operator? Presumably such figures would have been used to calculate subsidy and to make a business case for contract renewal.

** It didn't and it wasn't: DRD Briefing on 14 November 2012

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Northern Ireland Governance - The Belfast Deficit

Sammy Wilson, the Finance minister, had this to say about the role of independent/non-executive members on Departmental Boards at Stormont back in August 2010:

The primary role of the Independent Board Member is to contribute to the good governance of the organisation. Independent Board Members will offer constructive challenge across the organisation’s business, with a view to ensuring that all aspects of strategy and delivery of policy are scrutinised for effectiveness and efficiency.

The Department of Finance and Personnel has issued a handbook [pdf file] [2008] which outlines its responsibilities:

Ministers seek to implement policies and deliver public services through public servants; but are able to do so to the fullest extent only when the Assembly grants the right to commit and expend resources. It falls to the Department of Finance and Personnel to respect and secure the rights of both the Assembly and the Executive in this process (and, where appropriate, to ensure compliance with HM Treasury guidance). Resources are provided by central government and hence it is expected that the public sector in Northern Ireland will operate within the broad framework established by HM Treasury.

The DFP handbook contains the following principle on the managing of public money:

1.1.2 At a high level the principles in this handbook apply to public services in NI, complementing the guidance on good governance in the Code of Good Practice on Corporate Governance in Central Government Departments (the Corporate Governance Code).

HM Treasury has provided such guidanceCorporate governance in central government departments: July 2011 - Code of good practice 2011 [2017 update]:

“Secretaries of State should chair their departmental board. Boards should comprise other Ministers, senior officials and non-executive board members, largely drawn from the commercial private sector and appointed by the Secretary of State in accordance with Cabinet Office guidelines. The remit of the board should be performance and delivery, and to provide the strategic leadership of the department.” - Excerpt from Ministerial Code

So why don't Ministers at Stormont chair their Departmental Boards? Why aren't they implementing the good practice outlined in the guidance prepared by HM Treasury? Would the quality of governance be improved if Ministers, senior civil servants and independent members sat around the same table when key decisions are taken?

The present arrangement is a much looser one; the DRD Corporate Governance Framework illustrates the separation between the Minister and the independent/non-executive Board members. The Minister and his special adviser join senior civil servants for a Weekly Stocktake and the special adviser participates in the Weekly Business Review but both are absent from the monthly meetings of the Departmental Board.

The Departmental Board (the Board) provides corporate leadership to the organisation as a whole, takes responsibility for the Department’s performance and provides support for the head of the Department who provides advice to the Minister. .. DRD CGF

Perhaps it's time Stormont got in step with HM Treasury's guidance on good governance.

Added 14 December 2017

Some of the links no longer function as government has been restructured but as far as I can see Ministers have still not followed Treasury best practice ie they've not been at the Departmental Board tables alongside senior civil servants and Independent board members.

This needs to be updated to bring it into line with Treasury best practice.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Bushmills Salmon and Whiskey Festival - Saturday, September 22

1 - 7pm Bouncy Castles • Inflatable Slide • ‘Spat the Rat’, Coconut Shy, Tombola Riverside Car Park
12.30pm KASK - Ulster Scots Folk Group
1.30 - 2.30pm Alistair Coyles - Local Country Music Artist
2.30 - 3.00pm Junior Dance Competition – judged by Cllr. Sandra Hunter
3 - 4.00pm JML Irish Dance Club • Katheryn Stewart Group Highland Dance Dance Stage
Top Country Line Dancers • Scottish Country Dancers
4 - 7pm KASK - Ulster Scots Folk Group
Marquee @ Millennium Park ‘Big Picnic’ Dining Area - Food Providers: Copper Kettle, Village Bistro, Lillys,
Coffee Shop, Ground, The Hip Chip, Flash in the Pan. BBQs and Hog Roast.
From 1pm Facepainters - Youth Group/NEELB • Buskers @ Main Street/Millennium Park
12 - 7pm BBQ Masonic Hall
From 12noon History Talk/Exhibit of the Masonic (Refreshments available)
From 1pm BBQ Finn MacCools
1.30 to 3.00pm BBQ and Piper with Salmon Skewers, Bites and Nibbles Distillers Arms
4pm - 5.30pm Community ‘Bake off’ Competition in partnership with Bushmills WI, judged by Paula McIntyre
Festival Gourmet Dinner & Music Evening
2 - 5pm Exhibit and History Talk Orange Hall
Re Enactment signing of the Ulster Covenant and Period Costume Dress
Lambeg Display • Fifing
7 - 10pm ‘Flash’ Hog roast Tickets Available at PO and Sammy’s Newsagents
9pm - late Evening Dance
3pm Salmon and Whiskey dish cooking demo by Paula McIntyre (limited to 30 people) Bushmills Inn
during dining times Special Festival Dish of the Day available
Evening entertainment by Scad the Beggar
Bushmills Inn Car Park Firework display viewing point (strictly pedestrians only)
2.30pm Roaving Reivers - The Plantation Re-enactment … Main Street
4pm Guided Walk and Talk of ‘Walk Mill’ Riverside - Millennium Park - Walk Mill

Talk on the ‘Salmon of Knowledge’ - Art Ward. Starting point Riverside Park Stage
5pm - 7pm ‘Brighter Bushmills’ Treasure Hunt Entry forms @ Distillery Distillery/ Main Street
clues relate to picture boards - children to be accompanied by parents
All Day Traditional Dish of the Day, and Guinness Special Scotch House
From 9pm Evening Entertainment - 2 plus 1
All Day Festival Beer Garden Available The Bush House
From 9pm Disco Entertainment The Sports Man
8.30pm Fireworks Display (by Ballyness Caravan Park/Bushmills Inn) Horse Shoe Field
Viewing from Horse Shoe Field, Bushmills Inn Car Park (strictly pedestrians only)
‘Bake Off’ Competition Entry Forms available from Distillers Arms
Gourmet Dinner Tickets available in Local Restaurants
Please book early to avoid disappointment
11am-12.15pm Cultural Band and Vintage Car Procession Main Street

Ulster Scots - Local Bands March and Perform - Causeway Band, Ballymarlow Fife and Drum,
Topp Star of the North, Vow Accordion, Bannside Lambeg Club
Vintage Cars - Vehicles on display @ Distillery and proceed to Parks at Main St./Post Office …
12.15pm Fancy Dress Procession - Themed Fancy Dress Parade starting @ Distiller’s Arms - Stop at Stage
to be judged by/Cllr. S. Hunter - Chair Moyle District Council

Big Al Compere and entertainer till 8pm Main St
5.30pm Winners of the Fancy Dress Announced
8pm The Red Velveteens Blues Rock Band
10.20 - 3.20pm Salmon Fishery Open Day - Tour and talk on Bushmills Salmon Fishery Salmon Fishery
Research Centre and Atlantic Salmon Lifecycle and Ecology (tour lasts 20mins)
10.15 - 3.15pm Guided Walk on The Leap with fly casting demonstration (each tour starting on the hour)

Kids activities and goodies
From 11am BREF Photo and Art Exhibition by Children aged 8+ The Den
Themed ‘What Bushmills means to you’
Community Project - Interactive Workshop
1pm Light refreshments served
12pm & 4pm Walking Tour (1 Hour) - History of Bushmills and Ulster Scots Connections (Adults)
2pm Kids Tour/Quiz
11am - 2pm St Mary’s Chapel Open Church - Talk on the history of St Mary’s Priestland Road
11am - 5pm Macnaghten Estate House and Grounds viewing with tea and coffee available Dundarave House
From 12noon Bushmills Presbyterian Open Church - Cream Teas Upper Main Street
1pm and 3pm Talk on the History of the Mills Kent Bolton’s Mill
by Raymond McMullan - Bushmills Historical Society
From 12 - 4.30pm Distillery History Talk and Whiskey Tasting in the Copperage Theatre Old Bushmills Distillery
Special Festival Dish of the Day Restaurant • Gift Shop
5pm Treasure Hunt Starting Point
From 12.30pm Bushmills Community Association Exhibit The Mill Rest
1pm Causeway Museum Talk on the Salmon Run John Hamilton
2pm & 3pm How to Research your Family Tree Ulster Historical Society
From 12noon Bungee Trampolines • Core Coastal - Coastal Training Millennium Park
The ‘Big Picnic’ Dining Marquee
6pm Salmon and Whiskey Tug O War
1pm - 5.00pm Cultural Fusions Exhibit Old Library Marquee
1pm & 3pm Lecture on Clans - Brigid McNeill
2.30pm & 4pm Ulster Scots Poetry - Ann Morrison Smyth, Ullans Centre Ballymoney
History of the Ulster Scots Language - Ulster Scots Agency
Special Festival Dishes, Treats, Activities in Bushmills Village Shops
Late night shopping - Keep an eye for Evening Specials

Monday, 17 September 2012

Rathlin Ferry Saga and the Pensions Ombudsman

By Pippa Stephens | 10 September 2012 |
Financial Times - Pensions Week
[free registration]

The Pensions Ombudsman is based in London so that probably provides greater independence in Northern Ireland matters than if he were locally based

Here are some snippets from the report:

"Mr McCurdy died almost four years ago. Mrs McCurdy took the matter up through Gillan Barr in November 2008. Only in the last few weeks has there been any admission of liability. Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd’s treatment of her will undoubtedly have made a difficult time more distressing.

On 11 June 2012 Stewarts Solicitors belatedly told my office that there was no scheme in place at the time of Mr McCurdy’s death. They accepted that Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd were liable for four times Mr McCurdy’s FPS, being a total sum of £101,668. However, they said:
”I regret that my clients are unable to discharge this sum at this time and my instructions are to raise discussions with the deceased’s solicitors in an effort to agree terms of payment."
In June 2008, Calmac confirmed** to Mr McCurdy that:
 his employment would automatically transfer to Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd on or about the 1 July; and
 pension arrangements would be in place and he would be offered to join the Scheme by his new employer."

Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd is in receipt of a subsidy of over £55,000 per month, administered by the Department for Regional Development and paid for by the tax-payer. It was given 21 days to pay the lump sum plus interest and also directed to pay compensation for "the significant distress and inconvenience caused".

What can a Minister do to relieve some of this distress and inconvenience?

Danny Kennedy, the current DRD minister, has weekly 'stocktakes' with Department officials who inter alia oversee the Rathlin ferry operation and his Special Advisor attends the Department's Weekly Business Review. It seems surprising that there's been no mention of the Ombudsman's Report in the online WBRs since August 1. Will there be a mention of the report in the August minutes of the Departmental Board, a board that appears not to include either the Minister or his Special Advisor.*** Will responsible officials be asked why all of these issues were not satisfactorily dealt with back in 2008? Will independent members of the Board now seek to have best practice adopted in Belfast, best practice as described by HM Treasury?

13. It is of no direct relevance to my determination of the matter that Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd say they are unable to pay. It will be for Mrs McCurdy to decide whether to enforce payment (as if a county court order, as provided for in section 147(5) of the Pension Schemes (Northern Ireland) Act 1993) following my direction below, or instead to agree to an alternative arrangement. .. PO

* Has the mainstream media in Northern Ireland covered the serious issues raised in this report?

** If the relevant Deputy Permanent Secretary was and is responsible for the implementation and supervision of the contract hopefully that name will appear in the paper trail and not just the name of a junior official. DRD officials appear to have been intimately involved in every step of the process and in every hiccup. Is there anything the Northern Ireland Audit Office might have missed?

*** “Secretaries of State should chair their departmental board. Boards should comprise other Ministers, senior officials and non-executive board members, largely drawn from the commercial private sector and appointed by the Secretary of State in accordance with Cabinet Office guidelines. The remit of the board should be performance and delivery, and to provide the strategic leadership of the department.” - Excerpt from (Westminster) Ministerial Code

Added September 19

This and related material has been published on the For Argyll website: RMT and CalMac ferries staff should look at result of 2008 Rathlin Island contract change

Rathlin Ferry Saga and the Pensions Ombudsman 2

Friday, 7 September 2012

European Heritage Open Day - Dunluce Castle


Saturday September 9 
Sunday September 10

Facebook link

Twitter link

DC's part in London 2012

Prime Minister, David 'I like the boots' Cameron, probably won't be there

but Big Telly will

Fawlty Towers meets Blackadder meets you at Dunluce Castle on Saturday 8th September. Performances at 12.30pm, 2.30pm and 4.30pm. FREE ENTRY – we look forward to seeing you there!

What a magical evening! Earl of Antrim, Randal MacDonnell is delighted to present his new wife Lady Catherine Manners** to local dignitaries and to welcome everyone to their sensational castle, staffed by a team of wonderful servants. Surely, nothing can spoil this magical evening, except of course the ever present threat of food poisoning, spies, invasions, and the structural integrity of this newly acquired property. Expect action, entertainment, hysteria and an eerie tale in the tower. 

This project is funded by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland

The event at Dunluce Castle is one of many taking place this week-end

This is the 15th year that Northern Ireland has taken part in this European wide cultural event and the new arts element is sure to add some theatrical colour to the weekend.

Nick Livingston, Director of Strategic Development at the Arts Council, commented: “The European Heritage Open Days continue to grow in popularity and scale each year, and we were delighted when we were asked to develop a new arts element for the 2012 programme.  

For the first time, some of our best local performers and theatre companies will be out on location, helping to bring some of our most important historical buildings to life. The events are booking out quickly but among the many highlights we have to look forward to are a performance of composer Philip Hammond's piano piece, Miniatures and Modulations at the Harbour Commissioners Office and children’s arts workshops at The Playhouse in Derry and Old Gracehill Schoolhouse.

All of the performances are free to attend and will no doubt help to bring an additional layer of colour and creativity to this annual celebration of our built and natural heritage.”

Update Saturday 14:00

Big Telly giving it some welly at Dunluce Castle. 
Next performance 14:30; final performance 16:30. 

Medieval archery tomorrow afternoon 14:00 to 17:00. 
Admission FREE

** Katherine Manners was the widow of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. I wonder if there's any connection between the Duke and Theresa Villiers, the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

[According to, the new Secretary of State is a descendant of Sir Edward Villiers, the Duke's half-brother.]

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Japanese Knotweed on the Causeway Coast 4

[Photos taken August 20, 2012]

Moyle District Council arranged to have this clump of knotweed treated and the treatment appears to have been very effective. However repeat applications will be required over several years if it's to be eradicated.

Unfortunately this large clump a few metres away on the same council property was missed and, as the close-up image shows, it is in robust health. This second clump is partially obscured by a tall hedge but was highlighted in earlier NALIL posts.

This large clump has not been treated. Although it lies within Moyle District, close to the junction of Dunluce Road and Ballaghmore Road on the edge of Bushmills, the ground isn't owned by the council.

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency minister, Alex Attwood, has acknowledged that Japanese knotweed is a global threat but his department still appears reluctant to take the threat seriously.

Added September 6

This small clump of knotweed is on the east bank of the River Bush beside the Millennium Bridge. It appears to have been treated in the past but has not yet been brought under control.

Old Bushmills Barrel Roll - for the Alzheimer’s Society

Today, Saturday August 25

Bushmills to Portballintrae and back

Leaves distillery at 12 noon

From the Ballymoney and Moyle Times

On Saturday 25th August, employees of Bushmills Distillery will take part in their fifth annual charity barrel roll.

As in previous years, employees will roll the barrel from Bushmills to Portballintrae and back again. The barrel roll will leave the Distillery at 12.00noon.

Gordon Donoghue, Site Director said: “This year our chosen charity is the Alzheimer’s Society. This is a charity which many of our own staff are directly or indirectly involved with. Whilst I appreciate that times are still hard, we have always received great support from the local community and we hope that locals and tourists alike will once again show their support to this worthy cause.”

No, it's to the 'Trae and back - not along the beach :L

Friday, 24 August 2012

Rathlin-Ballycastle Subsidised Lifeline Ferry - Continuity of Service? - No

Sadly, no

I sent the following query to the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland on August 17 - it had already received a copy of the RDCA memo on August 13:

Where does yesterday's DRD statement - published in the Newsletter - leave CCNI?

CCNI, February 29, 2012 "We will continue to monitor this situation to ensure there is no interruption to service."

and received the following reply on August 23:

Thank you for your recent e-mail relating to the forthcoming disruption to the Rathlin Island Ferry. Antoinette has asked me to respond;  

In response to your email, we sought clarification from the Department for Regional Development as to whether a “like for like” vessel had to be provided for this planned period of disruption. The Dept has advised that the proposed removal for dry docking without “like for like” replacement for the first three days is allowed for within the contract procured.

The Dept also advised that this break in service has been planned  in advance and discussed with the Rathlin Development and Community Association without any objections raised by users. If you have any other issues or wish to raise a complaint, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

I trust this clarifies the situation.

If the CCNI respondent had read the earlier August 15 NALIL blog he would have noted that the three days of grace only applies to vessel breakdown, not to scheduled maintenance and dry-docking. 

If an interruption was intolerable in February why is it acceptable now? Emergency service vehicles and 'blue badge' vehicle holders, for example, are identified in the tender's terms of reference so they have been left high-and-dry without a murmur from CCNI (or DRD). Islanders not only use this subsidised lifeline service, some of them are ferry company employees so they may not be in a position to raise objections.

Does the CCNI watchdog lack bite? The repetition of Government department inexactitudes is unlikely to reassure consumers and taxpayers that their interests are being protected.

Ciarán O'Driscoll (RIFL) and Danny Kennedy (DRD minister)

Why have the DRD minister and his officials permitted a break in service during Ballycastle's busiest period in the holiday season - the Lammas Fair - when they insisted on continuity earlier in the year? 

Why have the details not been published on the RIFL website for the benefit of all users, especially those with extra needs?

3.6.4 The Department considers that the ferry service should have a separate website giving appropriate information.

The RIFL director is no stranger to complaint and controversy:

Any complaints received in relation to the service since the award of the contract have been investigated by the Department and, on three occasions financial penalties have been imposed on the operator in accordance with the terms of the contract. .. Aodhán Mac Cormaic, Assistant Principal, August 2008

The provision of a relief vessel during the full absence for scheduled maintenance and dry-docking is part of the £4 million subsidised contract. Will the Department be applying any financial penalties on this occasion?

MV Canna - August 24, 18:44

Rathlin Express - August 24, 17:08

Was the catamaran having a Scania engine health-check prior to the Canna's departure?