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?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Rathlin-Ballycastle Subsidised Lifeline Ferry - Continuity of Service?

My attention has been drawn to the following item of news on the Rathlin Development and Community Association (RDCA) website:

The terms for a relief vessel are clearly spelt out in the tender document Part 2 Section 3.5:

Relief Vessels

3.5.1 The contractor will be required to provide for relief capacity to cover scheduled maintenance, dry dockings, unforeseen breakdowns and to ensure continuity of service to meet the minimum standard. In the case of unforeseen breakdowns the relief vessel must provide the minimum passenger standards for up to three days after which the relief vessel must meet the minimum standard as above. It is the contractor’s responsibility to provide all service and relief vessels for the duration of the contract.

3.5.2 The tenderer must specify the arrangements made and response times for fleet relief. These arrangements should cover both periods of planned overhauls and periods during which the vessel is unable to provide the service in unforeseen circumstances such as breakdowns or damage.

The previous operator provided a relief vessel when the MV Canna was away for its annual dry-docking and survey - a period of about three weeks; the present operator has provided a relief vessel in the past (eg MV Coll) during the MV Canna's annual absence. The period of three days grace is for unforeseen breakdowns, not for scheduled maintenance; it also begs the question about what important or essential maintenance work carried out during the previous operator's three-week break has not been done.

The MV Canna provides a lifeline service and the operator is scheduled to receive a £4 million subsidy during the course of the 6 year contract; the Rathlin Express catamaran provides a passenger-only service.

L to R: Robin Swann MLA, Ciarán O'Driscoll RIFL and Danny Kennedy, 
DRD Minister with special responsibility for Rathlin Island

What action do the Minister and his officials intend to take? Will they insist on the provision of a relief vessel during the whole of the MV Canna's absence? Will they ensure that the MV Canna has an adequate annual overhaul, bearing in mind the need to retain or regain the goodwill of CMAL, the vessel's owners? 

Will they ask why the information made available to RDCA has 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.

Will they have the support of the Consumer Council of Northern Ireland? [CCNI received a copy of RDCA news item on August 13]

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

Added August 16

Might the possible failure to provide a relief vessel be linked to this snippet from the DRD Departmental Board?

FEBRUARY 2012        (DB 17/12) 
David asked each Risk Owner to discuss their respective risks contained in the Register. After discussion the Board agreed the content of the current Register. 

Before leaving this issue Barney updated the Board on the latest position regarding a possible Risk concerning the Ballycastle to Rathlin Ferry Service which is being managed at Group level.

DRD response - Newsletter, August 16 2012: "Concern at Rathlin ferry suspension" - CCNI reaction requested - but not yet received.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Causeway Coast - Rock in the Bush Water

Melanie says, "This looks evil!"

This photo was taken from the Three-Quarter Bridge, a foot-bridge that connects Portballintrae to Bushfoot Strand. The something unusual raising its head out of the water - is a boulder!

The Three-Quarter Bridge

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Moyle District Council - Quick and Easy Access for Emergency Service Vehicles?

A Proliferation of Padlocks and Chains

Two padlocks and a long chain
have replaced a single padlock

Chain permits the bollard to be lifted out
and the crossing-gate to be opened.
Why not just remove the bollard?

Perhaps Moyle Council needs to have a chat with the National Trust and others who may be preventing quick and easy access for emergency service vehicles.

White Park Bay


Padlock absent


If ropes and keepers were sufficient in the past why have padlocks been added?

Added August 2

A new sign - minus a logo - has appeared on the landward crossing-gate. A similar sign with a Moyle District Council logo is already clearly visible across the track on the other gate. Who put the new sign up?

Dunluce Castle - A Prime Minister Drops-in

It's been a wet and windy start to the day up on the Causeway Coast. Just before mid-day, a text message dropped into my email box: "Hi Nevin, are you up seeing David Cameron in the Giants Causeway today?" It was from a journalist and Facebook friend. A quick exchange with another Facebook friend confirmed that the Prime Minister had been down to the stones and was presently in the new visitor centre - onward destination unknown.

I grabbed my camera, despatched the dog to the dog-house and set off for the Causeway. Dropping down over Ballylinny Hill I spotted the PSNI out-riders rounding the bend at Carnside and pulled into the side of the road to get a shot of the approaching entourage.

By the time I turned around they'd disappeared from view. I shouted to some folks at a bus-stop in Bushmills and they pointed in the direction of Portrush. Just past Dunluce School, a cyclist confirmed that the visiting party was on its way to Portrush and hadn't turned left to Coleraine. As I swung past Gallows Hill, I spotted PSNI officers at Dunluce Castle and headed in that direction.

I casually joined officials and visitors who were making their way into the castle grounds.

After a short spell in the tower, the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, helpfully guided the Prime Minister towards a viewing point overlooking the Skerries.

The man in the glasses provided the Prime Minister with a potted history of the Macdonnells and their castle of Dunluce.

The Prime Minister posed with several groups of visitors.

"I like the boots", said the Prime Minister to a member of staff who requested a photo. After this pose, she spotted me and came rushing over, "You're the blogger!!". What could I say? Perhaps I'll get a better copy of that photo of the Prime Minister and the Lady in Red - boots. I'm sure the Secretary of State wouldn't have minded a wee cuddle too!!

Then it was off to Portrush and on for a bite to eat later in Crusoes Coffee Shop in Castlerock. I'm surprised there was apparently no visit to Royal Portrush Golf Club.