Monday, 15 April 2013

Rathlin Ferry Saga - When Have Nots Can Have Yachts

Back in August 2012, the Pensions Ombudsman produced a report on a death in service benefit owed to the widow of a deceased crew member who'd been employed by Rathlin Island Ferry Limited [RIFL]; it included the following statement by Stewarts Solicitors:

"I regret that my [RIFL] 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."

Ciaran O Driscoll, a RIFL director, published a tender for a new yacht, dated 27 March 2013. Here is a snippet:

"Construction and Supply of new GRP sailing vessel.

Tenders are sought for the construction and supply of a new GRP sailing vessel of 15 to 17 metre in length, less than 2 metre draught, of 4/5 berths to accommodate 10/12 sailors. ..

The price guide for the tender is €175k to €230k. Please note that this tender invitation is subject to the receipt of grant aid support."

What does the Department of Regional Development (DRD) think of this development? We know that DRD returned £91,682 to the RIFL accounts for 2010/11 and an unspecified amount for 2011/12 which enabled the company to make a profit of £34,123. The amount returned for the recent two year period would appear to be of the order of £200,000. Has the RIFL director decided to take the returned claw-back funds and splash-out on a new £150,000 to £200,000 yacht instead of honouring the debt to the widow promptly and in full?

Could DRD not have done the decent thing by assuming responsibility for the payment of the debt in full? The email correspondence in June 2008 clearly shows that DRD officials were intimately involved in the transfer arrangements between the former and the new operator. Could and should our elected representatives and independent members of the DRD Departmental Board have done more to hold DRD to account?