Thursday, 30 October 2014

#SaveTheDal - Dalriada Hospital, Ballycastle, Cuts - Action and Reaction

Patricia Gordon, Director of the MS Society in NI, said she was "deeply concerned".

"There are more than 4000 people living with MS in Northern Ireland - one of the highest rates in the world - and yet MS services have been dramatically reduced in recent months causing serious distress for local families," she added.

"Regular, appropriate breaks, are crucial for maintaining the wellbeing of carers and people with MS. Inadequate respite provision can lead to declining health, increasing pressure on carers and unnecessary and costly hospital admissions.

"Rumours have been circulating for years about the future of the MS Regional Respite Unit in Dalriada Hospital, Ballycastle, and this announcement is a devastating blow for people who rely on this service. "

[click to sign]

Added November 3

Assembly Debate - Scroll down to Question for Urgent Oral Answer - Click + symbol to expand Multiple Sclerosis Respite Unit: Dalriada Hospital, Ballycastle

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Bushmills 'Bush Telegraph'

This 12-page quarterly newsletter was initiated by the Bushmills Village Forum and sponsorship by the Community Relations Council will enable it to continue for at least another year.

Giants Causeway in Britain from Above

Image details
Giants Causeway, Aird, Moyle, Northern Ireland, 1952. 
Oblique aerial photograph taken facing South/East.

Britain from Above presents the unique Aerofilms collection of aerial photographs from 1919-1953. Register to zoom into these amazing pictures, identify unlocated images, and share memories.

"What is the site all about?

We invite you to take part in helping us identify and provide information about old aerial photographs of Britain. Simply register, search for images, and contribute information. You can add to the factual summary, add keywords, comments, photos and more (see how to contribute below).

There is also a social component to the site. When you register, a profile will be created for you. We encourage you to fill in this profile further and take a look at the profiles of other participants. In the menu you can also see that there is a "groups" section. Feel free to join groups that have already been started or create your own group. Groups allow members to discuss the Aerofilms images in the context of the group's theme."

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Ulster Orchestra Petition

The Ulster Orchestra was formed in 1966 and is the only full time Professional Symphony Orchestra in Northern Ireland. 

Since March 2011 the Orchestra's Arts Council and BBC grants have been cut by 28 percent and the forecast for March 2015 will show a deficit of £400k that together with the in-year cut of 4 percent from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland will wipe out their reserves. Hence, by December there will be no option but to declare that the Orchestra is no longer viable and to announce its closure. 

For the last 48 years, and through the very worst of the " Troubles", the Orchestra has provided music of the very highest quality to the whole of the community, often playing under very difficult circumstances. Despite bomb scares, violence and civilian unrest, they never cancelled a concert and travelled all over the province to bring live music to rural communities who would not have had the opportunity to hear it otherwise. They are quite simply the lynch-pin of music in Northern Ireland. 

As well as regular classical concerts, their work in music education is well known with smaller groups and indeed the whole orchestra visiting schools, often in deprived areas, to give children the chance to see how music is made. The list of their engagements is too long to mention here, but their involvement in every aspect of the cultural life in Northern Ireland is well documented, including Derry/Londonderry City of Culture, Proms in the Park, Northern Ireland Opera, Lucianno Pavarotti at Stormont, the Belfast Festival at Queens, the Messiah and BBC Recordings, not to mention their own season of concerts throughout the year. What a shame if the people of Northern Ireland could no longer enjoy any of these events!

Pianist, composer and conductor Barry Douglas

Mr Douglas said: "I am saddened and concerned that the Ulster Orchestra, which makes such an important contribution to the cultural life of Northern Ireland and beyond, and with which I have played on many occasions, should currently be facing such difficulties.

"I wish the Ulster Orchestra well at this time and trust that its current challenges might soon be positively resolved."

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

HM Coastguard - Watches Below Risk Assessed Level From January 2014

Updated October 21 and 22 and 23

"The rash concept of radical cost cutting to ‘modernise’ the United Kingdom coastguard service and its clumsy introduction has led to the devastation of the service." .. For Argyll and the Isles, October 23, 2014

Here are some snippets from Caroline Wheeler's recent article "EXCLUSIVE: Danger at sea as coastguard numbers fall":

Shock new figures show that during the busy summer season Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres (MRCC) were understaffed by up to 97 per cent.

Aberdeen was the worst hit, with 97 per cent of shifts staffed at unsafe levels last month and in July, followed by Dover where 91.9 per cent of shifts fell below the required level in August.

Inexperienced staff are being recruited to fill large numbers of vacancies because experienced coastguard officers have been leaving the MCA in their droves since the Coalition announced a modernisation drive in 2010.

"Did you know that 50% of the public did not know 
that you call 999 and ask for the Coastguard?"
"The new national network is scheduled to be 
fully operational by the end of 2015."

For Argyll and the Isles had looked at these failures back in January 2014. Here are some snippets:

Grasp the scale of a single sea area from the south end of the Mull of Galloway northwards, including the Irish coast from and including Carlingford Lough on the east coast, round to Lough Foyle on the north – and stretching north to Cape Wrath to include the Inner and Outer Hebridean Isles and the Western Isles. The Caledonian Canal, from the top of Loch Linnhe, inland to Fort Augustus, also falls within this area.

You’re effectively looking at the entire west coast and islands of Scotland; and the entire coast and islands of Northern Ireland.

Responsibility for this immense and complex sea area is shared by two Coastguard stations – Belfast in its south east and Stornoway on its north west. ..

In the first three months of 2012, Befast coastguard returned an impressive zero failure rate for shift manning. Only Liverpool [to close] and Milford Haven returned so sparkling a performance in safe shift manning over that period.

Then the reality of the consequences of the introduction of the modernisation programme began to percolate and shift manning figures went into decline, as the staffing impacts outlined above began to manifest themselves. Belfast went from zero straight to a 41.7% failure rate in April 2012, with an average of 37.19% failure in the nine months from April to December 2012. ..

Belfast’s average failure rate for 2013 of 56.94% was the highest of all of the UK MRCCs. ..

For the Scottish west coast as a whole, it has to be noted that in July 2013, Belfast and Stornoway MRCCs, as ‘paired’ stations, could not between them make up a single station manned to the minimum agreed safety level.  In that month, Belfast’s failure rate was 80.6% and Stornoway’s 21%, making a combined total failure rate of 101.6%. The total sea area for which they are responsible is vast, with a spectrum of serious risks and a particularly valuable marine environment to protect. We got away with it last year, but what if we hadn't? ..

Good news from the MCA is that they have now achieved a full staffing complement at Belfast, so we would now expect the situation there to start to stabilise.

Sadly, the 2014 figures indicate that Belfast still faces staffing problems.

[NALIL blog - 27 January 2013]

CoastguardSOS - Gambling with Public Safety

The CoastguardSOS link provides data for 2013, including the following table:

The top table on this blog was taken from a search of Whatdotheyknow using 'maritime coastguard agency'. The 129 requests can be refined using a search for 'mrcc' or 'staffing'. A successful request from a Mr Jameson dated 11 January 2014 contains no MCA data. An earlier request from Mr Jameson on 12 December 2013 also contains no MCA data. Both requests relate to manning levels but the detail is probably similar to that contained in the CoastguardSOS link above for 2013.

Added October 25

Those with concerns about current MRCC manning levels can and probably should raise this and any other issues with their elected representatives. The Transport Select Committee wasn't impressed with the Government's approach to reorganisation back in 2011; it was unhappy with manning levels and other matters in October 2013; perhaps it should now carry out a further review. Contact details.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Coleraine Post-primary Provision - Heir of Uncertainty

Saturday, October 18

Tomorrow some Primary 7 pupils and their parents in the Coleraine catchment area will be taking part in a familiarisation process in advance of the examinations that will impact on their choice of post-primary school for the school year beginning September 2015.

I'm indebted to the Coleraine Times [October 1, 2014] for this press release from the managements of Coleraine Academical Institution, Coleraine College and Coleraine High School:

On Monday, in a joint statement, the three Coleraine schools said: "The Minister's announcement on the future of the Voluntary Grammar and Controlled Post Primary sectors signals the start of an exciting new chapter for education provision in the Coleraine area and one which will provide suitable and sustainable educational pathways for all post-primary pupils in the region.

"We are delighted that the Minister has approved these proposals which had positive support from within the community. While we recognise change of this nature is challenging, we believe this plan presents the best opportunity to deliver a long-term, viable and sustainable Post Primary education system in the Coleraine area".

What a delightful paean of praise. Should parents accept these sentiments at face value? As parents and teachers have been kept so much in the dark it's most unlikely that the community at large will be better informed.

Education minister on right

Task - 15 December 2011

The Minister is commissioning the Education and Library Boards, working in close conjunction with CCMS and engaging extensively with other school sectors, to develop collective strategic plans on an area basis.

"I wanted the planning authorities to set aside individual, sectoral or institutions' needs and focus on how, as a society, we could best provide for the needs of all children and young people in an area." .. Minister, February 26, 2013

'All post-primary pupils in the region'? Unsurprisingly some sectors went and were allowed to go their own way and the North Eastern Education and Library Board was left to cobble together an arrangement for the three schools already mentioned [CAI, CC and CHS]. Those who were paying some attention to the small print noted that in the early consultation phase the 414 responses from CHS parents were only initially counted as one and the responses from the opted-out integrated sector dominated the analysis. The 414 responses were later sort of slipped into the mix - 47 became 447 - but the calculations were left unchanged. Should this not have been picked up and resolved by NEELB members?

The following observation in the same Coleraine Times article knocks some of the shine off the glowing review at the top of the blog:

The schools will now begin the significant work of preparing for the implementation of the decision, a process which will focus on the needs of current pupils in the schools as well as those who will attend them in future years.

In other words, the management of the three schools would appear to have signed off on an almost empty page rather than 'an exciting new chapter'. Have they been fobbed off with the proverbial pig-in-a-poke?

The Ministerial statement issued on Friday, September 24, 2014 appears to have been written by Department officials [pdf file] and sent to the Minister the previous Monday. This statement betrays a certain nervousness:

Presentational/Contentious Issues: It is likely that your decision will attract media coverage.

So why might officials be worried? Could it be to do with the information that has been withheld?

Proposal [i] Amalgamation – facilitated by closure of Coleraine AI and Coleraine HS and the establishment of a new school. ... The DP proposes the enrolment at the new VGS [on the CAI site] to be 1060 by the year 2020.

In theory, the combined Year 8 intake in September 2015 could be slashed from 240 to 150 but, in practice, it's unlikely that the current facilities at CAI could be upgraded to accommodate the girls in such a narrow time-frame; the statement coyly refers to 'a reduction in the numbers'.

Will there be a new build, even a new principal? The Minister's recent response to Claire Sugden MLA appears to offer little more than a fairly basic refurbishment:

To ask the Minister of Education what commitment to funding can he make for a new build following his acceptance of proposals to merge Coleraine High School and Coleraine Academical Institution, whilst increasing enrolment at Coleraine College.

- Hide Answer

On 24 September 2014 I approved the Development Proposals published on 7 May 2014 by North Eastern Education & Library Board (NEELB), to facilitate the amalgamation of Coleraine High School and Coleraine Academical Institution, whilst increasing enrolment at Coleraine College to 900 pupils with effect from 1 September 2015 or as soon as possible thereafter.

My Department will fund the works necessary to allow the amalgamation of Coleraine High School and Coleraine Academical Institution on one site and will give consideration, in conjunction with the school authorities, to the works necessary to facilitate the amalgamation.

However any proposal for a new build for the amalgamated school would be considered along with other projects put forward in advance of any future announcement being made.

I can advise that planning of a programme of minor works for Coleraine Academical Institution is currently underway. Details are as follows: [list]

There's no detail of the major works required or estimate of likely cost.

The DP proposes the enrolment at Coleraine College is increased from an approved enrolment of 600 to 900 with effect from 1 September 2015 or as soon as possible thereafter. The NEELB have also confirmed that the increase at Coleraine College will be on a phased basis, rebalancing the decreased enrolment at the new VGS. The 2013/14 actual enrolment was 244 pupils, significantly less than the approved enrolment.

Will the proposed movement of pupils from fairly successful schools to a school that has struggled whilst under the oversight of the NEELB bolster 'parental confidence in the school’s ability to deliver high quality education' - or will parents look to other post-primary schools to educate their children?

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Bushmills - Art for Business Sake

I'm told a London-based German television crew is coming to town next week to explore the impact of recession and the local action that has been taken to give the main thoroughfare a facelift. Apparently the television company was influenced by a recent article in Der Spiegel, a prominent German newspaper. The article was based on a series of photographs published about a year ago by Cathal McNaughton.

"Life in Northern Ireland Bushmills is rather dull - unemployment is high, tourists stay out. But the residents do not want to just accept that and paint life in their town." .. Google translation of the opening comments in the Der Spiegel article.

Is it too late for Moyle District Council to persuade the owners of the properties on the riverbank to improve the following views?

Much of the hoarding has disappeared and one of the boarded up end windows of the former bank has been smashed.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Causeway Coast - To Frack or Not to Frack 2


Down in Fermanagh:

"Tamboran plans to extract gas using the controversial fracking technique.

It was granted a petroleum licence in 2011. It had three years to either inform the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) on its decision to drill or drop its plans.

This deadline passed on Tuesday and an extension was not granted.

Its lawyers will now seek judicial reviews of both Stormont Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster's decision not to extend the licence and Environment Minister Mark H Durkan's rejection in August of a request to drill a borehole at the site near Belcoo." ... BBC report from Fermanagh, October 1, 2014

Meanwhile up on the Causeway Coast there's to be another public meeting

Added October 16

95ZBF: Before Clause 28, insert the following new Clause—

“Further provision about the right of use

(1) The ways in which the right of use may be exercised include—

(a) drilling, boring, fracturing or otherwise altering deep- level land [below 300 metres];

(b) installing infrastructure in deep-level land;

(c) keeping, using or removing any infrastructure installed in deep-level land;

(d) passing any substance through, or putting any substance into, deep-level land or infrastructure installed in deep- level land; Infrastructure Bill - House of Lords, October 14, 2014.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Nurse McConaghy of Carnaff, Dervock

A friend sought my help about Elizabeth McConaghy, a nurse linked to Carnaff, Dervock, who it was believed served in World War I and World War II. One of my Derrykeighan informants said that his grandfather and he had delivered peats to her home around 1942 and that she was, by then, an elderly lady.

[Death date led to newspaper search]

I could see no-one that might have fitted that description in Carnaff in the 1901 census but I did note a Grace Anne McConaghy and two children, Katherine and Alexander. The General Registry Office now has an online search facility so I slowly plodded through the deaths search from 1942, first under Dervock sub-district and then Ballymoney district. This on-line post-1864 search is not available for the past fifty years ie post-1964.

August Seventeenth, 1953, Route Hospital, Ballymoney - Elizabeth McConaghy, late of Carnaff, Dervock - Female - Spinster - 68 years - Retired Nurse - etc.

This indicated a date of birth adjacent to 1885 and a GRONI search yielded:

Fifth August, 1884 in Lisnabragh, Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas McConaghy, farmer, and Ann McConaghy formerly McKinley.

A further birth search produced a brother Thomas, born Fourth July, 1887.

A GRONI marriage search gave Thos McConaghy, full age, bachelor, farmer, living at Lisnabragh, son of Dennis McConaghy, farmer, married in Ballymoney Reformed Presbyterian Church on Nov 20, 1883, Annie McKinley, full age, spinster, living at Clifton Terrace [on Millburn Road], Coleraine, daughter of Robert McKinley, farmer.

A further GRONI marriage search gave Dennis McConaghy, full age, bachelor, weaver, living in Toberdoney, son of Alex McConaghy, weaver, married in Billy Parish Church on 19 April 1853, Catherine Barr, full age, spinster, flowerer [embroidery?], living in Knockavallan, daughter of Thos Barr, weaver.

Anne McConaghie [note variant spelling] was a widow in the 1901 census and working back in the death searches I found that Elizabeth's father Thomas died on Eighth August, 1897, aged 43. and her grandfather Dennis just a sort time earlier on the Twenty-first June, 1897, aged 75. Dennis' death was reported by his daughter Grace Ann [in Carnaff in 1901 - see further up]. Dennis had received some Outdoor Relief support, also in 1897 [Ballymoney ancestry search]

If anyone can provide further information about Nurse McConaghy, especially a photograph, please email NALIL blog [see contact address].

Added October 5

There are several variants of the McConaghy name so it was hardly surprising that I would have difficulty finding Elizabeth once she moved away from her home in north Antrim. She was born in a Reformed Presbyterian home in 1884 and this provided the basis for a wider search. Mccon* produced a result in 1911 but it was macon* that produced a result in 1901.

Just 16 and three years after the adjacent deaths of her father and grandfather, Elizabeth Maconaghy is a servant in the Eglantine Avenue home in south Belfast of Maurice Frederick Fitzgerald, the Co Wicklow born Professor of Engineering in the then Queens College, Belfast, now Queens University. Ten years later, Elizabeth McConnachie is a nurse in the Belfast Union Workhouse on Lisburn Road, later to become Belfast City Hospital.

A NALIL friend has uncovered a Dennis McConaghy, son of Alexander McConaghy quite possibly Elizabeth's grandfather, born in the vicinity of Carnbore. [More to follow]

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Northern Ireland Potato Festival - Saturday October 4

The Festival this year will take place on the hard surface car park in front of the Causeway Hotel.

We will have  two marquees for food stands and exhibitors. This year we will also have another marquee for the Signature Kitchen of Food NI, a selection of chefs will be demonstrating throughout the day.

The Causeway Hotel will be used for Talks and Exhibitors downstairs in the function room and extension with a link to the exterior marquees.

Local restaurants will be providing potato menus on the day which will feature the potato in its many culinary disguises:  The French Rooms, Distiller's Arms, Causeway Hotel, Bushmills Inn and The Bayview Hotel, Portballintrae.

For more information please check back to our programme page which will become active and receive updates as we get them.

A Park & Ride shuttle bus will be operating from the car park in Bushmills. The Festival is free to attend but if you wish to visit the Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre then you will need to purchase a ticket.


There will be a range of Food Stands inside the Marquee, Food Producers, Exhibitors, Potato Growers, Trailer Stands.

Cookery Demonstrations in the Food NI Signature Kitchen throughout the day

1.00 - 1.45pm   Paula McIntyre - BBC Radio Ulster

2.00 - 2.45pm   Emmet McCourt - Irish Food Heritage project

3.00 - 3.45pm   Eimer Mullan - Thyme & Co

4.00 - 5.00pm   Paula McIntyre - BBC Radio Ulster

Country Markets

 Ballycastle Country Markets will be attending with crafts, art and home produce.

Talks in the Causeway Hotel

11.30am - The John Clarke Story - Maurice McCurdy

12.30pm - Potato Varieties Galore - David Langford

1.30pm -  Grow Your Own Potatoes - Carol Hall

2.30pm  Potatoes - A Very Important Food - Donna Wilson
Children's Activities
Young at Art, Face Painting, Balloon Making, Fairground Attractions, Mr Tayto, Finn, Una and Bennadonner, Art Competition
Helicopter Flights
Weather permitting we will have helicopter flight available during the day
Static Displays
Farm machinery