This story looks even more intriguing than events surrounding the recent Ian Paisley jnr saga. It involves Ministers, civil servants and consultants from Stormont in Belfast, the Dáil in Dublin and Holyrood in Edinburgh. Viewers of earlier accounts on the blog have come from these cities as well as from Cork and Glasgow.
Martina Purdy, in the Devenport Diaries, has solved one mystery involving Rathlin Island and Conor Murphy, Minister for Regional Development, but perhaps she should have taken off her shoes, put on a pair of robust boots and dug a little deeper.
The DRD spokeswoman claims that 'detailed consideration' was given to the relevant aspects of the bids. Did this include the relatively simple process of googling with words and phrases such as 'o'driscoll', 'cape clear', 'o cuiv' and 'dáil'? My googling brought up some of the links and quotes in the two earlier threads. Presumably politicians, journalists and other ferry operators may well have done the same; they'll also have used 'rathlin ferry operator'.
The spokeswoman refers to an improved level of service but what happens when the mv Canna is out of service for a few weeks for its annual overhaul? Is there an equivalent back-up? My conversations so far indicate that there isn't.
Much has been made of the catamaran. Is the £1.2m capital spending in the ISNI documents linked to it? The £6.3m is linked to new ro-ro ferries. What sort of a catamaran would you get for £1.2m and how useful would it be in the treacherous tidal conditions that exist between Ballycastle and Rathlin?
Going through [a tide rip] can be an exhilarating experience in a well found boat of adequate size but more often a frightening one in an open boat, particularly when the stream is running against the wind. The waters really roar as they tumble round the boat's gunwhale.
Perhaps Ministers Murphy, Dodds and Empey should reflect on the answers that will be produced for Tuesday's questions before they commit themselves further to this project. If it disintegrates the main losers are likely to be the islanders who depend on this lifeline ferry.
Some more disturbing news from Ciaran O'Driscoll's newish ferry operation in the South-West:
Cape Clear News 17th June 2008
Tidy Island:Some of our readers will have received notice of the removal from service of the Naomh Ciaran, the State subsidised lifeline ferry, recently, which occasioned the notice. This was because the addition of a larger crane to the boat brought into doubt her stability and she was impounded by the Marine Survey Office.I understand that she is expected to be back in service tomorrow morning.
Did he make changes to the ferry without notifying the Marine Survey Office? Is a prosecution pending? Presumably our own Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) will/may be making a careful note of these events now that they will be responsible for O'Driscoll ferries here. MCA is an agency of the Department of Transport under Minister Ruth Kelly.
Here are some commitments from Paul Priestly, DRD Permanent Secretary, in the department's corporate and business plans:
DRD is a strong and capable organisation. But we recognise that we need to continue working hard to build the Department’s capability for the future. To this end, over the next 18 months the Departmental Board will lead a Change and Improvement Programme – which we have called the ‘3Cs Programme’. It is about ensuring a Capable, Committed and Confident DRD – a department which:
• has the Capablity in terms of competence and capacity to achieve its objectives;
• is Committed to delivering improved public services; and
• has staff who are Confident in their own abilities and those of their colleagues – including their managers.
I've looked for a mention of £1.2m capital spending on the Rathlin ferry and £6.3m on Rathlin ro-ro ferries - alongside the figures for other infrastructure spending - but could only find this:
• an enhanced ferry service for Rathlin Island by 2009
Why such coyness about a lifeline ferry service? It would seem to be at odds with DRD transparency and accountability requirements in the context of Civil Service core values: integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality.
Joanna Tuffy questions Eamon O Cuiv re.ferry services in West Cork.
Ciaran O'Driscoll's West Cork Coastal Cruises seeks Leader funding for boat. Funding awarded.
Adds June 23
I've just checked out the passenger carrying status of the Naomh Ciaran 2. Marine Survey Office, Dublin, records show that the certificate expired on April 26, 2008, for trips around the Fastnet lighthouse (summer 50/winter 50) expired on October 28, 2007, for trips between Baltimore, Schull and Cape Clear (summer 100/winter 0) and the ferry's name is missing from the June listing. I spoke to MSO and was told that the (impounded) ferry has been given clearance to operate whilst the paper work is being updated. And I thought maladministration was a condition that afflicted Ian Paisley jnr
New Rathlin Ballycastle ferry timetable
It would appear that the fares have doubled in price. The current fares are £10 adult return, £5 child return; the new ones £10 adult single, £5 child single.
The mv True Light has a ten minute turn around time. Is this sufficient to offload passengers, load new passengers and cover safety aspects of the trip?
For some curious reason the True Light's name does not appear on the flyer. Is a different boat to be used now? If there was a change, when did it take place? Are there implications for the claims made during the tendering process?
Is inappropriate political pressure being brought to bear on CMAL to lease the mv Canna to the new operator, Rathlin Island Ferry Limited?
Adds June 24
My political and journalistic sources tell me that Crockard Communications is assisting one of the parties to this affair.
Crisis management • Supporting you when things go wrong
So who's in trouble?
New Rathlin Ferry Operator 4