Soapbox: If you go down to the woods today… you’re in for a very big surprise

James Orr is director of Friends of the Earth in Northern Ireland. In his account of what’s been happening in an East Antrim wood belonging to Northern Ireland Water, he argues that recent planning reforms have led to a water company getting involved in oil exploration on its own land. Woodburn, near Carrickfergus. The clue is in the name. In this local haven, there is a wood growing and a burn flowing. Woodburn is designated in the local plan as a … Read more

Northern Ireland Water charges to rise…

As the BBC reported on 27 March Northern Ireland Water is putting up charges to its 80,000 non-domestic customers from April – the first price rise in three years. The company said the increase would average out at 2.4%. The main factor “dictating this increase” is a £14m rise, or doubling, of its rates bill, following a revaluation carried out of all local businesses last year. In the previous two financial years, Northern Ireland Water cut its tariffs. Businesses and … Read more

Sinn Fein protest water meters in Dundalk, but have ensured they are installed in Newry?

So, Sinn Fein didn’t order the continuation of the installation of 35,000 water meters in new build houses in Northern Ireland at a cost of £13.3 million? Well, no. The minister’s department did refuse to allow NI Water off the hook of putting water meters as it was required to do by law. Brian Stanley put it thus… Sinn Féin can only do what it can do at any point in time being in the power-sharing executive, and that situation … Read more

“what you would have paid if it wasn’t for the fact that water charges had been cancelled.”

This rough recording is from RTE’s Late Debate programme from last Tuesday. In it Deputy Pearse Doherty outlines how he thinks water is not charged for in Northern Ireland. “They actually get a notice every year which says this is the amount you would have paid if it wasn’t for the fact that water charges had been cancelled.” Except that the ‘notice’ Pearse mentions is in fact the local rate bill which informs householders in Northern Ireland which part of … Read more

Come on BBC NI give us the bad news on our beaches…?

So, here’s what the listeners to Radio 4 got this morning on the new Good Beach guide report, picking out Northern Ireland as a noteable weak point in the overall UK figures… .@mickfealty – @BBCr4today puts NI beach water quality stats in context wholly, sadly missing from @BBCNewsNI report — Patrick Corrigan (@PatrickCorrigan) April 15, 2014 Then this from BBC NI… Northern Ireland beaches’ water quality ‘acceptable’… Clearly good news elsewhere has meant lots of detail on a general … Read more

G4S: Government’s ideological commitment to using the private sector not matched by proper resources

Well, first of all Northern Ireland Water have a problem tracking contracts with the private sector. Then the Housing Executive. In the midst of all the rest Northern Irish Primary schools have been let off compulsory testing because a £3 million contract failed to deliver a functionable product. Now it turns out that the UK Department of Justice has been massively overcharged for the services of G4S… Chris Grayling has brought the Serious Fraud Office in to investigate (which is … Read more

DRD settles for #NIWater with an apology to Declan Gormley…

So, we are nearing the end of the story of one of the sacked directors of Northern Ireland Water, Declan Gormley. The implications of this are pretty unequivocal. But before further detailed comment over to the Minister, who stated this afternoon that… …in March 2010 some of the non-executive directors of Northern Ireland Water Limited, including Mr. Declan Gormley were dismissed from the board of that company by the then Minister for Regional Development, Mr Conor Murphy. The Department was … Read more

Sinn Fein’s defence borrowing a page from the Scientology play book?

I’d treat with caution any attempt to estimate the Sinn Fein’s costs, not least because they don’t seem to have gone in to the trial with anything much resembling a case. In disclosure, they offered only copies of the press releases, with one defendant confessing he was a inveterate re-cycler. And as Sam McBride notes in the News Letter today: Amid a series of disputes about the conduct of the protracted trial — which was listed to last five days … Read more

Is Sinn Fein really planning to appeal its libel case or just stalling on the pay out?

One of the privileges of having access to lots of money is that you can safely set aside all legal good sense and go for broke. The problem with the idea that the party might appeal a jury verdict from a jury they insisted on having against the judge’s better counsel is that it will likely have the judge confirm the first outcome. So, are they just stalling? Having strung Mr Gormley along thus far (including putting him in the … Read more

Why did Sinn Fein feel compelled to invent ‘malicious’ untruths about Declan Gormley?

This morning in the High Court, both Sinn Fein’s and Declan Gormley’s counsels will be making their cases on the figure in damages to be reached by the jury in Sinn Fein malicious libel trial. We should have a figure to run with by lunchtime. As Tom Kelly – rather prophetically – warned back in 2007 (long before Mr Gormley had even been appointed been appointed to Northern Ireland Water), Martin McGuinness’s promise to put manners on Civil Servants, was … Read more

Sinn Fein defamation of Declan Gormley, and what comes next

So the news from the Belfast High Court is that a jury has found Sinn Fein guilty of defaming of Declan Gormley, one of four non executive directors of Northern Ireland Water sacked by Sinn Fein’s former DRD minster and Westminster MP, Conor Murphy. The trial took an extraordinary 10 days in court. Ten days in which Mr Gormley, the plaintiff spent an equally extraordinary five days in the witness stand being questioned by Sinn Fein’s counsel. The party’s defence … Read more

Gormley wins libel case against Sinn Fein

The BBC reports the jury verdict in Declan Gormley’s, a former non-executive director of NI Water, libel case against Sinn Féin, the party’s Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan, and former assembly member Willie Clarke.  From the BBC report Declan Gormley sued the party over the contents of two press releases it issued in 2011 in support of his sacking from the NIW Board. The party denied the press releases were defamatory, but the jury found the party had acted with malice. High … Read more

UTV DVD “will not satisfy the request for particulars”…

Sam McBride has had some interesting reports to file on the Declan Gormley hearing. This from yesterday’s proceedings is more bizarre than the last one. What’s at play here is that Gormley’s lawyers are trying to get Sinn Fein’s lawyer’s to specify what evidence they have that Gormley ‘attacked’ their two MLAs… Well worth reading the whole thing.. As Mr Justice Gillen told Mr McCann to be more specific about the alleged attacks by Mr Gormley to which he was … Read more

Sinn Féin MLAs to claim ‘qualified privilege’ for press statements in NI Water libel case?

The BBC reports from Belfast High Court as, former non-executive director in NI Water, Declan Gormley’s libel proceedings against Sinn Féin, the party’s Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan, and former assembly member Willie Clarke, heads to its court date – 26 November.  Apparently, no political party members nor NI Water employees, members and staff on the Stormont Public Accounts Committee are to be allowed to sit on the jury.  And, also from the BBC report At a review hearing on … Read more

“the tribunal finds the minister’s evidence is implausible and lacks credibility” [Updated]

If you thought the controversy around NI Water and the then NI Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy, MP, MLA, had gone away, think again.  The BBC reports that an industrial  tribunal has found that Alan Lennon, a Protestant overlooked for the post of chairman of NI Water in March 2011, was discriminated against on religious grounds.  From the BBC report In March 2011, Mr Murphy appointed a Catholic as chairman, Sean Hogan, ahead of four others shortlisted after interview, all … Read more

Ministerial U-turn on NI Water Chief Executive’s terms

After his very well publicised threat to resign, the acting Chief Executive at Northern Ireland Water, Trevor Haslett, appears to have got what he wanted – a £20,000 pay rise [and a two year contract? – Ed].  From the BBC report A spokeswoman for the Department for Regional Development confirmed the deal. “Northern Ireland Water needs leadership and stability,” she said. “Trevor Haslett has demonstrated that he is the best person to lead NI Water through the winter that is almost … Read more

NI Water: Another Chief Executive resignation?

The BBC’s Jim Fitzpatrick reports that NI Water Chief Executive, Trevor Haslett, has “signalled that he wants to leave and return to private consultancy”.  Haslett has been in the post for almost 10 months, after stepping into the vacancy caused by the defenestration of former Chief Executive Lawrence MacKenzie.  From the BBC report NI Water was created as a state-owned company in 2004 with Ms Bryan at the helm and its structure suggested that it would ultimately be privatised. But the devolved government … Read more

The extraordinarily small gene pool for NI Civil Service reviews

Here’s an interesting snippet. It’s an Assembly Question from Patsy McGlone to Tom Elliott regarding “the independent board of inquiry that was convened to consider the disciplinary charges” against Paul Priestly. It’s interesting for a number of reasons: To ask the First Minister and deputy First Minister, in relation to the independent board of inquiry that was convened to consider the disciplinary charges against a senior civil servant, to detail (i) the terms of reference; (ii) the members on the … Read more

Is the Head of the NI Civil Service defending the indefensible?

So to start with we have an empassioned plea from John Dallat, the Northern Ireland Public Accounts Committee’s longest serving member that, according to the News Letter: “that Sir Bruce Robinson be forced to appear before it to explain his decision and said that he wanted an assurance that the committee could scrutinise public spending without senior civil servants covertly attacking it.” Interestingly none of the other parties in that committee wanted to proceed without taking further advice. Although beyond … Read more