“any new visitor centre must be built in the footprint of the centre that was burnt down”

Good example of the benefits of fact-checking from the Belfast Telegraph, after they did the straight reporting of the controversial Causeway developer Seymour Sweeney’s claim that UNESCO’s Mechtild Rossler, the European chief of heritage sites at the organisation, was “impressed” by his proposal. They went to the source. And Dr Rossler pointed back to the UNESCO report[pdf file] from 2003 – noted here. – From today’s Belfast Telegraph report

When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph this week, Dr Rossler said the 2003 mission team’s findings had been “quite clear”. She added: “We were absolutely clear that any new visitor centre must be built in the footprint of the centre that was burnt down. That is my position and I am not moving one millimetre from that.”

From the 2003 UNESCO report

However, a number of potential threats exist, including development proposals, which could threaten the values and the integrity of the site. None of these proposals have been through the full planning process and have been approved. No approval should be given without reviewing a proposed development within the context of the protection and safeguarding of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the World Heritage site and its management.

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  • joeCanuck

    Where or where is Finn McCoul when you need him to do a bit of tossing?

  • wild turkey

    …DOOH, let me get this right. The Belfast Tele article of Monday 17 September has Mr Sweeeney claiming that was ” positive and supportive” of his proposal. However, it now turns out that this meeting took place in 2001, two years prior to the 2003 Unesco report quoted above.

    Am I only the one who, initially reading the 17 September article, would have formed the impression that UNESCOs ‘positive and supportive’ view of the Sweeney proposals arose from a meeting that took place fairly recently rather that SIX years ago?

    If the current Sweeney proposal went ahead is fair to infer that the Causeway would lose its World Heritage status?

    On the Sweeney proposal the score so far appears to be:-

    Against: Moyle Council, Coleraine Council, UNESCO, The National Trust.

    For: The Ministers Ms Foster and Mr Dodds.

    Anyway, fair dues to the Telegraph for some basic investigative follow-up.

    Nevin, where are you? Enlighten us.

  • Nevin

    WT, I introduced Mechtild and some others to the delights of Slugger a few days ago. One Coleraine councillor found Slugger very informative and may well now become a regular reader. Perhaps the bloggers could extend an invitation to councillors and other public officials to join in the debate.

    I wonder when the private developer became privy to the ‘mindeness’ of the DOE minister – and who was the source of his information? Was it prior to the August 23 reference attributed to Stephen Quinn, maybe even before the middle of August that I’ve mentioned earlier.

    I don’t know when the alleged exchange between the developer or his representatives and the Mechtild took place.

  • Nevin

    Pete, Ian Paisley jnr has expressed his views about tourism in the North Antrim area in an Assembly debate on 3 July 2001. Here are some snippets:

    “After the fire at the Causeway visitor centre, the Minister made a very impressive announcement, saying that the private sector should get involved, and that a new, bigger and better visitor centre should be built. I supported that announcement wholeheartedly. Moyle District Council took an initiative and produced a development brief. According to that brief, the location is now on the market for development as a visitor centre. As a result of that initiative, Northern Ireland stands on the threshold of a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to get the private sector to build, manage and run a state-of-the-art tourism centre. However, the private sector will be guided by the wishes of the local council. That is important, to ensure that the visitor experience does not simply satisfy the private sector but also that the project is guided by the public sector. I welcome that initiative.”

    Did he have anyone in particular in mind? Maybe an old friend? The wishes of Moyle District Council swung like a pendulum!!

    “Today I received from the Registry of Companies in Northern Ireland the certificate of registration for the mortgage relating to the Giant’s Causeway/Bushmills railway. The certificate indicates that if the mortgage is not paid when it becomes due, which is very soon, the Ulster Bank can seize the assets. That would be very good for the bank, but not for those involved, those who invested £480,000 of Tourist Board money, £200,000 of International Fund for Ireland money or £150,000 of peace and reconciliation fund money. This illustrates that the proposal was not well thought out. I hope that the Minister can indicate that he will take a good look at the proposal, implement it, and ensure that the train station is built, because it is essential for the locality.”

    Well, the railway facilities were put in place, a service began but the financial problems continued. It was eventually sold to – Mr Sweeney. Did he pay the full market rate?

    Does Paisley jnr now consider that this was not just ‘very good for the bank’ but maybe also for his old friend? I understand Coleraine and Moyle Councils were in the process of considering an offer when the sale was announced.

  • Nevin

    “any new visitor centre must be built in the footprint of the centre that was burnt down”

    An interesting turn of phrase. Was there an inquiry at the time into whether the fire was accidental or was the work of an arsonist?

  • wild turkey

    An interesting turn of phrase. Was there an inquiry at the time into whether the fire was accidental or was the work of an arsonist?

    huh? Nevin,
    is there any evidence to suggest that the fire was of a suspicious nature? If so, what is the standard procedure regarding a public investigation in this instance?

    Surely the place was insured so I am assuming that the insurers would have conducted some kind of investigation before handing over the readies.

  • iluvni

    Excellent question, Nevin.

  • pith

    DUP people take note that a millimetre is a not a bit like a caterpillar.

  • Nevin

    WT, there was something unusual about the insurance; IIRC it might have been a form of self-insurance.

  • T.Ruth

    It would seem to me a case where it would be important that any party involved,and particularly the DUP should be seen to be above suspicion. The issue is whether or not a piece of the family silver is sold on the cheap and that once only or made available for continuous viewing in a manner that in the long run will bring an enormous revenue stream to the public purse for reinvestment and regeneration of an area where the indigenous population have suffered at the hands of insatiable developers

  • Tiny

    The whole thing smells of fish, or should that be lobster?

  • Nevin

    Tiny, are you referring to the Waugh article or is this a cryptic reference to ‘the Owl’ and the ‘Pussy-cat’ who went lobster fishing all those years ago off the Causeway Coast? I overheard a reference to the expedition just the other day but, sadly, I don’t have the name of the boat.

  • wild turkey

    Nevin et al


    Before we all head off on another fishing expedition check the BBC_NI website , to wit

    ‘The DUP’s Ian Paisley Junior has confirmed he went lobster fishing with the private developer Seymour Sweeney.

    Mr Paisley Jr also confirmed that he and his father had lobbied in 2005 for a drift net licence on behalf of a fisherman whose crew included Mr Sweeney and two of his relatives. ‘

  • Nevin

    WT, who said it was another fishing expedition? Did you not break my code 😉

    “The DUP junior minister confirmed on Wednesday he had gone fishing with Seymour Sweeney, but insisted he had made no secret of this …” [Beeb link]

    Now if he’d said he ‘knew of me, yes’ it would indicate that he might have read my posts on Slugger but he probably had never met me; his coyness has been his comeuppance.

  • Nevin

    WT, did you supply the ‘mince and slices of quince‘?

  • The “Curse of Lord Gnome” is well attested in English political circles (particularly where wicks have been injudiciously dipped). Ought we now to invoke Slugger’s Bane?

    Being at the other end of a famed (would-be) Aer Lingus route, I have greatly enjoyed the revelations of this thread (and its parallels) in absentia. I now see that the Beeb has picked it up: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7003339.stm

    O, the joy of the thing! And both Pa and Jnr involved. You couldn’t have anything as transparently devious outside of the script of Neighbours or Tithe an Oireachtais.

  • wild turkey

    ‘WT, I introduced Mechtild and some others to the delights of Slugger a few days ago. One Coleraine councillor found Slugger very informative and may well now become a regular reader. Perhaps the bloggers could extend an invitation to councillors and other public officials to join in the debate. ‘

    Nevin et al just a late nite thought, but perhaps that debate could be convened in a convivial gourmet pub and wine bar in Portballintrae?

    Debate topic. Technical considerations in Lobstering and Deep Sea Fishing: The Scum also rises? Discuss

  • Nevin

    Malcolm, I thought some years ago that when there was sleaze in the rest of these two islands there had to be a few ‘cute hoors’ here.

    I used to contribute to the BBC NI’s Talkback messageboard where I had the unusual experience of having fictional yarns wiped en masse; some judicious quotes from “Wind in the Willows” met a similar fate.

    Our wonderful array of place names featured in my make-believe cast of characters, incidents and locations. There was Port Moon Trust; a couple of politicians: the gentle Ben Gore and the more menacing Croyer Hill; local newspapers: the Tonduff Times and Ballintoy Bugle; the rhythym and blues singer: Big Tom from Turfahun; and the bodice-ripping “Pleasures of Plaiskin” – available in a plain wrapper in “Burning Passions” – a religious bookshop at the front with a massage parlour at the rear. The barber in “A Clip Behind the Ear” often regaled his customers with tales of the exploits of the local squire, Patsy McCash of Cashlaun Castle.

    The fictional yarns have been surpassed by the real events of the past ten days though, perhaps, the Moyle Maidens would have given the Nookie Girls a run for their money.

    Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be as I contemplate a Foster’s XXXX, a Dodd’s (alcohol free) Shandy and a Paisley McGuinness – on the rocks.

  • Pete Baker


    A note of caution should be adopted in assessing these revelations.

    For example – What exactly do they reveal?

    There’s still no trail to the Causeway development.

    Just a set of circumstantial evidence that points to Paisley Jnr being disingenuous on the Nolan Show.

    Not that it’s a surprise to discover disingenuosity on the Nolan Show…

  • wild turkey

    Well fair enough Pete, than again in terms of delivery of goods, to date, the Nolan show appears to be more effective than the assembly. The methodolgy usually being to confront the suits with awkward questions.

    Just when does disingenuosity and disassembly (no pun) turn into deceit? Admitedly it is a tough call without and clear and defined boundaries… but and with respect. Is it not an exercise in disingenuosity belittling logical inference and and the methodology of an unfolding narrative as mere ‘circumstantial’ evidence?

    I hate to use the phrase, especially in Norn Ironland, but do we really need a smoking gun to reach some conclusions on this one?

  • Nevin @ 10:04 PM:

    And, from all that, I predict a reader of Mervyn Peake and Flann O’Brien, no doubt (and none the less for that). [And if there’s anybody out there who hasn’t found ‘A Bash in the Tunnel’ on line at http://www.centerforbookculture.org/context/no4/obrien.html, shame on you all. And don’t try to eat, drink and read it at the same time: you have been warned, or your dry-cleaner should be.]

    I have just spent a few moments with the BBC news-website.

    There I was, ploughing through ‘Paisley Jr fished with developer’ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/70033]. My memory went back many years to being home from University, and scanning my Dad’s copy of the Daily Express. I could not understand two trivial items, side-by-side on the front page. One was about an unknown model, Miss Christine Keeler, and the other was an equally obscure West Indian drug dealer. Somehow the symmetry and sub-editing seemed to be saying more that the text. Subsequent events told me to (as Dewey Finn [Jack Black] says in ‘School of Rock’) read between the lines.

    Hence my interest in the side-bar of the Beeb’s web-page (remembering to invert so get this natural order of events):
    Developer to get Causeway nod;
    No public cash for tourist centre;
    Tourist plan ‘may end in court’;
    Developer’s DUP link ‘no bearing’;
    Developer denies funding DUP;
    Council insists on public funding;
    Causeway ‘a political football’;
    Tycoon offers free centre;
    Paisley confirms fishing trips.

    You couldn’t, as the man has it, make it up.

    Meanwhile, my attention went on to the curious Nicky Cheung affair (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7003733.stm).

    Now, let me get this straight: here’s a guy with not-too-many obvious sources of income. He acquires £2.75M of assets, nine properties, forty bank and credit-card accounts, a Porsche Cayman 9 Coupe and a BMW X3. And somebody guessed something was, well – not quite straight. Thanks goodness for the Assets Recovery Agency: we wouldn’t want this to be happening elsewhere, now, would we?

  • Pete Baker

    A couple of quick points, turkey.

    “but do we really need a smoking gun to reach some conclusions on this one?”

    If you want those conclusions to be based on facts – and you should – then ‘Yes’.

    I’m not adverse to inferring from an unfolding narrative, as long as that unfolding actually reveals details relevant to the issue – in this case that would be the Causeway development.

  • Nevin

    Pete, disingenuous and sleaze are on a par; they’re from the same stable.

    Also, Foster’s no knowledge intervention has widened the discussion as the same developer is involved in the proposals for the Giant’s Causeway Visitor’s Centre and the Mountsandel Road development in Coleraine.

    Paisley jnr’s coyness has unleashed a can of worms and Foster will have some explaining to do when she faces the Environment Committee tomorrow.

    Why focus on trails or speculations when we can quote from information that is on the record eg Minister Foster’s meeting with a delegation from Coleraine on July 9 that included a discussion about the developer’s Coleraine project.

  • Brian

    Nevin, please explain Foster xxxx & MacGuinness reference which seems at first glance to be quite interesting.