Lottery fund decision “absolute rubbish” – Paisley

The Belfast Telegraph’s David Gordon has unearthed a letter written by the DUP leader, and now First Minister, Ian Paisley in 2003 to the Heritage Lottery Fund after they had turned down an application by controversial developer Seymour Sweeney for a grant for the Giants’ Causeway World Heritage Trust connected to his proposed development – of which Mr Paisley was to be a trustee.

Written on headed Commons paper, it denounced the grounds for turning down the grant bid as “absolute rubbish”. It also claimed, more than once, that Mr Sweeney’s visitor centre plans had the support of UNESCO, the UN body which oversees world heritage sites like the Causeway. It said: ” UNESCO saw and approved the plans, and were very impressed by the proposal.”

A claim which UNESCO have already denied. Another possible twist below the fold.From the Belfast telegraph report

Mr Sweeney has spoken publicly about holding a highly-favourable meeting with senior UNESCO official Mechtild Rossler in 2001.

Ms Rossler has contested any suggestion of endorsement, and would not have had the authority to personally sign the organisation up to the project in any case.

She has made clear to the Belfast Telegraph that she would not support anything without going through the necessary UNESCO procedures.

She has also stated that UNESCO does not “decide on proposals” and that this would be a matter for Government bodies in the light of the UNESCO 2003 report.

Ms Rossler further said: “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.”

A DUP source told the Belfast Telegraph that Mr Paisley Snr had met with a UNESCO official to discuss the Causeway situation.

Mr Sweeney’s proposals at the 2001 meeting differed in a key respect from those on the table by 2003. His 2001 blueprint was to have been located on Moyle Council’s land above the Causeway.

By 2003 – the time of Mr Paisley’s letter – his proposal was for an alternative location on his own land.

There is, potentially, a link with another recent controversy – which comes via Roger Stanyard in the Slugger comment zone here – and also brings DUP MLA Mervyn Storey back into the frame.

In a lengthy article on the links between DUP members and the young-Earthers the British Centre for Science Education points to the promotion of some of their non-evolutionary beliefs.

In a letter to the Belfast Newsletter [added link] published on 6th June 2006 George Dawson stated: “Over recent months myself and colleagues, David Simpson MP and Mervyn Storey MLA, have been pressing government on the need to ensure that interpretation at the new Causeway interpretative centre is inclusive of the views expressed by Rev Dr Greer and elaborated upon in the article by Dr Tas Walker. This is a matter of equality and tourism opportunity. In equality terms it is incumbent upon government not to discriminate against this equally scientific viewpoint and those who believe it.”

In the original 3rd June 2006 article Greer claimed that the Causeway was formed 4,500 years ago during Noah’s flood. Greer pushed the pamphlet on the Causeway by Tas Walker of Answers in Genesis. Presumably Greer was angling to get Answers in Genesis material in the Causeway Centre. Greer’s arguments about the age of the Causeway, no doubt entirely lifted from the AiG material are risible. Science strongly suggests it was formed about 60-65 million years ago.

The stakes for the creationists are very high. The Giant’s Causeway attracts some 500,000 visitors a year and is Northern Ireland’s largest tourist attraction. Both for school children studying geography or geology it is a major element in field studies. Getting creationism into the new Causeway visitor centre, believed to cost around £20 million, will be a huge coup for the creationists. No wonder they are putting so much effort into it. Again, it is exactly the same game being played by fundamentalists in the United States with the Grand Canyon.

A publicly funded Causeway Centre wouldn’t be as free to decide what materials were used in an intrepretive centre.

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  • me

    Disgraceful carry on by the DUP.

  • snakebrain

    Good man Pete, stay on their backs.

  • qubol

    I’m speechless and very annoyed. This calls for something more than a stern letter.

    Creationism at the Causeway….
    How do we stop this bullshit?

  • Nevin

    As you can see from the material in the NALIL September archives the land belongs to Seaport Investments Limited, now Seaport (NI) Ltd. Sweeney is a director. Does this mean that the (unidentified) shareholders own the land? Also check the PACNI link to read about the rejection of the earlier plans for the land in front and west of the Nook.

    Dodds and especially Foster are taking a stand on dodgy ground.

    PS Click images to enlarge.

  • unionist

    By turning the Visitors Centre into a centre of education for creationism opens up the possibility that Finn McCool did actually build it.

    You sceptics just have to believe.

  • Sean

    Hey mr paisley your slip is begining to show

    Wonder how much more dirt lies swept under the rug waiting to be found

  • snakebrain

    Hang on a minute, I just read the final part of that post. Rude not to do it first time, I know..

    But seriously, are they for real? I might nip down the School of Geography at Queens this afternoon and see if I can rustle up some academic interest in making a stand against this. I actually cannot believe they’d try to do this. Don’t they see what a laughing stock they continue to make of themselves? Nothing’s really changed from the days of swings chained up in parks in these peoples heads…….

  • Nevin

    Unionist, Finn has a pub in Bushmills Main Street and a mural in Dodge. It seems he’s a half-pint man. Perhaps he’s a major shareholder in Seaport (NI) Limited – and is infatuated with the Minister of the Environment!!

  • Ian

    From the BT report:

    “A DUP source told the Belfast Telegraph that Mr Paisley Snr had met with a UNESCO official to discuss the Causeway situation.

    Mr Sweeney’s proposals at the 2001 meeting differed in a key respect from those on the table by 2003. His 2001 blueprint was to have been located on Moyle Council’s land above the Causeway.

    By 2003 – the time of Mr Paisley’s letter – his proposal was for an alternative location on his own land.”

    Could this quote from the ‘DUP source’ be the first move by the party to attempt to wriggle out of the hole they’ve got themselves into?

    They could be setting up Sweeney as the fall guy here, blaming the whole affair on disingenuity on his part.

    The story goes as follows: Sweeney acquired UNESCO backing for a modest proposed centre on the original site and informed certain members of the DUP of this fact. He then slyly switched the plans to another, more profitable but unapproved by UNESCO, site without telling the DUP(ed) who inadvertently continued to lobby for his revised scheme.

    Of course, when in a hole one should be careful not to end up digging oneself in deeper.

  • pith

    A revolting example of a fumble in the greasy till. Or is it just some twisted application of the ends justifies the means?

  • Bemused


  • “a fumble in the greasy till”

    Sounds like a euphemism for something very un Free Presbyterian.

  • snakebrain

    “a fumble in the greasy till”

    Sounds like a euphemism for something very un Free Presbyterian.
    Posted by Ziznivy on Oct 04, 2007 @ 01:10 PM

    You think so? More like just what you’d expect….

  • pith

    fumble in the greasy till – September 1913 by WB Yeats

  • circles

    Nice bit of work Pete tying these two threads – and a seriously scarey thought that these loopers may actually get their foot in the door at the causeway.
    The idea that Finn McCool built the causeway is infinitely more probable than it popping up as a result of a flood 4500 years ago. I mean have these people even tried to expain what actual physical and chemical processes may have been at work during a flood to produce the causeway? We’re not even remotely in the area of sedimentary deposits. This is beyond ridicule – is is an embarassment. Simply ignore the facts and stick to the most outlandish story, because, ahhh, because…. ahhhh well JUST because!!

  • Nevin

    Should the DUP ministers be nervous, Bemused? They can hardly stop the drips.

  • Very Concerned

    Ian Paisley MP MLA is entitled to lobby on behalf of his constituent and party member with whoever he chooses (including the right to treat young earth creationism as equally valid as evolution).


    1 He is not entitled to misrepresent UNESCO support – and the implication of the Telegraph article is that either he or Mr Sweeney is being economical with the truth.

    2 The First Minister is obliged to refrain from any bias on the basis of personal affiliation where he has to take decisions as a Minister.

  • There was nothing that neutered the Shinners faster than power – no wonder Paisley steered clear of it for as long as he did.

  • Nevin

    Ian, IMO the DUP can’t wriggle out. It knew that Seaport had lost out on the present visitor’s site in February 2002 long before the lobbying in 2003.

  • Dessertspoon

    I have a radical plan that will solve the whole Causeay debacle. As we all know (and as some famouse bloke once said), “worth seeing, not worth going to see..” or something like that. Therefore we put up big pictures of the Causeway at various places (airports, ports etc) with a caption that reads,

    “The Giants Causeway….a load of rocks in funny shapes, a geological phenomenom, or possibly made by a big giant called Finn – now you don’t need to go. Sure there’s no car park and nothing to do once you’ve seen the rocks.”

    Or if you don’t like that idea, chisel out one of the rocks and put it on a mobile display and drive it around the country, I mean when you’ve seen one rock you’ve literally seen them all!! This will save millions in building costs, planning fees and whatever the hell else they want to waste OUR money on.

  • Dessertspoon

    Apologies for rubbish spelling above, typing quicker than my internal dictionary could cope with.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Lottery Grant???

    Is that not encouraging gambling?

  • Sir Herbert Mercer

    The DUP might be good protestants but they really have no idea about how to govern

  • pith

    Sir Herbert,

    Would bad protestants be better? Or what about good catholics?

  • Sir Herbert Mercer

    I don’t mean good in the angelic sense. Personally I couldn’t give a F**k what religion anyone is. I’m much more concerned when someone running the country doesn’t know their arse from their elbow, a la DUP

  • Dawkins

    Quite scary to think that this province is being steered by a skipper who believes the Pole Star is only 6000 years old. I wonder how long he imagines it takes its light to reach the earth?

    a. six years?

    b. six months?

    c. a fortnight?

  • pith

    Sir Herbert, That is very mean. DUP people always wipe their elbows.

  • ulsterfan

    More info coming into public domain.
    What is position of SF,SDLP, UU, Alliance and Independents on this subject.
    They are very quiet. Full inquiry is needed and DUP to tell us what is going on.

  • ulsterfan

    I hope UNESCO are kept up to date about this controversy.
    We might need their help to keep the development in public hands and to be in accordance with their proposal for the site.

  • Dawkins


    I agree. If anybody should be jumping up and down and threatening to nail the Paisleys’ scrota to the mast it’s the Shinners.

    But we hear less than a murmur. What can it all mean? Do they know more than we do? Are they concerned that breaking this wide open will harm the Assembly, maybe bring about the thwarting of their second stab at government?

    Serious questions ought to be asked: of both the DUP and Sinn Féin.

  • nineteensixtyseven

    “More info coming into public domain.
    What is position of SF,SDLP, UU, Alliance and Independents on this subject.
    They are very quiet. Full inquiry is needed and DUP to tell us what is going on.”

    I hear John Dallat will be on Radio Ulster tomorrow morning talking about it. This is a very interesting development, the issue just won’t go away.

  • Mannanon mac Lir

    Whilst the earth would have to move to accomodate the Seaport Proposal (or at least the road!); Lo, let us not forget that a goodly proportion of the proposed site actually lies under Causeway Road. Another example of how Minister Dodds was not going to sink any public assets into the pit? Shurely the road belongs to the public……

  • Nevin

    “I hope UNESCO are kept up to date about this controversy.”

    Ulsterfan, I sent an email to Mechtild Rossler on September 17:


    Your name has got a mention in one of Northern Ireland’s newspapers!! Were you ‘impressed’? ….”

    The email contained links to the Slugger debate as well as to a number of webpages on the NALIL blog; the latter illustrated developments at the Causeway – and nearby.

    I thought it was only fair that she should be aware of the risks to the World Heritage status of the Giant’s Causeway.

  • Nevin

    Dawkins, it would appear that the DUP is firmly impaled; I don’t see an easy way out. The ‘drip drip’ keeps the story alive; it also gives courage to those who’ve been afraid to speak out.

  • Nevin

    Mannanon mac Lir, the Minister for Roads and Sewers is Conor Murphy, SF. Was he consulted on either topic?

  • Ian

    “DUP people always wipe their elbows.”

    And they never eat with their arse on the table.

  • Niall

    I see on the SF website that they’re calling for an Independent investigation into the Causeway and for all 4 ministers involved to be questioned.

  • Dawkins


    Excellent! I misjudged them. Happy to admit I was wrong. They do have bottle after all.

  • Nevin

    Newton’s Law – compiled 10/09/2007:


    DUP member of the DETI Committee, Robin Newton MLA has questioned the actions of Direct Rule Ministers and praised devolution as our Ministers set about delivering results for Northern Ireland plc. Commenting the East Belfast MLA said,

    “The development of a world class visitor centre at the Giant’s Causeway is vital for Northern Ireland plc. Northern Ireland is blessed with having a world heritage site located on the North Coast, yet it is mind-boggling that the hundreds of thousands of visitors to this world class site are being serviced by a wooden hut.

    The DUP argued for devolution because we wanted to make Northern Ireland a success and a world leader in every aspect. As part of this strategy the DUP is about the business of ensuring that tourists to our shores have an experience which is second to none.

    It is disgraceful that for seven years Direct Rule Ministers abdicated their responsibility and allowed a premier tourist attraction to be serviced by a sub-standard hut. It is welcome that our local Ministers are pushing ahead to ensure that this world class site has a world class visitor centre.”

    Since then on DUP PR Causeway land: SILENCE – NOT A GULL TO BE SEEN

    More a case of Getting it Tight than Getting it Right.

  • Sir Herbert Mercer

    “And they never eat with their arse on the table.”

    Too busy using it to talk out of.

  • Nevin

    “Serious questions ought to be asked: of both the DUP and Sinn Féin.”

    Dawkins, they are – and not just about politicos. If the Grapevine is a barometer of the news you ain’t seen nothin yet …

  • ulsterfan

    Arlene Foster was on Nolan show this morning but I missed the start.
    Did she say anything of significance and which would give us hope that a change of mind is underway?

  • Nevin

    Mechtild Rossler, a senior Unesco official, clarified the situation

    “We don’t deal with private developers and I expressed that very clearly to Mr Sweeney,” she said.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Pete, that’s a nice bit of investigation. So it turns out that this whole damn thing all along has been at least partially about getting the creationist elbow in the door. Obscene.

  • Dawkins

    Comrade Stalin,

    It’s positively Machiavellian! Never would it have occurred to me that bad science was part of the deal. I’d assumed it was all about naked greed.

  • Nevin

    Why not, Dawkins, mythology has always been part of the Visitor Centre experience?

    Presumably officials in London and Dublin, as well as UNESCO, are looking on in alarm as controversy swirls around Government ministers and officials, as well as the developer, and endangers the status of the World Heritage Site.

  • Fraggle

    Nevin, the mythology is clearly labeled as such and is totally different from young-earth-flood nonsense.

  • Sean

    Hey I wonder how the wacko creationist explain Irish Giants lol

    But seriously how can SF scream and jump up and down on this issue? It would just play into paisleys hands because then he could say”it must be a good idea just look how upset the sinners are”

  • ulsterfan

    Lets switch our attention for a moment to National Trust. They seem to oppose proposals of the site .
    As they own most of the land what is their preference? They can not sit on their hands indefinitely and must become more pro active.
    Moyle council has also a part to play.
    Those of us who oppose private development are slow to recommend an alternative. If a good quality Centre is designed by a public authority then the involvement of a private company becomes irrelevant as the public mood is to retain in public ownership.

  • Nevin

    Ulsterfan, AFAIK Moyle Council owns the land that the current visitor’s centre rests on; NT and private businesses lease from the council. The DETI led design is also on this council land.

  • ulsterfan


    This suggests Moyle Council should be in the best position to do some thing, but I suppose they do not have any money except for the small amount paid out in respect of Insurance claim.
    Would it be heresy to suggest Moyle enter into a partnership arrangement with a business consortium always on the basis the Moyle retain the upper hand in any financial agreement or am I defeating my own argument.
    We want a world class centre whereby profits find a way back to the community for further development.
    Any private money invested should get a commercial return which is attractive enough but no more.

  • Dawkins

    Speaking of Irish Giants, I’d always assumed those basalt columns were huge. The photos I’d seen had no human presence to give me a sense of scale. And I have to say I was mighty disappointed on seeing those piddling little stones.

    The fact that I’d just returned from seeing the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore may have had something to do with it :0)

  • Mark Fartlighter

    How can the DUP be trusted with this issue when the geological explanation of the Causeway is an affront to their religous beliefs?

    They must simply believe that the causeway is just how god created it 6000 years ago – like he created everything else – whats interesting about that? – It is only interesting if 1. Fionn Mac Cumhail made it or 2. it was created by lava ‘n’ shit.

  • unionist

    Its not that much of an affront to their religious beliefs if they are now complaining about the Lottery not giving them the money.

  • pbtdiyer

    Surely the Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church, who has for so long held the moral highground, could not possibly tell a lie.

    Those who have loyally supported Big Ian and the DUP over the years must now, after watching all that has happened this year, must now be wondering where to place their trust in the coming? election.

  • pbtdiyer

    Moyle Council have many things to answer for. Not least is the leasing of a public car park and toilet block to The Bushmills and Causeway Railway a.k.a. S Sweeney. A charge has now been levied for parking and the toilets are for train travellers only.
    The area round the carpark was a picnic and play area for families and this has also been lost.

  • Sean

    “Hey I wonder how the wacko creationist explain Irish Giants lol”

    Believe it or not many of them claim that at the time of Noah or whateverm people were giants. 9-13 feet tall or something. The reduction in average height since has been caused by degeneration of genes, they beleive. They claim to have found “empty” tombs that were built to bury the giant-sized people of the past.

    It really wouldn’t surpise me that the creationist nutters start using the tale of Finn McCool as “evidence” for creationism. After all, Philip Bell, formerly of Answers in Genesis, belives that dinosuars roamed the English countryside in the 15th Century. All based on a crude child-like drawing on the tomb of a Bishop in Carlisle Cathedral.

    All you have to do is drag up a few fairly tales about Irish dragons and they will use them to justify their, um, science. They really do believe such stuff “proves” creationism. They’ve claimed it time and time again.

    I jest not.

    Roger Stanyard