“The Council has now been reluctantly left to go it alone..”

Courtesy of David Gordon’s latest report on the DUP leader’s response to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s refusal of Seymour Sweeney’s application for a grant in 2003, we have the text of the letter sent. And, interestingly, it appears to have been signed on his behalf by Ian Paisley Junior. Updated below the fold.From the letter

“Most serious of all are your allegations that the quality design and application failed to demonstrate that the work proposed showed an awareness of the standards, design, materials, choice and scale required for a world heritage site of national importance. To that I say absolute rubbish.

“UNESCO saw and approved the plans and they were actually very impressed by the proposal.

“Given that you have obviously not considered the detailed designs which were far in excess of other proposals that were made at the same time and are currently being pursued I believe that your reasoning here is completely wrong. You state that public benefits were not demonstrated and that the community in which it was located did not support it. Once again, this is absolute nonsense. The local District Council, when they voted on the various proposals that were actually put to them, demonstrated more support for this application than a rival application by the National Trust, of which I am a member. The Council has now been reluctantly left to go it alone with a much smaller and less ambitious project that would certainly not meet any of the criteria that you have identified.

“To suggest that there would be no additional benefits from such a project is once again sheer nonsense. Either you are completely detached from what is happening on the ground in Northern Ireland, have been poorly advised or are pursing an agenda to ensure that a rival bid receives Heritage and Lottery Funding. If that is the case I will, of course, have to raise this matter of fraudulent application of funding in my constituency at Westminster.”

And another reminder of the other issue that seems to be circling around this controversy.

Update

One point to note is that at the time that Ian Paisley, Snr or Jnr, complained to the HLF, in January 2003, Moyle Council had already decided not to sell its land to anyone.. let alone Seymour Sweeney.

Additionally, the planning application the Environment minister Arlene Foster is now “of a mind to approve” was submitted on 25th February 2002. Well before Ian Paisley was lobbying for a grant for Seymour Sweeney’s Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Trust.

And another reminder of the interests of other DUP members in which project gets approval.

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  • snakebrain

    “If that is the case I will, of course, have to raise this matter of fraudulent application of funding in my constituency at Westminster.”

    Yes, please do Ian

  • Bemused

    Drip……….drip…………………….drip………….. ……………………….drip…………………………………………………………drip

  • USA

    Credit where it’s due Mr. Baker, your persistence on this matter is admirable. This issue, combined with “juniors” recent insults towards homosexuals and his subsequent brazen refusal to apologise, makes me feel that he is not fit for government. Go for the jugular and finish him off, I feel momentum building.
    Having said that, I must confess I feel most of the DUP are intillectual light weights and unfit for government.

  • J_K

    There is no way out of this for the DUP – In a way I feel a little sorry for Arlene Foster but I suspect that she is the Minister who probably end having to resign over this – because the flawed part of the decsion making was hers. When the rweality appears that the Ian Pailseys are the ones who should really be carrying the can for this entire sorrid affair.

    Saddly the real loser is you and me (and especially the local people in teh area) because this will only lead to more delay in getting round to actually building a new visitors centre.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    I am not a DUP Supporter but in the RIP’s defense this letter does not say the UNESCO gave approval to the plans it says they approved them. To me approved {of} means to express a favoural opinion, I might express a favorable opinion about a car that doesn’t mean I have the right to approve its use on the road i.e. give it TYPE APPROVAL.

    So maybe guilty of loose wording by not of misrepresentation.

  • Oiliféar

    Frustrated, you’re clutching at straws.

    Read again what was wrote: ““UNESCO saw and approved the plans and they were actually very impressed by the proposal.”

    The second half of the sentence ‘expresses a favorable opinion’, the first half says they ‘gave approval to the plans.’

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  • Rapunsel

    In my job dealing with public funds I used to get letters like this all the time , almost exclusively from the DUP especially Jim Allister and often in advance of decisions being made.

    Most of them were despatched to the nether regions of the files with a snort of derision and were never passed to the people charged with actually making decions

    Totally pathetic and a typical attempt to bully a public official

    Arlene Foster is now just a patsy in this whole affair, pathetically attempting again today to try and justify her ” minded ” decision

  • Nevin

    “The local District Council, when they voted on the various proposals that were actually put to them, demonstrated more support for this application than a rival application by the National Trust, of which I am a member. The Council has now been reluctantly left to go it alone with a much smaller and less ambitious project that would certainly not meet any of the criteria that you have identified.”

    The Council, AFAIK did not vote on the project presented to LHF ie the one on the green field site. It had rejected the earlier SI and NT projects on Feb 2002.

  • Nevin

    Rapunsel, how is a Minister supposed to arrive at a proper judgement if civil servants are withholding information?

  • Comrade Stalin

    USA:

    This issue, combined with “juniors” recent insults towards homosexuals and his subsequent brazen refusal to apologise, makes me feel that he is not fit for government.

    USA, while I found Junior’s remarks abhorrent, fitness for government should (ultimately) be defined by the results of an election, and not by some arbitrary set of rules. Either way, with the system of patronage and back slapping that persists up in Stormont, I wouldn’t raise my hopes too high that he will be removed any time soon. Do you really think his dad’s going to put him out of work ?

  • Rapunsel

    Not withholding substantive proposal related information Nevin.Ensuring that decisions to be made on merit of the proposal based on the established and published criteria , transparently and equitably

    The type of letter you would get might state

    I am taking a keen interest in this proposal and expect a favourable outcome and will investigate if that is not the case etc.

    Passing this sort of material to groups of people on grant panels for example would be totally wrong and might lead to decisions being made on grounds other than the criteria. It would not be unusual to note in reports that such and such a proposal had recieved letters of support etc

  • The Doc

    Well done Rapunsel ,we need public servants who will act with the propriety that is needed rather than bow to the threats of the bullyboy friends of millionaire property developers.These politicians are a disgrace to the office they hold.

  • Pete Baker

    The original post has been updated with some further thoughts.

  • the serpent

    Nevin

    its not with-holding its filtering and quality assuring.

    Rapunsel

    well said and agree !!

  • Nevin

    Mr Paisley Jnr has said he has nothing to hide.

    “Did I support this application? Did I know this man? I answered ‘yes I know of him, yes’,” he said.

    “I think that is exactly how I answered the questions.

    “It wasn’t as if I was hiding anything, the answer was positive and in the affirmative.

    “This should not be a discussion about the applicant, this should be a discussion about the quality of the application and what will happen.”

    “I know of him” is a description applied to a stranger you’ve heard about, not one that fits ‘the owl and the pussy cat’.

    The ministerial code indicates that a minister is duty bound to award a contract on merit and this would involve the contract and the contractor as both are inextricably linked.

  • BOM

    For info – the letter is PPed saying Ian Paisley. This does not mean that Jnr signed it or even Snr (unless the signature is exactly the same as theirs! – does anyone know?). A Secretary can PP a letter and they do this by signing their own name or the name that of the person who is sending the letter.

    Just a point to note.

    The interview yesterday with Arlene Foster on Nolan was interesting. She handled herself well but I do feel sorry for her because she only inherited this situation through her Department and probably has been forced to be of a “mind” to approve the application under pressure from her DUP colleagues. Maybe the DUP put her in this position on purpose? There seems to be deafening silence from our First Minister in support of her.

  • More on this yesterday evening on the BBC.

  • cynic

    “Totally pathetic and a typical attempt to bully a public official”

    …or even simpler, a really ‘hard’ letter written to impress a constituent and party supporter when you know that it will make bugger all difference to the decision as the civil servants will (rightly) ignore it. But hey, it shows that you are on their side.

    The problem is that 4 years later (remember that) you then come into power and have to learn that you can’t behave this way any more or you get into deep deep trouble. They are on the learning curve and doubtless there is lots more of this garbage from both sides buried away in various planning files.

    By the way, isnt all this local politics wonderful for a change. The debate is just like one in say Dublin or Doncaster Councils.

  • joeCanuck

    It hasn’t gone away you know.

  • Nevin

    News Letter, Oct 6:

    “They are looking for a smoking gun in a drawer,” he noted

    “Well the gun does not exist and the drawer is not there.”

    When will Junior drop his drawers and smoking guns lingo? Surely, the decent thing would be to wait until such a charge is made.

  • snakebrain

    On a side note, where does IPJ get all his pocket money?

    He drives a 50 grand Range Rover, lives in a 350k house (though the jury’s out on who actually owns it..), regularly drops 500 quid on shirts (I know), and has a wife and kids to support, all on a salary of 30k for the past few years, and maybe 45k since March.

    Unless they take up collections for him in the FP churches? Or he has a really big limit on his credit cards?

  • Nevin

    Snakebrain, that’s his second home. I understand their winter palace is in the Hillsborough district.

  • Nevin

    Snakebrain, I’ve just noted this recent comment by Peter Robinson:

    “Mr Robinson rounded on unionists who he said had hoped the Stormont Executive would lurch from crisis to crisis.

    He said there was now increasing political stability.

    Those who thought the Assembly would be overcome by destructive events were desperate and hysterical, he insisted.” Belfast Telegraph, Oct 5

    The Causeway Visitor Centre debacle and the shambles that is the planning service will continue to put pressure on the Executive. Several DUP MLAs have got caught up in a drama that precedes the formation of the current Executive.

    The seemingly trivial ‘I know of him, yes’ and ‘know nothing about him’ remarks coupled with the threat of legal action have released a flood of anecdotes in North Antrim.

    Both remarks have been challenged and investigative journalists are now following up the paper and money trails linked to the anecdotes. Not surprisingly, Slugger O’Toole has probably acquired some new ‘significant’ viewers, even if they don’t follow the example given by David Ford, leader of the Alliance Party.

    These anecdotes have widened the focus of the original story and it’s hardly surprising that journalists will be examining a barrel that contains inter alia politicians, developers, solicitors, bankers, planners, paramilitaries and, perhaps, judges.

    There are many pieces in the jig-saw and it’s likely that they will not paint a pretty picture. ‘Desperation and hysteria’ are beginning to feature in the remarks of some DUP spokespersons.

  • snakebrain

    I’ve often thought that, in the same way that paramilitarism concealed a raft of other crime, so too our abnormal political situation meant a lack of transparency that positively encouraged corruption.