“If the Minister wishes to answer..”

Of interest to Nevin will be this holding statement from the Northern Ireland Minister for Regional Development, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, on the departmental investigation into the tendering process for a Rathlin Island ferry operator.

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  • Pigeon Toes

    So Mr Murphy has finally acknowledged that there may be a few problems with the tendering process.

    But he is at pains to point out that “islanders” did not complain.

    I’m sure those that those who attended the events held by the Northern Ireland Events Company did not complain how the money was being squandered….

    Er Conor, this is public money, and a procurement process.

    Would you now have us believe that the (Rathlin) Islanders pay for it?

    The Rathlin Islanders must be raking it in with all their various EU and lottery grants.

    Perhaps that’s the reason for Daithi looking a tax haven on Rathlin, and why those wishing to book online must pay in euros?

    Rathlin is obviously now part of ROI, well done Conor!

  • Pete, judging by blog statistics, the statement will also be of interest to public servants in Belfast, Dublin and Edinburgh as well as to those in Cork, Glasgow and in the Kingdom of Moyle who’ve been putting in FoI requests to the three governments.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Nevin,
    The documents on your blog are rather revealing. I take it that Mervyn Storey has reason to believe that there would be a “whitewash”?

    Perhaps they will need a bigger brush when they read your site.

  • ggn

    Saying that Rathlin has been mentioned, I noticed that a small collection of Rathlin Folklore has been published in the last few weeks by Coiscéim, ‘Dhá Scéal Reachlann agus Eile’.

    Most of the material in it is translated in Standard Irish and Scottish Gaelic and there is also some basic phrases in Rathlin irish and Islay Gaelic for comparison.

    I havent heard anyone in the Island complaining about the ferry arrangements.

  • Pigeon Toes

    ggn,
    I think that it is the procurement process that is in question here and about a certain £1.2 million being available for capital spend.
    However Mr Murphy has previously stated that he could not tell potential bidders of this.
    That is surprising, since I think the tender was on the cpdni website.

    I don’t think too many of the islanders were happy when they were left without a boat, during part of the period when the Canna went for her annual overhaul.

    I also undersatnd (thanks Nevin), that there may not be a dedicated relief vessel for the service, if either the Canna or the new fast/wet boat breaks down.

    Apparently over the summer months the new boat was out of action more often than she was in …

    The cost to taxpayers is over £4 million pounds for six years.

    Do they not also have the right to complain when there is a problem with the way tenders have been awarded?

    Nevin is very knowledgable on this saga and his blog is well worth a read.

  • Greenflag

    How many people live on rathlin anyway to justify this kind of expenditure?

  • Pigeon Toes

    I think it is between 70 and 100 (depending on time of year annd who your are talking to).

  • Greenflag, I’ve had some fascinating feedback from the West of Ireland on this story; some of the NALILblog material has been published on emara News.

    It would appear that the St Sorney/Sarney has a chequered history. It’s been owned by a publican/transport operator who introduced a topless barmaid to boost attendance on the premises following the introduction of the smoking ban.

    I was told that the vessel has been on ‘every rock on the West of Ireland’ and that one of the shafts had been ‘fine-tuned’ with a sledge-hammer. It would be interesting to know whether or not the surveyors had noted damage to the hull during its last out of water inspection.

    I’m also told that material which has appeared on NALILblog and in the linked Flickr and Scribd websites has encouraged folks to ask similar questions of the Irish government and, no doubt, notes will be compared.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Nevin
    I understand that the boat was renamed the St Sorry over the summer, because of the number of breakdowns.

    Many were amazed that she had got a passenger certifcate at all.

    Looking at the apparent “User Charter” on rathlinballycastleferry.com, one would wonder if there is even a system for Islanders to make an “official complaint”.

    That is the worst “Users Charter” I have ever come across.

    And this company beat Caledonian MacBrayne in a tender process??

    Now I can understand why questions are being asked of the DRD…..

  • Pigeon Toes, it’s been very important that Mervyn Storey, Jim Allister, Billy Armstrong and John Dallat hold ministers and civil servants to account.

    It’s expected that officialdom will attempt to brush matters under the carpet but there’s so much ‘ammunition’ that such a strategy would be ill-conceived.

    I’ve been very disappointed by the docility of the DFP and DRD committees. They’ve left the ‘heavy lifting’ to the ‘concerned taxpayers’.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Nevin,
    John Dallat?
    I thought his party were all for the new operator.

    You had a piece on the blog regarding Declan O’ Loan being very happy with the new service,erm despite not actually getting on the ferry he booked, because it had broken down….again…

    Think it might have been in press as well. Wonder what side of the brush he will be on?

  • ggn, it looks as if this saga could soon be added to the Rathlin folklore collection.

    As PT has noted, there may not be an adequate mechanism in place for islanders and visitors to register their complaints. Also, folks who live on small islands may find it difficult to speak out, especially to the mainstream media.

    I’m indebted to folks in Co Antrim, Co Cork and elsewhere who’ve provided me with the documents or useful insights that have made these stories possible.

  • PT, the SDLP response has been a bit of a curate’s egg.

    John Dallat put down five excellent questions some months ago and the ministerial answers put a huge question mark over the validity of the boxes ticked in Schedule A, a list of essential requirements that had to be met before a tenderer could pass to the next stage. The minister admitted in June that the successful tenderer was still working on documents that were allegedly submitted during the tender.

    Declan O’Loan’s actions are inexplicable. I spoke to him the day that he and other members of the McGimpsey delegation were temporarily ‘stranded’ due to the lack of space on the substitute passenger only ferry. A day or two later he put out a press release to say that all was hunky-dorry [my summary].

    Pete has put up a link to NALILblog and the hyperlinks in the text link to Flickr and Scribd resources. It seems that Peter’s own use of such links has been contagious 🙂

  • Pigeon Toes

    Wonder how Conor and DRD feel about those folk Nevin?

    You have been the only one doggedly going after the story, until now.

    Tell us all again exactly why the panel thought you worthy of the Slugger Award.

    Funny how journalists were quick to jump on that one…

  • Pigeon Toes

    Nevin,
    Are you expecting Mr O loan to be somewhat redfaced, depending on the results of the whitewash/investiagtion.

    Was JD in the deputy Speaker Chair yesterday?

    Perhaps why he gave the Minister the choice if whether he wanted to answer

    Not one investigaton but THREE (?)

  • Pigeon Toes

    Nevin,
    Are you expecting Mr O loan to be somewhat redfaced, depending on the results of the whitewash/investiagtion?

    Was JD in the deputy Speaker Chair yesterday?
    “Thats right Penelope”.

    Perhaps that is the reason he gave the Minister the choice if whether he wanted to answer.

    Not one investigaton but THREE (?)

  • PT, journalists seem very keen on smoking guns but, on this occasion, there’s been so much smoke they may have been afraid of the ‘big guns’.

    There have been three investigations so far and, in light of some new information, there may well be a need for an investigation into the operation of the ferry service since July 1:

    “Q: Name of the relief vessel for the MV Canna and the date from which it was available for use on the Rathlin route

    A: The MV Margaret Sinclair was available to act as a relief vessel for the MV Canna from 28 September 2008”

    Whatever happened to the MV Bruernish? Wasn’t it supposed to be the relief vehicle only vessel?

    Can we conclude that there was no relief vehicle carrying vessel from July 1 until September 27? The Margaret Sinclair was only available for three days and the Canna was absent for at least five. Is there currently a relief vessel for the MV Canna?

  • Pigeon Toes

    Is the Causeway Explorer the relief vessel for the “St Sorney”?

    I belive that she can carry in around 10-15 passengers. Would that be allowed, since the other passenger boat carries 35?

    Would DRD pay subsidy for this, if this boat does not have the same capacity as the other?

    How many passengers can the Margaret Sinclair carry?
    How many can the passenger boat carry over winter?
    Am thinking that the passenger potential may be vastly reduced in the event of Canna breaking down over the winter

  • AFAIK the Causeway Explorer and the Margaret Sinclair can each carry only up to 12 passengers. I doubt if either is listed as a respective like-for-like relief vessel, more like an emergency substitute with greatly diminished capacity.

    Presumably DRD can claw back subsidy anytime the operator breaches the terms of the contract – if there is a legal contract between DRD and RIFL.

    The released passenger certificate for the St Sorney has no Winter capacity and it terminated at the end of October. How come it was running after September 28, the quietly arranged new date for the commencement of the Winter timetable?

    Weather conditions were bad yesterday. I’m told that the Canna was not in use but the St Sorney was!!

  • Pigeon Toes

    Perhaps the Canna has broken down!

  • PT, the RIFL website isn’t in great shape; it doesn’t appear to abide by e-commerce regulations. At this moment, there’s no company registration number, VAT number or Companies House(?) registered business address for starters.

    Perhaps Sluggerites could identify other shortcomings on the website ….

  • Pigeon Toes

    I think they may be stretching the truth with their ahem “performance charter”.

    Got a lot of “charters” havent they?

    Since when did a “sailing” become a “trip”?

    They cannot even get the terminology right, which should cast doubts on whether they are an experienced ferry company.
    That is , if the eejits who gave them the contract are familiar with maritime terms, laws etc…

    It might be worth checking out their terms and conditions Nevin.

    There are a few obvious “cut and paste” jobs there