OFMdFM uses the new Entreprise Zones to effect another power grab on Planning….

So, the original intention of the planning bill was to transfer it out of Stormont’s control and pass it back to local councils. Except that an amendment to come before Stormont in session that starts at 12 noon (viewable here) will see OFMdFM appropriate control over planning in the Entreprise Zone…

The zones would be administered by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM). In effect, it would mean Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness would be in charge of planning in certain areas, rather than Mr Attwood.

Mr Attwood said he would not support the proposed changes to planning law. The SDLP member added that he did not think OFMDFM should act as a “planning authority”.


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  • cynic2

    We cannot have these small parties like the SDLP interfering in policy. They should know they are only there as window dressing for the big boys.

    I also don’t understand the concern about calling these powers into OFMDFM. From their past careers Marty and Peter have the ideal skill mix to promote development – one in the strategic demolition of buildings and one who can always call on his wife’s extensive industry contacts for advice

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Cui Bono, eh, Cynic2? But its not just the minor parties who are being marginalised, its all of us!!!!

    As this was going up I’ve been commenting (no.23) on the issue as it may effect Peter’s retirement over on the “Upon retirement from the Assembly, Peter Robinson “might try my hand at something other than politics” thread. I’ll just paste it here again for those who may not have any pressing concern about Peter’s uncertain future but are worried about the serious planning issues:

    “I would have thought that Peter would already have had both hands fully engaged attempting to seize major planning issues from the hands of poor Alex Attwood in the interest of concreting-in the province through unconditional planning permission where some PR company can hype up the financial benefit.

    (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-23008888)

    Although Alex’s own claim that “aspects of the DUP/Sinn Fein amendments could run foul of European law” sounds rather strange in the light of his own flouting of UNESCO with his almost unbelievable decision to override planning (and other) advice during the recent Runkerry Golf war.

    Oh well, one stage nearer to no planning regulations whatsoever and a free for all for the benefit of the wealthy Globalisers and developers among us! They can now persuade the banks that they are a good bet for more loans and kick the can down the road until the world economy drops over the abyss. And with all our once attractive resources in land used to build housing estate ghost towns and more and more unused enterprise parks and empty hotels, like the ROI (who are still “recovering” from their own enterprise boom on other (German) people’s money), we will have a very deep hole to climb out of to rebuild even the very weakest of economies.

    But at least on his retirement Peter will have a long list of new close “friends” whose major development proposals he will have rubber stamped, undoubtedly for the greater good of the community at large. The public cannot fail to benefit from the trickle down of wealth that all these unnecessary and unused major developments will naturally generate for us all.

    Oh, and just an aside, is it not truly amazing that the one thing the OFMdFM and their followers in two big parties at Stormont can actually get together on without rancour is advancing the interests of the developers and Globalisers?”

  • son of sam

    No surprise that the D U P are attempting this smash and grab.Perhaps we could hear from some of the Sinn Fein posters on Slugger explaining the rationale for their support of this amendment !

  • Drumlins Rock

    Well it at least answers one question, what was the payback for the DUP giving SF what they want on most other issues.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I was never much of a fan of the “lets get a house under PPS21 for the poor man and secure a few votes” possibilities in placing planning control in the hands of local councils, rare though such unethical conduct would have been in practice considering the high standards of probity we must all have experienced in our dealings with councillors.

    But this long simmering take-over of the really important planning decisions by the OFMdFM joint monarchy raises the dangers of rule by (virtually unsupervised) decree frighteningly high.

    I’ve only just been checking out the Anglo-Irish bank “secret recordings” (http://www.independent.ie/business/irish/inside-anglo-the-secret-recordings-29366837.html ) and my residual high levels of paranoia about the unscrutinised decisions of Our Masters has just hit new levels (well, I knew it was as cynical as that, I’ve been to these meetings myself in my earlier media incarnation, but…..)

    The Global Financial Crisis of 2007/8 and its aftermath in ROI alone should have showed the basic silliness of driving economic growth with any un-thoughtout building boom, but no one seems to have learnt the lesson, so here the lemmings go again. Possibly because almost every politician appears to have developed some friendships in the development community in the course of their careers.

    But land is not among those things that may be manufactured, and the careless waste of good land during the building boom in useless major building projects, etc, etc, in the ROI should have offered a salutary warning against going down this road to future prosperity. But perhaps the wisdom acquired through unceasing public service by the two international statesmen who are the OFMdFM will ensure that they do not repeat these mistakes?

  • cynic2

    “Perhaps we could hear from some of the Sinn Fein posters on Slugger”

    There wont be a cheep. They are much too busy with heroic Gerry the Landrover Bonnet Mascot Impersonator

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Good Lord, while real (if boring) issues that will effect every one of us are being railroaded through Stormont, the “Look Kittens” issue of the War of Gerry’s Bonnet ride shows up even here!

    But I suppose that the sexy lure of the nostalgic riots and confrontations of our youth is too great. So just ignore the all important but never to be used massive hotel they will build in your back garden (Just about anywhere, now OFMdFM can simply rubber stamp such developments) or the new dual carriageway built through your compulsorily purchased front garden. Just drive from Belfast to Larne for examples of exactly this sort of expensive silliness that will now be much easier for our Masters to simply decree.

  • cynic2

    The biggest joke of it all is that we elect the buggers

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Alas, cynic2, you might vote and laugh, but I save shoe leather and, as Willie Yeats told my grandfather, “stay at home and drink my beer and let my neighbours vote.” And weep!

    Now a local version of Beppe and the Five-Star Movement (called, perhaps, “páirtí cúig réalta”?) might just tempt me to the Ballot box rather than endlessly re-reading Marcuse (yet another “let your neighbour vote” man, but on the Left, to just even things up).

    I noticed that the slogan “If voting changed anything, they’d ban it” at Short Strand during the last election was no sooner dry than panicking lackeys came to paint over it. The rule is: “Do nothing to interfere with the myth that you can elect honest men who will right wrongs.” Such men usually get shot, hanged or die of starvation rather than get elected.

    But my idealistic civil-rights self from all those long, long years ago still dreams of someone (ANYONE!) who might rid us of “the present one-party-rule-in-each-of-two-separate-fiefdoms that we have at the moment.”

  • Delphin

    The road improvements on the Larne line are essential. You see the cargo from the ferry has to be unloaded in Larne then moved by road quickly to Belfast. Unloading the cargo in Belfast is not an option as this would offer no financial gain to Sammy Wilson’s chums. This was part of the deal that got the A5 built. Oops that didn’t quite work out did it? We need the the OFMDFM to sort that one out. It’s either that or pipe bombs at 20 paces, apparently.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Good grief Delphin, do you have shares in road building? I have travelled the Larne Belfast line for donkeys years day and night and until the present roadworks the only hold ups I ever encountered were during the really big snowfalls. The Trucks have always had a clean 60mph run, although the road works have now substantially added to current journey times…..

    So the only people I see benefiting are road builders and people who always wanted a four foot deep front lawn on front of their (once) rural homes.

    And note that our wee Sammy is a shining example of probity and a model of dispassionate public service, so the suggestion that he is doing tradeoffs is utterly unfounded, possibly originating in the murmurings of those jealous DUP members of the Larne Council Planning committee.

    I truly look forward to the day when Sammy is sole occupier of the OFM. A financial genius whose international reputation dates from his First Class Doctoral Degree at LSE and his ground breaking work on the board of Merrill Lynch, he will be a worthy, entirely uncorruptable sucessor to poor Peter. It would be tragic to ask him to dilute his talents by having to share power with even so experienced a statesman as Lord Ken Maginnis.

    Incidentelly, Peter should have the outstanding Standards and Privileges Enquiry into his own financial dealings in the period proceeding “Irisgate” completed in an exhaustive and transparent manner, in order to remove all stains from his name once and for all as he undertakes the new responsibility of Lord High Development Master. The terrible stress of the uncompleted enquiry will eventually wear down even his great moral strength and must be affecting his performance as an international statesman. It is so very, very unfair that Peter has to depend for his good name only on an in house Lawyer’s letter stating that he did nothing wrong. Rather like a letter from his mother, really. The unremitting stress of the pending enquiry is un unwarranted burden on him in his role commanding our fates, and now, with the added responsibility of having to make all the really important planning decisions, he may even find he has accidently rubber stamped a number of major planning proposals simply because the faces of the applicants seem rather familiar to him. It all seems so very unfair.

  • son of sam

    So it’s business as usual at O F M/DFM .Another sham fight over the Gerry Kelly incident while its best friends together over the late late planning amendment .Still waiting for an explanation from one of our Shinner posters but we’ll not hold our breath!Meanwhile the posts on Gerry Kelly and P S N I approach 200!!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    200 by midnight, SonofSam, I bet! Good to see that this wheelchair version of the Good Auld Cause of the 1970/80s is playing to the mass audience, just like a Stones concert, with the boys zimmer frames behind the Amps and that this really, really serious province (let alone room) tilting legislation has only an elite group of commentators……

  • belfasthobo

    Well, we all knew it was only a matter of time before DUP/SF started taking powers away from the other exec parties. The question is whether there is a point in the SDLP staying in the executive. Frankly, if they stay they will become an even bigger joke and prove how redundant they have become.

  • aquifer

    “the high standards of probity we must all have experienced in our dealings with councillors”

    So why do all the councillors strive to get on the planning committee?

    Donegal has been wrecked by bungalows uber alles.

    Giving the councillors the say-so will be a disaster, and all this ‘prioritising economic development’ guff is just an excuse to put things in the wrong place, wrecking everybodys’ view to make someone a few bob. Very few reasonable developments are refused permission already.

    Nowadays there are probably more developers wishing they had not been given permission for their megaschemes.

    It seems Istanbul has better city parks than we have.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Yes, Yes, Yes, I agree with everything you say Aquifer, and the really bizarre thing is that the “prioratising economic development” is always at the expense of what might just make the country worth living in and never seems to actually create anything valuable, simply to add to the “Pave the World” movement.

    The only good news is that no one wants to lend anyone anything at all, and the dream that China might underpin a recovery is at last being given a douche of cold water with the imminent collapse of the Chinese banking system.

    So no money for even reasonable development and lots of farmers trying to sell their old homes to all those people who want to live in the beautiful countryside after the seller had moved into their brand new PPS21 mansions. That demand for country homes was before the big petrol hykes actually, and before the PPS21 building boom covered the once beautyful countryside with a suburban like sprawl of big breeze block barns for living in that new comers were expected to live beside in the old 1960s bungelow and be grateful. But then no one told the “farmers” that house values could move down as well as up…..landing them with a morgage and an unsold (perhaps unsellable) house in a world were morgages were as rare as honest local councillors.

    But now about all those high standards of probity, it depends on which council you live under. Now if you live under the local council handling local issues in Plato’s world of ideal forms…. then “the high standards of probity we must all have experienced in our dealings with councillors” is simply the norm. But for the rest of us……

    And about Constantanople’s lovely parks, I hear they are full of out of control armed police, now where did I come across that somewhere nearer home recently?

  • Gopher

    I used the term Vichy a few threads ago to describe the puppet ministries of the SDLP, UUP and Alliance I see Jim Allister is thinking along similar lines. The continued participation of these parties in government [sic] is beyond comprehension and their hubris ,crass stupidity, and moral cowardice is now irrefutable.

    I know Cromwell ain’t to popular with some people but no offence I can’t help think of that rump parliament speech

    “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately … Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

  • son of sam

    SeaanuUiNeill
    192 on the Gerry Kelly blog at midnight .A few more crazy posts and your target will be met!!

  • iluvni

    So, will this mean it more or less likely that we’ll see more of these blight on the landscape windfarms destroying the countryside?

  • son of sam

    Why are all our Sinn Fein posters suddenly so coy about their support of the OF M/D F M sponsored amendment to the Planning Bill.We are constantly lectured about the need for transparency in the political process and unless I have missed some radio/tv interviews it seems to have been left to Peter Weir(D U P) to argue the case for the amendment .

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Son of Sam, saddly they didn’t make the twin century, but the thread is still in at the stumps, so they should pass it during today’s play. And Gopher, much as I’d love to see someone dismiss all these troughers with their snouts in Parlimentary swill, it might just worry me if it was a psycopath who thinks he is God’s chosen (not alone there) who might give Stalin a run on the Katyn style victum count with a good wind. But each to their own.

    Vichy is a good description although many of the collaborators were convinced Nazis, in which our collaborators differ. I feel that the relationship has more of the Stockholm syndrome in it. I may be very wrong in my own credulity here, but the faint whispers I have heard suggest that Alex having given the essensially DUP desired Runkerry approval to “Alpha Course” male Dr Alastair Hanna might perhaps have been one of those trade offs that Sammy Wilson was so unjustly accused of above. Saddly wee “English” Alex seems to have ignored what would have been traditional advice if he were a local (“when you sup with the DUP take a long spoon”) and only brought a very, very short spoon to the table. But I hear they have left him a few environmental issues Peter and his chums don’t care about as the Rapture will be lifting them to their eternal reward any day now, so the environment is hardly an issue……

  • Donegal has been wrecked by bungalows uber alles

    About 25 years ago, a relative of mine wanted to build such a dwelling. He had to deliver a bag of money to the son of a well known individual before he got planning permission.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hiya iluvni, the only good thing about the wind farms is that when the big companies have milked the gullable farmers after persuading them into paying gigantic head costs for putting one or two windmills up, the maintenence costs kick in and few can actually afford to keep them up (literally) economically. So you are begining to see idle windmills and even some of the older ones actually taken down.

    The real blight though is all these extra houses the size of small factories on farms everywhere. So very obvious as vote bribe!

    This opportunity for every medium size “farmer” to make money (anyone that is, yes anyone! with a farm number, even if they are senile or are too busy building aeroplane wings or something to do more than swan about occasionally in an old wrecked tractor) debauched their last withered moral values, for if they are developing their own land themselves to make a few bob, how can they be opposed to Dr Hanna and all those other development alchemists who can turn breeze block into gold. Hense the new OFMdFM powers…….

  • Gopher

    The simple fact is the SDLP, UUP and Alliance need to put clear distance between themselves and these ideologues and enthusiasts of superstition. Call it Vichy, call it Stockholm, it is now Quisling. SF and the DUP are our elected government for our sins , it is now the moral duty of every other party to change that or get out of politics its their raison d’être ,sitting in a puppet ministry is not politics its personal greed and will change nothing. Attwoods remaining ministerial power is his ability to tell his chauffeur where to go until SF and the DUP strip him of that.

  • Melanie

    There are undoubtedly many deals sitting behind this amendment: between the Conservative party and the OFMDFM – between the Conservative party and the oil/gas industry – between the DUP/SF and the oil/gas industry. Without transparency in donations to political parties in Northern Ireland, who is to know how much the oil/gas industry has funded the DUP/SF? The links between the industry and the Conservative party are well known…and they’ve made very clear their support for shale gas. This amendment is very much about paving the way for shale gas tax revenue from Northern Ireland to be realised in London, for political parties to continue being funded by the oil/gas industry, and for wealthy individuals in the political sphere to continue to benefit from their links to the oil/gas industry…David Cameron has made it very clear to our FM and DFM that he wants to frack Northern Ireland.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Melanie for your clear and concise summation of the international interest in “fracking nonsense” at the heart of it all, compared to which windmills, hotels and building blight are simply support acts brought into the show to fill out a very thin bill by their contacts pulling the impresarios sleeve! Everyone reading this should press your profile and read your comments on the 2011 fracking threads.

    Now the English really need the Gas to start flowing from Fermanagh as they are heavily exposed to Irish debt. In 2010, the UK (admitted) lending to Irish banks 83 billion (53 billion by was of Ulster Bank, who pushed the 120% mortgages that effectively broke the ROI economy back then. The Gas won’t plug the hole but every little helps!

    It is very, very important to remember all this when Cathal Boylan tells us that the measure is not about fracking but is about creating jobs and trying to keep our young people in Northern Ireland. Presumably so they can add their own unique contributions to the youth suicide figures when mortgage slavery and the gross despoliation of their country in the interests of (international) enterprise have driven them to utter despair. Although I imagine that Cathal probably believes this hogwash when Dr Johnston said that Patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel, he hadn’t heard the cry of “Youth and Jobs” so plaintively raised to cover any and every favour by politicians to financial interests. Talk about mother and apple pie!!!!!!

    And Gopher, the 32 who voted against the measure might just realise that now is the time to realise that the old political agreements everything at Stormont is based on were never going to work with two parties who could teach Felix Dzerzhinsky a thing or two about brutal, cynical manipulation of the weak and defenceless. But I doubt it!

  • Fracking seemed to be an incredible answer to the increasing demand for oil and gas but apparently the wells created are only viable for a few short years. There is a demand for licences to frack here in Canada too. I think there needs to be a moratorium for a few years to decide whether it is safe and economical to proceed. The oil/gas industry is as irresponsible and greedy as the bankers – see the thread on the Anglo-Irish tapes.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Mister Joe, an old friend of mine who really needed a house on his farm for his son, applying under PPS21, was inexplicabaly refused while his neighbour was given permission even though he, in fact, failed every one of the criteria. The only thing I could think of was that the neighbour did not have an O in front of his surname. Just a coincidence, really.

  • Hi Seaan,

    I have long thought (decades) that the only people who should be allowed to build in the countryside are the sons and daughters of people actively involved in farming. Agricultural land is too valuable. If the populations of towns and cities are expanding, build upwards and have lots of open spaces.

  • Gopher

    I heard Minister Attwood being called Varys by one wag, I bit harsh given Vary’s castration was physical rather than political. It seems the OFMODFM now have a Enuch, how Byzantine.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    But, Gopher, Varys may not have his appendages, but if you are reading the books not yet televised, he has not as yet been taken to the cleaners and stripped to his underpants publically by any of the other characters.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Mister Joe, the real problem is that lots of people have been acquiring farm numbers and buying land speculativly. They do not (and will never) “farm” in any really meaningful sense, but rent out conacre to land hungry “real” farmers and can apply for farm payments and PPS21 building sites. Anyone who has had a farm number for seven years can get a site, and the criteria seem to shift unaccountably according to who is interpreting them in the planning office (or what instructions come from “above”). While Tax and inheritance rules clearly discriminate between real Farmers and mere troughers, the new PPS21 does not.

    This has been a festering sore of corruption to anyone made aware of it, but it helps so may DUP/SF voters that everyone appears to turn a blind eye.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Son of Sam! “Perhaps we could hear from some of the Sinn Fein posters on Slugger explaining the rationale for their support of this amendment!”

    They have fully and comprehensively explained this at last. As I posted above, Cathal Boylan tells us that the measure is not about fracking but is about creating jobs and trying to keep our young people in Northern Ireland.

    Wouldn’t be a lot less disruptive and inexpensive to simply put them all in the Maze like local administrations used to?

  • Bungditin

    The amendments to the Planning Bill passed by the Assembly yesterday, largely mirror proposals first mooted by David Cameron and the Conservative Party a number of months back when considering greater deregulation of planning in England and Wales, as well as placing curbs on those who would have the audacity to dare challenge an economically important planning decision on environmental grounds.

    The reluctance of Sinn Fein posters to justify their party position is understandable, as who wants to come out and admit that the staunch Irish Republican Cathal Boylan is the proposer and advocate of British Tory policy,

    No doubt Cathal’s Knighthood is in the post!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As I said above, the real issue is who can co-operate with a vaseline smoothness when Big Money From Off is singing its siren song from the shadows.

    I too hope that the future Sir Cathal does not fail to receive his just and proper rewards among the honours, but also that Lord Ken is soon joined in the Lords by another enobled Maginnis.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Actually if we are ever going to see real politics here we need to be saying OFMDFM use power grab to pass through planning for new enterprise zones. I haven’t read a single post but I would be surprised if any mentioned the planning debate over the partisan issues.

  • cynic2

    “They do not (and will never) “farm” in any really meaningful sense”

    ….i think you are partly right. But you miss one critical point. A “farmer” can pas the farm to his/her children free of Capital Gains Tax …..that’s why its do dashed attractive. As an example a friend of mine just moved out of the city and bought a farm calling himself now a sheep farmer …at the age of 67. He loves it and realizes the benefits He does keep sheep – about a couple of dozen to start with – and pays a man to help look after them

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Yeah, Cynic2, thats some cousin of the boys I’m writing about. So the poor guy actually actually bought the sheep. He almost sounds like a real farmer compared to some.

    If he had any savvy he should have borrowed some, like the people round me who have heard the whisper (from those who wake early and listen to “Farming Today” on the wireless) that Farm Payments may be only available to real farmers, with their qualifying activity checked against the annual Agricultural & Horticultural returns they all have to file with DARD. So people who do not even know what a sheep looks like are borrowing flocks and paying neighbours so they can muzz up these issues on their returns.

    A tax hungry Government will hardly let up the chance of Death Duties on such farms, however. Such a shame that the Tax have one set of criteria to judge Farmer status and DARD and the Planning office quite another. A lot of unnecessary farm payments could be curtailed…..

  • son of sam

    Maybe I’m flogging a dead horse on this topic but if Cathal Boylan thinks that this amendment is so full of merit ,why has the message not got through to the troops on the ground.If we look at the thread on Gerry Kelly or the vilification of the S D L P over the Allister bill,party posters were queuing up to give us the benefit of their wisdom.I look forward to reading the contributions from SF M L As in the Assembly to learn why the case for supporting the amendment is so persuasive .It seems that I am unlikely to find it on Slugger!

  • Gopher

    Well basically this week is seeing the elimination of all opposition by the Stormont Co-prosperity sphere and the minnows really made it easy for them. The SDLP are going to be down 6-7 seats if the constituencies are cut to five seats. The incredible thing is they believe being continually caught like rabbits in the headlights by SF is the correct strategy. If the rest of the parties dont grow up and mature and form a coherent front very quickly there will be no opposition at all.

  • Comrade Stalin

    While I have a lot of problems with this decision in principle, in practice it probably won’t change anything. OFMDFM is the department that takes six years to agree the wording of a three page document.

  • Bungditin

    The DUP abused a “Petition of Concern” on two occasions to ensure the words “protecting the environment” did not get included in one clause and that an objector to a planning decision is denied the same rights of appeal as a developer, in another.

    A Petition of Concern should only to be used when there is a genuine concern that one community may be disadvantaged by discriminatory or bad law. It is shameful that it can be continually abused by the DUP for personal political and most likely unknown developer interests.

    It is difficult to understand why the term “protecting the environment” is so offensive to the DUP, or how it disadvantages the unionist community, particularly as the UUP, NI21 and TUV voted for its inclusion.

    Perhaps it is its shady developer backers who would be disadvantaged!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Alas, Comrade, decisions necessary to the well-being of International Finance and the Oil Industry may not gather quite so much dust. The one thing that really seems to galvanise the terrible twins is the call of money.

    Suddenly I get this aweful sense of Déjà-vu all over again. In the early sixties a block vote carried anything necessary through Stormont against an entirely powerless opposition and the first minister governed the entire charade as a sort of minor despot with his finger in every pie.

    The only change seems to be that I’m seeing double this time around.

  • Gopher

    Where are the enterprise zones in NI and what is the criteria for their creation?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Very good question Gopher! I’ve been trying to find out if there is anything actually stated anywhere since Sunday.

    The words “Pig” and “Poke” come to mind. And the OFMdFM are hardly a model of transparancy and accountability in their past dealings both individually and collectivly. Anything looks like coming to light either incumbant can always ask a laywer they meet in a pub to tell us all that there is “no case to answer.”

    But fracking Fermanagh is such an unpopular proposition for most of us that they need plerary powers to keep the tree huggers and anyone else sane at a working distance.

    What a pity it is Wee Alex arguing that “he had received legal advice that the new zones could run foul of European directives, as they did not exclude EU wild birds and habitats directives.” Alex himself had also received Planning advice in a very full report that the Runkerry Golf Hotel and ancillary housing estate was against virtually every sane planning directive (see: the Northern Area Plan 2016: http://www.planningni.gov.uk/index/policy/dev_plans/devplans_az/northern_2016/northern_countryside/northern_countryside_causeway.htm). What a pity Alex own record as an environmentalist (ie: someone who conspiciously ingored the UNESCO status of the Gaints Causeway) fails to put the gravatas that it deserves behind this important arguement.

    But the serpentine Peter as High Lord Enterprise Zone Planner…….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Another important question is what these Enterprise Zones are actually going to achieve for all the money taht will be lavished on them. Some time back I described the thinking about the Runkerry Development among the DUP as a “Cargo Cult.” The same quasi-religious thinking seems to apply to attracting any business to the country, and ususlly stymies any real enterprise taking root. We simply end up with a series of bankrupsies and a lot of building stock. But as this is how the DUP/SF joint monarchy in general may be approaching the OFMdFMs new plenary powers I think my description of a Cargo Cult bears repeating here:

    “I begin wonder if the Runkerry development plan is actually an example of a local “Cargo Cult”? Perhaps our excellent Anthropology Department at QUB would clarify this for me!

    As I understand it, Cargo Cults started to appear in pre-industrial societies (what in Tyler’s day used to be called “primitive”) in the south seas when such cultures came into contact with more advanced cultures possessing very desirable manufactured goods. Cult participants have little understanding of how these goods actually come into being. They focus their energy on overcoming magically the “power” by which members of industrial societies “attract” the goods, and attempt to challenge them with counter “attraction” rituals intended to draw the “cargo” to themselves. Notable examples of cargo cult activity might include the building of mock airstrips, airports, offices, and dining rooms, sometimes even entire hotel structures, although the golf course is a new one on me!

    In a process called “fetishization” the cult members create non-functioning copies of goods they have seen that mark the more advanced societies, such as radios or cars made of coconuts and straw. These building activities are intended, like the development activities described earlier, to “attract” the actual goods of the more advanced culture with no more effort on the part of the cult members. As cult members conceive the situation there is no further need to develop proper manufacturing or any knowledge of science proper, let along assess what is actually possible in the real world. Does any of this ring any bells yet?

    Even when these building projects, which may cost the cult members exceptional amounts of time and wealth, finally fail to deliver anything this is put down to some magical failure on the devotees’ part. I’m uncertain as to whither they have got around to raising bank loans to pay for such pointless building activity or to the development of bloated public sector employment as a substitute for assessing how to develop a proper manufacturing base yet, however, but I’m pretty sure that unlike our local Cargo Cults devotees, the Melanesian Cult members have not yet got around to paying for professional planning advice that can be willfully ignored as part of the ritual process.

    Oh, and a cult on the Island of Tanna worships Prince Philip as a god. He is said to be the brother of John Frum, the Cargo cult spirit who will return to Tanna on February 15th some year with untold quantities of goods for his true believers, making them rich beyond their wildest dreams.

  • There were “enterprise zones”called by a different name back in the 60s, possibly even later.. The deals done to attract inward investment (mainly) was to build factories for companies and let them have them rent free for a number of years and, in addition have much reduced taxes, perhaps none at all. They were very successful in bringing large multinational into the zones, for example Dupont just outside Derry. Dupont may even had a great deal in getting steam at a reduced rate from Coolkeeragh Power Station adjacent. There were a significant number of others too. But here’s the rub; when the grants came to an end, the companies shutdown and went elsewhere looking for a similar deal. That’s one of the four main reasons I emigrated. Three big companies in and around the town where I lived did just that in a very short period of time and I feared for the future economic prospects for my two kids.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    HJello Mr Joe, I remember the old enterprise zones too! And how quickly they packed up and moved, leaving hundreds of people without work. This is the very serious end of what I’m facetiously describing above as Cargo Cult thinking. Seemingly, no one in government here or in the UK understands manufacturing and the complex network of support structures that it requires to function, ie: how things actually get made. They hope that a few economic bribes to Big Boys From Off will do the trick, and ever since Terence O’Neill’s attempts to drag us all into the modern world floundered on this sort of (non) thinking the real economic base of the province has been dropping down a black hole. So now 70% of local incomes are directly and indirectly subsidised by the Westminister Government.

  • Seaan,

    In some cases it was not hundreds but thousands of people losing what they thought would be relatively well paid lifetime employment.
    As a manager I used to almost boke when those higher than me exclaimed “people are our most important asset”. Utter tosh .

  • Delphin

    Minister Attwood  is saying that these zones will breach European law such as the Habitats Directive. It will be interesting to see how that one works out, after all the FM and DFM are only law abiding when it suits them. Maybe they will send Gerry Kelly over to Brussels to ride about on the bonnets of the bureaucrat’s cars until they change their minds.
    Anyway, the common belief is that this legislation will facilitate fracking.
    This link gives natural gas prices in USA Europe and Japan
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Natural_Gas_Price_Comparison.png
    The drop in prices in the USA are put down to fracking.
    Given that up to 40% of households in NI are in fuel poverty, a price drop would provide welcome relief. Also if fossil fuel needs to be used (which it does), locally produced natural gas is about as green as it gets.
    My concerns would be:
    Firstly, that the environmental impact would be minimised. I believe that European environmental legislation is more rigorous than that in some states in the USA and as long as that is applied properly, impacts should be controllable. The lack of an independent Environment Agency, and the above comments over the levels of environmental protection in these enterprise zones are worrying

    Secondly the ability of OFMDFM to get a good deal from the oil/gas companies. Has their previous experience in militant NI street politics and estate agency prepared them to deal with multi-national oil and gas companies? The NICS track record of dealing with smart Americans such as John Z DeLorean is not good either

    Oh and Seaan -welcome-I think your description of the Cargo cult could equally apply to all those highly desirable shiny things made in China by Foxconn and marketed by the likes of Apple etc

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Delphin, the real problem is that fossel fuels are running out and making them all panic. Any cheap fuel blip will be short lived. And any significant amount of gas will only be extracted from the Fermanagh underbelly with serious environmental damage, and then, as Mr Joe tells us above, for about three months at that.

    The local fuel poverty is compounded by planning having let through endless great unheatable barns for living in that suck up over £300 of oil a month as the leaves turn.

    And anyone reading my other postings will know I’m not a consumerist, but years in the film and design business have shown me that Apple actually do make a much better professional computer for any graphic work, or at least did before the went all popular and went to China and the ROI. I’ve tried others and ….no. However, I now hear that since Steve Jobs passed over the MacPro I use for work is being phased out. Apple need to concentrate on Bright Shiny Things as status symbols I suppose.

  • Delphin

    Seaan the real problem with fossil fuel is that the CO2 released will cause climate change. Oil at $100 a barrel is running out, but there is plenty at $200 a barrel. There are considerable potential reserves of natural gas in the shale underlying Fermanagh and Sligo enough to last for years rather than months
    The environmental impact of oil and gas extraction is very much dependent on the competence of the regulator. For example the Shell operation in the Niger delta is, by all accounts, an environmental disaster, were as the extraction of oil and gas in the North sea has resulted in low environmental impact with a high economic gain

  • SeaanUiNeill

    From my own experiences attempting to report a rural polution issue of weedkiller sprayed into a watercourse, I have a very low respect for the actual practice of applying regulation.

    The water people came three weeks later, innored the samples I’d taken, dated and had countersigned by a neighbour, took their own and found (surprise, surprise!) nothing in the watercourse. Thereare ways and maens of getting round regulations, despite the impossibly high standards of scrutiny Norn Iron is famous for.

    And the assessment of potential oil and gas reserves worry me as I know quite a few people in the Oil business at all levels, who privately talk just like the crooks who were running Anglo-Irish. Some of these people (at least) are just hoping for a few years of fees and screw whats left.

  • Delphin

    Seaan, I agree, there is no sentiment in business, they will maximise profit – that’s the nature of the beast. We rely on government to control them. How much faith do you have in Stormont? I have none
    I also agree with your comments the environmental regulator; they sat on their hands while waste from the South was illegally landfilled in Fermanagh causing untold environmental damage. It took a ‘realignment’ of senior management in the Environment Agency to bring that under control.

  • 241934 john brennan

    In the North, Sinn Fein are super Tories, supporting big business, while imposing austerity measures on the poor
    .
    In the South they are super socialists, proposing taxes on the middle and working classes, making the state responsible for everything, while the workers pay for it.

    At all points of the compass, Sinn Fein, without any sense of hypocrisy, consistently goes in only one direction – towards their own perceived self interest.

  • Red Lion

    Another bad example of carve up government.

    Martin and Peter know best!! And there really is no need to challenge them so lets get rid of that nasty court checks and balances thing which all democracies set so much store in.

    Cosy government, lack of scrutiny, keeping your opponents and the private citizen weak, cronyism and backscratching is what this stinks of.

    And The Sinn Fein Boylan wouldn’t even take questions on this highly important issue from his political opponents. What was it Cathal, shame? guilt? scared of the truth? hypocrisy?

    The smaller parties have to come together – do domething – to provide an alternative.

  • Gopher

    While planning and development in NI is a quagmire and is solely designed to fuel the legal system it will now be politicised because there is no viable counterbalance to the Co-prosperity sphere. With an election put back to 2016 (guaranteed to increase the turnout of both our protagonists), the number of seats per constituency reduced to five, Martin and Peter are now equipped with the force multiplier to strategically gain electoral favour through the largesse of enterprise zones. Credit is rapidly becoming a duopoly and failure, well you can guess which of the remaining ministers will be the father of that orphan. More worrying is essential infrastructure improvements like lengthening of the City runway will be subject to narrow electoral considerations. So to paraphrase without coherent and mature opposition now the UUP, Alliance and SDLP will be destroyed at the next election.

  • son of sam

    I note on Twitter that Barry Mc Elduff describes the S D L P putting its “selfish needs before that of the economy”.The words pot,kettle and black come to mind!His comment is rich coming from a party that invariably puts its own interest and self promotion first.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Son of Sam, while I agree about the self promotion of both ends of this see-saw, Barry’s putting “selfish needs before that of the economy” needs some unpacking as essensially its just smoke and mirrors as it stands. “Economy” is a very vague word, like “freedom.” Talking about an abstraction like the economy as if it had a real living existence and needs of its own apart from articulating the requirements of actual people is blatent obscurification. Whose economy? and whose needs does it serve? The players in any economy have different, often conflicting agendas, its what an economy is. When Barry invokes the economy, he needs to say who will gain, and why this is important, in some detail unless he wants to appear a fool (for talking nonsense) or a rogue (for trying to make people with contridictory agendas, ie: the dispossessed poor and the developers), think he is representing both of their interests at the same moment.

  • son of sam

    Seaan
    In your post above,is there a not so subtle implication that Barry is either a fool or a rogue in the economic sphere?We all have been hitherto unaware of his competence in that field!

  • Comrade Stalin

    The whole thing to me sounds like the DUP cashing in on the deal they made with Sinn Féin to get the Maze thing built.

  • Gopher

    All the DUP and SF have to do is continue to prove they can work together something the other three useless parties can’t manage for five seconds and the carve up can go on indefinitly. Simples

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Well, yes, Son of Sam, I’m really sorry for carrying out animal abuse on the deceased horse with my imagenal cat of nine tails. Barra mac Giolla Duibh’s profound insights into Gaelic games and our wee corner of the arts is well known, but I doubt if anyone has ever accused the poor boy of even the a very private knowlege of political economy before. Sorry!

    Yes Gopher, they CAN work together, we all know that, but not in the interests of the people who go out in the drizzle and vote for them. It’s the constituency of bankers, oil developers, and property developers who build useless white elephant buildings for head cash, and who cares if the fools trying to run an “international hotel” in a lake thick with nitrates go bankrupt. It’s the sort of thing that lost the ROI any trace of National Soverignty a few years back, but wait, we have nothing as valuable to loose, have we. One end of the FS/DUP pantomime (milk) cow thinks that Soverignty is actually at Westminister, while the other sold their aspirations to national soverignty (no caps, see?) for a few Armani suits and careers as “important” politicians in the assembly (no caps again) that has its authority from (where?) Westminister. So Cameron says frack and they frack, even if the whole of Fermanagh will only produce enough gas to keep Cameron’s pad at no 10 warm for a week.

    If Barra mac Giolla Duibh really wants an ecomomy, jobs and something to keep the young on Irish soil, as his fellow SF MLA claimed the amendments would deliver, perhaps he should do something to stop the land being gifted to the get rich quick boys who started ten years back with one wee cement mixer and now yacht round the Greek isles, their clones in the oil business and the sleezy bankers who fund them all while bleeding the rest of us dry. We need some real planning rules that work to protect the interests of the weak and inarticulate who cannot protect themselves and cannot even begin to hire lawyers to protect them. The amendment offers a possible free for all in the interests of the Big Players, and when did the OFMdFM even notice the weak and defenceless?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Having thought hard for another two hours the only thing I can think of is a possible trade off. Perhaps Peter and the OFMdFM he heads (sorry No2) has offered Barra mac Giolla Duibh the promice that every townland in the province will have signs showing their names in Irish. Now please don’t get me wrong, I have always thought that the Irish langauge and the townlands project are far, far more important than the department of finance, and should receive the lions share of the funding coming from Westminister. They are far more likely to seriously boost the local economy that any of the proposals coming from the DUP “lets get a big boy to give us some money” school of economic thinking.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “boost the local economy that any of the proposals” should read “boost the local economy than any of the proposals”….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’ve just been put on to Steve Donnan’s website:

    http://www.stevedonnan.com/2012/02/whats-fracking-problem.html

    I knew we’d loose Fermanagh, and bits of Tyrone, but Steve’s excellent map shows us that we’ll be loosing big chunks of Sligo Roscommon and Mayo too. And this is just for starters.

    Now I must majke it entirely clear thet I am myself completely assured, considering the previous record of both, that Arlene Foster and Peter Robinson have no financial links whatsoever to the Australian company, Tamboran Resources, that has been granted the license to explore the broad area Steve Donnan maps out. I know that any direct interest would have been entered in the Register of Interests, but in the interests of full transparancy and public trust following the controversial shift of planning powers from environment to the OFMdFM, perhaps this scrutiny of interests could somehow be extended to their broader famlies, personal and by marriage, and to their broad circle of friends and business colleagues. And Arlene should make it clear that any income derived from fracking on land she may own in Fermanagh will be entirely donated to the public purse to underline her purity of intent to all.

    It is so very, very important that the N.I. public should understand that any decisions taken by DUP ministers in these matters are entirely motivated by concern for the public good. We should not be expected to simply accept, on their bare word alone, that the entire motivation behind all of this is to keep young people in the country by the creation of thousands of new jobs. For a start, such jobs as are generated will demand very particular training and skills that cannot be found in any quantity among the local job population.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    last word should read “pool” not “population.”

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Seaan

    Given the recent behaviour of the Developer’s Unionist Party I agree that that their links and members’ finances should be put under the microscope.

    With regards to the fracking, well, I’m in the drilling industry (I worked for the directional drilling company who drilled that well off the coast of Lancashire and I know the geologist to boot, he’s a fellow Mid-Ulster man) and I’d like to put any drilling on hold till we have absolute accountability from the DOE, the energy company and the politicians who make the calls.

    In Uganda they use ‘environmental protection’ as a way of extorting money from the oil companies there (as such they go nuts over tiny things like litter and using concrete).

    As for yer man’s website. I appreciate that his heart is in the right place, but some of the facts are a bit dodgy.

    e.g. one of the more popular fracking chemicals is xantham gum which is found in foodstuffs such as gluten free bakery products.

    Under UK law the companies have to disclose all harmful chemicals upon request.

    Anyhow, I don’t want to see Fermanagh potholed with multiple wells and the accompanying infrastructure upgrade that it would need but I don’t want to deprive the citizens of jobs (as specialised as they may be, you’re right again, most of the engineers would have to be shipped in).

    I simply don’t trust our ‘government’/glorified municipal council to behave responsibly.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    My concern, as I think yours is, would be to have at least the possibility of some care being taken in all of this.

    Unhappily, Politicians are usually geniuses who can master anything, even Rocket science, in a few minutes. So they know that if edjits like them can become important, anyone can do anything. I worry that they think that seasoned oil men are just going to spring from the Fermanagh earth, or at least from the Universities. We just do not have the skills and experience, and the sort of jobs that will really be generated could be more reasonably generated by expanding Belleek with state funds, setting up a few shirt factories, or a lace works. Whatever…

    The jobs are not what this is actually all about….

    We probably know the same mid-Ulster man! While I’ve heard all the well reasoned arguments from him, I’m still very, very worried about all the imponderables, but if the standard of honesty was being set by him and his ilk I’d be considerably less worried.

    We have some real international stars in the geology business locally, and I for one am concerned that Arlene’s pals may not even notice them when it comes to spending money.

  • Delphin

    I would agree with Am Ghobsmacht’s comments.
    The Royal Irish Academy/Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann, http://www.ria.ie/ is a useful source of information on fracking, although some of the links appear not to be working.
    The EPA has published a paper on fracking http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/research/sss/UniAberdeen_FrackingReport.pdf
    I have copied a snippet below
    “Much of the coverage to date in the traditional media and on the World Wide Web is not peer-reviewed and is often misinformed. Critical evaluations of shale gas fracking and the potential impacts on the environment must be based on peer-reviewed, scientific analyses of quantitative data.”

    It would appear that European governments, such as Norway, UK and Ireland are currently reviewing the environmental impacts of fracking before making a decision on this.

    The benefits would be a more secure source of natural gas (reduction of dependence on the Russians) and a lowering energy costs which will help drag their economies out of recession.

    This was not how it was meant to be for the Green lobby. Increasing energy costs should have forced governments into green energy and away from fossil fuel, so the Green NGO’s are totally against fracking. However they, being single issue lobbyists, do not have to deal with the economic consequences of high energy costs.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The “objective” evaluation of impact is funded by whom, pray? Critical evaluations are always qualified by the actual impact. By which time it is too late.

    The argument of a more secure source of local gas flounders on the fact that very rising gas prices will favour export.

    The land will be despoiled, the gas extracted, the gas will then be sold, and the fuel poverty will continue to grow. No-one will think outside the box as long as the oil lobby has the clout to dominate the debate. These oil based “answers” are all sooo 1970s…….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hello again Delphin, the EPA paper should be required reading for anyone living in Fermanagh and Tyrone! The picture it presents of the quite uncontrollable nature of fracking, due to the extreme lack of knowledge of the complex patterns of pre-existing underground fissures and aquifers is quite hair-raising.

    The paper identifies as key issues “the relatively limited understanding of rock fracture patterns and processes in shales,” the need for an “ability to predict and quantify permeable fracture networks in the subsurface before drilling,” and questions as a final issue “the accuracy and precision with which the geometry (size or extent, position, thickness) of shale formations and aquifers in the subsurface can be determined, especially in areas with complex geological histories.”

    It also identifies the “most likely” cause of the two earthquakes in the Blackpool region as having been caused by the injection of fracking materials, “both events occurring shortly after large volume water injections at the well head.”

    The only thing it has reassured me in is that someone knows that this all requires some very serious regulation. With the excellent record of environmental and water services in Norn Iron we can all rest easy in our beds…..

    Until the cave-ins!

    Has Arlene or Peter read this paper?

  • Delphin

    Hi Seaan, back here, I don’t want to be associated with a thread about what some DUP moron thinks about burning the Irish flag.
    One man’s weasel words are another’s objective truth! You are obviously a devout anti-fracker and have your mind made up. I am more pragmatic on this and await the results of the studies under way.
    Make no mistake, if viable, shale gas production will be of considerable benefit to Ireland which currently imports 90% of its energy.
    I would encourage people to follow the links and make up their own minds, that’s why I posted them.
    You have highlighted a major issue:
    How to communicate complex scientific ideas to the public. In reality the technical issues around fracking are understood by the specialists involved. So how is balance of risks and benefits communicated to the public so as they can make an informed decision. This can, and has ended up with industry lobby groups influencing our elected representatives and pursuing their interests rather than the greater good. The defence against this are well informed environmentalists. Ill informed criticism will do more harm than good, and give ammunition to the likes of Clarkson to take the piss.
    We remain in agreement on the OFMDFM and environmental regulation in NI

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Delphin, you are entirely right about the very real need to communicate complex ideas to the general public. And as you point out, the problem is that we are being ruled by elected representatives who do not or cannot understand the issues. And, I feel, will push hard for fracking, viable or not, because as you say, “shale gas production will be of considerable benefit to Ireland which currently imports 90% of its energy.”

    I used to have an assistant in film whose father was on the board of Shell. Twenty years back the father gave me the date of 2009 for it becoming clear to all that oil was finally running out. Yes, I’m anti-fracking, but this does not mean that I have not been as cold as everyone else who could not pay £1200 to fill up the oil tank these winters. But I have friends who are geologists, and pro-fracking, who have admitted to me that the sub-structure issues are serious imponderables. And described some of the management and middle management goofs that already go on…..

    But if evidence that fracking could be safely and cleanly done and regulated by responsible men was presented, I’d be very interested. Much as I act the Flâneur in my posts, I’m really concerned and honestly took a very different impression from the report. Thank you again for your carefully explained posting!