DRD Minister intends to grant £8.6million to City of Derry Airport

Some £60-odd million has been spent by various administrations on the City of Derry Airport in recent years – including £19million in 2008 on “safety work”.  And still no sign of a buyer… But, as the Irish Government prepares to cut the subsidy it provides for the Londonderry-Dublin flight, the Northern Ireland Regional Development Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, has announced his intention to grant £8.6million to the airport for further “essential safety works”.  Even though he has yet to secure …

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Another conflict of interest in yet another NI Water review team – redux

As I said of the leaked draft PAC report into NI Water The First and deputy First Ministers clearly haven’t learned the importance of not appointing individuals to ‘independent’ reviews who “could be perceived as having a conflict of interest.” The BBC reports on questions over the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers’ appointment of Philip Holder to the second layer of the investigation into the role and responsibilities of the NI Regional Development Minister and the Department in the NI Water saga. From the BBC report The Department for Regional …

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Murphy: “The person who has responsibility for dealing with these things is me”*

Conor Murphy’s line today on the leaked PAC report is strangely reminiscent of his party colleague, the chair of the PAC, Paul Maskey. But it is also in line with his own original interview with Jamie Delargy in UTV’s Stormy Water special back in August, that this was all about procurement issues, not the misdirection of process at the most senior levels of his own department. The draft report of the PAC agrees the breaches were serious, but that this …

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NI Water: PAC chair complains about leaked report to UTV…

As Pete noted earlier, the chair of Stormont’s Public Accounts Committee, Paul Maskey is not best pleased that a copy of that committee’s draft report has found its way into the hands of Jamie Delargy of UTV.  Not surprisingly, since as Maskey points out, it is not yet been official adopted by the committee. Mr Maskey is on record as saying that in his role as PAC chair he has to leave his political baggage at the door. Yet as …

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NI Water: Draft PAC report says IRT conclusion “too general” and “deficient”

UTV has seen a leaked copy of the draft PAC report into the NI Water saga.  From UTV [added emphasis throughout] The draft document, which was prepared by Audit Office staff over the past six months, has criticised the composition of the team formed last January to examine procurement problems at the water company. It says the Department should not have appointed individuals to the Independent Review Team who “could be perceived as having a conflict of interest.” The draft report …

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Yes Minister…

Give us your captions? John Kennedy CartoonistFor the past 20 years I’ve produced work for various newspapers and magazines throughout Ireland and the USA. Since 2004 I’ve been the resident political cartoonist for the Irish Herald in San Francisco, my brief is to produce a monthly illustration relating to Irish/American affairs. Since 1998 I’ve held 18 self-promoting exhibitions at various venues, 16 in Ireland and 2 in New York, USA. These shows have been very successful because they have attracted …

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Professor Hillyard: “We prepared the reports and they’re still sitting on somebody’s shelf somewhere”

A timely reminder from the chairman of the Independent Water Review Panel [IWRP], Professor Paddy Hillyard, of the results of the recommendations contained in the two strands of his previous review of NI Water.  From the BBC report The review was set up by the assembly in 2007 after direct rule ministers advised that water services should be privatised. Among its recommendations were that water charges should come in. [Adds – and “be clearly and separately identified on their rates bill …

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Did Murphy mislead the public over ‘Golden Handshake’?

I have to say for those neutrals in any doubt that the Minister has serious questions to answer, try Jim Allister’s rather impressive briefing on the matter. It’s appropriate I think to highlight this note of serious concern that contains at least one outstanding and highly pertinent  detail of the last year in and around Northern Ireland Water: In August 2010 the Shortridge inquiry was established to investigate the Paul Priestly issue. The report has been with the Head of the …

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NI Water: How Murphy’s sackings left MacKenzie accountable directly to DRD

Fed up with drinking copious amounts of Northern Ireland Water stories on Slugger? Not as fed up as I am writing them. We kicked off back in July after that PAC when no one but the Belfast Telegraph (who have taken a ‘MacKenzie loyalist’ line throughout), whilst an industrious Jamie Delargy was working on it  sub rosa at UTV was giving it anything more than a cursory glance. Six months later, a Chief Executive has gone and Regional Development, has …

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“This minister doesn’t appear to accept any responsibility for anything”

A BBC report includes this pertinent comment from UUP MLA Fred Cobain, chairman of the NI Assembly’s Regional Development Committee, on the NI water crisis. Ulster Unionist Fred Cobain is chair of the Regional Development Committee, which is to meet on Thursday to discuss the crisis. He said “the issue rests with the minister and not Mr MacKenzie”. “At the end of the day in all of these issues the individual who leads the department is responsible and I have to …

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NI Water: Any convenient ‘troubled’ port in a storm?

Interesting quote from Liam Mulholland who in the absence of any substantial public appearance from his boss, the CEO of NI Water Laurence MacKenzie, puts the blame on the Troubles (for any foreign journalists reading, you might like to note these ‘officially’ ended back in 1994) for his company’s poor reaction to the extreme freeze thaw weather conditions of the last two weeks. The clear imputation is that politicians were to blame, even though it was Mr MacKenzie himself was so …

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NI water crisis: “why Sinn Féin and the DUP have reacted with a mix of denial and pulpit thumping”

Via Newshound, in the Sunday Times Liam Clarke adds his thoughts on the “pulpit thumping” intervention of the OFMDFM, the possibly misplaced ministerial confidence, and the ongoing cost of Executive crowd-pleasing as the NI water crisis continues.  From the Sunday Times article Murphy and his colleagues are making the most of the inherited nature of their difficulties. Yet, knowing the risks, the DUP/Sinn Féin-led administration did little to improve the situation. There was some limited investment in the water system …

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NI Water late to access Water UK help

As the water crisis rumbles on the political arguments continue fairly unabated. The latest attacks on Conor Murphy have centred around the failure of NI Water to ask Water UK for help until yesterday. Water UK is the organisation which oversees support for UK water companies in crises. The News Letter is carrying the story today and claims that Water UK was understood to be surprised that NI Water had asked for so little help, so late. From the News …

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Conor Murphy: “I do have confidence [in Laurence MacKenzie].”

Following the intervention of the First and deputy First Ministers in the Northern Ireland water crisis, a NI Executive statement was issued stating that “There was considerable anger across the Ministerial spectrum about the shambolic response of NI Water which had let down the whole community.” OFMDFM appear to be still singing from the same hymn sheet.  “There has to be accountability” they both have said. Mr McGuinness said: “There has to be accountability and we are not going to under …

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NI Water: Uncancelled leave and serious management problems…

Sam McBride has an interesting snippet on staff holidays at Northern Ireland Water: When asked if NI Water holidays had been cancelled over the New Year, a spokeswoman said: “No. Staff have been asked to come in and cover so each line manager is sorting that out with their staff to see what cover we’ve got and who is available, but staff have given up their holidays already.” Mr Cobain said: “You can’t have people going on leave in this …

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OFMDFM: “NI Water’s response was clearly inadequate…”

Which “officials” were “summoned” to Stormont this morning by Martin McGuinness, and in what capacity the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister was acting, isn’t entirely clear – as we only have a Sinn Féin press release to go on.  But the “stocktake meeting in the morning at NI Water” mentioned here by the relevant Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, seems to have been pushed back into the afternoon as a result. What we do have is a joint OFMDFM statment today In …

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Irish Labour Party: “We may not be in a position to build the road from Dublin…”

Thanks to today’s Irish News we have the response from the Northern Ireland Regional Development Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, to comments from Irish Labour Party transport spokesman, Joe Costello, which cast doubt on the proposed £850million upgrade of the A5 between Londonderry and Aughnacloy. From the Irish News report Mr Murphy said last night it was too late for the Republic to back out of its commitment to the project because the contract had already been signed and a payment plan …

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“in an open, transparent and independent manner…”

As the BBC reported on Thursday, the Northern Ireland Department for Regional Development has advertised for applications to a new permament board of directors at the troubled NI Water to replace the interim appointments made earlier this year. According to the advert in the Irish News It is expected that a Chair will be appointed in early 2011, with the remaining Non-Executive Directors being appointed in the Spring. Although, if the DRD statement in the BBC report is anything to go by, …

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NI Water: How Mr MacKenzie jettisoned millions in commercial savings…

Adrian Rutherford was pretty close to the mark with his suggestion in Wednesday night’s paper edition of the Belfast Telegraph that Northern Ireland Water may have been ordered by the courts to pay out up to £10 Million in back payments to the French IT contractor Steria. In dispute had been payments for services to enable the charging of domestic water rates. Water rates which, of course, were never collected. To paraphrase NI Water’s Chief Executive’s presentation to the Public Accounts …

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Consumer Council CEO: “Trust has broken down between some of the partners in the Partnership Agreement”

Strange timing by the Chief Executive of the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland,  Antoinette McKeown, to declare that the body is withdrawing from the Stakeholders Partnership Agreement with NI Water and the Department for Regional Development. The UTV report suggests the release of emails between McKeown and Laurence MacKenzie was the cause of the breakdown of trust… In an unprecedented move, the Consumer Council says it has now lost trust in the company and the Government Department led by Conor Murphy. “To leak …

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