Saturday, 22 February 2014

Dun do bheal (Shut your Mouth)

Belfast Comedian Jake O'Kane Speaketh the truth!





 

Today began just like any other Saturday morning with the exception of my latest attempt at a diet which normally occurs on a Monday morning. There I was laid out in mismatched pyjamas struggling to eat a poached egg and at the same time trying to forget my usual Saturday morning iced turnover (cake) when I heard the letter box rattle. What I found lying in the hall was the distraction I needed......political propaganda entitled Glor Dhoire (Derry Voice) courtesy of Sinn Fein. If ever there was literature to distract you! However in all fairness to Sinn Fein when it comes to propaganda they are the masters, as they claim credit for everything but the virgin birth.


At the bottom of the leaflet it reads Delivering For Derry now ask yourself and answer honestly what over the past few years has been delivered to Derry that can be claimed beneficial to the population long-term? And bearing that point in mind, cast your mind back to October 2013 when it was announced how almost 1,000 jobs were being created by the call centre company (Stream) in east Belfast. For those of you out there with short memories Stream closed it's doors in Derry in 2011.



Yet here we had the chief 'delivery' man Martin McGuinness welcoming the relocating of these jobs in October 2013. This announcement for east Belfast was supported by Government grants of more than £3m. At that point I rightly questioned whether Sinn Fein's promise of delivery was to or from Derry.


On the inside of the Glor Doire leaflet is a piece from Sinn Fein candidate Sandra Duffy on her commitment to the community. Sandra outlines her commitment to the local boxing club stating the building is no longer fit for purpose. She then continues to say that she has been actively engaging with local agencies in an attempt to secure funding.

I can vouch for the condition of the local club having spent my primary four days in the building over thirty years ago, as the building was once part of the local primary school. The building wasn't fit for purpose then and it would seem thirty years on that little has changed.

In August 2012 Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín's announced a £3m investment in amateur boxing. Sandra was there when the Minister visited as you can see from the photograph. Maybe Sandra can shed some light on how much money St Joseph's boxing club was awarded from that 3 million pounds? 

And let's not forget that Minister Ní Chuilín's fantastic altruistic act to the amateur boxing community was proved to be no more than the £3.27 million of lottery funding identified for boxing and outlined to the Culture arts and Leisure Committee on the 26th June 2012, it was just the Minister omitted to mention this.

Just down the page from Sandra we have old faithful, Tony Hassan, so faithful he has been known to turn up to the opening of an envelope. Tony who is an old neighbour of mine highlights how Sinn Fein have been actively campaigning for more social housing working closely with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and housing associations. Although I would point out that Tony fails to mention what if anything his party are actively doing to save the Housing Executive. The Housing Executive is currently under threat and if abolished will see social housing placed in to the hands of private housing associations which could potentially see rents increase dramatically and a possible increase in cronyism as was seen when former Belfast SF Councillor Joe O'Donnell bypassed a homeless man on the housing list with 330 points in favour of his niece.


In closing councillor Hassan applauds the announcement of the £1million Pavillion and sports facility at Leafair. Now running the risk of repeating myself I should point out that the £1million pounds was awarded through the social investment fund, headed locally by 3 Sinn Fein members. This was the same body who refused to fund Foyle Search and Rescue and Hurt and decided to invest more money in football pitches than in employment.

Flip the page and we have Councillor Elisha (McLaughlin) McCallion. In her piece Elisha welcomes the £1milion pounds investment cited above and promises long overdue development for the Carnhill area. Elisha also highlights her involvement in the two year old play park at Fairview Road and with the statue of hope. I think it's fair to say Elisha is known for her 'community' involvement so well known in fact she was given a 'community' job by a fellow party member with no interview.


What I would question is how Elisha as a Sinn Fein councillor can claim credit for the play-park which was in fact a product of her 'community' job in the Galliagh Development Trust. At Council meetings when the matter was discussed Elisha  declared an interest and had to withdraw from discussions. Could it be Elisha is quite happy to blur the lines to claim credit for something as a Councillor she had no role in?

Maybe both Councillor McCallion and Hassan who are both Directors of the Greater Area Shantallow Partnership can get answers as to what happened the proceeds from the sale of the Northside Village Complex which is situated in their electoral ward. The Northside Village Complex was sold to a private company in 2007. The Complex was built with public money but despite this none of the money has been invested back into the local community since the sale. The Northside Development Trust are affiliated with the Greater Area Shantallow Partnership.


As I reached the last page I read quite a lot on the projects Sinn Fein have helped deliver, well, allegedly.



I would also point out that despite Sinn Fein holding the education portfolio since the inception of the Northern Ireland Assembly that there have been almost one hundred school names wiped off a map of Northern Ireland Schools in little more than five years. These schools have included primary, secondary and specialist schools.

Derry Sinn Fein have claimed they delivered new schools for Derry however there is no mention from Sinn Fein on the use of controversial Private Finance Initiatives which could end up with the tax payer being more out of pocket.

A recent report published by the Northern Ireland Audit Office states total estimated PFI committed payments relating to the 39 PFI contracts (including two Derry schools) in Northern Ireland is £7.2 billion, with the current cost of PFI contract payments approximately £250 million per annum. The report went further and stated that 'The Executive does not have a published and transparent borrowing strategy, which sets out to ensure that total capital investment remains within affordable and sustainable limits.'

And on the subject of money there was absolutely no mention of the fact that one in three children in the Derry City Council area live in poverty,  the highest rate in Northern Ireland. 
I wonder why?

 
And last but by no means least there is no mention of the removal of the 11+ transfer test. Over 10 years ago Sinn Fein's then Education Minister Derry 'Delivery' man Martin McGuinness announced the abolishment of the transfer test. Yet 10 years on grammar schools use unofficial entrance exams were parents not only have to pay for the exam but for the tuition to help their children through the exam, and in some cases parents are paying for two tests, with no guarantee oftheir child being accepted irrespective of the grade they achieve.

Congratulations Sinn Fein, you managed to abolish & privatise the 11+ in one fell swoop, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE never take on the Health Ministry!




Friday, 21 February 2014

Power to the pocket.

 
 The Consumer Council held an event in Derry today. The event was held to give people who work in different services advice on what the Consumer Council does, what protections people have as consumers and how we can all save money.  And with everyone feeling the pinch of rising prices we could all do with having a few extra quid in our pocket.





Here's a few snippets of the information they provided.




If you switch energy provider and/or billing methods you can in some cases save up to £108 per year.



If you use oil and switch to a high efficiency oil boiler (grants are available) you can save up to £320 per year.



Draught proofing can save you up to £55 per year.



Turning off appliances /lights/switches/stand by you can save up to £70 per year.



Turning your thermostat down by one degree can save you up to £65 per year.



Having your loft insulated can save you up to £180 per year.



Cavity wall insulation can save you up to £140 per year.


For information on home insulation & available grants:








There's a load of information available from the Consumer Council and you can get this from their website www.consumercouncil.org.uk or if you need specific advice you can contact them in other ways.



You can contact the Consumer Council by letter, telephone, fax or e-mail:



The Consumer Council
116 Holywood Road
Belfast
BT4 1NY

Tel: 028 9067 2488028 9067 2488

Complaints


If you have a complaint about buses, trains, planes, ferries, natural gas, electricity, coal or water contact the Consumer Council complaints team by letter, telephone or e-mail:

Telephone: 0800 121 60220800 121 6022




You never know you might save yourself a tidy sum!





Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Don't WASTE your vote - Vote independent!

Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership.

These are the seven principles of public life also known as the Nolan principals. Following last nights BBC Spotlight programme I am confident that members of our local council would know more about the Nolan sisters than they do of these principles.


The BBC Spotlight programme broadcast on February 18th 2014 featured an interview with the SDLP's environmental stalwart Shaun Gallagher. Mr Gallagher who was a member of the North West Waste Management group joint council committee was questioned on whether or not he knew that one of the preferred bidders for a FIVE HUNDRED MILLION POUNDS incineration plant was the same company (Brickklin Waste management) accused by Derry City Council of dumping illegal waste. Brickkiln was also found in 2013 to be in breach of it's waste management licence.

Mr Gallagher denied all knowledge despite the case ending up in the High Court, a process that took 18 months. The journalist continued to tell Mr Gallagher, that producers had been assured by Derry City Council that ALL elected members had been informed of the case against Brickklin waste management company.

The programme then saw Mr Gallagher insist the interview come to and end with him accusing the presenter of an ambush. Mr Gallagher later wrote to Spotlight asking that his interview be removed from the programme.

From personal experience it is clear Mr Gallagher does not take too kindly to being asked questions. In October 2010 on behalf of the GalliaghConcerned Residents Group I wrote to Councillor Gallagher seeking clarification on his membership of the Outer North Neighbourhood Partnership.






The next morning Mr Gallagher who at that point was not a happy camper paid me a visit at 10am, he was very belligerent, irate and I felt quite intimidated by his demeanour. This visit led to my husband launching a formal complaint with the SDLP's chief executive over Councillor Gallagher's conduct. When I met with the SDLP accompanied by a leading Trade Unionist, a member of our residents group and our groups legal advisor I was met by a veiled threat of legal action against myself on behalf of Mr Gallagher through the SDLP Chief Executive Mr Michael Savage. When it became evident that no matter what Councillor Gallagher had done or the evidence presented supporting my case the SDLP would not reprimand him I decided to end the meeting.

 
I received this response from Mr Gallagher on October 15th 2010:





The response from Councillor Gallagher contained quite a number of inaccuracies and the residents group I was part of wrote to the SDLP to highlight these. 






In May 2011 I stood as an independent candidate in the Shantallow ward of the city to highlight how residents in my area including myself were being treated appallingly by our local councillors, council officers and their lackeys. I knew at that point I would have difficulty getting elected having done a few calculations however I proceeded to prove that I could stand in the election and to highlight that people were fed up with being ignored and walked over.

I am delighted that this year people from many areas, North and South of Ireland, have decided to stand as independent candidates in the local government elections. I am further overjoyed at the prospect of an independent candidate standing in every council ward in Derry.

If recent revelations aren't enough to wake people up to the farce that is local government then I ask what will???? These revelations including the handling of the Social Investment Fund with the refusal to fund Foyle Search and Rescue and Hurt. The fact that politicians are happy to put more funding into building football pitches than employment schemes despite Derry being an unemployment blackspot. The fact that a current Sinn Fein Councillor was given a job by another party member and former Sinn Fein Mayor without any interview process taking place, a job funded from the public purse. The fact the the only Catholic Secondary school in the Waterside area of the City will be closed without every measure being put in place to keep it open. And these are only a few examples of how the political parties are failing the people.

It would be quite easy in light of the Spotlight programme to lay blame solely at the feet of the SDLP however it must be noted that Sinn Fein Councillor Colly Kelly was Derry City Councils other representative on the North West Waste Management group joint council committee. I would like to hear Mr Kelly's position on the Brickklin scenario and I would suggest Raymond McCartney should do the same.

VOTE ONCE- VOTE INDEPENDENT- DON'T TRANSFER!

It would be quite easy to do the same old thing and follow your usual voting pattern and just put your 1,2 or 3 beside the party representatives standing in your area. But as you can see the politicians have a lot to answer for, as do their parties. The party will come first and that's why this election time I would ask you to consider the Nolan principles I listed above and measure the current representatives against them. If you're honest with yourself you'll agree they don't marry up. Maybe then it's time to vote for one of the independent candidates standing in your area.

VOTE ONCE- VOTE INDEPENDENT- DON'T TRANSFER

Monday, 17 February 2014

Midgley... A cautionary tale.

 You have probably never heard of Thomas Midgley but I can guarantee you have not only felt the effects of some of his creations, your children & grandchildren will feel the scourge of this man for years to come.

Originally an engineer, and sadly for the world Midgley developed an interest in chemistry. Midgely was the man responsible for lead being added to car fuel in the form of 'tetraethyl lead' as it was found to reduce engine knock. The dangers of lead are well known, it is a neurotoxin and the companies behind 'tetraethyl lead' and it's inventor knew this even back then, however they decided to just call it 'Ethyl' as it was much friendlier and less toxic sounding than 'lead'.

Thomas Midgley
On the back of his success in poisoning people with lead, Midgley then went on to invent Chloroflurocarbons, something many will know as CFC's. CFC's are a volatile derivative of methane, ethane, and propane and are responsible for damaging the ozone layer, a region of Earth's stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun's UV radiation, protecting us from harmful rays. CFC's are also greenhouse gases and contribute to global warming.

At the age of 51 Midgley contracted polio and to aid him he devised an apparatus made up of an elaborate system of strings and pulleys to help lift him from bed. At the age of 55 he became entangled in the strings of this apparatus and died of strangulation.

You may ask where the hell is she going with this. Well let me tell you, when you vote for a politician and as such their political party you give it & them a certain amount of power over your life, and sadly we then are subject to whatever poison they pour out into society. This could be in the form of cuts to services, the locating of an incinerator beside a residential area or the dangers of welfare reform without proper taxation being implemented.

And like Midgley's beasts 'tetraethyl lead' and 'CFC's' the impact of which will be felt for generations, the attacks on not only the most vulnerable in society but a wider society in general by those elected to represent people's best interests will impact upon you, your children & grandchildren for years to come.

And just as Midgley's inventions were claimed to be for the wider good, they really just made rich people richer. The lack of proper taxation on multi-national companies whilst attacking peoples benefits and front-line services will just continue to make rich people richer. The truth is that benefit errors cost £1 million a day. Taxavoidance and evasion cost £260 million a day yet the politicians continue to pour their poison, that these cuts are necessary.

The danger is without proper mechanisms for holding politicians and political parties to account outside of election times that the state will create apparatus to protect itself. The state will continue to make it difficult for people to highlight concerns or to challenge decisions it makes, and metaphorically similar to the unfortunate Midgley we will become strangled by the apparatus of the state, an apparatus people have helped create by voting for the political parties. And by then god knows what damage they will have done.

A question which could be asked is the lack of oversight an oversight or by design?

Saturday, 15 February 2014

How Much? Zero, zilch, none, nada, zip, rien, niets, nichts, niente....

Not related in any way!

On the 16th March 2009 to much fanfare Martin McGuinness was in New York to participate in the announcement of a $30million investment project by New York State Comptroller, Thomas Di Napoli.

Speaking at the announcement which was made in the Comptroller’s Offices in New York, Mr McGuinness said: 'The Emerging Europe Fund will provide a total of $100million of which $30million has been earmarked for projects in the North of Ireland.'

Deputy McGuinness also said 'I was pleased last year during the Investment Conference, to host Comptroller Di Napoli on a visit to Derry. The Comptroller has targeted these funds to areas of long term disadvantage. This is recognition that these are areas of opportunity. It is also recognition that everyone must have a stake in the future and a role in developing peace'. 
 
This week Stormont’s enterprise committee said it was totally unacceptable for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) to fail to respond to its questions about the US-based Emerging Europe Fund. This seems to be a common trait within OFMDFM, when they really haven't got a baldies notion, they say nothing.

Allegedly worth $30m to the North, there hasn't been a single cent of the money invested here since it was unveiled nearly five years ago by Martin McGuinness, who at the time also said it was 'merely the start of even bigger and better things to come'. 
 
Well since nothing has happened after 5 years I for one would like to hear Mr McGuinness or Mr Robinson give an explanation as to why. Then again their silence over the failings of their equally lauded Social investment fund speaks volumes.

With this in mind it reminds me that it's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. 
 
However I would like to take this opportunity to remind Mr McGuinness & Mr Robinson of the Nolan principles on public life.

 The Nolan principles of public life were drawn up by the Nolan Committee headed by Lord Nolan and endorsed by parliament. They apply to anyone who holds public office. I should mention that these principles have nothing to do with BBC presenter Stephen Nolan.

                                                                   The Seven Principles
  • Selflessness - holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
  • Integrity - holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.
  • Objectivity - in carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
  • Accountability - holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
  • Openness - holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
  • Honesty - holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
  • Leadership - holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example









Wednesday, 12 February 2014

For the good of your health...allegedly





Mark goes green!
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has said he is considering a ban on election posters. Mr Durkan said it was due to their impact on the environment. Now he does say his review would not take place before the Giro bike race in mid-May, but could occur before the forthcoming Westminster and Northern Ireland Assembly elections.

For more info click hereThis is interesting on a number of fronts, firstly it limits the ability of independent candidates to promote themselves as an alternative to the parties. After all whilst an independent can deliver leaflets or issue press statements they're not going to be in the position to get a party political broadcast. Secondly there seems to a certain amount of irony in an SDLP Minister wanting to ban election posters on environmental grounds when his party are spearheading plans to build an incinerator in Derry.

A few facts about party political broadcasts:
  • Each of the main parties is allowed to have party political broadcasts.
  • There are rules about their length and when they can be shown.
  • Party political broadcasts show the voters what each party will do if elected – they are like adverts.
  • Smaller parties can also show party political broadcasts as long as they are standing for one sixth of all the seats available.
With the SDLP on the wane over the past number of years and with the number of independent candidates standing for election could there be another agenda?

And on the subject of pollution, there's a current debate happening in light of legislation being enacted in England that will make it illegal for someone to smoke in a car with children present. Now I would agree that people should not smoke in cars when children are present, it should be common sense if nothing else, but I would be concerned at the advancing nanny state.

I am not a smoker or pro smoking lobby, however I would be one to advocate a common sense approach and educate people. Yet common sense is something that seems to be lacking when it comes to the thinking of some politicians. The dangers of smoking and passive smoking are well documented yet the DUP voted against this legislation. Not only did they vote against it, Ian Paisley Jnr accused 'Nationalist' politicians of attacking jobs at the Gallagher tobacco firm in his constituency.

Mr Paisley actually went as far to say 'It amazes me that the only people who come on and attack these jobs are from the nationalist lobby'. I don't know how Mr. Paisley can equate trying to limit the effect of passive smoking on children with a perceived attack by nationalists on jobs. But I suppose when MLA's pension funds have been invested in a number of companies who have been accused of human rights abuses and the nuclear weapons industry nothing would surprise me.

This is what the NHS has to say on children and passive smoking.


Breathing in secondhand smoke is particularly harmful for children. Children who breathe in secondhand smoke have an increased risk of:
  • cot death (sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS)– this is twice as likely in babies whose mothers smoke
  • developing asthma– smoking can also trigger asthma attacks in children who already have the condition
  • serious respiratory (breathing) conditions such as bronchitis and pneumonia– younger children are also much more likely to be admitted to hospital for a serious respiratory infection
  • middle ear disease, such asotitis media (a middle ear infection), which can cause hearing loss
Children who grow up with a parent or family member who smokes are three times as likely to start smoking themselves.
If you’re a parent who smokes, it will be hard to explain to your children why they shouldn’t start smoking. Try to lead by example and quit. As well as improving your health and theirs, your children may be less likely to start smoking later in life.



Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Just doesn't pass muster!

I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician” - Charlie Chaplin


I despair at times, I really do despair! So what do I despair about you may ask? Well as you might guess from the above Charlie Chaplin quote 'politicians'.

Quite a number of our political leaders in my eyes just don't pass muster, and in the news this week on a number of occasions my belief that the majority of politicians here are little more than clowns has been reinforced.

First up this week is John O'Dowd, who has a habit of coming across as little more than a gulpin. Famously O'Dowd dismissed complaints from the UUP, SDLP and Alliance party about being kept in the dark about a shared future plan, Mr O'Dowd's response: "So what?" So bearing that in mind it gives an indication of what some might consider a shared future.

This week John O'Dowd has refused to apologise to the TUV leader Jim Allister for taking 57 days to answer a letter despite the Northern Ireland Ombudsman saying Jim Allister was owed an apology.

However, Mr O'Dowd, told the BBC he was only sorry so much time had been wasted on this issue. "In my opinion, it just should have been dealt with in a more mature fashion by Mr Allister from the start and I'll not be wasting any more time on it."


Maybe John O'Dowd should take his responsibilities a little more seriously and deal with them a little more maturely. Like a schoolboy caught doing wrong in the playground O'Dowd seems to be more interested in trying to deflect blame rather than holding his hands up, saying ' a mistake was made, we'll do better' and putting the matter to bed. It must be great to be grown up!

Sadly another politician who would need to think before they speak is O'Dowd's party colleague, Derry City Councillor Patricia Logue.  Logue in a UTV interview today seemed to imply that the organisers of the annual Bloody Sunday March had a responsibility for young people attacking the Fountain estate on Sunday night. 
 
Firstly news reports state that the attacks happened after 7pm, nearly two hours after the march dispersed and was not on or near the parade or rally route and secondly there was no acknowledgement from Councillor Logue that the interface is a well known flashpoint and not just around the anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/foyle_and_west/8062965.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/foyle_and_west/7431054.stm

http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/regional/fountain-residents-in-constant-fear-of-attack-1-1848644

What I would say as a mother to anyone throwing a petrol bomb into residential area is to think of the Quinn children who were murdered by Loyalists when their home was petrol bombed in 1998.

A petrol bomb is a deadly weapon, it can maim, it can kill, and whilst I agree with Cllr Logue that these attacks should stop, I feel her attempt to link the Bloody Sunday parade to these attacks is the product of another agenda.