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General discussion / Re: Arlene's bigotry shines through
« on: Today at 03:35:22 PM »
Some years ago Robinson was talking at a DUPUDA annual conference of making the Union more attractive to Catholics.
Then Belfast City Council stopped flying the Butcher's and he jumped back behind the tribal barricade.
The Dupes and Unionist majority Councils seem totally unwilling to take any cognisance of the fact there are 2 Nationalities in the 6 Cos.

I agree. But it will be to their detriment. A happy Nationalist isn't talking about a UI.

Hmmm, yes and no.  I'm the wrong side of 50 and there's been more serious talk about a UI in the last 18 months than in the previous 95 years!  I know a lot of soft and small "n" Nationalists who are very unhappy about Brexit.  They are persuadable, so are the Kellie Armstrong types in Alliance, a lot of Greens and there must be some unknowns who would vote for a UI.  This is going to sound a wee bit callous but if we persuade all those then we don't need that many Unionists to change their minds to make 50%+1 a possibility.  The issue might be, what do we do after that!?

I've said this before but what's needed is a grouping to come forward, along the lines of the business people who sent the letter to Leo recently, who are not directly affiliated to SF to lead a UI campaign.  We also need robust answers to all the questions that will be asked about what a UI will look like.  There's about 5 years work there alone.

Also, I must say I've often been critical of Colum Eastwood but I thought he was very good on The View last night in a "debate", of sorts, with Christopher Stalford and Kellie Armstrong.

Antrim / Re: Antrim Football Thread
« on: Today at 01:56:31 PM »
Who are the belfast team that played st malachys? Laochra something? Whatpart of belfast are they from?
West (Mainly). Irish language team.

I think Loch Lao is the original Irish name for Belfast Lough?

General discussion / Re: Arlene's bigotry shines through
« on: April 19, 2018, 05:24:33 PM »
Last question to Foster before she finishes her evidence (until Sept).

David Scoffield QC:  To what extent does the buck stop with you?

Foster:  I can't be blamed for other people's mistakes.

She really has the mind of a child ::)

General discussion / Re: Arlene's bigotry shines through
« on: April 19, 2018, 03:56:37 PM »
One of the first companies to notice how lucrative the RHI scheme could be was Sheridan and Hood, which was owned by Brian Hood, who gave evidence to the inquiry in February.

He even suggested to Stormont's justice department that if it used the RHI scheme as part of a major emergency service college it was planning it could pocket just under £900,000 over 20 years.

His company was the first to be accredited on the scheme and he even received a certificate for that from Mrs Foster in March 2013.

The DUP leader can't remember meeting him.

Apart from to put on her crown brooch every morning, can she remember anything??

General discussion / Re: Arlene's bigotry shines through
« on: April 19, 2018, 02:59:54 PM »
This was part of a discussion this morning around the whistleblower Janette O'Hagan:


Mrs O'Hagan was "caught in the political crossfire" at the time of the RHI scandal publicly erupting in December 2016, accepts Mrs Foster.

The DUP's deputy leader Nigel Dodds published one of Ms O'Hagan's emails that month, saying that it "nails the myth" that Mrs Foster "failed to follow up" on concerns that were raised to her.

He said the email "raised no concerns" about the scheme and he claimed it was the "only contact with the minister" - that was, of course, incorrect and Mrs Foster accepts that now.

Sir Patrick suggests that one possibility for releasing Ms O'Hagan's email is that "she was fed to the wolves".

Ms O'Hagan told the inquiry in February that how her correspondence was handled at the time was a "complete disgrace".

The DUP leader says there was a "storm" about the scandal going on at the time and there was "a lot of firefighting" to "deal with the allegations that were being made".

General discussion / Re: Arlene's bigotry shines through
« on: April 18, 2018, 05:41:18 PM »
LAD is running with #IDon'tBelieveHer :D

General discussion / Re: Arlene's bigotry shines through
« on: April 18, 2018, 05:39:52 PM »
"Mrs Foster says she "wasn't aware of rumours going around" in 2014 that the RHI scheme was offering a "cash for ash".

Biomass boiler firms were advertising their products through the scheme at trade fair organised by Stormont's enterprise and agriculture departments and were using slogans such as "burn to earn".

Inquiry Sir Patrick Coghlin asks Mrs Foster what communications she had with then agriculture minister Michelle O'Neill "as to what was actually happening on the street... with 'burn-to-earn', 'cash-for-ash'".

She says she didn't know about that and adds that she was not engaging with farmers about what they were doing in relation to with the scheme.

"I know that may sound rather strange given that I am a Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA, but it's the truth," she adds."

And I thought some of the evidence in the rugby trial didn't ring true!

General discussion / Re: Arlene's bigotry shines through
« on: April 18, 2018, 10:25:08 AM »
Arlene Foster giving evidence again today.

General discussion / Re: Death Notices
« on: April 17, 2018, 04:00:24 PM »
Longford, Cavan and Monaghan seems to be the cowboy music heartland.

You forgot Tyrone.
Fermanagh is hardly much different..

Laythrum is great cowboys and heroes country too.

General discussion / Re: Arlene's bigotry shines through
« on: April 17, 2018, 03:41:23 PM »
At the end of May 2013, the UK government's energy minister Greg Barker wrote to Mrs Foster in which he explained that his department was making major cost control changes to the Great Britain RHI scheme.  The letter was referred to the DETI officials who were dealing with Northern Ireland's RHI initiative.  They said it was "similar" to an earlier letter from Mr Barker and no action was therefore needed.  But that wasn't true - the earlier letter had referred to completely different matters - and the chance to tell Mrs Foster about the cost control changes wasn't taken.  Dr Crawford says neither he nor Mrs Foster received the letter but "the minister should've seen all the correspondence coming from a Westminster department".

Foster may dodge a bullet on corruption but it's clear she didn't have the first notion about what RHI was, how it operated, how much it cost, who was running it and as important neither did her closest SPAD.  Why would all that be important when you're obsessed with making sure that street names in Irish don't appear and that gay people can't get married.

General discussion / Re: The State Of The Roads
« on: April 17, 2018, 03:36:19 PM »
My sister in law wish boned her suspension a couple of weeks ago on an horrendous pot hole in Bangor. It was late and night and poorly lit. Thankfully she wasn't doing any speed. Don't think I've ever seen the roads as bad

I suppose it's cold comfort to know that it's just not Tyrone and Fermanagh where the roads are in a poor condition.  You may be able to undserstand minor roads being bad but the main roads in Fermanagh are in a desperate state.

General discussion / Re: The State Of The Roads
« on: April 17, 2018, 01:24:33 PM »
What does Road Tax cover?

Vehicle Excise Duty is a tax on the ownership of particular types of vehicles.  It is not a fee for the use of roads nor is it a fund to build and repair roads.

There are many types of car that fall outside VED because they emit less than 100gms of CO2 per km, yet they are perfectly entitled to be on the road

General discussion / Re: The State Of The Roads
« on: April 17, 2018, 12:06:15 PM »
Serious amount of pot holes on Tyrone roads these days. Lot of them marked out with the yellow box but its been ongoing for months. Worst I have seen them.
I see some councils are saying its due to the bad weather, beast from the east, what cheap ass material are they using.

Free Jason, FU British Milk Council.

Local authorities in the North are not responsible for maintaining roads.  That's in the remit of DFI Roads (formerly DOE Roads Service).

You can report a pothole here:

General discussion / Re: Arlene's bigotry shines through
« on: April 17, 2018, 11:53:42 AM »
A long read from Sam McBride but some eyebrow raising stuff as to how Foster ran (or didn't run) her department...

Arlene Foster signed ‘blank cheque’ on cash for ash despite no cost figure, RHI Inquiry told

Arlene Foster signed “a blank cheque” by putting her signature to a statement that the RHI scheme was value for money – even though she had not been told what it would cost, the RHI inquiry has been told.  The revelation came today during further probing exchanges with Mrs Foster’s long-standing special adviser (Spad) which provided more insight into how the DUP leader operated as a government minister for almost a decade and how the ‘cash for ash’ scheme was flawed from the outset.  Dr Crawford candidly accepted that Mrs Foster’s signature had been little more than a “box-ticking exercise” because legally she had to sign the document in question to authorise officials to proceed with such a significant policy but she was reliant on her civil servants “to do their job”.

On a number of occasions today, Dr Crawford accepted that he failed to do something which he ought to have done. However, he also frequently blamed officials in Mrs Foster’s then department for lapses and on one occasion accused them of “deliberately misleading” the minister.  In April 2012, Mrs Foster signed a declaration which said: “I have read the Regulatory Impact Assessment and I am satisfied that the benefits justify the costs”, contained within a document known as a ‘Regulatory Impact Assessment’.  However, Mrs Foster had not been told the costs and, even though the statement was made personally by her, she was entirely reliant on her officials’ flawed views.  At the point when the scheme was being designed, paperwork frequently referred to it as commitment of £25 million – because that was the money to cover the period up to 2015 of a 20-year scheme.

When asked if he had considered how the department was committing itself to in total, Dr Crawford said today that he did not think that he had considered the total cost of the scheme, although he was aware that it was more than the £25 million mentioned in the documentation.  During robust questioning, Dr Crawford was asked whether it was “normal” for the minister to be asked to sign a statement which endorsed a scheme as value for money without being told exactly what it would cost.  The former Spad highlighted that the submission in question did say that a Northern Ireland RHI would deliver the highest renewable heat output and the best value – something which was an inaccurate summary of what the consultants commissioned by the department had found.

However, Dr Keith MacLean, the technical assessor to the inquiry, pointed out that the minister was signing to say that she was personally content with the costs of the scheme and its value for money. He told Mrs Foster’s former adviser – who remains as a DUP adviser – that “it seems strange to me” that there was no mention of what those costs were or any explanation of how it was value for money.  Dr Crawford said: “Looking at it back, in hindsight there should have been, and that should have been covered in the covering submission to the RIA.”  Referring to a similar document which Mrs Foster had previously signed despite it containing a blank box for the costs, Dr MacLean said that “effectively a blank cheque was being signed off” and asked: “Is this not another example of the minister signing off on something where the number hasn’t been filled in?”

Dr Crawford said: “The number hasn’t been filled in in terms of the submission to the minister but she is aware that it was with the casework committee and that this whole scheme had gone through the casework committee and the department, whose role was to go through the costs and benefit and make sure it was value for money.”  Asked by counsel to the inquiry Joseph Aiken whether it was common that these documents did not give the cost of the proposal, Dr Crawford said he would have expected to have been given that detail either in that document or in the covering submission to the minister.

Dr MacLean then asked: “You’re expecting to be made aware of all of these things. Now, if that was an expectation why would you not expect to be made aware on the face of the document like this about what the total cost is going to be and why would you not, when you don’t see that information, advise the minister not to sign a blank cheque?”  Dr Crawford said: “At that stage, what I’d have been doing would have been relying on the casework committee [of civil servants] and those that were on the committee had an experience and drilling down in casework and making sure that was the case.”  Dr MacLean said: “But why bother going to the minister at all if all you’re going to do is tick a box ‘oh, casework’s looked at it, so it must be OK, so we’ll do it as well’?”

Dr Crawford said it went to be minster because it had to be her who signed off such a significant document.  Dr MacLean asked: “Is that more than a box-ticking exercise?”  Dr Crawford answered candidly: “No, because, you know, it is the minister who has to sign it, but she was relying on the casework committee to do their job and to revert to her if there were any concerns with it.”

Judge ‘unconvinced’ as to why Spad never read £100k reports

Arlene Foster told the inquiry last week that she believed her Spad was at least reading the summary of reports which came to her and on which taxpayers had spent £100,000.  Dr Crawford now says that he did not read them. During one of several terse exchanges between inquiry chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin and Andrew Crawford,

The retired judge said to the former Spad: “You didn’t read any of the reports, we know that.”  Dr Crawford jumped in to say: “Sorry, we didn’t read any of the consultants’ reports; however, you know, we’ve been through the consultation documents and various submissions that came up from officials; yes, I did not read the consultants’ report, but I did not expect them to be at odds with what was in the submissions…”

Sir Patrick said: “Whatever you may have expected, you didn’t read the reports. You did rely on the bald statement that we see repeated on a number of occasions [that RHI was best value]…I remain unconvinced as to why the reports were not read at some stage; they weren’t even provided to you in the latter stage, you say.”

When asked if he had let the minister down by not reading the reports, he said: “Look, I let; I believe I let; I’m very sorry that I didn’t read it in detail to flag this up. However, I think the minister was asked the question ‘did she expect something to be different in the technical report compared to what she was either made aware of before or what was in the covering submission’, she would not expect that.

“So I do not think that there was an expectation there that I should be analysing technical reports and bringing things to her attention which are at odds of [sic] the submission that she is signing.  However, look – it is a regret of mine that I didn’t identify this and flag it up.”

I never saw minutes of any meeting in a decade, says Spad

Arlene Foster’s long-standing special adviser has said that in almost a decade at the heart of Stormont he never once saw minutes of a meeting involving his minister.  As the public inquiry delves deeper into the failure of Stormont officials to record key meetings, Andrew Crawford repeatedly insisted that the DUP had never asked for things not to be written down in order to avoid them becoming public under transparency laws, as claimed by the head of he civil service.  Dr Crawford was firmly told by inquiry chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin that he was wrong to describe Mr Sterling’s evidence about minute-taking as “innuendo”. Sir Patrick said: “It’s not an innuendo, so there’s no need to use works like innuendo, that is a fact. Whether you knew it or not will be the subject of the report eventually, but that is a fact.”

Later, Dr Crawford was asked if Mrs Foster’s private secretary, should have been saying to him or to the minister that other officials were failing to send her minutes of meetings within the minister, despite being obligated to do so.  Dr Crawford said: “It would be wrong for me to say that in this situation because I never seen [sic] any minutes from any meeting in any department so in this particular case, should [the private secretary] have came [sic] to me…and said ‘Andrew, I need a minute of that meeting’, bearing in mind that I didn’t do it before, it would be wrong for me to have said I should have done [sic] it in this case.”

Dr Keith MacLean asked whether it ought to have been “blatantly obvious” that minutes from ministerial meetings were never coming back to the minister’s private office.  Dr Crawford said: “I take your point, yes.” He said that he does not recall ever being aware of the requirement for a formal record of meeting involving the minister and for those minutes to be sent to the minister’s office.  When asked if he ought to have known about it to protect the minister, he said: “I ought to have known that notes weren’t taken of meetings…but in terms of it coming back down from the energy division to the private office, if I knew minutes were not being taken or notes were not being taken, call it what you may, I would have very much insisted that we get a copy of it…”

Barrister Joseph Aiken said: “The person whose job it was to make the record wasn’t making it, and the person whose job it was to receive the record wasn’t receiving it, and that person, who worked in with the minister and the special adviser…at no stage, based on what you’re explaining, felt the need to draw to your or the minister’s attention ‘we’re not getting any minutes of any of your meetings’.”  Dr Crawford said the issue was never drawn to his attention but that “key points from meetings that needed followed up” would have been sent to the minister’s office.

Mr Aiken asked: “How did it come to be that neither the official whose job it was to write them or the official whose job it was to receive them ever seem to have been concerned that they weren’t writing them or weren’t receiving them?”  Dr Crawford said that he did recall private office officials ensuring that those at meetings were taking notes of what was said but “I cannot answer how, if neither was doing their responsibility or duty, I don’t know where that happened or where that originated or where that started”.

General discussion / Re: Paddy Jackson apology
« on: April 14, 2018, 09:10:57 PM »
Yeah, the law is the law and business is business and sometimes never the twain shall meet. Will we move on to the Cliff Richard case?? :P

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