Celts & Halloween!!

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The influence of the Celt on Halloween is thought to have been more profound than in any other part of the world where the festival is celebrated. The word Halloween has Christian roots but historians believe that it is more typically linked to the pagan Celtic festival of Samhain which comes from the Old Irish for “summer’s end.Samhain was the first and most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Gaelic (Irish, Scottish and Manx calendar.It was held on or about October 31 – November 1 and kindred festivals were held at the same time of year in other Celtic lands; for example the Brythonic Calan Gaeaf (in Wales), Kalan Gwav (in Cornwall) and Kalan Goañv (in Brittany). Samhain is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain.

The event marked the end of the summer and the beginning of the dark half of the year. Bonfires were lit and sacrifices arranged some of them of the human variety. One can only hope that this pleasant end to the summer involved the English given the festival originated along the Belt of the Celts.

Happy Samhain J

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Rathmoyle Day Care Faces The Axe

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Crocodile tears will not save Rathmoyle. Elected members coming on to local media outlets and ‘calling down the curse of the gods’ on those who would dare attempt to close a Residential Home for the elderly and a Day Care Centre in Ballycastle are nothing more than an attempt at spin.

Staff were not informed and patients have been left in the dark about the future of the Day Care provision servicing many families in Moyle. Those who worked a lifetime in Rathmoyle are now in Limbo not knowing if they will have jobs in the future.

The Torys continue to cut budgets to the North. Those who administer those cuts belong to the big two parties in the Executive. Those same two parties membership then run to the media and cry about downgrading of hospitals, Welfare Reform, closure of ResidentialHomesetc and attempt to reassure the general public that they give a fiddlers. All the while it is they themselves who are closing these facilities.

Take a look at education! Run by Sinn Fein! Attacked by the DUP and Mervyn Storey! Then look at health. Run by the DUP and attacked by Sinn Fein. It suits the big two. Makes them look tough on the cuts and each other. But what you won’t hear is that the programme for Government found common ground for all the parties to agree to these stringent cuts.

A democratic deficit has developed in the North that must be challenged. Stormont is failing. When young people emigrate, when health services are downgraded or removed, when the most venerable are attacked by the stripping of welfare, that’s an indication of failure. It is essential that rights and protections are brought in for the people;

  1. Health Rights (how to protect the NHS, for example, as an essential service)
  1. Housing Rights (social and private rental to include housing shortfall)
  1. Industrial Relations (to support both workers and the unemployed)
  1. Reform/Reduction of Quango’s and NDPB’s (to challenge wastage and patronage and to access huge amounts of money that could be re-invested in essential services, such as above)
  1. Bill of Rights (to promote economic democracy and Human Rights)
  1. Civic or Community Forum (to be a democratic vehicle)
  1. Welfare Rights
  1. Educational Rights

Right to live and work at home/in own country must also be a priority given the loss of young people to overseas markets.

If Stormont is failing, and the evidence seems compelling that it is, once proud Socialist Left members of the Legislative Assembly must begin to ask, what the hell are we doing here?

Cushendall Deserves Better than a Spy Network

Is this the start of the Glens being Littered With Surveillance Cameras?

Despite claims by the PSNI, Private security firms and Camera Technology Companies, deterrence of crime has failed to be proved on the installation and operating of security or surveillance cameras in any given location.

Results, both numerical, quantitive and qualitive have failed to conclude that any benefit arises from the installation of spy equipment. But the name reflects the reality of what- in essence- is being proposed in the heart of the Glens.

 

A local Councillor requested security cameras be installed in the Cottage Wood site in Cushendall following recent anti-social behaviour and vandalism in the Council owned facility. To be fair, residents have complained for some time of the nuisance behaviour of a handful of young people in the area with a particular emphasis on the site.

 

When low-level crime is concentrated in an area, residents tend to request the installation of cameras as a preventative measure. It’s at this stage that we must engage the perils of this wish.

 

Spy/Surveillance cameras do not prevent crime. Perpetrators tend to cover themselves or move to an adjacent street or neighbourhood and continue to be a menace to local communities. This in turn leads to requests for additional cameras. The practise is known as the “displacement of crime”-leading to a proliferation of spy cameras.

 

The highest concentration of spy cameras anywhere in the world is in the city of London. Politicians in London lament the fact that after implementation of the spy system crime figures continued to rise. Modern cameras can read a text message on a mobile phone from 250 meters, identify a face from half a mile and can now even help Police to detect a criminal before a crime has been committed. That is the claim!! http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2154861/U-S-surveillance-cameras-use-eyes-pre-crimes-detecting-suspicious-behaviour-alerting-guards.html

 

 

Infrared and other sensory technologies can help cameras quite literally see through walls nowadays. Camera surveillance in built up areas threaten privacy and civil liberties and ever more often challenge our understandings of what is public and what is private in our expectations on privacy.

 

But does a more sinister reason for the cameras introduction exist? Given the historic and proud legacy of the people of the Glens, anyone could have an educated guess. People must ask themselves, who operates the cameras? What is done with the recordings? Who catches site of the filming? What links do they facilitate with organisations like MI5?

 

While warning of the dangers of installing cameras in the Glens, it does not address the root of the anti-social behaviour or vandalism. New ways of addressing these problems inherent in all small towns and villages throughout the Island must be explored. Investment in youth is also a key and proven advantage in tackling this type of crime. Moyle Council recently agreed with my proposal to support the new youth facilities at Saint Aloysius by setting aside £70k. Communities could look at different models of “Community Watch” schemes. The alternative is permanent and is almost impossible to reverse when implemented.

The town of Ballycastle followed a similar path and now has a network of cameras scanning its citizens with no tangible results on crime prevention being delivered. On nearly all occasions, residents who have been the victims of crime refer to the many cameras only to be told, they weren’t working, or, we can’t identify who did it. What they will receive is a report number and instructions on how to claim from their insurance. Meanwhile the cameras maintain their watch-for who’s benefit?  Surely Cushendall deserves better!

 

Orange Order Funding-A Joke!

A Councillor in Moyle reacted with bemusement to suggestions of a ‘Funding disparity’ between the Orange Order and the GAA in the District. The claim made by a Lodge member was laughed at by Councillor Mc Shane who said, “They must apply before we can refuse them”.

The reaction comes following revelations obtained under a freedom of information request that, over a three year period, Moyle District Council had contributed £378 to the Orange Order while over the same period the GAA obtained £62,000.

Much of the funds obtained by GAA Clubs in Moyle had been gained through the ‘Community Infrastructure Fund’. The fund was set up in 2008 after it was requested by Independent Councillor, Padraig Mc Shane.

Councillor Mc Shane stated;

“I proposed the Community Infrastructure Fund be set up following lengthy and protracted meetings with senior officials in both the GAA and Moyle District Council. It was plain to be seen at the time that Moyle had never sought to support the organisation in any meaningful manner relating to its size in the District. Over 120 teams play Gaelic Games in Moyle. The fund was not set up in isolation but rather, was for all voluntary and community groups to obtain funding.

On the allegations of funding disparity Councillor Padraig Mc Shane said;

“The first thing we must do is distinguish between a National sporting organisation and a supremacist, quasi-religious organisation. No comparison exists.

“Secondly, it would be important to ask ourselves why the Orange Order received no funding. Given they never applied, it will be relatively easy for the ratepayer in Moyle to understand why they drew a blank.

“The days of a wink and a nudge to obtain funds in a local Council are over and the Orange Order is now subject to the same rules as everyone else.”

The Councillor finished by saying;

“Of the £207,889 allocated since it was set up, the Community Infrastructure fund has enhanced the six GAA clubs in Moyle by over £100,000. The combined costs of the part-funded projects amount to almost £750,000 helping to redress a historic legacy of under funding in this sporting sector.

“The funding won’t be going away as my proposal enjoys the support of the SDLP and Sinn Fein. Councillor Blaney is also an avid supporter. Added to that, many Unionist Councillors also realise the benefits of the fund.”

Winter Wonderland & BCDG Secure Opportunity for Funding

Moyle District Council have tonight given the green light to another round of Community Funding. Some fifteen thousand pounds will be made available for community groups to submit applications for events over the Christmas period and extending to March.

The funding will allow for the submission of an application from the Ballycastle Community Development Group for their exciting Winter Wonderland Project. The decision follows an appeal from the Group to Council. Council can not support funding for individual groups but can invite applications from across Moyle to apply for funding pots.

The group and the many volunteers have made a fantastic effort to date on the fundraising front and I hope we in the Council Chamber can help be matching their ambitions.

Ballintoy & Moyle Benefit from Game of Thrones

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Series producers of HBO blockbuster series Game of Thrones have offered to erect an interpretation panel at Ballintoy Harbour. The Harbour, a tourist magnet, was used as a back-drop for filming parts of the series over the last two years.

An image depicting how the harbour looked during filming plus a narrative of the filming that went on in the location would be included. In the show, Ballintoy Harbour featured as Pyke Harbour in 2011. It is set to feature again in 2012.

Councillor Padraig Mc Shane has welcomed the idea stating;

“The HBO series Game of Thrones has delivered several direct benefits to Ballintoy including funding for community projects. But the real benefits are beginning to manifest themselves in the tourism sector with visitors travelling from all over the globe to view the natural surroundings of the programme’s setting.

“A sign to mark where filming took place will of course be a welcome addition and a point of interest to those visitors who are unaware of the blockbuster series set location. We wish the series and HBO well and thank them for their selection of Ballintoy among several spectacular locations in Moyle.

Moyle District Council will decide if they are to accept the offer this week.

Ballintoy Waterfalls.

So who’s going to pretend that the Waterfalls in the Glens are not the best we have to offer????? A few pics tonight from the Toy……..

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On the way out to Ballintoy tonight I met Stanley Jamison unblocking a gulley at the top of Knocksoughey. The name reminds me of a story!

A tourist was enjoying a quiet pint in Mc Ginn’s, Ballintoy. He got talking to one of the locals, Raymond Mc Caw, son of the legendary Johnny.

The visitor asked a few questions about weather, employment and where Raymond lived. When asked where he resided Raymond replyed, ‘Craiganee’. Confused, the visitor enquired, ‘Where might that be?’ ‘Up Knocksoughey’. Raymond was given nothing away while remaining plesant. Conversation over.

Funding for Leisure Services Strategy

Funding for a Leisure Services Strategy has been approved to enhance indoor facilities at Moyle District Council and will include options on how to move forward positively on the provision of a state of the art tourism-leisure centre in Ballycastle.
Independent Councillor Padraig Mc Shane who continues to lobby for a tourism leisure facility for the District said;
“The move has been a long time coming  to fruition but has to be welcomed if we are to attempt to develop the local economy and service provision going forward into a new Super Council. Moyle remains the only Council that fails to provide proper Leisure facilities including an indoor swimming pool for its population.
“Many hurdles have been overcome and a case of ‘need’ has been proven. Given site location has been established, it is now time for the Council to move to complete the design and planning stages”.
Councillor Padraig Mc Shane finished by saying;
“If we do not begin to show more ambition going forward, under the new Super Council structure we will continue to fall further behind and ultimately be forgot about.

 

Statement: Causeway Coast and Glens Preservation Partnership

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Information on proposed National Park designation of CausewayCoast and Glens Area

 

Environment Minister Alex Attwood has indicated his intention to created two National Parks in Northern Ireland and enabling legislation will be put before the Assembly in December 2012.

 

The three areas under immediate consideration are the Mournes, Fermanagh Lakelands and the CausewayCoast and Glens.  Of these three, the Mournes area has mounted a sustained and spirited opposition for a number of years.  This area has only become aware over the last few months of this imminent threat.  A lack of vigorous opposition to the proposal may mean that it is seen as the easy option: a failure to oppose maybe seen as tacit support.   A group of concerned residents and farmers has been formed to inform local business and residents of the proposals and of the consequences of National Park designation and to coordinate and focus opposition.  It has Committee members drawn from the Causeway area to Glenarm and has active support from Moyle District Council.

 

It is important to note that, initially, most members were open to persuasion that a National Park designation might bring some benefits to the area in the form of tourism and an associated increase in economic activity.  However, discussions with the Mournes Residents Group, listening to businesses and farmers from National Parks in England and Scotland and our own researches have made it clear that National Park designation has little or nothing to recommend it to local people.

 

The following matters need to be brought to the attention of all interested parties;

 

  • A park management body would be formed, responsible for developing and running the Park in accordance with the legislative aims.  The favoured option appears to be the establishment of an independent Park Authority consisting largely of appointees, only a small number of whom would be required to live in the Park area, and a number of local Councillors.  Board members would be expected to act in the best interests of the management body rather than the interests of any other organisation or nominating body. The Authority would create a statutory management plan for the Park and a statutory duty would be placed on all public bodies to have regard to this plan.  It is envisaged in the consultation document that it may be necessary to allow the Authority  to make bylaws and that it would be a statutory consultee in relation to planning.  In other words, an unelected quango would have significant and possibly overriding influence over every statutory or public body operating in this area including the Rivers Agency, Roads Services, Department of Agriculture and the Planning Authorities.

 

  •  The Authority is considered likely to cost £2 to £3m per annum to run, in addition to start up costs.  That is the cost of running the Park, not investing in business or tourism within it: there is no money allocated for those purposes nor will there be any.  It must be funded by an increase in Rates and/or a diversion of funding from other Government Departments, perhaps Health or Education. Costs of running existing National parks are considerably higher; in 2008/09, the cheapest was £4 million (New Forest) and the most expensive, the Peak District and Northumberland, each cost in excess of £8 million.  The infrastructure in this area in not fit for a significant increase in use, particularly the roads. The Minister has not identified the source of the funds to upgrade and existing budgets, given the delays in filling potholes and repairing flood damage, appear to be stretched to the limit.

 

  • The National Park Authority would have an access strategy, encouraging local councils to exercise their powers under the Access to the Countryside (N.I.) Order.  Those powers include opening up old roadways and paths, possibly closed for decades, or creating new ones.  Visitors to the Park might reasonably assume that the same provisions applied here as in England or the USA: in other words that there is a general right to roam. Leaving aside any impact on property rights, increased access would have significant  detrimental effects on farmers  in terms of the spread of disease, litter, the possibility of personal injury claims and the risk to and from stock.

 

 

 

  • The National Park Management Plan would provide ‘the overarching vision for       the future or the park.’ Any development proposal that conflicted with it would not proceed.  The planning authorities would have to have regard to this plan when preparing development plans. Cushendall has been identified as having  a need for a significant amount of social housing.  If this area is designated a National Park, it is highly unlikely that those houses would be built if the unelected appointees on the Authority deemed that the development was not “sensitive” to the Park’s natural beauty.  Even minor alterations essential to business or farming development would be stifled.  An example given to us was of a farmer refused permission to widen a laneway to allow access by modern agricultural machinery.  The reach of the Authority would extend beyond the Park itself; in the Cairngorms the Park Authority objected to three wind farm applications outside the Park because they would have been visible from within it.

 

  •     The experience of National Parks in England, Scotland and Wales and also in

the USA is that there is a significant shift in population from young to old.  Older,

wealthy retirees can and do buy in National Parks, inflating local house prices

even further and leaving young people no option but to move out.  This impacts

on schools, medical centres and other services.

 

  •     Increased regulations and bureaucracy would stifle small local businesses and            no  new businesses will locate within the area.  If there were increased tourist

numbers, it would be extremely difficult for small local businesses to expand to

take advantage of this.

 

Given the above, it is difficult to see what benefits the Minister envisages.  Specifically, he has identified two areas:

 

  1. Tourism and associated economic activity. In this area, the major recipient of any benefit would be the National Trust which has complete financial control of the two main attractions in the area, the Giants Causeway and the Carrick-a-RedeRopeBridge. Research carried out by the Mournes Residents Group indicated that a simple designation as a National Park did not significantly increase tourist numbers: parks are always in areas of unusual interest or  attraction where visitor numbers are, in any event, significant. The experience of some National Parks in England and Scotland has been that visitors stay and spend outside the Park area and are then bussed through it to look at it.
  2. The possibility of branding local produce to obtain a commercial advantage has also been mentioned: in this economic climate, it is difficult to see how a premium could be charged on produce from a National Park without anything more to recommend it, eg organic status or a particular quality breed.

 

  1. Protection of the environment.  This is an aim shared by all residents and farmers.  There is no indication of how any additional protection is to be achieved or what damage or threat to the environment the Minister wishes to address.  There is already significant regulatory control in place in respect of protection of the environment.  Clearly, any additional regulations would be aimed at the farming community.  Increased population growth, pressure on food and fuel and an increasingly unstable global political make it essential to have a robust and effective agricultural sector free from the uninformed oversight of an unelected quango.

 

Mr Attwood has propounded the idea that a National Park could be created to address local needs and reflect local wishes. He envisages it as promoting tourism and bringing economic benefits, with environmental protection a secondary issue.  This is not possible.  There are six categories of protected areas listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, one of which is a National Park. A protected area is defined as being managed so as to achieve ‘the long term conservation of nature with associated eco system services and cultural values.’ To be internationally recognised as being properly identified and marketed, any National Park would have to comply with that definition. If it doesn’t, it is not a National Park.

 

It is essential to note that in the event of any conflict, precedence will always be given to conservation above any other need or aim, including development, tourism or the economy.  This is called “The Sandford Principle” and this is the guiding principle of any National Park Authority.  A National Park is about conservation primarily and not benefit to the local people or the economy. As soon as any increase in visitor numbers, business or other development began to threaten the overriding aim of conservation, the Park Authority would take steps to neutralise the threat.

 

To summarise, having approached the idea of designation with an open mind, the Partnership is strongly convinced it would be detrimental to the local people and economy.  This is not a mountain wilderness or a barren moorland but an area where a population works and lives. We need to be able to change and develop and respond to market forces in order to remain a dynamic community attractive to young people and new businesses.

 

By all means, let us have investment in tourism and associated infrastructure.  Use the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designation already in place and the funds that would be used to establish and maintain the Park Authority  to brand and market this beautiful and welcoming area.  Do not, on any account, drop the dead hand of a National Park on it.