‘Ooh ah up the ‘Ra’ singing ‘Ooh ah up the ‘Ra’

‘Donaldson tells News Litter: I would stay if a United Ireland ever happened – 400 years of our blood is in Ulster’s soil’.


If the DUP/#UDA are not very careful they could end up like prime minister Boris Johnson in the Featured Image (Up Shit Creek)



With many thanks to: The Irish News and both very educated commentators Brian Feeny and Allison Morris for the original postings.

Maghaberry Prison switches from biomass to gas despite Stormont claim it is ‘irrational’

Maghaberry Prison has a massive biomass boiler’ but says it doesn’t make financial sense to use it

One part of Stormont has done what another part of Stormont said would be irrational – abandoning a biomass boiler to return to using fossil fuel.

In a development which has potentially far-reaching ramifications, the News Letter can reveal that Maghaberry Prison has stopped using its wood pellet boiler because it says it is cheaper to heat the prison using gas.

That dramatically undermines what another set of Stormont officials – in the Department for the Economy (DfE) – have used as a central element of their justification for retrospectively slashing biomass subsidies far beneath what is being paid in GB and the Republic of Ireland.

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which had initially been set up on a disastrous ‘burn to earn’

basis which was more generous than GB was earlier this year dramatically cut to levels far beneath other regions.

Boiler owners who had been promised – not least in a cast-iron guarantee from the then energy minister Arlene Foster – that their payments could not be altered for 20 years argued that what the department was doing would in some cases leave them unable to repay their loans because they had built into their projections what Stormont told them was guaranteed RHI income.

When those changes were made in February, DfE’s most senior civil servant responsible for RHI, Richard Rodgers, told the media that “if they [boiler owners] use the fossil fuel [alternative] then it is more expensive for them so it would not be rational for them to do that.”

He told MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that biomass was “the lowest cost fuel on the market”.

During the same evidence session, the department’s most senior official, permanent secretary Noel Lavery, said he had “no evidence” that anyone was reverting to fossil fuel. Boiler owners argued that this was incorrect, but DfE was insistent that they were wrong.

However, Stormont’s Department of Justice has confirmed that Maghaberry Prison installed a biomass boiler in 2011 – the year before RHI was introduced – but it is “not in operation at the moment as it is currently more cost effective to use natural gas”. The boiler was never part of the RHI scheme.

Other documentation obtained by the News Letter shows that the large 500kw boiler – five times the size of most RHI boilers and therefore likely to be more efficient – had been operating around the clock but that it was now “cheaper to burn gas”.

Civil servants’ repeated insistence that this would be nonsensical suggests that those running the scheme may still be making basic mistakes.

Moy Park’s farmers – hundreds of whom are on the scheme – have access to bulk-bought LPG through the poultry processor, but DfE officials insisted that even that cut-price gas would not be cheaper than biomass.

Andrew Trimble, executive chairman of the Renewable Heat Association which represents most RHI claimants, said: “In evidence to the NI Select Committee, DfE’s permanent secretary stated that the head of Energy Branch told him not less than five times a day that biomass is the cheaper fuel – the department even filmed him saying so, and broadcast this on Twitter.

“Biomass isn’t cheap and the capital and operating costs are much greater. We have sent Mr Lavery five copies of the Balcas announcement of price rises and we hope that he will have the good grace to confirm that his team may have miscalculated the rebate.”

In a statement, DfE said: “The tariffs set in the Northern Ireland (Regional Rates and Energy) Act 2019 were based not on assumptions but on actual data fed into independent expert analysis. However, DfE has always recognised that there are variable elements within the tariff calculations and is committed to keeping those variables under review.

“Should there be a significant and sustained change in the variable elements such as fuel prices, DfE will consider the revision of the tariffs to reflect these movements. DfE recently commissioned an independent energy consultancy to carry out a review and assess the current values of the variable elements of the medium biomass tariffs. The consultants’ final report is due with the Department before the end of 2019.

“Kerosene, as the predominant heating fuel used in Northern Ireland, is the counterfactual fuel used in calculating the NI RHI tariffs. Recent data has shown that biomass fuel prices remain lower than kerosene.

“The use of LPG and in particular discounted LPG available only to contracted Moy Park farmers, was rejected by the independent experts that provided the advice leading to the 2019 tariffs.

“The biomass boiler installed at Maghaberry prison was not accredited to the NI RHI Scheme and has therefore never received tariff payments. DfE understands Maghaberry now makes use of natural gas for heat, not liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

“These are different products with different price points. Natural gas prices have been persistently lower than LPG prices. In relation to the NI Non-Domestic RHI Scheme, the vast majority of participants do not have access to the natural gas network.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast News Letter and Sam McBride for the original story.



DUP annual party conference 2019

With many thanks to: Slugger O’Toole for the original posting 

RHI: ‘Eyebrows raised’ over inquiry solicitor’s advisory role at Department for Economy

The appointment of the solicitor to the RHI inquiry to a high-level post advising the department most centrally involved in the scandal ‘raised eyebrows’ in Stormont, says journalist Sam McBride

Patrick Butler, described as the “beating heart” of the inquiry, took up the position in the Department for the Economy (DfE) in the summer.

The journalist says that although the move was entirely within the rules it caused debate in Stormont.

“In summer 2019, as the inquiry was finalising its report and preparing right of reply letters to those it would criticise, Butler took up a high-level post advising the department most centrally involved in RHI – the Department for the Economy (DfE),” McBride writes.

“For half of the week he was working in the inquiry and for the remainder he was in Stormont, acting as a senior legal adviser to DfE.” The solicitor’s new role was “on a temporary and part-time basis” and was “completely separate from RHI and energy-related matters”.

However, McBride writes: “But even without being involved in anything RHI-related, the idea that a critical figure in the multi-million-pound inquiry investigating a departmental disaster would move to work for that department before the inquiry had even finished was problematic, at least in public relations terms. One civil servant said, ‘In terms of how it’s perceived, it doesn’t look good. There’s a lot of talk about it within the civil service’.”

McBride says that Mr Butler’s move was not announced by the RHI inquiry but was confirmed by it in response to questions after a source contacted him.

“As with several members of the inquiry’s staff, Butler was a civil servant – working as a lawyer in the Departmental Solicitor’s Office (DSO) – who had been seconded to the inquiry for its duration,” he writes.

“The inquiry said that Butler had been a staff member of the DSO throughout, in the same manner as with the public inquiry into historical institutional abuse, and ‘the inquiry chairman and the departmental solicitor were aware of this from the outset and were satisfied that robust measures were put in place to address any possible concerns about an actual, or perceived, conflict of interest. Ethical walls have been put in place to avoid any such conflict. Patrick Butler has not worked on any RHI-related work in his new role with the DSO’.”

The journalist writes: “The Department of Finance, within which the DSO sits, said that Butler had been appointed ‘on a temporary and part-time basis, to a legal advisory post which deals with DfE’ but that the role was ‘completely separate from RHI and energy-related matters’.”

The Department of Finance, which deals with the appointment of departmental solicitors, last night said: “Patrick Butler is in a legal advisory post which deals with Department for the Economy on a part-time basis.

“This post is advising on a range of DfE areas which are completely separate from RHI and energy related matters. The Departmental Solicitor’s Office put in place robust mechanisms to avoid any potential or perceived conflict of interest.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Suzanne Breen for the original story 

Follow these links to find out more: https://socialistpartyni.org/analysis-news/local/rhi-inquiry-throws-light-on-stormonts-rotten-culture/

(2)-: https://seachranaidhe1.blog/2019/10/15/arlene-foster-refuses-to-explain-why-no-civil-servants-at-moya-park-meeting/

Arlene Foster refuses to explain why no civil servants at Moy Park meeting

Arlene Foster has refused to explain why civil servants were excluded from a meeting with the Brazilian owner of a major RHI beneficiary just a year after RHI was set up

Poultry processor Moy ParkNorthern Ireland’s biggest private sector employertargeted the scheme because it made money from it via a complex pricing structure which few in Stormont understood.

Arlene Foster

While it seemed to outsiders that poultry farmers were making a fortune from RHI, actually much of the benefit was accruing to Moy Park and its multinational owner.

In January 2016, the company was tipped off by Mrs Foster’s key advisor, Andrew Crawford, that RHI was to close and senior executives began a concerted effort to get as many of its farmers into the scheme as possible, further increasing the cost to taxpayers of the disastrous scheme.

A new book by News Letter Political Editor Sam McBride sets out at least four ways in which Moy Park financially benefited from ‘cash for ash’.

The book, Burned, which goes on sale today, reveals that a DUP source who at a senior level worked with Dr Crawford over many years described the spad as having been “so, so close” to Moy Park.

Andrew Crawford

The political figure said: “Moy Park certainly cultivated that relationship – dinners, lunches, etc. But I don’t believe for a second that Crawford was paid by them.”

The DUP source also said: “Andrew Crawford was unusually interested in RHI. He was all over it like a rash.”

In 2008, Moy Park had been bought by giant Brazilian meat processor Marfrig in a $680 million deal. But within just seven years, Moy Park’s valuation more than doubled.

In September 2015 – as Moy Park’s farmers were piling into RHI – the company was sold to another Brazilian meat giant, JBS.

Less than a year later, bribery charges – unconnected to the Moy Park sale – would begin to be levelled at senior JBS figures in a massive scandal which would shake Brazilian society.

Moy Park has since been sold by JBS – but to a company which it controls, Pilgrim’s Pride, in a sale which attracted further allegations and litigation from shareholders.

In 2013, Mrs Foster travelled to Brazil on a trade mission. In her role as Stormont’s enterprise, trade and investment minister, one of her major engagements was with Marfrig.

The book reveals Mrs Foster’s briefing notes, showing that on the night of May 23, she had been due to dine with Marfrig executives at the Michelin-starred Mani Manioca, one of Sao Paulo’s hippest restaurants.

According to the briefing material, she was to conduct the key meeting – unusually – without her civil servants.

It was the only event on the entire trade mission where one of Foster’s officials or an official from the British consulate did not accompany the minister.

Only Dr Crawford and Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton, a former DUP spad, were to be present. The unusual situation was justified on the basis that it was “to ensure that the two Marfrig representatives aren’t overwhelmed”.

The purpose of the meeting was “to further discuss Marfrig’s presence in Northern Ireland”. When asked questions about the meeting, Foster and Crawford replied with a solicitor’s letter which did not answer the questions and failed to provide any explanation for what had gone on – but instead threatened to sue for libel.

A copy of an extract of the solicitors letter sent to Sam McBride after the DUP refused to be interviewed for the book

The letter also said that the meeting had been shifted from dinner to breakfast and that the DUP figures “did not meet with Marfrig executives without officials present in order to ensure there was no minute of the meeting”.

The letter added that a translator had been present, although it would not be the role of a translator to record a civil service minute of what transpired.

Stormont’s rules state that departmental meetings with external individuals must be minuted.

When asked what she had done to ensure that an accurate record of the meeting was kept, Mrs Foster declined to respond.

The year after Mrs Foster travelled to Brazil, Marfrig chief executive Sergio Rial said the company had “ongoing, positive engagement with the Northern Ireland Executive and have experienced a very pro-business attitude”.

Responding to questions from the News Letter about why Mrs Foster met Marfrig executives without her civil servants being present, and what steps she had taken to ensure that an accurate record of what was discussed was kept, a DUP spokesperson said: “It would not be appropriate to comment on issues related to the work of the public inquiry before that process has been completed.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast News Letter and a Staff Reporter for the original story 

Foster warns Coveney he is rejecting ‘reasonable’ Brexit offer with ‘intransigent’ remarks

Simon Coveney said if Boris Johnson’s plan is the final proposal “there will be no deal”

Arlene Foster said Mr Conveney’s remarks were “unhelpful, obstructionist and intransigent”

Nigel Dodds said Leo Varadkar will be remembered as the Taoiseach who restored a hard border in Ireland

Irish Deputy PM: If this is the final proposal, there will be no deal

The leader of the DUP has warned the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney that he is rejecting a reasonable offer in Boris Johnson’s latest Brexit paper.

Arlene Foster accused Mr Coveney of paving the road for a no-deal Brexit if he rejects the proposal.

Speaking in the Dail on Thursday, Mr Coveney said there would be no Brexit deal if the paper put forward by the Prime Minister is the final proposal.

Mrs Foster described Mr Coveney’s remarks as “deeply unhelpful, obstructionist and intransigent”.

Johnson’s Brexit plan runs into European resistance
Impossible to police 300 crossing points on Irish border, PSNI chief tells PM

“The Irish government’s majoritarian desire to ride roughshod over unionism was one of the reasons why the Withdrawal Agreement was rejected,” she said.

“Mr Coveney’s rejection of a reasonable offer is paving the road for a no deal exit because unionism will not allow Northern Ireland to be trapped at the whim of Dublin or the EU. We will not buy that,” she said.

“The Irish government’s preparedness to dump the consent principle for their country’s expediency is foolish in the extreme and sends a very clear message to unionists.

“From our 2017 Manifesto to Paragraph 50 of the December 2017 Joint Report, the consent of the people of Northern Ireland for specific solutions has been key.

“It is at the heart of the Belfast and St Andrews Agreements, yet the Irish Foreign Minister is now railing against it because it doesn’t suit his agenda.”

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Coveney said he believed Mr Johnson wanted to make a deal.

The Irish Government regarded the proposal as a serious proposal and that was why their response is a cautious one, he said.

“But if that is the final proposal there will be no deal. There are a number of fundamental problems with that proposal.”

He said it would not be the basis of a final agreement, “but I hope it will be a stepping stone” – saying that there are serious problems with the proposals for customs checks, the role that would be played by the Stormont Executive and a veto for any party on whether to stay in the agreement.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds also hit out at Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Conveney for their response to Boris Johnson’s proposals

“The incendiary and outrageous comments by Leo Varadkar and his Foreign Minister are a clear ramping up of rhetoric designed to derail any realistic prospect of a deal,” he said.

“The flippant Dublin reaction to the Prime Minister’s proposals has also exposed the reality that the Irish government would never have consented to the United Kingdom leaving the backstop if it had been implemented.

“Our message to Leo is simple. He should reflect on his comments and his intransigent approach.

“He is destined to go down in history as the Taoiseach who restored a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland because his friends in Brussels will insist on it.”

On a visit to Sweden, Mr Varadkar said Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans “fall short in a number of aspects”.

Mr Varadkar said there were five ways to avoid a hard border – the reunification of Ireland; the Irish Republic re-joining the UK; the UK remaining in the single market or customs union; the border backstop mechanism; or the UK reversing the Brexit decision.

“There are one in five ways that this can be done, and at least four of those would be acceptable to the Irish government, but the best one is of course a backstop or some form of backstop, and that’s what we are trying to achieve,” he said.

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the original story 

Brexit: ‘It will be no-deal if plan is final offer’

Simon Coveney said there were ‘fundamental problems’ with the latest Brexit proposals Image copyright PA MEDIA

There will be no deal if the latest Brexit plan put forward by the UK is the “final proposal”, Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney has said.

The UK’s offer to the EU would replace the Irish border backstop through a number of different arrangements.

The Irish government is concerned about customs checks and a review mechanism for the devolved NI government.

Giving Stormont a say on a single market deal coming into force could not be approved, Mr Coveney added.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan would see Northern Ireland stay in the European single market for goods but leave the customs union – resulting in new customs checks.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said that Mr Coveney’s remarks were “deeply unhelpful, obstructionist and intransigent”.

“Mr Coveney’s rejection of a reasonable offer is paving the road for a no deal exit because unionism will not allow Northern Ireland to be trapped at the whim of Dublin or the EU”, she said.

“There will be no return to the flawed backstop. We will leave the EU, Customs Union and single market alongside the rest of the United Kingdom.”

Skip Twitter post by @BBCPolitics

BBC Politics

Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar lists five ways to avoid a north-south border:

– A united Ireland
– Ireland rejoining the UK
– UK deciding to stay in the EU
– The “Norway plus” model
– The backstop

“The best one is, of course, the backstop”, he addshttp://bbc.in/2nZHUV5

Embedded video
2:15 PM – Oct 3, 2019
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End of Twitter post by @BBCPolitics

Speaking on Thursday, Irish PM Leo Varadkar repeated the Irish government’s stance that the plans “fall short in a number of aspects”.

Mr Varadkar said he was “reassured” by comments made by Mr Johnson that there would be no physical infrastructure at the Irish border.

However, he said that pledge appeared to contradict the text of the UK plan, which indicated checks could be carried out at unspecified designated locations.

There was a need to “tease out” the detail of the customs proposals, he said.

LIVE: PM updates MPs on Brexit border plans
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Although the proposals were welcomed by the DUP, other political parties in Northern Ireland and business groups have dismissed it.

Stormont’s power-sharing government is currently not sitting – it collapsed two-and-a-half years ago amid a bitter row about a green energy scheme.

‘An effort’
The UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October, unless a deal is reached or the EU grants a further extension, if the UK requests it.

Mr Coveney was speaking in the Dail (Irish parliament) on Thursday, as Boris Johnson set out his proposal for MPs in Westminster as a “genuine attempt to bridge the chasm” with the EU.

He said he believed the prime minister did want to reach a Brexit deal, and that the latest offer was an “effort” to move the UK and EU in the direction of a deal – but there were “fundamental problems” with it.

Media captionGovernment “has proposed a new deal for Northern Ireland”

Under Mr Johnson’s proposals, Northern Ireland would leave the EU’s customs union alongside the rest of the UK, at the start of 2021 – but Northern Ireland would, with the consent of politicians in the Stormont Assembly, continue to apply EU legislation relating to agricultural and other products.

The consent of Northern Ireland’s politicians would have to be sought every four years.

“If that is the final proposal, there will be no deal,” Mr Coveney said.

He said the Irish government and the EU could not approve the plan to give the Stormont Assembly a say on whether to allow that single market arrangement to come into force.

‘Real problem’
“We cannot support anything that suggests one party, indeed the minority in Northern Ireland, could make the decisions for the majority,” he added.

There has been concern from nationalist parties at Stormont that it could be used as a unionist veto, as a cross-community vote would be needed at Stormont before EU regulations could continue to be followed.

Mr Coveney also criticised the UK’s proposal to leave the EU customs union as a whole.

“Despite the paper saying they want to avoid customs checks, it raises the prospect of customs points somewhere, not just premises and businesses – and we think that’s going to be a real problem.”

Mr Varadkar is due to speak to Mr Johnson next week, as both UK and EU officials continue discussions.

With many thanks to: BBCNews and Jayne McCormack NI political reporter




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