Monday, 7 March 2011

Irish Government and National Recovery

I spent a day in Dublin next week it was cold, bright but pleasant. Election posters hung on lamp posts with almost a kind of sad look. So the elections is all changed utterly is a terrible beauty born? Speaking to a few friends the answer would have to be no not really. The faces have changed but the problems and peoples fears of job losses and higher taxes have not gone.

There is an anger at all politicians. As I got off the train various papers had the story that the politicians had been ignoring the warnings from the Department for Finance for 10 years. This colours the anger.

It is easy to over hear the anger at Bertie and who pays for the tribunals, anger at the Cowen government for perceived arrogance and big pay packets and redundnacy payments. Business are very wary and waiting to see what happens.

Despite the newly elected TDs cheering and on people shoulders at the election centres the overall atmosphere was gloom. Now its time to see when the cheering stops and what the new government can do.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Great Renewable Energy News for NI

Great jobs and renewable energy investment announcement

Gaelectric secures planning approval for 42 MW wind farm at Dunbeg, Co. Derry

Dunbeg wind farm will represent a total investment of €68 million and will generate sufficient renewable power to meet the electricity demand of 24,000 homes

Gaelectric also announces financial close on 4.6 MW Skrine wind farm, Co. Roscommon with Triodos Bank

Thursday, 24 February, 2011 – The Irish renewable energy group, Gaelectric, has secured full planning approval for a 42 MW wind farm at Dunbeg, Co. Derry. Dunbeg will be one of the most significant wind farm developments on the island of Ireland and will generate sufficient renewable power to meet the electricity demand of 24,000homes. The total investment at Dunbeg will amount to €68 million (Stg£58 million).

The development will consist of 14 wind turbines with a maximum hub height of 80 metres and a maximum blade diameter of 90 metres.

Commenting on the Dunbeg planning approval, Gaelectric Chief Executive Brendan McGrath, said:

“This is a very significant milestone for our business and greatly strengthens Gaelectric’s platform in the energy market. We have now secured planning approval for over 80MW of wind energy developments in Northern Ireland. The Dunbeg site is a world-class energy resource and accounts for over half of this generation capacity.”

Within the last 12 Months, Gaelectric has secured full planning approval for its Northern Ireland wind farm developments at Carn Hill, Co. Antrim (15 MW), Cregganconroe, Co. Tyrone (12.5 MW) and Inishative, Co. Tyrone (15 MW). In total, Gaelectric is currently progressing 200 MW of wind energy projects on the island of Ireland.

Mr. McGrath acknowledged the commitment and support of the Northern Ireland Executive to a sustainable energy future on the island of Ireland. He said:

“Our Northern Ireland projects will be invaluable in securing a sustainable energy future on the island of Ireland. The role of the NI Environment Minister, Mr. Edwin Poots, has been particularly important in ensuring that development policy allows renewable energy projects to be progressed while ensuring effective planning controls and protection of the natural environment.”

Environment Minister Edwin Poots said: Reaching the 40% renewable energy target by 2020 is not just a desire for the Northern Ireland Executive, it is an imperative. The Dunbeg proposal will assist us in achieving this. It is also an important planning decision given the site sensitivities and will set a precedent for future applicaions in the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty."

The Dunbeg site is located near the A37 midway between Limavady and Coleraine, and within the Binevenagh AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). Planning approval follows Gaelectric’s successful appeal to the Northern Ireland Planning Appeals Commission which overturned an earlier decision of the Northern Ireland Planning Service to refuse approval. Approval has also co-incided with a planning policy decision that an AONB designation should not of itself present a barrier to the sustainable development of renewable energy projects.

Making the Dunbeg announcement, Gaelectric Operations Director, Mike Denny, said:

“Dunbeg will not only provide a significant boost to Northern Ireland’s renewable energy capacity, it will also generate jobs, support increased workforce skills and provide economic activity to the area.”

He said: “Gaelectric has completed an extensive consultation programme to update local communities on the Dunbeg project and a locally administered community fund will be established to support community projects in the area.”

Monday, 21 February 2011

Great Broadband News in NI

We are constantly subjected to all the negative stories from the media on business, politics and employment. We should spend more time celebrating successes than focusing on the negative. Perhaps our politics and economics would be better for it. I dont mean ignoring reality but it is said you get more of what you focus on.

Today there was a very positive announcement for our part of the world.

BT announced a multimillion investment in fibre broadband infrastructure that puts NI in one of the top regional positions in the UK and Europe. 60 more jobs and 215,000 businesses and households have access to faster broadband. This will make NI a big target for investment

With more investments of this nature and perhaps this type of story taking the lead in news a more positive and propserous futre can be achieved.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Bio Business in NI - Great Story

Spent part of the day at a very interesting conference hosted by Belfast Metropolitan College and Bio Business. The event focused on skills and innovation.

I am not a scientist but I was very impressed at some of the products, many produced here, that companies small and large are producing that can assist health professionals keep track of a patients health without ever leaving the office.

Telehealth/Connected Health has potential savings to the health service and could lead to:reduced waiting lists; reduced hospital admissions; more effective and timely treatment which again would remove costs; greater communication between patient and medical staff and indeed between medical professionals.

The point is that this expertise is here, now, investing and employing people. This needs to recognised at the highest political and business levels. InvestNI should be supported in helping our companies export technology which will create high skilled and high paid jobs at home.

But the benefits of this technology should be felt here, at home, now in order to help our health service make significant savings in the near future.

The Bio Sector also needs outlets to showcase its products to government here in NI and all-island as well as the trade missions abroad.Hopefully this would help government see that small companies can make as a significant impact as big companies and procurement rules should be reformed to recognise this.

I was very impressed this morning and thanks to BMC and Bio Business for a very interesting morning. Now lets spread the good news!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Back again

Yes my legions of fans I have returned! That should mean so much to all 3 of you. Its been about a year since I have blogged and what a year it has been.

Big news first - I have started my own public affairs company called Resolute Public Affairs. The website should be available soon! Also moving to a new house in April in South Belfast - so all you election candidates be aware.

I have started again because so much appears to be happening in the world of politics at the moment - Local and Assembly elections in May; a budget that has no programme for government; a budget that votes were taken on before the public consultation had even ended! oh yeah and various crises in the health service - 46,000 x-rays ignored - but dont worry everyone will keep their jobs!

There will also be elections in the Republic of Ireland which will have a bearing on what happens in our part of the world.

Hopefully the new posts will be interesting and regular it would be great to hear any and all comments



Tuesday, 16 February 2010

What has the Assembly Ever Done For Us?

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson began the debate on the Budget yesterday. This is likely to be the toughest ever budget in NI with significant cuts to most departments but most publicly the Health Department. So perhaps to get his response in early he outlined what he thought the Assembly had succeeded in doing in the last 12 months

"Since last April:
· 14 major school building projects have been completed – with a further two projects likely to complete soon;
· Funding of almost £203million was made available to our two universities to cover teaching, learning and research;
· A new technology and skills centre opened at the South West College and new facilities are under construction at the Belfast Metropolitan College.
· In the Health Service, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service took receipt of 66 new ambulances;
· Construction work has begun on the new South West Hospital in Enniskillen and new Health and Wellbeing Centres in West Belfast;
· A new Dementia Services Development Centre and the Knockbreda Health and Care Centre has opened in Belfast whilst the Downe Hospital in Downpatrick opened in May;
· A £17million contract has been awarded to provide additional dentists in access 'hotspots' across Northern Ireland.
· 1,268 farm businesses have received letters of offer in relation to the first tranche of the Farm Modernisation Programme, whilst farmers have benefitted through funding of £300million under the Common Agricultural Policy;
· £2.1billion pounds of social security benefits and income support was made available to support people across Northern Ireland;
· 1,750 social and over 500 affordable houses were built, leaving us on track to deliver 10,000 social and affordable homes by 2013 and, in so doing, helping us support the construction industry during challenging times."

Monday, 8 February 2010

Policing and Justice.....

Last week was a long week and I am reasonably sure that most people have heard enough on Policing and Justice to last them a long time. Bad news I am afraid - politics in Northern Ireland is likely to be dominated by this issue for several months to come.

Today,nominations are being accepted from people who wish to put themselves forward for the post of Justice Minister. Note this is not explicitly restricted to political parties so anyone from Stephen Nolan to yours truly could give it a go!

SF and DUP have stated that they will not take the position. For some strange reason the two big partiers have decided not to run the d'hondt sysyetm by which Ministers are chosen and have pretty much opted for an Alliance Party Minister. This is open to challenge and I am sure that the new SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie will see this as the first test of her leadership.

The Alliance Party leader David Ford is even rumoured to be not happy at the prospect unless more is done to advance a shared future in Northern Ireland. I am all for advancing a shared future but teh Alliance Party do not have a sufficient mandate to hold a ministerial office. I like many others have a few questions

1. Why is d'hondt not being run? If it were the SDLP would be in line for the post.

2. Why have the two main parties abdicated their desire to hold the post. Could it be because the holder of that office could never do a really good job no matter how they were supported?

3. If we cant find an agreed nominee are we back to square one or will we run d'hondt which has been good enough for all the other ministers to date?

These answers will come slowly and painfully over the coming weeks and months. It aint over yet folks and the fat lady is likely to be a lot thinner by the time it does.