Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Belfast Pride Festival (23-30 July)

Belfast Pride logo

Now in its 21st year after its first “run through the city centre” Belfast Pride has a week of activities (and a growing set of events on the fringe) surrounding the Saturday afternoon parade through Belfast city centre.

This year only one group has registered a protest with the Parades Commission. So unless the normal protest from Sandown Road Free Presbyterian has merged in with the Stop the Parade Coalition, they must be staying at home this year. (Or else planning to protest illegally!)

This year’s Pride programme features, films, talks, music, and faith.

The annual Pride Talks Back debate moves to Parliament Buildings at Stormont at 2.30pm on Monday 25 July. Politicians from all the major parties have been invited (the DUP didn’t turn up last year) along with panellists from the LGBT sector. Tickets available from talksback AT belfastpride DOT com.

There’s a Northstar Science Fiction Night in the Europa Hotel on Tuesday 26 at 7.30pm.

Laramie Project – a powerful play chronicling the aftermath of the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming – will be performed in the Lyric Theatre on Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 at 7.30pm. £3 tickets available from Lyric Theatre.

The Pride Parade leaves Custom House Square at 2pm on Saturday 30 and will tour the city centre before returning for the rest of Party in the Square music, dancing and costumes. New for 2011, Families in the Square will be a calmer venue based beside the Lagan Lookout with a community market place, bouncy castle and face painters.

Practically, the Rainbow Project have teamed up with the Royal Hospital to offer two walk-in sexual health clinics. Pipeworks Sauna (Union Street) on Friday 29 between 5.30pm and 8pm; the Rainbow Project Tent in the Families in the Square area on Saturday 30 between 3pm and 6pm (offering a simple blood test for HIVB, Syphilis, Hepatitis B & C and vaccinations for Hepatitis A & B).

From a faith perspective, the festival offers a number of events.

Two consecutive talks will be hosted in All Souls' Church, Elmwood Avenue at 7pm on Sunday 24.

  • Jonathan Loved David - “Andrew McFarland [Faith + Pride] will look at the compelling reasons to believe that David (who became the greatest King of Israel, and wrote many of the Psalms) and Jonathan (the son of the first king) were in a same-sex relationship.
  • Oy Vay I’m Gay – “Paula Rita Tabakin will explore homosexuality from a Jewish reform perspective, using texts and traditions.

Hymn or Us? will debate whether LGBT and Christianity can co-exist in the Europa Hotel (Glengall Street entrance) on Thursday 28 at 7.30pm. Panellists include Rev Chris Hudson (All Souls’ Non-Subscribing Presbyterian), Rev David McIlveen (Sandown Road Free Presbyterian) and Dr Mike Davidson (Core Issue). Chaired by William Crawley. £2 (in advance), £3 (on door). Now free.

Annual Pride Church Service is at 3pm on Sunday 1 August in All Souls’ Church, Elmwood Avenue. The programme indicates that “everyone is warmly invited to attend, and will be made welcome, regardless of orientation, gender, denomination or faith”.

Supermassive Black Holes and Killer Asteroids - 2011 Michael West Lecture Series at QUB

Two public lectures coming up for astronomically interested readers.

The 2011 Michael West Lecture Series presented by the Astrophysics Research Centre at QUB starts this Friday evening with a lecture about Supermassive Black Holes [and hyperbole?] by Prof Reinhard Genzel. Friday 22 July at 7pm in the Larmor Lecture Theatre (in the Physics Building which sits behind the Botanic Gardens side of the main quadrangle).

Over the past two decades, compelling evidence has been obtained for the existence of black holes with masses millions of times that of our Sun. In 2008, Reinhard Genzel won the prestigious Shaw Prize for establishing the existence of such a supermassive black hole in the centre of our own Milky Way.

That will be followed by Dr Robert Jedicke speaking about Killer Asteroids in the same venue on Wednesday 3 August at 7pm.

The current surveys for 1km near-Earth asteroids have almost completed their goal of finding 90% of the population, but the telescopes used are too small to discover more than a fraction of the dangerous sub-km objects. A renowned asteroid hunter, Jedicke is leading the search for dangerous asteroids with the new PanSTARRS1 telescope in Hawaii, the largest and most sensitive telescope built for this task.

While admission is free, the organisers note that reservations are required.

Quick update on Qriously

Quick update on my earlier post about Qriously, the real-time sentiment polling tool.

The CEO was in touch to say that real (non-demo) users can much more accurately target questions at geographic regions (as well as aiming at particular genre of apps).

And when repeated later in the day with a larger sample size, the strange results for Obama (where the right hand option got two thirds of the votes whether it said ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ disappeared. So it is likely to be down to the small sample size.

A more sane set of Obama results

Right-hand bias panic over!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Free tours around Belfast Met's College Square East Building before they head east to Titanic Quarter

For the next fortnight there's an opportunity to explore the old Technical College in College Square East. Belfast Metropolitan College (Belfast Met) moves across to its new premises in Titanic Quarter in the autumn, so this will be one of the last chances to see around the historic building before it is locked up.

Poster advertising College Square East tours around Belfast Met building

Historian Henry V Bell will conduct the lunchtime tours taking in the architectural and historical features of the building that has been educating people in Belfast for well over 100 years. Apparently there's even a working steam engine in the building, though you'll have to go on the tour to find out more!

Tours start at noon, 18-22 July and 25-27 July. Turn up at the college.

h/t to PLACE for details of the tours

President McAleese, Northern bees, and The Sash ... all in a Dublin (#Twelfth) afternoon

Last Tuesday, after a night of bonfires and a morning of following District Lodge Number 6 around Belfast to the accompaniment to hymn tunes The Sash, I headed down to Dublin with friends for a different Twelfth celebration.

President McAleese addressing her final garden party

For the last fourteen years, President McAleese has hosted a garden party on the 12 July in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin, her Phoenix Park residence. In this final garden party of her presidency, she explained that she had

"inaugurated an annual Garden party on July 12th to mark that famous battle in 1690 which set the children of Williamite and Jacobite on a four hundred year journey into enmity but also to mark the start of our mutual journey out of enmity and into friendship."

The President described the 400 guests as "sons and daughters of all the politics, faiths and perspectives which live on this island". Over the course of her presidency the "temper and structure of cross-border relations has changed dramatically". Referring to the recent visit by the British monarch, President McAleese described it as

"a very clear manifestation of the new relationship of neighbourliness and mutual respect that now prevails on this island and between these islands, a relationship underpinned by the clearly expressed will of the vast majority of the people".

She later remarked:

"The destination of full reconciliation and the disappearance of sectarianism is still some distance ahead of us but today, when the old culture of hatred and violence rears its head, as it does still from time to time, it is met with a robust, cross-community solidarity that shows just how much has changed and how much determination there is that this process of change will continue."

There's an orchard on the estate from which a very fine organic apple juice is made. Over on Slugger I've posted about the Northern Ireland bees that are being exported to Áras an Uachtaráin this week to start making honey for the next president.

Áras an Uachtaráin - the Irish President's residence in Dublin's Phoenix Park

Having scoffed nibbles under the bright afternoon sun - undoubtedly a bit posher than the kind of fare the Orange (wo)men and their supporters were eating in the fields across the North - we sat down in the marquee and listened to the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra (conducted by the animated Gearóid Grant) perform a short programme.

Being the 12 July, there was no getting away from the Sash! After Uilleann piper and composer Liam O'Flynn led a rendition of An Droichead (The Bridge, composed for the President's inauguration back in 1997), the orchestra was joined by soloists from the Cross Border Orchestra to play a medley of Irish tunes - Crossing Bridges - that prominently featured a certain ballad commemorating the victory of King William III. A blatter of a Lambeg Drum was all it needed to top it off!

Music - as well as people - from different traditions sitting at ease beside each other, while the Irish Tricolour flew overhead. No one seemed to need to be offended. All very relaxed. A beautiful afternoon.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Féile an Phobail / West Belfast Festival 2011 (Thursday 28 July - Sunday 7 August)

Féile an Phobail - West Belfast Festival - logo

Féile an Phobail – the West Belfast Festival – has grown into an enormous community festival. It’s quite unlike some of the other eighty or so festivals that Belfast hosts each year. There’s a feeling of by the people, for the people about it. It’s as much about talking and listening as it is about the high art and music, subjects important to the community rather than too many highfalutin imported ideals.

There are too many highlights in the 84 page festival programme (link to large PDF) to name them all, but here goes with a (long) short list of picks between Thursday 28 July and Sunday 7 August.

Thursday 28 July at 5pm. Danny Morrison will be in conversation with the BBC’s Stephen Walker about his recently published book ‘Hide and Seek’ telling the story of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, the Vatican-based Irish priest who saved the lives of thousands of Allied soldiers and jews during WWII. Falls Library. Free.

Thursday 28 July at 6pm. Kabosh theatre company present ‘Wonderwall’. Bulldozers are lined up awaiting the decision of the people on whether the ‘wall’ should stay or come down. “A new play exploring the value of boundaries in our city, raising important issues surrounding difference, sectarianism, and just where do you get the best gravy chips – the Falls or the Shankill?” Suitable for 14 years+ and 25 minutes long. North Howard Street Interface. Free.

Thursday 28 July at 7.30pm. Panel discussion in which families of prisoners describe the conditions inside Maghaberry Prison and outline the prisoners’ demand for political status. St Mary’s University College. Free.

Thursday 28 July at 8pm. ‘Solicitors’ is a play by JP Conaghan about two people in a local magistrates court. One awaiting a verdict, the other awaiting vindication; one with a history of offences; the other with a clean record. Deception, first impressions and “how doing the right thing can damage your reputation”. Comic new writing. An Cultúrlann. £7.

Friday 29 July, 12.30-2pm. A diverse panel of leading women “consider the achievements for women in their struggle for equality, and the barriers still to be overcome”. Panellists include PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie, Sinn Féin Minister Martina Anderson MLA and Susan McKay (CEO of Natioanl Women’s Council of Ireland). St Marty’s University College. Free.

Friday 29 July at 1pm. Darach MacDonald talks about what he learned writing his book ‘Blood & Thunder’ about the history, culture and motivation of the Castlederg Young Loyalists Flute Band. Free.

Friday 29 July at 3pm. ‘The Laughter of Our Children’ features a panel who will discuss the legacy of the hunger strike on today’s young republicans who grew up with a peace process and the distant memory of the conflict. Panellists include councillors Niall Ó Donnghaile (Lord Mayor), Tierna Cunningham and Charlene O’Hara. Felons Club. 3pm.

Saturday 30 July at noon. Fifteen year old Samuel Scott was the first person in the Belfast shipyard to die during the building of the Titanic in 1910. Until now he has lain in Belfast Cemetery in an unmarked grace. Councillor and grave-historian Tom Hartley will be joined by Sammy Douglas MLA who will unveil a plinth to mark the teenager’s grave and will speak about the shipbuilding in the east of the city. Author Nicola Pierce will read from her novel ‘Spirit of the Titanic’ inspired by the story of Samuel Scott. City Cemetery. Free.

Sunday 31 July at 7.30pm. Belfast Community Gospel Choir (conducted by Marie Lacey) will be performing in Clonard monastery. £10.

Monday 1 August at noon. Amnesty International is hosting a discussion about Human Rights and Journalism looking at Bloody Sunday, Smithwick Inquiry and the risks journalists take reporting the stories that might otherwise remain untold. Participants include Eamonn McCann, Rebecca Black (The News Letter), Kevin Cooper (photographic journalist). St Mary’s University College. Free.

Monday 1 August at 3.30pm. Panel discussion about A Truth Commission, looking at issues around transitional justice, acknowledgement and recognition as well as the Police Ombudsman and PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET). St Mary’s University College. Free.

Monday 1 and Tuesday 2 August at 8pm. ‘Rebellion’ is a play written and directed by Kieron Magee that tells the story of Mary Ann McCracken and her brother Henry Joy after he becomes involved in the Presbyterian-led United Irishmen movement in 1791. O’Donnell’s GAC, Whiterock Road. £5.

Tuesday 2 August at 1pm. Prisoners Past of Prisoners for the Future looks at the controversy that was raised when former political prisoner Mary McArdle was appointed as a ministerial special adviser and asks about the balance of rights and treatment of suffering families and former prisoners. Report authors and academics Peter Shirlow and Ruth Jamieson speak about their findings. St Mary’s University College. Free.

Tuesday 2 August at 3pm. Author and Irish Times commentator Fintan O’Toole speaks about ‘After the Celtic Tiger: Lessons of an Economic Disaster’ in St Mary’s University College. Free.

Tuesday 2 and Wednesday 3 August at 8pm. ‘No Hope Here’ is a farce written by local author Vivian Brennan and performed by Belvoir Players. It’s the story of Rab Devlin who misuses Housing Executive Improvement Grants and then hatches a plan to claim intimidation to avoid detection and having to pay the grants back. Except on the cusp of ceasefire, the Loyalists, Republicans and the RUC all want to be seen to protect him and frustrate his plans. St Mary’s University College, Assembly Hall. £7.

Wednesday 3 August at 1.30pm-4pm. West Belfast Youth Talks Back panel discussion will be chained by Fionola Meredith and will focus on the subject ‘How rife is sectarianism in our society?’ Panel will include Niall Ó Donnghaile (councillor and Lord Mayor), Darwin Templeton (editor, The News Letter), Hugh Jordan (journalists, The Sunday World), Frankie Gallagher (Ulster Political and Research Group). St Louise’s Comprehensive College. Free.

Wednesday 3 August at 7.30pm-9pm. BBC’s Ireland correspondent Mark Simpson will chair this year’s West Belfast Talks Back featuring panellists Mary Lou McDonald (TD, vice president of Sinn Féin), Jim Wells (MLA, DUP) and others. Warm-up by Ian Paisley impersonator John McBlain. St Louise’s Comprehensive College. Free.

Wednesday 3 August at 8pm. Pianist and conductor Barry Douglas and the Camerata Ireland chamber orchestra along with soprano Celine Byrne and singer/songwriter Ursula Burns. St Peters Cathedral. £12.

Thursday 4 August at 7pm. Showing of film ‘When They Are All Free’, a “warts and all account of 50 years of Amnesty International”. St Mary’s University College. Free.

Friday 5 August at 3pm. Come along and hear the Grand Organ of St Peter’s Cathedral being played by music director Nigel McClintock. Bring some music and try it for yourself. Free.

Saturday 6 August. Installation artist Raymond Watson will lead a mass community participation effort to erect 10,000 colourful bunting flags in a (potentially Guinness World Record breaking) line one and a half miles long from Springfield Road to the Shankill Road.

Saturday 6 August at 1pm. Former Fianna Fail Lord Mayor of Drogheda and historian Sean Collins will give a Walking Tour of East Belfast Murals. Assembly at The Base on the Albertbridge Road. Free.

Sunday 7 August at 7pm. Jesuit priest Father Peter McVerry will speak about his work over the last 30 years with Dublin’s young homeless in a lecture entitled ‘Social Justice – Role and Limitations of State and Church’. St Oliver Plunkett Church, Lenadoon. Free.

On Fridays 29 July and 5 August (3pm-6pm) and Saturdays 30 July and 6 August (2pm-5pm) you can enjoy Traditional Irish music from session musicians from Andersontown School of Music as you settle back into your seat on various Metro buses.

Thursday 28-Sunday 31 July. Trad sessions in Kellys Cellars, Maddens Bar, The Garrick Bar and The Rock Bar. Times vary. Free, but will be raising money for Trócaire projects worldwide.

The first ever tours of Belfast City Hall conducted in Irish will take place at 2.30pm on Monday 1, Wednesday 3 and Friday 5 August. Free.

Monday 1 -Saturday 6 August at 11am and Sunday 7 August at 2pm. Members of the Irish Republican ex-prisoner community will take people on the Falls Road Political Walking Tour visiting sites of political, historical and cultural importance, including Milltown Cemetery and finishing off with a free pint of Guinness in the Felon’s Club. Assemble at Divis Tower, Falls Road. £8 (adult), £5 (child).

And lots lots more. It was pretty good in 2009 and 2010!

Qriously - real time sentiment polling, but do the results make sense? (updated)

Qriously logo

Qriously is a relatively new service that works by replacing ads with questions in smartphone and tablet apps. It describes itself as “a service for measuring location-based public sentiment, in real-time” and calling itself “pre-release alpha” it is still some way from being fully product ionised.

People viewing the ads questions can quickly stab their answer – usually by choosing between two absolute options, positioning an analogue slider between two options, or rating on a scale of 0–5 stars.

Having read Jemima Kiss’ piece about Qriously in this morning’s Guardian, I signed up to experiment with the limited about of free credit which you can use to try out the service. An obvious question – and before later in the day when “Yates of the Yard” threw his resignation into the big bin of News International-ended careers – seemed to be:

Will James Murdoch resign before the end of the summer?

Within a few minutes Qriously had hit the phone banks pushed the question out to apps using their service and 50 people had responded.

Qriously result screen shot

Of course, the 50 people were spread right across the world. A pretty dopey question in retrospect. What proportion of people out there even know who James Murdoch is? So I asked.

Qriously result screen shot

A similar proportion (but not the same people) think he will resign! Ummm ...

(For the purpose of this post, we need to leave statistical accuracy firmly to one side. A sample size of 50 people worldwide, all users of Android or iPhone smartphones, and awake at the time of the survey, isn’t the most robust methodology, but it was the smallest sample size I could use to eek out the free trial.)

Questions can currently either be distributed to users worldwide, or can be limited to US users (ie, US IP addresses). Worried about the quality of result, I came up with a US-centred question that most people in the US would be able to answer:

Will Obama be re-elected for a second term? Yes / No.

Qriously result screen shot

A third of people thought he would.

But when I ran the question again, but swapped around the order of the responses – No / Yes – a third of people though he would not!

Qriously result screen shot

Or put it another way, no matter which way round you ask that question, two thirds of people in the US prefer the right hand option when asked about Obama’s chances of re-election! Do smartphone users hold handsets in their left hands and prefer to stab the right hand side of the screen with their right hand index finger? Or maybe surveying Americans in the middle of their night is asking for trouble.

Qriously map of results

Qriously has a great UI, and the real-time aggregation and display of result is entrancing. It can even provide a breakdown map of responses by country (or state for US-only polls).

As the number of smartphone applications supporting Qriously spreads, the simple charging model (you just pay for a certain number of answers to be collected) will be attractive to small organisations that could never afford to commission their own poll or to buy questions in a national survey. It works out at about US$0.10 per worldwide answer, rising to US$0.12 for US-only answers.

It will also appeal to media companies who impatiently want a near-instantaneous method to gauge public reaction to a breaking story.

However, until Qriously improves the ability to tie down questions to specific geographies (a UK and Ireland option would be good) and until the demographics of smartphone users in those geographies are really well understood, opportunities to use the service to generate serious results may be limited. The ability to target specific languages (a large number of Chinese users replied to the James Murdoch poll) might prevent spurious results too.


Qriously were in touch to say that real (non-demo) users can much more accurately target questions at geographic regions (as well as aiming at particular genre of apps).

And when repeated later in the day with a larger sample size, the strange results for Obama (where the right hand option got two thirds of the votes whether it said ‘Yes’ or ‘No’) disappeared. So it is likely to be down to the small sample size. Right-hand bias panic over!

A more sane set of Obama results

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Catch up of posts documenting the #Twelfth around East Belfast

Over the past few days, I’ve been posting on Slugger O’Toole about a range of events and activities associated with the Twelfth. I’ll not repost everything here on Alan in Belfast, but you may be intrigued to read more about.

Five minute guide to building a bonfire - the construction effort to build the enormous pyre in King George V Playing Fields in East Belfast.

Talking to Rob about the Eleventh Night bonfire in King George V Playing Fields in East Belfast (mp3)

A ten minute conversation with (Lord Mayor and Sinn Fein councillor) Niall Ó Donnghaile as we walked around a deserted Short Strand at 11.30pm, half an hour before the bonfires were lit across the wall on the Newtownards Road.

Some imagery (video and photos) from East Belfast bonfires.

A long post detailing conversations, photos and video as I followed Ballymacarrett District Lodge No 6 through parts of their Belfast parade on the Twelfth, including footage as it passed the lower end of the Newtownards Road, comment from the District Master, spectators, protesters and stall holders.

A drum major showing off during the break in the Belfast parade.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monarch Street update

Despite the early morning arson, when I passed the bottom of the Donegall Road on the way home this evening, I noticed a hive a activity in the waste ground along Monarch Street.

Monarch Street/Donegall Road replacement bonfires

Not only had the council left off one of the trial beacons, but the local community had used pallets donated from other bonfires to rebuild an even bigger replacement.

Unfortunately, lots of tyres this time - even some sitting under the beacon.

Monarch Street/Donegall Road replacement bonfires

Over on Slugger, bonfire junkies shouldn't miss the chance to hear a five minute interview about how the construction of the enormous tower of pallets in East Belfast's King George V Playing Fields.

Smoke billowing above RISE this morning

Update - Since the Monarch Street bonfire was part of the Belfast City Council management programme - which provides grant assistance in return for socially and environmentally responsible bonfires (ie, no tyres, no burning flags etc) - the council are sending up one of their beacons to this site for this evening. You can see pictures of the beacon ... and their replacement bonfire - on a second post.

The plume of smoke above RISE this morning was the result of an early-morning arson attack on the Monarch Street bonfire rather than an out of control BBQ in the middle of Broadway roundabout.

Monarch Street bonfire burning behind RISE sculpture

There was disappointment and a hint of anger in the voices of the group of teenagers who were the first to arrive at the Donegall Road/Broadway bonfire this morning. Days of effort destroyed.

Sixteen hours early, someone – and fingers were pointing at another community – had lit the unguarded bonfire. The blaze was well underway when the fire truck arrived, briefly pausing before driving off.

Monarch Street/Donegall Road bonfire

What the pictures can’t depict is the wall of heat that hits you – even at that distance – and the stench (most likely of tyres). Update - probably not tyres as the bonfire was part of the management programme run by Belfast City Council.

Monarch Street/Donegall Road bonfire

The Monarch Street residents will have a quieter than expected Eleventh Night.

Update on RISE - Belfast City Council confirm that work on the main sculpture has now finished, and the footpaths across Broadway roundabout will shortly be reinstated. An “official opening” event is planned for mid-September, when a time capsule will be buried on the site and the lights will be switched on.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

boom! by Mark Haddon - a curious incident of the strange-tongued teachers in the staff room

cover of boom! by Mark Haddon

boom! is the story of what happens when you help your friend to bug the school staff room and rather than discovering whether you’ll be sent to a “special [school] for kids with problems” you hear your teachers talking in an strange, perhaps alien, language.

boom! is also the story of what happens when you buy other books by an author you previously enjoyed by looking at the cover rather than reading up on the age of reader it’s pitched at.

Mark Haddon – author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which I gave away in large quantities as part of World Book Night – originally published this science fiction adventure back as Gridzbi Spudvetch! in 1972. Eighteen years later Haddon revised the title to make it pronounceable, and updated the technology mentioned in the book (gone are the floppy disks and Walkmans) as well as many of the sentences.

boom! follows the adventures of Jimbo, his friend Charlie, his sister Becky and motorbike-riding boyfriend Craterface through school, up and down rope ladders, into a secret-bearing attic and on a road trip to Scotland and beyond. Friendship, ingenuity, bravery and the ability to think food onto a plate.

boom! is a light-hearted and fun read, and likely to be suitable for 8-11 year olds. More mature readers will turn the pages quickly, but find the time to smirk at the characterisation of science fiction fans with their ridiculous arguments “about whether Daleks were scarier than Cybermen”. (SLIGHT SPOILER.) There’s also a lovely discussion about sense in repopulating a planet with the kind of people who don’t have “families and jobs and friends and stuff” and are instead “really happy” about being stolen away from Earth.

As a holiday read last week, it was perfect! Expect to see P6 or P7 classes reading it at a school near you. Just watch out for the staff room conversation afterwards ...

RISE and bonfires - lots of construction across Belfast

While work on Broadway roundabout's sculpture RISE ("the balls on the Falls") is nearing completion ...

RISE sculpture nears completion on the Broadway roundabout in Belfast

... other large scale constructions are being built for Eleventh night bonfires across the city (and beyond). This example - complete with sectarian graffiti and a Sinn Féin election poster that's folded over in the wind - from Pitt Park in East Belfast.

Pitt Park bonfire in East Belfast

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Castlereagh Council FOI failure

The magic twenty working day limit for FOI responses sailed past this week. In the aftermath of the Lock Keepers Inn fiasco, Castlereagh councillors voted to publish council minutes online. However their transparency has been sporadic, with a couple of months' worth of minutes going online before radio silence kicks in.

The last minutes were published on Castlereagh's website were for the January meeting of the full council Despite Easter and an election, there have been several meetings in the first half of the year, and the draft minutes will have been approved by council - and probably internally distributed electronically!

A simple matter then to update the website - or email them out when asked near the beginning of June for the missing minutes. After all, the FOI legislation and Information Commissioner's Office guidance is clear that requests should be answered without undue delay - 20 working days is a maximum, not a standard SLA.

But no. Request acknowledged, and after chasing day 21 an excuse given about sickness ... but still no minutes.

Transparency and public accountability are clearly not priorities in Castlereagh.

There's something wonderful about architectural models

Photo taken at End of Year Show at QUB Architecture.