Local council worries that rural areas will not benefit from Broadband improvement plans

The Fermanagh and Omagh council are worried that a project planning to improve broadband in Northern Ireland will not benefit rural areas.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have collaboratively invested £23.7m into a project to improve broadband in Northern Ireland.

The project, called the Northern Ireland Broadband Improvement Project (NIBIP) will aim to increase the availability of Superfast Broadband in areas were internet connectivity is currently poor or low.

The project will introduce a new broadband system into Northern Ireland called fibre optic broadband (or Superfast Broadband) which uses fibre optic cables to increase the speed of internet connections. The introduction of the fibre broadband connection will be delivered through two different types of infrastructures:

fibre-street-cabinet

Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC)

Through this method, fibre optic cables are connected from the telephone exchange or distribution point to an existing or new roadside cabinet (see the photograph above).

Fibre to the home/premises (FTTH or FTTP)

This will provide an end-to-end fibre optic connection. It will run the full distance from the exchange to the home or business premises.

Below is a video explaining the connection process

 

The project will be implemented into designated areas of Northern Ireland in accordance to household and business postcodes. The DETI has explained that this method of delivery has been used to accommodate the large area in which the project is planning to cover. The project will be implemented in eight phases between February 2014 and December 2015. This process will see some postcodes enabled before others. Some postcodes have even been left off the list altogether. This has caused concern among those who have been left off the list and will miss out on the broadband improvements.

See if your postcode is included on the list: http://www.online.detini.gov.uk/Broadband/Start.aspx 

The Fermanagh and Omagh council have raised concerns about this project. They believe rural areas, which would account for most of their council area, will not benefit from these improvements. In particular, they blame the fact that the project, and previous projects, have not being ring-fenced specifically for rural areas.

The DETI have defneded the projects decisions to pinpoint certain areas for improvement. They said they conducted extensive research before deciding which areas to target through the project. These assessments were carried out in conjunction with B.T. They evaluated financial and technical constraints, and ‘the best possible use of public funding’ to achieve best value for money.

Arlene Foster, Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment has directly responded to the issues raised by the council. She has stated that although it is thought by some that rural areas are not being targeted, she believes, “that is not the case”. In a letter to the council she emphasized that this project is specifically geared towards helping rural areas. The letter also pointed out that, to date the project has improved broadband access in over 17,500 homes, including 3,000 homes in the Fermanagh and Omagh Council area.

The Enterprise Minister admitted that after the completion of the NIBIP, “the needs of all premises may not be met”. She explained that in light of this the DETI is planning to fund a further project with an investment of over £14m to continue to work and increase the reach of Superfast Broadband by 2017. She added that this additional investment will also include improving internet connection for postcodes within the Fermanagh and Omagh area.

The concerns raised by the council are not stand alone as they have been echoed by concerned residents of the council area.

Ann Curran, who lives in the countryside in Fermanagh believes she would be better off not having any internet than paying for a service which she calls “temperamental”. She explains that her sons who are studying for their GCSE’s depend on the internet for their school work. Mrs Curran said she feels a constant sense of frustration when trying to connect to her internet. And on occasions the lack of internet in their home has resulted in her sons not being able to complete their school assignments.

She said, “It’s not fair that we are paying the same price for internet as everyone else, yet we can go for days at a time without the right access”. When asked about her feelings towards the NIBIP, she said, “I would really love for it to happen (the broadband improvements) but I have been disappointed with these sorts of promises before. The internet in the town might improve with it but I doubt us being in the countryside will get any of the benefits”.

Another rural B.T Broadband user uploaded a video about her internet experiences to youtube in the form of a comical short which won her competition with NI Broadband in 2013.

Restaurant Review – Fx Buckley Steakhouse

Crow Street, TempleBar, Dublin

Two mains and two drinks – 70 Euro

When walking round the bustling streets of the Templebar FX Buckley’s Steakhouse can be easily missed. This treasure of an eatery is tucked down a cobbled street that lies just off Dame Street. The only way to know its there is the simple sign that hangs on a lamp post pointing its direction to the reader. Although the quiet side street feels like a world away from the busy street that it intersects with, FX Buckley steakhouse is anything but quiet.  Inside the small restaurant comes alive with the chattering and laughing of its guests, which are mostly groups and couples in their twenties and thirties. The walls surrounding them are filled with black and white pictures of the restaurants first owners. As well as pictures the walls also detail the cuts of meat that can be ordered acting as information for the reader.

An example of the type of steak available

The menu itself mainly consists of prime cuts of steak that range from rump to fillet and come from the butchers that is owned by the company and has the same name. As well as the array of cuts there are many weights that the diner can choose from. Whilst choosing what to order the staff came around the tables and showed off the different cuts of meat that one could choose from and explained about each one in excellent detail as well as answering any questions the customer may have.  For me and my partner, we chose the porterhouse steak, which was a meal for two people. It consisted of a rib-eye steak that was on the bone as well as six sides which were chips, champ, fried onions, mushrooms, broccoli and green beans. Also included were four delightful sauces; peppercorn, red wine jus, garlic butter and béarnaise. As you can imagine this dish was so big the staff had to rearrange our table to enable all the plates to fit.

The dish was cooked beautifully and could not be faulted, the portion size was excellent as it ensured both members has plenty to eat and did not leave hungry. One thing in particular I loved about this dish was the variety and I could taste many different sauces and sides, hence one did not want for anything. Another stand out point were the staff, as they were so polite and knowledgable about their products and it was easy to see that they were proud of the establishment.

One thing I would say however is there is not much on the menu if you or your group do not want red meat, but being an up-market steakhouse this was to be expected. As the restaurant was busy it is essential to book when visiting as many couples had to be turned away as there simply was not enough seats. All together this is an exceptional restaurant that is well worth its price range.

Frampton beats Avalos in five rounds.

Carl Frampton wins after only five rounds at Belfast Odyssey

Belfast born Carl Frampton defended his IBF super bantamweight title against American rival Chris Avalos in an impressive fifth round stoppage on the 28th April.

The fight was held in Belfast’s odyssey arena which was packed to the rafters with people supporting their champion.  They were not afraid to roar and produced a deafening taunt of ‘Who are ya’ as the opponent entered the ring. Avalos is a worthy competitor with twenty five wins from twenty eight fights.

The lad from Belfast’s Tiger Bay is managed by Northern Irish boxing legend Barry McGuiggan and trained by his son entered the ring with an expected cheer from his audience.

The fight began with both fighters confident to be in the centre on the ring and Frampton managed a short left hook on his opponent.  This did not sit well with Avalos as he was warned by the referee after a tap on the break. Overall the first round was an even one.

Avalos used  his extra six inches of arm length to his advantage in the first moments of round two as he managed some quick jabs against Frampton. However this was soon to stop when he appeared to injure his shoulder, although he did make it to the bell.

The turning point of this match came in round three as Frampton managed to land a storm of left hooks upon his opponent. Avalos did not respond well to this and some may say he lost his composure as he refused to listen to his corner’s instructions when they told him to box from a distance. This worked to Frampton’s advantage as Avalos was left looking tired by the end of the third round. Frampton continued to dominate in round four, although Avalos did secure a hit with Frampton’s chin as the target.

The final round began with Frampton securing a strong right cross which Avalos did not recover from. The Belfast boy continued to batter his opponent and he fell on the ropes. It was only until the referee stepped in did Frampton stop. The round was over within 1 minute and fifty three seconds.

This was a strong win for him as he managed a five round stoppage.  This is not the last we will see from Frampton, who is nicknamed ‘The Jackal’ as he hopes to have a re-match against Englishman Scott Quigg and says, “That is a score I got to settle.”

This match leaves Frampton undefeated in twenty fights with fourteen knockouts.

Follow Carl Frampton on Twitter.

Irish Open 2015: Tournament eclipses all others for Simon Thornton

Newcastle based professional golfer Simon Thornton has confirmed he could be playing in this year’s Irish Open.

Portugal Masters - Day Three
Simon Thornton is eager to play RCD in May.

 

The Royal County Down (RCD) in Newcastle will host the prestigious event in May.

Simon hopes to obtain one of the eight wildcards that would see him playing against Rory McIlroy et al. at the world famous club.

But Thornton’s performance last year could scupper his chances:

“If the RCD were holding the event in any of the last three years then I would have got in no problem but last year I didn’t play as well as I could have”, he said.

Simon explained that all he can do now is wait:

“I have to go through the protocol. You have to ask the European Tour, who during the tournament will take over the golf club.

“I will have people putting for me within the club and I would like to think I would be chosen. I will know sometime within the next month.”

Simon eulogises the RCD which he came to work for 17 years ago:

“I don’t think there is anywhere quite like it in the world of golf. There’s just something different about it, it has a mystique. You can’t describe it, it’s just there.

This is the first major tournament held at RCD for some time. The club last hosted the Irish Open in 1939.

But the Bolton native is quick to dismiss any suggestions that RCD lags behind Royal Portrush in the Northern Ireland golfing scene:

“It’s (Royal Portrush) the most dominant in the way it markets itself. It’s just the way the RCD likes to be, they keep themselves to themselves, they’re more traditional.”

He also suggested that the Newcastle course could hold the British Open in the future, citing its proximity to Belfast, high standard of accommodation and Newcastle’s current renaissance:

“Its certainly a thriving place now and its great. People seem more involved, it’s a real buzzing little town.”

Making History Getty
McIlroy and some well-known faces.

Thornton who travels the world playing in major tournaments feels this one eclipses the rest:

“I will be very disappointed if I don’t get on. It’s not often you get to play in such a prestigious event and in your home golf club.

“With Rory being heavily involved and the quality of the talent that’s coming, it would be unbelievable to play in that, its’s like a major”, he said.

But Thornton says he will not be watching from the sidelines if he is not chosen:

“I wouldn’t be involved. My living is playing golf so if I don’t play in the Irish open I’ll be playing somewhere else. The Czech Challenge tournament is on that week so I won’t even be in the town”.

For more details: https://www.facebook.com/nmdcouncil

 

 

The Beauty of Bakewell

The Derbyshire market town of Bakewell is the perfect retreat for those wishing to escape their busy everyday lives. Nestled in the heart of the Peak District, the characterful town features cobbled streets, old fashioned tea rooms and great pubs. The River Wye runs through the town and the relaxing trickle of water with ducks walking on the footpath helps you feel a million miles away from the normal drudgery of life.

The River Wye runs through Bakewell
The River Wye runs through Bakewell

When I visited, the town was bustling with tourists who had come for the Bakewell Show. The annual event attracts thousands of spectators and includes horses, sheep, amusements and stalls for people of all ages. If you visit, the aptly named, Bakewell Fish and Chips is a must for the traditional British meal. The service is friendly and it is the best takeaway meal I have ever had.

However if you would prefer a more sophisticated dining experience, Bakewell is not short of places. The Wheatshef, Piedaniels and H’s Wine Bar are just a few of the town’s restaurants. In particular, The Peacock is excellent. As part of a dinner party of seven I can say on behalf of everyone that our meals where terrific. From portion sizes to presentation The Peacock could not be faulted.

The Peacock is a 200 year old traditional market town inn
The Peacock is a 200 year old traditional market town inn

Bakewell’s charms are in abundance, with its attractive courtyards, independent shops and a market held every Monday, it’s easy to see why it is such a popular tourist destination.

 

Bakewell provides an excellent point to travel from. Chatsworth House is less than five miles away. The nearby towns and villages of Matlock and Ashford-in-the-water provides a glimpse of the untouched beauty of the Peak District. Manchester is only an hour and fifteen minutes away and local attractions include The Heights of Abraham, Alton Towers and Poole’s Cavern. I could go on and on but there is one word to describe Bakewell and that is perfect. I cannot fault the beautiful town and all that comes with it. I believe it is an excellent holiday destination and if the British weather holds up it provides all that is needed for an escape.

Bakewell in bloom
Bakewell in bloom

The Addams Family, Annesly Hall, Newcastle, review

This production is big on laughs but lacking in depth, and that’s just fine, says Richard O’Connor.

11002611_828752890533488_1859452394593452454_nThe Newcastle Glees production of The Addams Family opened last night to a sold-out Annesley Hall.

This Broadway comedy-hit is a deviation from the Glees usual fair of “golden-age” musicals.

Casting was outstanding with Gomez (Niall McLean), the suave, wise-cracking Addams patriarch and Wednesday (Sarah King), his coming of age daughter, in particular wowing the audience with their acting and singing abilities.

Plot

The play opens with an illicit engagement between Wednesday and “normal” boy Lucas Beineke (Chris Poland).

A culture clash ensues when Lucas’s all-American parents land at the Addams family mansion to meet their altogether more gothic future in-laws.

Both families are ordered by the young couple to act normal, and they oblige to comic effect. All goes well until a post-dinner engenders a series of fall-outs:

Mr Beineke (Dean Richman), not impressed by the spooky shenanigans on offer is at odds with his ditzy, more accepting wife (Emma Jane-McKnight). Vamp-like Morticia Adams (Carol-Anne McKay) is furious at Gomez for keeping the engagement a secret. And Wednesday breaks off the engagement when Lucas refuses to elope.

The story follows these couples as they proceed to make-up in time for the wedding finale, which in typical Addams style, takes on a comic-funereal aura.

Subplots, including Uncle Fester’s affair – and resultant offspring –  with the moon, add to the zaniness of this 2.5 hour production.

Thoughts

This fast paced show is big on laughs with little plot or character development, but this is one of the reasons it is so enjoyable.

What it lacks in substance it makes up for in slap-stick and the sheer exuberance of its all-singing all-dancing antics.

The costumes are exceptional with the transformation of Glees old-hand Careen Starkey into the repulsive yet loveable Fester a master-stroke.

Equally breath-taking is the set which transports the audience from splendid wood-panelled interiors to minimalist steamy exteriors with ease, adding to the quick-fire feel of the show.

One scene stands-out for its deviation in tone from the rest, but also for the quality of the emotions portrayed:

Gomez runs into Wednesday in the the twilight and tells her he is happy she has found love but sad she is no-longer his little girl. This emotional dichotomy is beautifully expressed in the touching song “Happy-sad”.

The score is bursting with memorable tunes comparable to any Rodgers and Hammerstein ensemble, albeit with a more comical slant.

However the orchestra-pit standing empty was disappointing. The live music brought an extra touch of class to previous Glees productions and this atmosphere was lacking. I Hope to see its return in 2016.

Concluding Remarks

Go see this show. It will certainly brighten up your evening.

Don’t expect to take much away from it except aching sides, catchy tunes and a realization that there is an outstanding pool of talent on your own doorstep.

Untill Saturday 21 March. Tickets: McCready’s Shoe Style, Newcastle, 02843723491

 

Richard O’Connor

HOFFMAN’S PERFORMANCE A SALVATION FOR ANTON CORBIJN’S A MOST WANTED MAN AS HE LEAVES HIS ENDURING ON-SCREEN LEGACY.

a most wanted man

Hoffman’s performance a salvation for Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man as he leaves his enduring on-screen legacy.

Muslim refugees seeking asylum is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s becoming an everyday occurrence, thanks to the increasing national security threat. But when a part-Russian, part-Chechen, Muslim refugee arrives in Hamburg with a view to claiming his late father’s vast fortune, the ordinary is out. It’s left at the door of his safe-house.

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the covert spy in Anton Corbijn’s adaption of John Le Carre’s novel; A Most Wanted Man. As intelligence are alerted, Hoffman battles corruption, morality and bureaucracy in an attempt to fulfil his sardonic mission to “make the world a better place.”

Rachael McAdam’s role is played with conviction. She is the young, ambitious lawyer tasked with processing Issa Karpov’s asylum application as well as a social worker, bodyguard and provider. Hoffman however, is the protagonist. He is also a raving alcoholic, chain-smoking, obsessive-compulsive intelligence officer racing against time to restore justice as well as his own professional reputation. Perhaps a little too convincingly.

Given that this was Hoffman’s last role before his tragic overdose, it’s fitting that his character, Gunther Bachmann appears jaded and exhausted. Either it is a reflection of the persona of a spy master or Hoffman was himself exhausted and despondent. The latter rings true.

Whilst the pretence of the film makes for gripping viewing on paper, on screen it’s an entirely different story. Perhaps it was the intention of Corbijn to portray the mundane tedium that is the everyday life of an intelligence spy. As Hoffman waits for his subject’s deal to be done, the viewer waits for the story to gather pace. Seemingly, both in vain. As late night coffee, whiskey and cigarette consumption dominate scene after scene, the viewer could be forgiven for employing said vices to carry them through to the end of the movie.

Finally the plot gathers pace. Albeit, in the final scene and last fifteen minutes of the film.

Hoffman’s performance however, must be commended and arguably compensates for the film’s disappointing dynamic. He is the overworked, overweight, cynical type that a spy should be. As spy thrillers go A Most Wanted Man draws a stark resemblance to John le Carre’s earlier novel; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. It is a should-be gripping depiction of a collective battle for justice but lacks the follow-through of an engaging spy thriller with Hoffman’s character bearing an unnerving resemblance to his own fragile state of mind.

Confessional ‘Carrie and Lowell’ Sufjan Stevens’ most affecting album yet

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell

Sufjan Stevens’ career seemed to reach its apex with the critically acclaimed Illinois (2005), a 74-minute concept album based on the American state from which it gets its name. Featuring orchestral arrangements, an array of instrumentation, and lengthy, comical song titles, the overblown but expertly crafted album was included on several best of the decade lists.

Chicago – Illinois

2010’s The Age of Adz received a mixed response from critics, and it seemed that the thirty-nine-year-old Michigan songwriter would never top Illinois. However, by returning to his folk roots and creating a highly impassioned, lyrically centered album, he may have done just that. Named after his deceased mother and stepfather, on Carrie and Lowell Stevens takes a step back from his favoured themes (in particular his fascination with American History), to contemplate issues of loss and redemption. His mother, Carrie, battled mental illness and substance abuse, and died of cancer in 2012, and Stevens’ memories of childhood visits to Oregon to see her and his stepfather form the theme of many of the songs.

On “Fourth of July”, the album’s most darkly affecting moment, he sings of a dialogue between him and his mother (“Well you do enough talk, my little hawk, why do you cry”), concluding on the repetition of the phrase “we’re all gonna die” as the song fades.

 

Stevens examines his Christian beliefs on penultimate track (and the album’s first single), “No Shade in the Shadow of Cross”, in which he struggles to find solace in his faith in the aftermath of the troubles he and his family have experienced.

 

Such weighty themes, and his return to his folk rock origins, may cause some to fear that the actual music is an afterthought, but Stevens’ sense of melody remains untainted: electric guitar on “The Only Thing” and keyboards on “Should Have Known Better” and “All of Me Wants All of You”, subtly complement the album’s emotional crescendos. Nor is Carrie and Lowell a downer; rather than being depressing for its own sake, it is a candid reflection of his life, and a sense of deep, genuine love for his mother and stepfather is evident from the first track to the last.

Tyrone shock Roscommon to take place in All-Ireland Under-21 final

Tyrone 0-17 Roscommon 0-12

Tyrone will face Tipperary in the All-Ireland Under-21 football final after a convincing semi-final win on Saturday over Connacht champions Roscommon in Markievicz Park, Sligo.

The Ulster Champions (pictured celebrating their victory over Donegal in the Ulster Final) defeated Roscommon by 0-17 to 0-12, reaching their first All-Ireland final at this level since 2003. It marks a potential upturn in fortunes for the Red Hand County, who have recently struggled at senior level under Mickey Harte.

Manager Fergal Logan (centre) with selectors Peter Canavan (left) and Peter Canavan (right) ©INPHO/Presseye/Lorcan Doherty.

Under the stewardship of manager Fergal Logan, and Tyrone legends Brian Dooher and Peter Canavan, the Under-21 team are now only 70 minutes away from the All-ireland Title. After the game Logan praised the work undertaken at grassroots level to bring Tyrone to this position.

Roscommon were strong favourites coming into the match, but Tyrone’s excellent score-taking ensured they led from start to finish. In particular, Leo Brennan shone with six points, including five from play.

Despite facing the wind in the first half, Tyrone raced into a four points to nil lead, with Brennan, Michael Cassidy and the impressive Cathal MacShane all getting on the scoresheet. Roscommon took until the tenth minute to get off the mark, with Diarmuid Murtagh pointing from a free.

There was little between the teams for the rest of the half but Daniel McNulty’s free in the 32st minute gave Tyrone a comfortable 0-10 to 0-07 advantage at the break.

Brennan and Murtagh swapped scores at the beginning of the second half, before Roscommon substitute Thomas Corcoran kicked a long-range free to bring them within two points of the lead.

Tyrone’s accuracy in front of goal was a constant feature, however, and Brennan and McNulty added to Tyrone’s tally, leaving Roscommon four points behind at 0-14 to 0-10.

Murtagh’s point in the 54th Minute, his sixth, left Roscommon with only a two-point deficit to overcome, but it transpired to be their final score of the game.

Roscommon desperately tried to breach the Tyrone defence but a towering display at full-back by Padraig Hampsey kept them at bay.

At the other end of the field, Tyrone were dominant with Brennan, McNulty and Frank Burns kicking the last three points to ensure their safe passage to the All-Ireland Final on May 2nd.

 18 April 2015

Are we really saving money in our local councils?

The 1st April 2015 saw a major reform of the local government in Northern Ireland. The Local Government Reform brought together the existing, 26 councils of Northern Ireland, merging them together to form 11 new super councils. This move was designed to render the local government more economic and efficient. However, from looking at the pay roll of councillors now sitting on the new super councils this would not appear to be the case.

Strabane District Council has undergone the reform, along with the rest of Northern Ireland on April 1st and merged with Derry City Council to become Derry City and Strabane District Council. Some powers and responsibilities have been devolved from the Northern Ireland Executive. The 11 super councils have undertaken the responsibility of local planning functions, off-street parking and local economic development. These responsibilities have been devolved with the credit that local councils know what their own area needs and what economic and planning developments would suit the area and best serve the people.

Chief Executive of Derry City and Strabane District Council, John Kelpie at a recent meeting in Castlederg, explained that, 620 staff were employed by the previous Derry City Council and 220 by Strabane District Council, totalling 840 staff. The public were lead to believe that there would be reductions in staffing but Mr Kelpie went on further to expand: “With the challenges that we have locally, I would estimate that we would need between three and a half to four thousand people to do what we’re trying to achieve.” This counteracts one of the missions of the super councils and suggests that the force with which they wish to attack issues in the community, along with improving life in the local government for the businesses and people of the area, this volume of personnel would be required.

It is also noteworthy that councillors under the new reform, are being given a £5,000 pay rise, much to the dismay of many people in the local community. Strabane councillors were previously being paid £9,835 per annum under the Strabane District Council ruling. Now, under the new reform councillors have a set wage of £14,200. Therefore the estimated economic saving in the reducing of councillor numbers is surely counteracted by the increase in councillor pay. If the super councils are attempting to save money by combining resources and as a result, redundancies being issued to staff of the previous set-up, why is an increase in wages coming to the fore?

Furthermore, councillors who chair a committee within the council are entitled to an additional £8,050 per annum justified as a ‘Special Responsibility Allowance’. This controversial increase in wages is challenged alternatively by Councillor Patsy Kelly, SDLP. He voiced his concerns that despite the increase in wages it is still insufficient to cover the amount of hours councillors spend at meetings and attending constituency issues. He concluded by saying that councillors are working below minimum wage per hour.

On the other hand, Jarlath McNulty, former councillor of Strabane District Council, now a community worker said: “There are many people working every single day from our community who would like to have a secure job for four years and receive a starting income of £14,200 a year”. The question still stands as to whether the new council arrangements will truly deliver on improved efficiency and economics.

The new mayor of the Derry City and Strabane District Council, Elisha McCallion set unemployment as top of her priorities in taking up her role. The most recent unemployment rate (Dec. 14 – April 15) for Derry/Londonderry and Strabane currently runs at 6%, an increase of 0.2% from the previous quarter. A re-direction of funds to address unemployment issues would be deemed preferable to increasing councillor salaries.

ElishaMcCallion-sm
Elisha McCallion as new mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council

 

Another cost passed onto the people of Northern Ireland under the Local Government Reform is the increase in rate bills. Although the council will benefit from the reform, it is evident that it all comes at a cost to the people of Northern Ireland.

The following councillors make up the new Derry City and Strabane District Council –

Untitled

You can find out more about the new reform of councils on Ni Direct.