Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Edited transcript of meeting between Robert M Chapple and Rodney Moffett, Associate Director Amey NI

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Edited transcript of meeting between Robert M Chapple (RMC) and Rodney Moffett, Associate Director Amey NI (RM), accompanied by PA.

Meeting: Friday July 31 2015, East Belfast (Chapple Residence)

What this document consists of: a transcript of the meeting between the two participants regarding the Drunclay crannog events. Agenda based on questions emailed to Amey plc, resulting from blog post (http://rmchapple.blogspot.com/2015/07/mud-lies-and-hazard-tape-reviewing.html)

Material omitted from this document: personal names and details of given individuals; confidential material not in the public domain; comments not germane to the matters at hand. Wording has been changed for readability and to preserve sense. All edits and omissions are mutually agreed between the parties.


[Introductions & preliminaries]

Question: How do you feel that the actions of Declan Hurl reflect on your company and how they may reflect on Amey’s corporate values?

(RM) First of all, in relation to Prof Cooney’s report, I am disappointed that he decided not to engage with ourselves, and as such some of the information he has in his report is factually incorrect. That is a disappointment and it is something we have raised with the Department. Prof Cooney was given a task to do and I imagine that in that task he was set out some boundaries which may or may not have been to engage with ourselves. I think that was wrong and I am disappointed that that happened. Equally, the crux of the matter is more in relation to how everything evolved as opposed to personalities and who’s offended at who said what. I’ll be honest in that in terms of Declan, he’s a very passionate individual who has a style that some people might call it ‘belligerent’, if that’s a word I can use … Declan obviously has his mind scales on how he does things. As an archaeologist, he has worked with us for a number of years now, but essentially I have always found him to be professional in his conduct, he’s passionate about doing a good and proper job. In terms of Cherrymount, Declan was not involved in the preparation work … as a road scheme it runs through a number of stages of assessment. We were appointed in 2006 and we utilised a company called RPS to do the original environmental work. So RPS produced the input to our Stage 1, Stage 2 assessments and, ultimately, the Environmental Statement. Prof Cooney misses the fact that RPS liaised with the NIEA between 2006-2008, which is unfortunate and disappointing. Prior to that, Scott Wilson (who were another consultant who are now Aecom) liaised with NIEA, as I understand, looking at the line originally. That was a fact …

(RMC) So you strongly believe that Prof Cooney is wrong in this?

(RM) He is wrong. It’s not that I believe. He is factually wrong. Now, does that change the overall system? That’s debatable. But, as a fact, there was liaising that took place between RPS, on our behalf and the Department’s behalf, and NIEA in 2006 and subsequently in early 2008, and those communications have been missed, for whatever reason, by Prof Cooney.

(RMC) He states very clearly where he got his information from – what was given him by DRD and from NIEA. If they didn’t …

(RM) They never asked us. They obviously didn’t have a record themselves. I can’t comment on the state of their files, but I have our records … I have RPS’s email out and I have NIEA’s response back.

(RMC) I think that is a very valuable addition to the discussion …

(RM) Well, it is and it isn’t, because what it’s saying is what’s published in the Stage 2 assessment … the information’s there in that it’s recognised that there are crannogs in the area [supplied by John Cronin & Associates]. That information was available, it was taken into account in the Stage 2 assessment and, subsequently, the Environmental Statement. Essentially, there was a process followed to select a road alignment. The first public information event was held March/April 2007 and that archaeological information was available. I don’t believe that Prof Cooney touches on that at all.

(RMC) He mentions the Environmental Statement. He mentions Owen Williams, but it is very light at that point.

(RM) Again, it is unfortunate, for whatever reason, that the decision was taken not to engage, because we could have provided more information that may have been useful. Essentially, before we ever get to the Environmental Statement there were two public information events where the proposed road alignments were highlighted, suggestions on how to proceed were identified, and comments were received from members of the public and Statuary Consultees. The Environmental Statement was then produced and published, and again was subject to Public scrutiny, and there were no objections received. And where I have the frustration is, again without addressing your question as yet …

(RMC) Have you considered a career in politics?

(RM) Am I skirtin’ too much, am I?

(RMC) … a bit …

(RM) Long story short: Environmental Statement was published, nobody objected. When I say ‘nobody’ none of the Statutory Authorities. I’m not an archaeologist as you probably can suggest …

(RMC) … yes … and I don’t hold that against you …

(RM) … and I don’t pretend to be … so, when the team is doing work …

(RMC) I understand! You have an archaeologist on staff you’re expecting that person to perform …

(RM) So, long story short: Environmental Statement. We then came to developing the tender document – developing the design to go to construction. Again, the dates Prof Cooney touched upon are correct, but the final location of the crannog was pinpointed and it was identified that this road affects this. ‘A crannog’, I should add, because on site it was identified that there was actually more than one crannog. There were ones either side, so if the road moved it would have hit either side. If it moved in a small manner … if it moved to the ‘Enniskillen side’ of the crannog that was excavated, NIEA identified that there was indications of another crannog on the land just adjacent to the road. And to the ‘Country side’ where the ‘green dot’ was, it looks as if was actually the location of another crannog. So, it appears that this was one of a series of crannogs in the area. I’m led to believe that that’s not unusual

(RMC) Not for Fermanagh, Fermanagh is coming down with crannogs. Again, that information has not made its way into the public domain previously …

(RM) That’s … disappointing … All I can say is that I wasn’t directly involved. John O’Keeffe, who attended site and is responsible for NIEA, was the one who highlighted the presence of other crannogs to the site staff, and we have that noted. There was no excavation done on those, I don’t know if there is any planned, but they were identified.

(RMC) The general NIEA guidance and practice would be that if it has been sitting happily in the landscape for the last thousand years, you don’t need to investigate it.

(RM) So, long story short … the crannog was identified and whilst the location wasn’t finalised in terms of the extents. Because the ground conditions were so bad we couldn’t manually get in to excavate the extents, and it wasn’t possible to get machinery in at that stage. Again, Prof Cooney, for whatever reason, I don’t think has touched on this. There was a trenching exercise done … early 2011 … January/February time … which was supervised under license by Declan and some members of staff from FarrimondMcManus.

(RMC) I know that’s not in there, but I have been told of that.

(RM) Basically, they got down to about a meter’s depth and then the crannog was waterlogged …

(RMC) Yeah … 60cm was the figure given …

(RM) But that obviously informed Declan’s thinking in terms of what he found at that stage. Declan came back, reported what he found, produced a report that was submitted to NIEA. At that stage the mitigation of preserve in situ was considered and it was basically down to, from an engineering perspective, ‘how do we do this?’ I know I’ve still not answered your question … I will come back to it! If I can give you two streams of that work activity – there was the engineering avenue in terms of how we actually build a road across what is fairly questionable ground, and not only in the area of ‘Drumclay Lake’ as it is now known, but further down towards the Tempo Road, ground conditions were exceptionally challenging. The geotechnical solution was to basically ‘preload’, and there were advance works where stone was loaded on the ground to allow settlement to occur. That happened on a section of ground between Tempo Road and Coa Road, and a small section to the Tempo Road side of the crannog was also loaded with stone at that stage. The ground was settling in accordance with our calcs at both locations. The Tempo Road continued to settle in accordance with calculations, the ground to the Coa side failed substantially. So, basically, the ground parameters were significantly worse than that recorded, so the geotechnical challenge became a real issue. Pressures of timescale, pressures of getting the job out, it was decided in partnership with the Department [DRD] that a ‘design and build’ solution would be sought, so the contract went out with a contractor-design element. Within that contractor-design element the preserve in situ approach was clearly documented. So I do fundamentally disagree with Prof Cooney’s statement that there wasn’t a clear mitigation strategy – there was. The tenders came back and a consortium of McLaughlin and Harvey-P.T. McWilliams J.V. [MHPT JV] were ultimately appointed. Their proposed design solution in that area was to strengthen the ground through soil mixing and a piling solution with a span across the crannog. Again, and I don’t have the exact dates, but I know that our geotechnical team engaged directly with the NIEA on that solution – both prior to the tender going out and subsequent to the tender coming back, in terms of ‘is this acceptable?’. Now there was differing discussions and differing views on it, and in fairness to NIEA I don’t want to pick on individuals, but different individuals had different answers. There was an acceptance from one [on one] occasion for a pile or a couple of piles to be driven through the crannog. There was a rejection on another occasion of the same solution.

(RMC) I take it that’s what’s referred to by Prof Cooney as the difference in approaches between the two senior inspectors?

(RM) Yeah, and I don’t want to fault that or anything …

(RMC) Well, he does identify is as, not a key failing, but a significant … obstacle … when you don’t have a synoptic view coming from NIEA …

(RM) True, but I suppose I feel for NIEA, I have to say, because I feel that they have been vilified quite a bit – rightly or wrongly – I don’t know enough about it, but I know the individuals involved were keen to do the right thing. So, I know that their approach was right … their answers may have been wrong, and it was frustrating for us at times, but I know they engaged proactively and they were focused …

(RMC) I would say that there are a number of key failings within NIEA, and I don’t intend to discuss them here with you …

(RM) That’s fine …

(RMC) The personalities involved are one thing and what I’m striving for, personally, is not vilification, it’s to bring out the clearest set of facts, and so in what you’ve said, in what you find deficient in Prof Cooney’s report, I very much welcome that. So, this is definitely not about vilification …

(RM) That’s OK. So … to answer your question … I can understand that, at times Declan comes across as quite authoritarian. FarrimondMcManus, after the events were raised, expressed frustrations and concerns at the approach taken. I asked why this was not raised before, but it was raised afterwards.

(RMC) Sorry, can we just define ‘afterwards’ … as in … after …?

(RM) You ask later on, and apologies for jumping, but you ask when was the first time that we were made aware … the first time we became aware that there were issues on site was when your blog went …

(RMC) So, that’s 17th of … July …

(RM) Yes … it moved quite quickly …

(RMC) It surprised everybody … myself most of all …

(RM) The works were on site. I wasn’t involved in the preparation of the scheme. When it went to site it was my site supervision team. The project manager on site, the site supervisor, reported directly to me. So I was aware of the site works and I got monthly reports back, and the reports I was receiving back, both from them and from Declan were that work was continuing, they were discovering stuff. As an engineer, I asked for programme updates and, as an engineer, I received programme updates. I’m mindful that, at times, probably Declan was under a pressure to push things on because I was saying to him ‘how long is this going to be?’ … ‘tell us what’s happening?’. And that’s what I’m always going to say because, as an engineer, I’m thinkin’ …

(RMC) Look, as you know, I don’t work in archaeology professionally anymore, but I did twenty years of field excavation in commercial archaeology ... dealing with engineers who’re asking for updates and progress and are very hard-headed – that’s part of the job, and it’s mentioned in here [Cooney’s Report] about Declan being under significant personal pressure … and this is one place I have vast amounts of sympathy for him, but that is part of the job … and any managerial role is about balancing those above you with those you’re in charge of ... so …

(RM) Was Declan authoritarian in his approach? Yes, I would accept that he probably was. Was he professionally efficient in his role? I’m not in a position to say, but when I asked people whose opinion I respect, I was concerned that their initial answer wasn’t a complete yes. These people did not challenge his professional ability per se, but they did, and it’s easy in hindsight, but they did express concerns that the approach being adopted was, in their view, slightly old-fashioned and not in line with modern techniques.

(RMC) This is a view that has been expressed on a number of occasions. I suppose, we all get old and our techniques get old with us … that’s why we need new archaeologists, new engineers …

(RM) I suppose then, in terms of how does it reflect on our company values … obviously … Amey as a company are 21,000 employees across the UK. The company is focused on providing a service to our clients and our underlying ethos is all about progression, collaboration, and working with people. The authoritarian style doesn’t sit well with that, and I accept that there are issues there. I suppose, in hindsight, from my view point to be perfectly honest, in terms of us deciding that a member of our team could lead the archaeological excavation was, in hindsight, probably a decision that it would have been better to separate that completely from the company, because there would have been more, in my view, robust checks and balances in terms of sharing that across the board. And that’s a lesson that we’ve learned …

(RMC) If I may say, I think that’s a very important lesson …

(RM) Oh it is – I have no issue with that at all … But, equally, as an individual, Declan came to us – in fairness – quite a degree of experience. And his CV, his past experience, I would say extremely good in the field of archaeology in Ireland. I don’t know enough about it, but looking at it on paper, it looked good to me! I can’t comment much more than to say that I’ve spoken to others that have worked in archaeology, who I know through personal connections, and just asked the question and most people have heard of Declan in some shape or form. Most people are aware that he has good experience. He obviously held quite senior post in Environment & Heritage at the time, before he decided to come out into the private sector. So, from a decision point – hindsight’s 20:20 – but from a decision point at the time, we appointed him because he was capable of doing the job. He was, in our view, strong enough to manage the conflict between programme and archaeological needs. Apologies, I know I’m speaking quite a bit to answer the first question so …

(RMC) This could be a very long meeting …

(RM) I spoke to FarrimondMacManus about the others on site, because I wanted to get a balance. There’s two sides to every story. When the blog first came out, we understood and we found out that there were pressures on site. The question to Declan was what, essentially, is going on. And the answers were that there were some in the excavation team who either were unhappy about being there or were destructive to the works in some shape or form. I challenged that and, on a balanced view, I think there were faults on both sides. I accept that Declan was authoritarian in his style and adopted slightly older methods. I think the method that that was challenged, if it had gone through FarrimondMacManus it probably could have been resolved on site. I think it is disappointing that, for whatever reason, the individuals … I don’t understand why … I understand they, perhaps, raised it with Declan, but didn’t raise it with their own management team – for whatever reason – and I can’t answer why that happened.

(RMC) My understanding is that they attempted to raise it directly with Declan as the site director and, my understanding is that, although I haven’t spoken to the particular person, that discussions or feelers were sent out to NIEA to raise concerns. I can’t speak as to whether FarrimondMacManus were contacted or spoken to in any way …

(RM) As I said, I spoke to FarrimondMacManus after it first came out and it was accepted that there was a balance. Whilst I’m not in any shape or form pretending that Declan was blameless, I think there was fault on both sides in some shape or form. So … have I answered your first question … ?

(RMC) I … think you have … so, it basically comes down to ‘it’s not as bad as it was painted, but yes there were faults both in terms of Declan’s management style and his approach to excavating the crannog …

(RM) As I understand, and, again, I’m not an expert on archaeology in any shape or form, so I can’t comment, but I’ve taken feelers on the approach taken and I’m led to believe that the approach was, if I can say ‘old fashioned’. It may not necessarily have been professionally flawed, because I don’t know that, but certainly the consideration was that it was old fashioned in the manner.

(RMC) I would speak to for a moment as an archaeologist and I would just say that it’s not come into the public domain yet, but I think I understand why Declan thought that the crannog was Late Medieval in date. The reason is that one of his colleagues in NIEA had spent some time and quite a bit of effort in taking samples – a good many years ago – from the surface levels of crannogs and having those scientifically dated. I’ve seen those dates – they haven’t been particularly made public – but they’re all quite late. So, I can understand, in his head he would have thought …

(RM) I’m fairly sure they were because I know that the trenching that he initially did – before the contract started – there was dating done on that as well …

(RMC) I haven’t see those dates … I’ve heard that dates do exist, but I haven’t been …

(RM) Again, I’m not sure why Prof Cooney doesn’t touch on that at all …

(RMC) I presume because …

(RM) Maybe it’s irrelevant …

(RMC) The thing is that archaeological sites build up vertically (essentially). So the youngest stuff is going to be at the top. And that, I think, is Declan’s biggest archaeological failure in thinking that because he had one set of evidence that in itself was coherent, but it was very much out of step with all of the rest of archaeological thinking on crannogs. The unfortunate thing for him was that he didn’t take a robust enough understanding of crannogs in general and thought that Fermanagh was a self-contained unit, different to everything else.

(RM) Obviously, I can’t comment on that …

(RMC) I would say that Prof Cooney gets it absolutely right when he says that ‘The excavation director maintained the view that the occupation level was shallow, focused on the Late Medieval period in date and that construction levels were being exposed.’ And in the report he says ‘This view is not supported either by the archaeological literature on the nature and dating of crannogs, nor by the geotechnical drawings of the crannog ... which were submitted as part of the discussion over a mitigation strategy.’ So, from a lot of different perspectives he should have known better and you can’t explain that away by being ‘a bit out of touch’ … I would accept that it’s correct in parts, but I would challenge it very strongly that, in the same way you don’t want to be going to a doctor [that’s using out of date methods]

(RM) I accept that there are lessons for us to learn … I’ll answer your questions and explain the lessons … so, your first question … that’s …

(RMC) Yeah, we’ve pretty much wrapped that up … I would request your comment on Prof Cooney’s statement (and it’s made a number of time throughout this report) that the trenching work was in breach of the Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 and that Declan Hurl first attempted to conceal that illegality, later admitting it to NIEA operatives.

(RM) Again, perhaps unsurprisingly, Robert, I have some real issues with the facts around that.

(RMC) I’m willing to listen!

(RM) The trenching work that Prof Cooney’s referring to is obviously the second set of trenching – there was the first set of trenching that was done pre-contract. There was a second exercise of trenching that was done under the instruction of the NIEA, where the NIEA asked us to excavate to establish the extent of the crannog, and our site team have recorded that. In fairness to the NIEA individual, they – perhaps rightly or wrongly – assumed that would be done archaeologically. And, in fairness to the site supervision team, they didn’t hear those words. So they just said ‘OK, let’s find the extents of the crannog’. So there was …

(RMC) So, you reckon this comes down to a communication issue? 

(RM) All I can take is the records of the site meeting where, again, if Prof Cooney had asked he’d have seen, where the instruction was given – and it’s clear – there was an instruction given … and, in fairness to Declan … again the slant that Prof Cooney puts on it, I think, is incorrect. Once it was discovered that a mistake had been made and, in fairness to Declan, he highlighted it with the NIEA senior officer … the NIEA senior officer, as I understand it, changed then completely – there was one person on it and then the second person came in. The second person raised it in discussion with Declan. Declan highlighted that in his view it was illegal, and between them there was an agreement made that, essentially, a trenching report would be completed to salvage the exercise. I have challenged our guys because, obviously, an illegal act is quite a serious matter, and I’m disappointed that Prof Cooney has sought to use that language. As I say, at the time NIEA were aware – they didn’t seek to prosecute or anything else. Essentially, it was them that instructed that we do it. Equally, our site supervision team – who are engineering based – probably took the words too literally. And, we’ve said that to them: ‘this was an archaeological [site] why did you do it?’ and it was ‘that’s what we were told to do!’ … and that’s what the records have shown me …

(RMC) I appreciate that that’s a very important piece of clarification and I would see it as a potential weakness in Prof Cooney’s report … obviously, it has not been cast in that way. Coming from an archaeological background, that sort of needless damage to a crannog, I find appalling. But, at least, if we can put some context around it, it makes it explicable – it gives context to why where was no move for prosecution …

(RM) Well. That was the reason … essentially …

(RMC) However, and I don’t expect you to answer this directly, but it does still raise questions because although Prof Cooney doesn’t describe it in the same terms, the trenching that was then later carried out by [MHPT JV] that led directly to the collapse of part of the crannog …

(RM) OK … we’ll come on to that … there was the trenching which was a top layer which was, essentially, to establish the extent of the crannog. If you remember, we talked about the parallel streams – as the works progressed it became obvious that the solution put forward by MHPT JV was failing. They attempted to drive piles, it didn’t work. So they and their designers went away and came back with a proposal to excavate and dig-and-replace (from an engineering term) – they sought to dig out the poor ground and replace it with rock and stone and everything else. After a lot of consideration by the Department and ourselves, accepted that that was a reasonable solution. It provided firm foundations from which we could span the crannog and solved a lot of issues. It wasn’t without risk, but it solved issues. And, again, NIEA were aware of the change in methodology that was adopted. [MHPT JV] then proceeded with their dig-and-replace solution and, obviously, there was a degree of dewatering occurring as part of that, and that resulted in a ‘movement’ in the crannog. Now, that movement was spotted pretty much straight away and a rock bund was put round the crannog. Whilst I appreciate that the preserve in situ strategy then became highly questionable, if not no longer valid, up until that stage everything was done with that in mind and the dig-and-replace solution would have actually provided a preferred and a better – because it removed the need to put any piles in any close proximity to the crannog and it would also have allowed the groundwater to return to its normal level – the road would have just come over the top, because its sitting on hard rock. So, it’s a valid solution, and that’s what happened, essentially.

(RMC) Ok … moving on to point four [of the agenda] … we’ve slightly covered this, but I’d like to … my understanding of the events was that … 17th of July my blog post is published to, I would say from my perspective much more response than I had ever anticipated … Declan rounds everybody up, brings them into the site hut and – I’ve been told by a number of people – basically proceeded to shout at them. And, when one person – and I will say this to you … I was spoken to by a number of people on that site – but one person decided that they were going to, essentially, take one for the team, claimed that he was the sole ‘whistle blower’ and was immediately fired by Declan. That is my understanding of it. How do you feel about it? Is that a correct assessment? …

(RM) I’ve asked if that happened. It’s not Declan’s view on what happened, although he does acknowledge that he held a meeting with all the people and they were all in the room and there were words exchanged. In terms of hiring and firing, the excavators didn’t work for Declan, so he wasn’t in apposition to either hire or fire. Once the blog occurred there was contact made with FarrimondMacManus who were the employers and, ultimately, it was their decision as to who remained on site or who went off. That said, Robert, and I fully acknowledge that there obviously was a quite serious breakdown in communications at that stage between Declan as the lead archaeologist and those who were there, essentially, as a team and I can’t comment on the decision taken by FarrimondMacManus but I believe it was more focused around maintaining a team rather than apportioning blame, and that’s my understanding from speaking to them afterwards about it.

(RMC) So you would see it that this wasn’t Declan’s doing because he didn’t actually …

(RM) No I can’t …

(RMC) I’ll be honest with you – that is not the story that I have heard from people that were in the room

(RM) … now, I can’t – hand on heart – say that Declan didn’t turn around and say ‘you’re out’ … I can’t say that, but I can say that he didn’t have the authority to say that and it wasn’t his job to say that. And, ultimately, the final solution came from FarrimondMacManus. So, what happened on that day – I’ve asked Declan and he’s written me quite a bit of notes on it, actually. But, where he talks about his interpretation … [quotes from notes] “interrogation of the team involved my speaking to them en masse and asking who had been supplying photographs and comment deriding our clients against protocols about which they were informed in their induction.” He says he remained civil and controlled throughout … again, I can only take his word for it … I wasn’t …

(RMC) I think that’s a position that would be challenged by those I’ve spoken to …

(RM) I didn’t have any other employees in that room at that time, as I understand. I’ve asked my site team, and nobody else claimed witness to it, so I can only comment on what I’m being told. But, ultimately, the hiring and firing – who worked and who didn’t – was a decision for FarrimondMacManus.

(RMC) So, I would take it that you don’t believe that either Declan or, Amey as his employer, owes anybody an apology?

(RM) No … listen … this job did not go well, and I fully acknowledge that! Ultimately, there is a crannog – fair enough, that’s been excavated in Enniskillen that could still be there – ultimately, there are lessons to be learned. In terms of owing any individual an apology, I don’t think that I’m in a position where I can apologise on an individual basis. But, as a company, I am sorry that a lot of these issues were not addressed before they ever happened. You know, hindsight’s a wonderful thing, and I am frustrated that some of the information that we received was not clear to allow us to make more appropriate decisions, particularly in the design and assessment stage, to be honest. And that’s where my bigger frustration is, I have to say, particularly in … it’s easy to pick on NIEA, but had there been a stronger line taken at that stage, basically ‘there’s a risk there’s archaeology here – don’t even go near it!’ … that sorts it out.

(RMC) Yeah … look … there are lessons to be learned here for everybody – myself included. I do not for a second think that the appropriate way to deal with the archaeological risk on site is for a blogger to be causing a fuss about this. The only that anybody came to me was that because – as far as they saw it – every other avenue had been closed to them and nobody was listening. Now, I think from some of the stuff that Prof Cooney says, there was more going on in the background than was being communicated to me and there was a better understanding, I think, of what was going on … but it still comes down to it that it was a job with a lot of problems …

(RM) Ultimately … from my perspective, personally, we had a team on site that effectively – for whatever reason – there were people on that team who weren’t happy and that’s an issue … if you want to say an apology, I am disappointed that unhappiness wasn’t addressed when it first arose, if it arose ... as I say, the first we were made aware of it was when the blog occurred. Now, that was a disappointment to me and that was an issue for me. As I say, I spoke to FarrimondMacManus who were the supply chain and the people that I knew who were supplying the staff and, in fairness to them, as I understand it, they weren’t fully aware of the extent of the problems. Because I think they would have acted, similar to myself, in that they would have done something to address it, and that’s a concern … so, if there is an apology to be made, Robert, I have no issue with apologising for that reason, because people shouldn’t be treated like that. Whether their cause is right or wrong is irrelevant …

(RMC) I would fully accept that there was a breach of protocol in terms of individuals talking to me, however the only reason it was being done was because the feeling was that there was no positive response to any of the concerns that they were raising. Now, you are talking about … these are not just mindless robots that are being put out there … a lot of these are very experienced archaeologists that I’ve known for years – some of them for going on 20 years – people whose judgment both personally and professionally, I really respect … and when they say there’s a problem archaeologically, I will listen to them. And, I’ll be honest with you, actually the first person that said it to me, I didn’t listen to them … it was only when more people came to me and I’ve been clear about that all the way along. But, again, you finding out about this publically, from a blog, is not the right way for it to be handled …

(RM) No … It’s wrong …

(RMC) … and, if there’s an apology from my side to be made it’s that that was the last option …

(RM) … I do think … I’ve been honest, hopefully, and open about Declan, but I suppose the other side of the coin – to give Declan his dues – I do think that because of the blog – and I don’t think it was your intention at all – I think Declan personally received a high degree of vilification which I don’t feel was completely justified … now, I might be wrong in that, I not fully aware of the professionalisms of archaeology, or what he should or shouldn’t have done, but reading some of the information and some of the material that’s obviously very strong and strongly against an individual, which I feel is, perhaps, unfair.

(RMC) I have to say … as fallout from the various blog pieces … I can very much feel for Declan if he did receive vilification, because I received the same anonymously through the blog … some of it very, very vile …

(RM) Seriously?

(RMC) Yeah, absolutely … some of it from people that obviously knew me, from what they were posting anonymously ... I’m a big boy, I can handle it … but it really brought out a side of professional archaeology that wasn’t good. I would say that the other side of it is that the Cherrymount Crannog Crisis Facebook group, where it was very, very different … no names were mentioned … it was very much conducted in a professional manner … so, I don’t think it’s all one or the other …

(RM) So that was [point] five …

(RMC) … So going on to six … can I ask – and I do realise that this is personal employment details – you do not have to answer this, but what happened with Declan after the 30th of July 2012? Up to that point he had been the sole director, he then became co-director, and by the time the license was renewed in January he was no longer on the site – the license was renewed solely to Dr Bermingham.

(RM) Declan remains an employee of Amey. He remains working in the field of archaeology. Since that time he has supervised some excavations, although the number of excavations he has supervised has been minimal, both because of recession (obviously) and extent of work – none of those excavations have been in Northern Ireland as such. [Redacted content]

(RMC) So, I take it that he didn’t receive any disciplinary action? Or retraining … mentoring?

(RM) He didn’t receive any disciplinary action [Redacted content]

(RMC) I would take it that the final part of my question … you would very much take the position that, in light of Prof Cooney’s report, he shouldn’t face censure now?

(RM) Ah … I would take that position, yeah. Again, in terms of lessons learned, I would also take the position that we would not, as a company, be undertaking any archaeological excavations or major works in Northern Ireland. Simply, we’re not going to put him into that position again. Now, that’s not an acceptance that Declan necessarily did anything wrong, but it’s an acceptance that there is a benefit from having those roles separate.

(RMC) This is the second time you made that point, and it’s something that has long been an issue in Northern Ireland. I’ve worked on sites in the past where the engineering firm have provided a scheme archaeologist, and their job is to oversee the excavations, make recommendations and, essentially, act as ‘translators’ for the engineers … because archaeologist get very excited over, say, a piece of Bronze Age pottery … and that requires somebody to translate that into something an engineer can understand. So, I’ve seen that work very well where those roles have been …

(RM) To be honest, in the past … this is not the first site that archaeology has been on … we’ve done several …

(RMC) … I know … I’ve read a lot about Amey in the last while …

(RM) [Redacted material] … as opposed to any one individual’s capability, it’s more in in relation to understanding that organisational ... who delivers what

(RMC) … Oh yeah, I very much take that, but this is not about – and I don’t want it to be – I know that Declan’s name gets mentioned a lot in this [report], but this is not about me trying to crucify the man … it really isn’t, and I very much take your point that this is an understanding of the organisational needs and the roles and responsibilities, rather than a personal one … so, yeah, I’m happy to move from that … I don’t think (because we’ve already covered this in quite some detail) that we particularly need to go over again Prof Cooney’s comment that ‘It does not appear that RS/Amey […] had a coherent or consistent strategy to mitigate the impact of the road on the crannog.’ I think you’ve spoken eloquently … and at length … obviously, you had a lot that you wanted to say about that and you said it – I respect that! I don’t think we need to go over that again, unless there’s a specific point you want to add to it …

(RM) No, I’m happy with that …

(RMC) … I think we’re all grateful for that … An overall question, and this kinda’ comes to the lessons learned … not just specifically Prof Cooney’s previous comment, there, but the whole thing … how do you feel that it reflects on Amey?

(RM) Extremely badly! As a company, we employ 300-350 people in Northern Ireland, overall. From a design perspective, I’ve 100 people sitting in Belfast …

(RMC) That’s not a small company, by anybody’s …

(RM) Essentially, Northern Ireland’s a small place … any negative comment puts those jobs at risk. That’s a big issue for me – that’s a major issue for me! I’m not in any way seeking to belittle what happened on this job, or this crannog, because these are major issues that do need to be properly understood, and I accept that. But, equally, I think there’s a difference between lessons and guilt, and what frustrates me is that reading some of the comments, there’s a presumption of guilt, rather than a desire to understand and that’s one of the reasons that – probably my biggest issue – with the way this subsequent work has been undertaken … I think it’s been more of apportioning blame as opposed to ‘how do we make this better?’

(RMC) I’ll say that a lot of the comments in Prof Cooney’s report maybe do take a slightly ‘blame’ side. However, his core recommendations, they are very much forward-looking and, from my perspective, I do think it’s important that blame both at a corporate and an individual level is apportioned. Not, necessarily, to drum people out of jobs … I don’t want that if that’s not appropriate. But for people to say ‘I did this … this was my responsibility … I wasn’t up to the task … I didn’t do it’ … at all levels … everybody involved in this needs to take away ‘lessons learned’. But, very much, my first point of view is that I had questions to ask from this … I really wanted to give you guys an opportunity to speak … but, I also really want to be part of the positive change here. And, if I can take some of your messages and make sure that they get out there to … my audience is generally archaeological, that last piece was read by 2000 people, the original crannog piece was read by over 9000 … it’s not The Huffington Post, but that’s a pretty big thing for my little blog …

(RM) … but if you can understand from my perspective … I talked to you of 300 people … I’ve got one archaeologist … I’ve got one archaeologist … we’ve done numerous projects that have had archaeological involvement ... all of them have gone relatively well ... bar one! The one that has gone wrong has gone really wrong, but the frustration from my perspective is that I know that all are putting their full effort in … and it’s easy for me to turn around and say ‘listen, we relied on what the NIEA said to us!’ … and to a degree we did, but that’s simplifying the situation too much. There’s a level of interpretation that we all have to continuously bear in mind and learn lessons from, and we have done that …

(RMC) I do realise that Amey has come in for a lot of flak on this … I don’t see that it has particularly gone into the news …

(RM) … not as yet …

(RMC) … and I do want to provide balance … so, if there’s context, and you have provided lots … you’ve provided a degree of nuance to Prof Cooney’s report. I have to say – very much on the record – that Prof Cooney is an immensely respected archaeologist. I don’t know him particularly well personally … I’ve met him one-to-one once for about 30 seconds … his reputation goes before him – he will be regarded as one of the greatest archaeologists of our times. So, when he speaks the archaeological world will listen … so, I think it’s valuable if we can provide context around some of these [points] … if we can provide a broader picture, I’m happy to do so. I think that there are lots of voices that are yet to be heard on this. Obviously, I’ve asked both DRD and Minister Durkan in Environment for their comments and I have a similar, lengthy set of very wordy questions for them. In both cases they’ve given me response emails saying that my correspondence has been received – they all went out on the same day as yours, so there’s no …

(RM) … no, that’s fair enough …

(RMC) One very, very specific question which doesn’t come up in my blog, it doesn’t come up in Prof Cooney’s report, is ‘which company/body is named on the contract as being responsible for organising and funding the post-excavation phase?

(RM) … nobody is named on the contract …

(RMC) … excuse me while I swear internally for a moment …

(RM) No, sorry, when I say that, essentially, as I understand … I’m not party to this … so I can’t be crystal on this … in terms of the Cherrymount job as such, the post-excavation works is an issue between the two Departments … so in terms of contractual … there’s been no contract between the Department and ourselves or the Department and [MHPT JV] to …

(RMC) Right … the one thing I want a very clear answer, if you can give it, please, is – you’re saying that Amey is not standing in the way of any post-excavation activities?

(RM) No!

(RMC) Nothing is going to come through you?

(RM) No!

(RMC) You’re not going to be in a position to channel funds?

(RM) Not at all …

(RMC) Rubberstamp anything?

(RM) No.

(RMC) Thank you! That is a very important question!
Any other business? That’s the end of my list of questions. I thank you for fantastic responses – very clear, very articulate …

(RM) Well, we’ll see when we listen to that [indicates recording device]

[Discussion of timescales for the production of this transcript]

(RMC) I am the ‘mouthy blogger’, but I don’t want to be unfair to anyone …

(RM) Listen, as I say we’re – and we always have been – more than happy to get involved and to share and, fair enough, to learn. I understand and I agree with you, if there’s blame to be apportioned, then it should rightly be apportioned. What disappoints me, and I don’t know Prof Cooney, I was disappointed at some of the things that are simply wrong and factually incorrect because the information wasn’t there, and that’s a frustration.

(RMC) Coming at it from the other side – as you will have read in my blog – I have frustrations with this too. Some of these I know they were simply outside the scope of his report, for example the post-excavation phase and everything like that. I’m not pining for my little piece of history, but I would have thought it fair that the pressure brought to bear by the advocacy movement surrounding the Cherrymount Crannog Crisis group, that at least some mention of that was made … Because it does read … and I know I used heavy-to-industrial strength sarcasm with this, but it does seem that John O’Keeffe just woke up one morning and went ‘Right! We are going to fix EVERYTHING NOW’ … and, I’m sorry, but that is just counterfactual. So, yeah, I’ve got issues coming from the other side.

(RM) Thank you.

(RMC) With the time now at three minutes past 11, I will turn off the recording

[Recording ends]