Inland waterways transport

I mentioned back in October 2014 that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (whom god preserve, although I don’t know whether they have any connection with Utrecht) had applied its collective mind to COM (2014) 452. And I’m sure we were all very relieved at the news.

Regular readers, a well-informed lot, will not of course need to be told what  COM (2014) 452 is all about. However, in case you’re new here, perhaps I should explain that COM (2014) 452 is a proposal for a European Council directive implementing the European agreement concluded by the European Barge Union, EBU, the European Skippers Organisation, ESO, and the European Transport Workers Federation, ETF, concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time in inland waterway transport.

And rightly so, I hear you say. But the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation “agreed that this proposal warrants further scrutiny”, which is slightly odd given that (a) Ireland has no inland waterways transport and (b) the members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation presumably have other things they could be doing with their time. However, I thought (after wading through the gobbledegook) that the proposal might affect hours of work on the half dozen or so trip-boats on Irish inland waterways.

Well, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has been giving the proposal more scrutiny. It — or at least its chair, one Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, a Fine Gael TD for Banagher (where there is a trip-boat) and some other places — recommended that

[…] the committee consider the merit of the submission of a political contribution on this proposal. The political contribution would focus on the following: the committee’s concern regarding the lack of clarity in the scope of the agreement from a sufficiently early stage; the fact that an exemption was not carved out for Ireland and other member states, as had been done previously; the issue of proportionality; and that the committee recommends in future proposals which relate to sector policy areas within which certain member states have traditionally been exempted should indicate clearly from the beginning the intended scope of application, and this would allow member states the full opportunity to scrutinise the proposal and submit a reasoned opinion within the allowed 56 day timeframe.

That seems to mean “we didn’t read the stuff properly when it came out”. But the other members agreed to the recommendation: in fact their combined contributions spent more time on wishing each other happy xmases than on debating the proposal. I hesitate to suggest that they hadn’t actually read it, but the report of proceedings provides no evidence that they had done so. Any members of the JOC who wish to prove their mastery of the issues are invited to leave Comments below.

The upshot is that Ireland, which has no inland waterways transport, is to submit an objection, on procedural but not on substantive grounds, to a proposal that seems to have emanated from countries where there are real inland waterways transport industries. It seems that Ireland is following the lead of Her Majesty’s Government across the water, which is always nice.

Of course, the United Kingdom has no serious inland waterways transport either. And, as far as I can see, neither Cyprus nor Malta, the other driving-on-the-left imperial remnants that joined the resistance movement, has any inland waterways, never mind any transport thereon. Checking on waterways in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece and Hungary, the other heroes of the people’s revolution, is left as an exercise for the reader.

So we have countries with no serious inland waterways transport objecting to arrangements made by and for those who have real waterways. That should make the remnants of empire popular.

No doubt the members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation reached their decision on opposing the proposed EU directive after appropriate analysis and consideration. They have not, alas, revealed the results of either of those processes. It would be nice to know who in Ireland would be affected by the proposed directive and what representations such persons have made to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.



Wading in the water (not)

See the bottom of a lock (with no water in it). This is Carpenters Road Lock in London, which also featured here.

h/t CELR

Royal water

An interesting piece of information from Waterways Ireland’s feasibility study on the restoration of the Longford Branch of the Royal Canal. We learn on page 44 that the Royal Canal needs, on average, 10 million gallons of water per day to cope with “lockages, leakage, seepage and evaporation” and that the current supply arrangements, with much pumping, are costing €300,000 a year.


Sorry, Longford

Waterways Ireland’s Feasibility Study into the Restoration of the Longford Branch of the Royal Canal is available for download [7 PDFs: main report + 6 appendices]. Skip straight to page 59:

6.5 Recommendation

Given the current financial climate and because of the associated costs, environmental issues and uincertainty regarding planning approval it is not recommended to pursue this project any further at this time.

The recent work undertaken in regard to the shared walkway/cycleway has protected the asset as a publicly owned recreational amenity and it is recommended that any outstanding property issues be resolved and finalised in order to complete the protection of the asset.

I hope that admirable recommendation survives the pre-election period.

By the way, there’s a snail ….

Saunderson’s Sheugh

The Minister for  Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht [who is also a Fine Gael TD for Cavan–Monaghan] spoke at the meeeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht on 25 November 2014. She said:

In addition to progressing North-South co-operation, my key priority is progressing the first stage of the Ulster Canal project from upper Lough Erne to Castle Saunderson, near Belturbet, County Cavan. I am working on this with the Government and other key partners, including the North-South Ministerial Council and Waterways Ireland. […]

It sounds, then, as if the minister intends to get work started on the Clones Sheugh, but only as far as Castle Saunderson, where there is a scouting establishment. The route from Quivvy Lough (location of the Quivvy Marina) is along the Finn River; the first 5.5 km of the route would be in the river and the last 8.5 km to Clones in a canal. The route to Castle Saunderson would, I imagine, require dredging and the removal of rocks as well as work on [or replacement of] Derrykerrib Bridge [I have not read all the details].

It would, of course, be faster to get there by road, but no doubt lots of people will travel from Foreign Parts for the excitement of seeing Castle Saunderson from the water and paying tribute to the memory of a stout Orangeman and founder of the Irish Unionist Alliance.

No mention of the treasure-hunting group who are to find the money, but there’s an election in the offing so money won’t be a problem. Until afterwards.

Quivvy to Castle Saunderson [OSI ~1840]

Quivvy to Castle Saunderson [OSI ~1840]

The minister also said:

Regarding the Ulster Canal, which stretches from upper Lough Erne to Castle Saunderson, we hope to get the project started on that section because that is the one part of the inland waterway system that has not been developed. If we get that done, the Ulster Canal will connect into Lough Neagh. That means we will have a complete network of waterways in Ireland, which is very important. It is also a cross-Border project, and there is a peace dividend in terms of that project. It is very important in terms of cross-Border relationships. It is one shovel-ready project that can be progressed.

The minister said that “a complete network of waterways in Ireland […] is very important”. She did not say why and I can think of no possible economic justification for the creation of such a “network”. Nor is it clear what the “peace dividend” is. But the phrase that evoked most terror is “shovel-ready project”, which I take to mean something that might buy votes in the next election.

The minister’s predecessor, Éamon Ó Cuív, a Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West, said:

I welcome the Minister’s continuation of the work on the Ulster canals. There was quite a bit of work done on that in my time and I was very anxious to see it progress on a step-by-step basis. I was going to bring it to Clones, I am not sure whether the place the Minister mentioned is further or nearer than that.

The minister interjected:

It is not as far as Clones. We will start it anyway and we will get it there.

And Mr Ó Cuív continued:

I take the view that even if she were to get it half a mile, we should just nibble away at it until we get it finished. It is of strategic national importance and if we could connect Coleraine, where I was the other day and where my poor car is getting mended, all the way down the coast through Lough Neagh down to Shannon and back up the canals, it would be a fantastic facility for the island. I will not be heard complaining in any way that it is in the Minister’s constituency – that just happens to be a happy coincidence in this case.

Actually, although both Quivvy Marina and Castle Saunderson are in the Free State, most of the River Finn route is in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

It seems that I must cease to speak of the Clones Sheugh: it’s Saunderson’s Sheugh. I suppose that, if reaching Castle Saunderson were enough to shut up the Shinners, who seem to be madly keen on Sheughery for some reason that is hidden from me, that might be a bargain: it would certainly be better than going all the way to Clones.

My OSI logo and permit number for website


Down to the sea in steps

On 28 January 1907 James Robinson Kilroe [near the bottom of the page] of H M Geological Survey read to the Royal Irish Academy a paper on “The River Shannon: its present course and geological history” [Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy Vol XXVI Section B No 8 Hodges, Figgis & Co Ltd, Dublin; Williams & Norgate, London 1907]. I thought that Plate V was interesting.

Shannon Derg to sea

Plate V

Kilroe wrote:

It will be perceived that instead of the river being shallow over the unyielding Silurian slate-rock, set almost vertically, and striking across the river-course, it is deeper than over the limestone of Lough Derg, and much deeper than over the comparatively easily eroded Old Red Sandstone at Killaloe. The river-bed actually drops below the datum line above the town, while at the town it is 100 feet above datum.

Old Red Sandstone strata are here to be seen in the river-bank, and Silurian rocks in situ in its bed. A barrier is thus formed, partly of Silurian, and partly of Old Red Sandstone rocks, which without the artificial impounding weir would retain the waters of Lough Derg to a depth of some 104 feet opposite Derrycastle — two miles above Killaloe.

One might have expected to find a fairly level shallow bed from Killaloe northward, a sudden drop from slate-rock to the sandstone floor, and  a pronounced wide, well-formed valley in the limestone district southward to Limerick.

None of these elements exist; instead, we have the formidable barrier at Killaloe, naturally damming up a considerable depth of water in Lough Derg, and the river falling away southward by a series of rapids which correspond with drops in the canal, south of O’Briensbridge […], along an alternative course, possibly one used by a branch of the Shannon.

Here is an extract from the Plate V map, showing the steps of the (pre-Ardnacrusha) Limerick Navigation between Lough Derg and the sea.

Shannon Killaloe to Limerick

The steps of the canal (click to enlarge)


Kilroe wrote of Lough Ree:

The waters of Lough Ree stood some 10 feet higher within recent times than they now do, as proved by evidence of solution, with under-cutting of limestone blocks, to be seen about five miles north-west of Athlone, close to the railway, in the townland of Cornaseer.

Under these conditions the lake must have been, perhaps, twice its width, and for a considerable period. Its ancient surface-level is clearly indicated by the caps of the mushroom-shaped blocks.

And of the Shannon between Lough Ree and Lough Derg:

The extreme flatness of the river between Athlone and Meelick is such that, consequent upon the completion of the Suck Drainage-works in 1892, it was found that the callows along the Shannon above the confluence of the Suck at Shannonbridge were much more liable to sudden and frequent floodings than they previously had been.

The more rapid discharge of the Suck waters into the Shannon, before ordinary extra water had time to pass away, had the effect of modifying the regimen of the main stream to an extent which resulted in an action at law [La Touche -v- The Suck Drainage Board].

I have found only one account of that case, in the Freeman’s Journal of 1 July 1893. The plaintiffs, Messrs Harrison and La Touche, owned land at Cappaleitrim, on the west bank of the Shannon above Shannonbridge. They said that the actions of the Suck Drainage Board had caused their lands to be flooded:

[…] that the defendants brought water from the Suck into the Shannon, containing a drainage of 40 miles, with such velocity and such volume that the Shannon was penned back, and that the back water caused the damage to the lands complained of.

[…] The jury disagreed and were discharged.

I don’t know whether the matter ever again came before a judge.

Canoe camping

Messrs Pesda Press have a new book on Canoe Camping. I haven’t read it, but Pesda produced the excellent Oileáin, David Walsh’s superb guide to 570 Irish offshore islands, many of them most easily accessible by kayak. With more emphasis on the development of blueways and canoe trails in Ireland, Tim Gent’s book on canoe camping might be of interest to canoeists and kayakers and to those providing facilities and services for them.



I see there’s a new scheme for Euroloot: a €300 billion investment fund to save the European economies. Actually it seems there is only €5 billion in real money and Constantin Gurdgiev is properly scathing. It will be interesting to see whether Ireland can make the Clones Sheugh fit within the criteria.

Green diesel

Big it up for Messrs for the information that the European Commission is taking Ireland to court over the ludicrous regulations for the use of green diesel in private pleasure craft. The topic has been covered here more than once, most recently here; I discussed the ludicrous regulations here. says that Ireland ignored the EU’s “letters” (presumably the Reasoned Opinion) on the subject. That is consoling, because my own requests for information about Ireland’s response to the Reasoned Opinion have likewise been ignored.

The EU’s press release is here; the EU notes that

While Irish law requires craft owners to pay to the Revenue the difference between the tax paid on marked gas oil and that due if the gas oil had been charged at the standard rate, the low number of tax returns indicate that the minimum level of taxation is not applied.


Maritime history

There is to be a maritime history conference in Cork next weekend:

Maritime History Conference to take place in University College Cork 28/29 November

Maritime History Conference‘A safe place for ships’: Cork, Ireland, Europe and the Sea

University College CorkFriday, 28 November – Saturday, 29 November

Main Campus: Electrical Engineering BLDG, L-1, UCC

Details here; h/t AD.