Category Archives: Engineering and construction

Improvements at St John’s Pill, Waterford

Thanks to Brian Simpson for this update on the continuing resurrection of St John’s Pill [river] in Waterford.

Waterford Council had new fencing erected by Fairybush Landscaping Ltd around Cherrymount bridge and around the slip area. The Council also recently opened a beautiful greenway for pedestrians and cyclists along the St John’s river right into Waterford City Centre.

Our slipway at Cherrymount bridge was being eroded by heavy rainfall and
strong currents when the canal was swollen.


The slipway


The slipway fenced (but eroded)

In order to prevent further damage with the approach of autumn and winter, improvement works had to be carried out. With a low tide window for much of the day and a couple of dry days beforehand, Saturday 29 August 2015 was our perfect opportunity.


Men at work

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our Chairman David Hayes [of David Hayes Engineering, Waterford] for organising the mixer, sand/gravel cement from Doyle Concrete


Doyle Concrete

… and the concrete slabs and capping from Boyce Mulrooney, scrap merchant, Tramore Road, Waterford.

All the committee members who donated bags of cement, tools, ideas, labour and teamwork.


Wade in the water

A great day was had and most importantly the slip is now much secure and pleasing to look at too.

The DUP fightback

I mentioned here that the ridiculous decision by the Sinn Féin Minister for Marching Bands [and Sheughs] to ask the DUP Minister for Finance and Personnel for £46 million for the Lisburn Sheugh might have been intended to annoy the DUP. Most of the Lisburn Sheugh, formerly the Lagan Navigation, ran through unionist territory; the Lagan Valley constituency is solidly unionist, and specifically DUP, in both Westminster and NI Assembly elections. It costs Ms Ní Chuilín nothing to pass on the Lisburn lunacy to the Dept of Finance, leaving it to a DUP Minister to turn down the funding application.

But the DUP has lobbed a neat hand-grenade response back at the Shinner fortress. Brenda Hale, DUP MLA for Lagan Valley, has put two questions to the sheughery enthusiasts:

AQW 48647/11-16 To ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure what financial support her Department has offered the Lagan Canal Trust, given that their budget has been cut by 11 per cent. [09/09/2015 Awaiting Answer]

AQW 48646/11-16 To ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure when the Lagan Navigation Canal Locks where last maintained. [09/09/2015 Awaiting Answer]

Ye’ll no’ fickle Thomas Yownie.


I had been thinking that it was rather a windy summer on the Shannon, and  Met Éireann’s seasonal summary [select Year 2015 and Period Summer 2015 here to get a PDF] supports that view:

Seasonal wind speeds were the highest in at least six years at the majority of stations with records of up to 41 years exceeded at Shannon Airport (mean wind speed of 9.9 knots (18km/h)). Seasonal mean wind speeds ranged from 5.9 knots (11km/h) at Mullingar, Co Westmeath (its windiest summer in 11 years) to 13.8 knots (26km/h) at Mace Head, Co Galway (its windiest summer in 7 years).

Gale-force winds were reported on 9 days, with four of these days (June 1st, June 2nd, July 17th and August 3rd) reporting severe gales. Malin Head reported the seasons highest 10-minute mean wind speed and highest gust on June 1st with 47 knots (87 km/h) and 65 knots (120km/h), respectively, both the highest reported since the summer of 1988.

But what has caused this excess of wind? The learned Tyler Cowen reports today that there has been a shortage of wind in the Americas and that the amount of electricity generated by some wind farms has fallen.

Clearly, therefore, the missing American wind has ended up in Ireland, and the method of transmission is undoubtedly by the wind farms themselves. Just as the wind is caused by the waving of trees, so too is wind caused by the turbines of wind farms. And while American wind farms are set to blow, ours must be set to suck, thereby bringing American wind to Ireland.

They can have it back any time they like.



The Purton boat graveyard

If you happen to be driving across southern England and Wales — say from Fishguard or Pembroke to London — and you want a break, you could turn off the M4 or M48 and drive to the Purton ships’ graveyard in Gloucestershire. It’s roughly 25 miles, 35 minutes, each way: a two-hour break will give you an hour on site — and take you a world away from the busy motorways.

Purton gives you two waterways for the price of one: the Severn estuary and the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, which bypasses part of the estuary.

The estuary

Big estuaries — including the Shannon and the Suir — always give a sense of space, with big open skies, but somehow the Severn looks even bigger when the tide goes so far out.

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The long and level sands stretch far away

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Note the train on the far bank, behind the signpost

Incidentally, the west bank too seems to have a place called Purton, if Messrs Google’s map is to be believed.

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Drawing a line in the sand

The canal

Purton has two of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal‘s swing bridges, a weir and other interesting features.

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Purton lower bridge

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Purton lower bridge control room. The keeper operates both bridges

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Swinging room

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Purton lower bridge from downstream

Purton upper bridge

Purton upper bridge

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Information board beside the lower bridge

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Purton weir

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Weir bridge and sluices

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Weir inflow

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Weir sluices

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Weir outfall

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Canalside cottages (all occupied)

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One of several designs of self-closing gate

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Boats 1

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Boats 2

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Boats 3

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Boats 4

The hulks

The hulls of old vessels were used to shore up the embankment, between canal and river, at Purton. [This practice was also used in Ireland, on both the Barrow and the Suir, but not on anything like the same scale.] The result was the creation of a boat or ship graveyard that preserved, and makes reasonably accessible, the hulls or frames or at least parts of a large number of inland, estuarial and coastal vessels. And some of them are vessels that traded with Ireland.

The Friends of Purton have an informative website here; please also read their page about access here. I can confirm that parking is restricted on the site; it would be easy to annoy the local people by careless parking.

Good information is provided on site.

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Information board

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All identified wrecks have plaques like this

I had allowed an hour for my visit, but didn’t see everything; it would have been easy to spend twice as much time there. In the summer, growth hid a few of the artefacts, but there was plenty to see without trampling on the shrubbery.

Mary Ann 01 resize

The Mary Ann

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… is in there somewhere

There are quite a few concrete (ferrocement) barges, built during the Second World War.


Up close


Bows on

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Information plaque

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Stacked up

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Deck details

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Merging into the bank

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One side

Of the other vessels, the Dursley is apparently in reasonable condition but, on my visit, was largely hidden in the grass.

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Dursley plaque

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Dursley sternpost and rudder

The same was true of the Katherine [or Catherine] Ellen, built in Dungarvan.


Katherine Ellen plaque


Katherine Ellen site

I failed to find the Jonadab, a Severn trow that traded to the (Munster) Blackwater, but I did see the remains of the Scottish-built Dispatch, which is amongst the vessels listed by Niall O’Brien as having visited the Munster Blackwater [Blackwater and Bride: navigation and trade 7000BC to 2007, Niall O’Brien Publishing, Ballyduff Upper, 2008].


Dispatch plaque


Dispatch hull

Then there were the dramatic remains of Sally, renamed King, of London.


Sally plaque


Sally remains 1


Sally remains 2

And many more. Even isolated timbers or iron ribs had their interest. But let me finish with a wreck that is not on the embankment but just offshore.

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Tanker offshore

You can read about the loss of the tankers Arkendale H and Wastdale H here and here. They are remembered on a plaque at the site.

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Plaque about the tankers

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I don’t know which of the tankers is shown in my photos

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The wreck is a reminder of the hazards of estuaries

Purton is well worth a visit — but it is only one of the waterways delights close to the Fishguard/Pembroke to London route.

Northern nutters

I suppose this might be a Shinner ploy to annoy the DUP, but it is eloquent testimony to the pointlessness of the Northern Ireland Executive. It is unable to get its own act together, it can’t agree a budget — but one of its ministers thinks it should waste yet more of HMG’s money on yet another useless canal restoration proposal.

The Lagan Canal Trust is, it appears, funded by DCAL to enable it to draw up funding applications to DCAL ….

Victoria Lock, Meelick

Waterways Ireland has applied to Offaly County Council for planning permission for work on Victoria Lock:


The decision is due by 4 September 2015.

RVRC joy at Portumna

Our friends in the Recreational Vehicle Rights Campaign tell us that they are happy to see that Waterways Ireland has received conditional planning permission for improvements at Portumna Castle Harbour:

The development will consist of the refurbishment of existing harbour area including re-decking of existing mooring fingers with the provision of new service bollards. Refurbishment of existing service block providing disabled toilet and shower facilities. Resurfacing of the existing vehicle parking area incorporating a new facility to accommodate a serviced area for recreational vehicles. Gross floor space refurbishment 73.38sqm.

WI said, as part of its submission, that “a new water supply to be metered and installed in accordance with the requirements and standards of Irish Water and GCC [Galway County Council]”. For wastewater, “Established system whereby a holding tank is regularly maintained and emptied/treated in Portumna WWTP”. WI had to submit a full Natura Impact Assessment.

The eight conditions seem to be fairly harmless but they include a requirement that WI install three bat boxes and another that WI has to show how public lighting will provide for both public safety and the desires of our feathered friends, the bats and the various creepy crawlies around the place.

The disused pumpout in the first bay to the left as you enter will be replaced by a “Hoist for disabled access to boats”; the working pumpout on the entrance (aka the barge berth) will be replaced and “connected to existing foul pumping main”.

The isolated dolphins, which were practically impossible to tie to, will be integrated into the finger jetties, which will be covered by timber surface and cladding. Some mooring bollards will be removed; the fingers will have cleats for mooring, while service bollards will supply shore power, light and water. However, the berths along the wall at the north end will have only light and water. CCTV is to be installed.

There will be spaces for 18 camper vans (RVs), with light, water and power available. There will also be a “New ticket kiosk for RV parking”; I don’t know how that is to be managed or any restrictions on numbers are to be enforced.

Fáilte Ireland is to pay for this out of its Lough Derg Stimulus Fund.

Notes from the north

Some observations from a trip to the hyperborean regions.


The 2015 edition of Shannon Leisure Development Company’s Navigational Guide to the Shannon and Erne Waterways includes the numbers of some of the markers; I found that helpful, especially on the longer river stretches.

The Guide is wrong about Clonmacnoise: there is no water supply. At Hodson Bay, a suggested course appears to cross a shoal.



This was the first marker I noticed with a suffix to its number; I presume that means it’s a new marker.


As far as I know, boxty is the only contribution made by the north midlands to world cuisine. We bought several varieties in Lanesborough, and jolly good they were too; I regret that I did not record the manufacturers’ names so that I could provide links to their websites.

However, boxty was not the only comestible to be found north of Portumna Bridge. Shannon Crafts and Coffee Dock in Athlone, on The Strand across the river from the lock, provides excellent cakes; boaters can tie up outside and stock up.

TripAdvisor folks liked it too.

Had I been there on a Saturday, I’d have had bratwurst.

Shannon Crafts and Coffee Dock

Shannon Crafts and Coffee Dock

The Em’raldstar Galactica

Les grands bateaux de Monsieur Thibault must have been breeding: we met several of the things.

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It’s big …

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… and, I’m told, luxuriously fitted out …

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… with good outdoor space on the roof …

Emraldstar Galactica 2015 02_resize

… and it accelerates quickly and smoothly from rest, suggesting a good underwater shape …

… but I still think it’s the boating equivalent of the SsangYong Rodius.

Work in progress

Geotechnical investigation works on the N63 bridge at Lanesborough were being carried out from this pontoon, which was assembled at Hanleys Marina at Ballyleague.

Moving the pontoon into position

Moving the pontoon into position

And here’s a Waterways Ireland boat, a Pioner I think, returning upstream to its launch site at Meelick Quay. Perhaps it had been investigating the possibility of providing berths near Meelick village.

WI Pioner

WI Pioner


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On the Iskeraulin shoal on Lough Ree

Copy of Boat ashore between Blackbrink and Galey bays

On shore between Blackbrink and Galey bays

I don’t know anything about either of these vessels. The second might, I suppose, have been careened for work on its hull.

Out to lunch

The closing of locks at lunchtime has got to stop.

At Meelick, on a windy day, the lower gates were open at lunchtime and two boats were blown forward on to the sill. There, and at Athlone, the waiting pontoons and quays are utterly inadequate to the volume of traffic. Two boats occupied the whole of the Athlone pontoons and only two boats (one a barge) were able to fit on the quay wall. The combined length of boats waiting was about two and a half times the length available for tying to.

Athlone waiting pontoons

Athlone waiting pontoons

Why is it not possible to have staggered lunchtimes? Or to come up with some other arrangement that puts the interests and the safety of the boaters first?


Is this a waterside thunderbox or privy?

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Outdoor sanitation above Athlone?

In the next photo, the small white sign in the middle says “No shooting”, which is about tweetiebirds rather than citizens. But what is the long-stemmed mushroom on the right? It looks like those gas thingies youo see scattered around the countryside, presumably to provide shelter while you strike a match to light your pipe, and there’s another on the other side of the river. Does that mean that there’s a gas pipe under the river? Or what?


What’s the white thing on the right?


The pale patch of concrete suggests that the corner bollard is missing at the quay below the bridge in Shannonbridge. That makes the short angled section of wall very difficult to use.

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Missing bollard?

At Portrunny, some of the timber edging to the pier has rotted; it may be a trip hazard.

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Portrunny pier

The taps on Portrunny pier defeated us. I would be grateful to anyone who could give me the specification of the adapter required to connect these taps to standard garden/boat hoses.

Portrunny tap

Portrunny’s giant taps

Back on Lough Derg, we found that a barrier had been erected at the end of the pier at Rossmore.

Rossmore barriers 01


This barrier makes the end of the pier unusable by boats. I have twice seen the end used when strong winds, and waves rolling into the bay, made conditions dangerous.

On one occasion a boat, pinned against the outer (upwind, exposed) side of the pier, worked around to the other side with ropes around the end of the pier; the barrier would have made that manoeuvre impossible.

On another, again with wind and waves coming into the bay, and with the head of the T occupied by other boats, a boat tied to the end of the pier, with its bow into the waves, using strong ropes from bow and stern to bollards along the pier. Again, the barrier would have made that impossible.

Rossmore barriers 02

The barrier

I do not know whether such considerations affected the decision to erect this barrier. If they did not, I suggest reconsideration.


Romaris in Athlone

Romaris in Athlone (no, no: I took this one)

Romaris Motor Yacht is offering upmarket cruises in Athlone. And Baysports water park in Hodson Bay seems to attract favourable reviews.

Richmond Harbour

Finally, some thoughts on Richmond Harbour, our terminus ad quem. It is quite a delightful place and Waterways Ireland has done much to improve the amenities and maintain its appearance. Furthermore, Paddy, the patroller who let us up into the harbour, is helpful, friendly and enthusiastic about the Royal Canal.

But what a pity that WI doesn’t do more to promote both Richmond Harbour and the Royal Canal.

First, the Guide might usefully include Paddy’s phone number so that boaters, especially those (like hirers) without lock keys, might be enabled to get into the harbour. The numbers given on p15 don’t include Paddy’s.

Second, the text of the Guide might be updated: it makes it clear (p7) that some hire boats are allowed to use the Grand Canal but makes no equivalent statement about the Royal.

Third, WI might do more to establish an identity for Richmond Harbour itself, with information about its history, layout, buildings and other features. Maybe there was an information display; if so, I missed it.

Fourth, WI might provide information at Richmond Harbour (and perhaps elsewhere) to encourage boaters to venture even a few miles up the Royal. Such information might say what’s where (village X is Y miles/Z hours away), why X is worth a visit, what help is available, where a boat can turn, why it’s worth doing, what boaters should watch out for (mainly, I imagine, weed on prop or in filters). Or perhaps the RCAG or IWAI could do that.

Fifth, folk who use Richmond Harbour for free parking should find their boats below (or even above) the 45th Lock, thus leaving more space for visiting boats.

Boats arrive at the end of the Royal Canal; the canal itself, and the Harbour, should be promoted to them.

Incidentally, the Clondra Canal needs traffic lights: the cheerful and inventive keeper does his best with hand signals, but the systemn is scarcely foolproof. And it would be useful to have something (other than trees) to tie to at either end of the canal.


There were days to make Tim O’Brien eat his heart out. But some really bad days that are likely to damage next year’s tourism. I’ll get to the traffic figures anon.





€200 million for the sheugh?

What does Chris Lyttle [Alliance Party MLA] know that I don’t?

On 16 June 2015 he submitted this written question [AQW 47282/11-15], to which he has yet to receive an answer:

To ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure what consideration the Executive has given to supporting the Lagan Canal Trust objective of reopening the Lagan Canal from Belfast Harbour to Lough Neagh in light of the Irish Government’s approval of €200 million investment by Waterways Ireland in the Ulster Canal.

To the best of my knowledge, the WI “investment” is €2 million, not €200 million. But perhaps I’m missing something? If, Gentle Reader, you can explain Mr Lyttle’s figure, please leave a Comment below.

Given that the restoration of the Lagan would be quite as insane as that of the Clones Sheugh, it seems that the Alliance Party gets its economic ideas from the Shinners.


From the blatts


Low wall on the right

Low wall on the right

The Irish Times reported on 24 August 2015 [may disappear behind a paywall at some stage] that a woman with “a blood alcohol level of 280mg per cent” [I am unable to make sense of that measurement] had drowned in the Grand Canal near Portobello in Dublin. The account includes no evidence that the woman tripped over the low wall that borders the canal; I do not know whether such evidence was presented. Nonetheless

Dr Farrell [the coroner] said he would write to Waterways Ireland for the matter of the height of the wall to be evaluated in the public interest.

I hope that the first step will be a cost-benefit analysis of any proposed change.

Percy Place

On 26 August 2015 [possible paywall alert] the Irish Times said that

Waterways Ireland is to sell an infill development site at 53 Percy Place, Dublin 4, which could accommodate a four-storey office block or residential scheme. CBRE is seeking more than €1.6 million for the 0.04 hectare (0.1 of an acre) site on which there is a two-storey derelict building.

53 Percy Place, Dublin

53 Percy Place, Dublin

The price is interesting. The property was valued at €1.6 million in 2008. WI’s Annual Report and Accounts for 2013 say

Surplus assets represent those assets that the Body deem are not strategic and are available for sale. Valuations of surplus assets are based on Recoverable Market Value from Internal and External valuations reports.

Plot 8 valued at €7,000,000 (2012: €7,000,000); this was valued in September 2013 by GVA Donal O’Buachella.

Percy Place was valued at €800,000 (2012: €650,000) by Felicity Fox FRICS FSCSI Auctioneers Valuers & Estate Agent in December 2013.

47 Lennox Street was valued at €270,000 (2012: €195,000) by Richard Fawcett BSc (Hons) Valuation & Estate Management Valuer, Waterways Ireland based on expected sales proceeds at December 2013. Previously valued at €380,000 by CBRE in October 2008.

The Hatch Bar valued in 2012 at €45,000 (2012: €45,000) by Richard Fawcett BSc (Hons) Valuation & Estate Management Valuer, Waterways Ireland in 2012.

The first three properties were to be sold to fund the construction of the Clones Sheugh. I have heard nothing more of the other two sites, Lennox Streeet near Portobello and Plot 8 in the Grand Canal Dock at Ringsend, and I didn’t see what WI got for the Hatch Bar. However, WI may have done very well on the sale of some other surplus assets, achieving four times what it expected:

The Barges were valued in 2013 at €51,000 based on bids received. Previously valued in 2011 by Bryan Millar, Consultant Engineer Naval Architect and Marine Engineer at €13,000.

On the basis of its asking price for Percy Place, WI seems to believe that the property collapse is over; perhaps it is even now in negotiation to develop Plot 8 and build a sheugh all the way to Clones. In the meantime, if it gets €1.6 million for Percy Place, that will help to alleviate the damage caused by the smash-and-grab raid carried out by the Department of Fairytales to pay for Saunderson’s Sheugh.

Derg Marina

The same edition of the Irish Times reports that Derg Marina in Killaloe has been sold for €1.7 million to “a local investor”. It suffered in the floods of 2009 and would need considerable investment were it to be restored to its former use. The site may contain remains of the PS Lady Lansdowne.

Greenway blues

The Weekly Observer of 26 August 2015 reports in its print edition [the story is not yet online] that Great Southern Trail Ltd, the voluntary body that manages part of the old Limerick to Tralee railway route as a greenway, is to cease doing so on 8 November 2015. GST, said to be the only voluntary group in Europe to manage a greenway, hopes that CIE and Limerick City and County Council will take over the management of the route. The newspaper account suggests that the burden of maintaining the greenway and cycleway to EU standards was too great for a voluntary group:

In particular, a very small number of farm crossings are the subject of unfavourable comment due to the difficulties encountered in keeping them clean.


The Ulster Canal Greenway has an artwork. Waterways Ireland is to be in charge of the Ulster Canal Greenway. But the Shinners haven’t gone away, you know:

[…] Sinn Féin councillor Brian McKenna voiced strong criticism of the efforts made at Government level over the past two decades to put in place the substantial funding necessary to guarantee that the reopening of the Canal – long identified as a crucial project for Co Monaghan tourism – was realised in full.

If their dedication to the Clones Sheugh is a mark of Sinn Féin’s approach to economic policy and public investment, we may expect grants for flax-growing to be reinstated immediately they’re elected. And for opening coal-mines and carrying corn to Dublin.