Category Archives: Ulster Canal

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

 

Euroloot

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.

DCAL

What is the top priority of the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure?

Is it to promote culture?

No.

To promote the arts?

No.

To promote leisure?

No.

It is

… to promote social and economic equality and tackle poverty and social exclusion.

Ne sutor ultra crepidam?

 

DCAL and water recreation

Noting that the NI Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure [DCAL] has a Water Recreation Development Programme, I emailed the department to find out more:

I would be grateful if you could let me have a copy of your 2013-14 Inland Waterways Water Recreation Development Programme and of any subsequent equivalent programmes, policies or documents. I have been unable to find anything on your website.

I am grateful for the reply, which read:

[…] we wish to advise you that we do not have a formal Water Recreation Development Programme document. How the Water Recreation Development Programme is operated is that we apply each year for capital funding. If successful, we then go out to local authorities seeking to work in partnership with them and other public bodies to co or match fund appropriate and inclusive capital projects. Such projects should provide water related access: for example riverside paths, canoe steps or other similar facilities on public owned land which is free for the public to access and use.

The process we follow is when we receive details of the projects from local authorities we complete an assessment of the project taking into account the following criteria

  1. Does the project provide water access
  2. Are there funding or delivery partners
  3. How the project links to the community
  4. How will the project be maintained in the future
  5. Does it enhance or improve disability access
  6. How does it promote social inclusion.

If DCAL is content that these criteria are met we would then consider funding for the project.

During the 13/14 year we had a capital fund and we were able to support six projects; however due to budget constraints we do not have a capital fund this year 14/15.

The Water Recreation Development Programme appears to be distinct from the Water Recreation Programme covered here and to apply to waterways other than those managed by Waterways Ireland.

This site has what purports to be the department’s business plan for 2013–4. I expected to find it here on the DCAL site but that page seems not to have been updated for some years. If anyone can point me to a link on the DCAL site, I would be grateful for guidance.

I cannot, therefore, be certain that the purported plan is actually DCAL’s plan, but I quote it anyway.

DCAL Inland Waterways

In partnership with local authorities and the voluntary and community sector, DCAL continued to manage canal towpaths in 2012-13. In addition, under the Inland Waterways Water Recreation Development Programme, in conjunction with local councils the Department grant aided 6 projects which included a canoe slalom, interpretative signage and the installation of an outdoor exercise ‘Trim Trail’. These facilities are free for everyone to use and it is a stipulation of the Programme that projects address social exclusion. The Water Recreation Programme is continuing in 2013-14. Funding was also made available to the Lough Neagh Partnership to engage with local rural communities around the lough to explore how they could develop the cultural and leisure tourist potential of the Lough.

In 2013-14, key challenges include work towards registration of assets on the Lagan Canal and investigations into the provision of a safe system of navigation markers for Lough Neagh. DCAL will also be considering the outcomes of a study into the potential for re-opening the former Lagan Navigation.

DCAL’s target for y/e 31 March 2014 was:

By 31 March 2014, to fund at least 5 water recreation projects which provide accessible opportunities for all and target those experiencing poverty and social exclusion.

Its “opening allocations” for 2013–4 were:

  • Inland Fisheries and Waterways: current £5.87m, capital £0.17m
  • North/South Body – Waterways Ireland: current £5.42m, capital £0.25m.

 

Canal gets government go-ahead

In Egypt.

 

Budget 2015

End of austerity?

Waterways Ireland’s southern money [85% of its current budget plus the full cost of capital work undertaken in the republic plus, according to this unicorn who has just dropped in, the full cost of the Clones Sheugh] comes from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under the heading of North-South Co-operation. The figures are subject to the approval of the North-South Ministerial Council.

Waterways Ireland accounts for the largest portion of the North-South Co-operation funding but the budget documents [PDF] don’t show the breakdown between WI and the languages body.

The 2014 estimate for current expenditure on NSCoop was €35,271,000; the 2015 figure is €34,870,000.

The 2014 estimate for capital expenditure (all but €119,000 for Waterways Ireland according to page 213) was €3,977,000; the 2015 figure is €3,487,000. Rather neatly, that’s 10% of the current expenditure figure. In 2008 WI got €11,000,000.

The total is 2% down on 2014.

The aim of the NSCoop programme

The aim of this Programme is to maintain, develop and foster North-South co-operation in the context of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the St. Andrews’ Agreement.

Under this Programme, the allocation for 2015 will:

  • Through Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster-Scots Agency, promote the Irish and UlsterScots language and culture; and

  • Through Waterways Ireland, maintain the waterways for some 15,000 registered boat users.

I noted last year that the department’s high-level programme activities were to include:

Development of inland waterways within the context of the implementation of the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements.

I deduce, therefore, that development of inland waterways has been abandoned; the [more sensible] aim is now that of maintenance. Furthermore, I note that there is no mention of tourism or of non-boating waterways uses like those lauded by the minister the other day.

Capital “investment”

According to Table 1  Multi-Annual Capital Investment Framework 2015-2017 on page 211, Exchequer Capital Funding to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is to fall from €62 million in 2015 to €36 million in each of 2016 and 2017. The 2015 capital estimates are:

A – ARTS, CULTURE AND FILM €42,460,000
B – HERITAGE 6,916,000
C – IRISH LANGUAGE, GAELTACHT AND ISLANDS 8,717,000
D – NORTH-SOUTH CO-OPERATION 3,487,000

The allocations to the last three groups are small, so it looks as if the luvvies will be suffering the cuts. But the level of cuts is rather large; I wonder how that’s going to work.

A win for the luvvies

The departmental overview begins on page 45. On page It shows that Total Gross Voted Current Expenditure is to stay constant at €212 million in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Below that we read:

The multi-annual expenditure ceilings are binding and it will fall to the Department of Arts,Heritage and the Gaeltacht to deliver services within these agreed allocations for the period 2015-17. This includes responding to emerging expenditure pressures over that period without recourse to additional Exchequer allocations. To do so will involve commitment to ongoing reform and efficiency measures and reprioritisation of expenditure as appropriate.

And on page 46:

This funding will enable a significant level of services to be delivered in 2015. The funding provided reflects the Government’s commitment to the conservation, preservation, protection, development and presentation of Ireland’s heritage and culture and the promotion of the Irish language, support of the Gaeltacht and development of island communities.

No mention of waterways, or even of northsouthery, in that lot.

On page 47 we learn:

The 2015 current expenditure ceiling of €212m represents an increase of €4m over the REV 2014 allocation and €7m over the previously published expenditure ceiling.

The additional current expenditure funding in 2015 will be utilised to support existing services and fund initiatives to commemorate the foundation of the State.

So the previous talk of continuing savings has vanished; the department’s total budget is up by 4%, just under €10 million. What we are seeing is a reallocation within the department:

A – ARTS, CULTURE AND FILM up 11%
B – HERITAGE down 12%
C – IRISH LANGUAGE, GAELTACHT AND ISLANDS  up 1%
D – NORTH-SOUTH CO-OPERATION down 2%,

Why are the luvvies getting the loot?

All of this is from a quick perusal; more later as information emerges, in particular when the minister addresses the Dáil.

Uninformative press release aboot thon sheugh

Plans to restore the Upper Lough Erne to Clones section of the Ulster Canal are being pursued by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

it says here. The official NSMC version is here. No mention of the inter-agency treasure-seekers; perhaps the swag is in here:

Progress on the development of the new INTERREG V and PEACE IV Programmes for the period 2014 – 2020 was discussed. The Council noted that the draft Programmes had been submitted to the EU commission by the deadline of 22 September 2014.

I see that WI employee payments for pensions are going up:

16. Ministers also acknowledged the ongoing work in relation to reform of the North South Bodies Pension Scheme, including recently approved amendments to ensure the Scheme complies with employment legislation and best practice in both jurisdictions and to increase employee contributions.

Someone with a tin ear (perhaps someone who doesn’t do crosswords) wrote this:

driving a shift to public and more sustainable modes of transport and the potential for shared cross border public transport services in border areas.

Driving would be right, especially in Donegal. But what about parity of esteem?

development of cross border Greenways

Why no Orangeways?

 

A puzzle in waterways history

According to the Lagan Canal Trust,

The Lagan Navigation also forms part of a wider all Ireland waterway network. This network of waterways once traversed through the towns and cities of Ireland delivering goods and produce, helping to shape the economic fortunes of the country.

I would be grateful for information about any goods or produce that were ever carried from the Shannon, or from the Royal or Grand Canals or the River Barrow via the Shannon, through the Junction Canal in the Ballinamore & Ballyconnell Drainage District [later called the Ballinamore & Ballyconnell Canal and later still the Shannon–Erne Waterway] and then the Ulster Canal to Lough Neagh or any of the waterways connected therewith. Or, of course, in the opposite direction.

As far as I can tell, outside the sales blurbs written by engineers seeking employment and waterway owners seeking subsidies, there was never a connected all-Ireland waterways network; nor was there ever any need or demand for such a thing.

Any more than there is now.

 

Shannon traffic figures to July 2014

I am grateful to Waterways Ireland for letting me have the Shannon traffic figures for July 2014. All the usual caveats apply:

  • the underlying figures do not record total waterways usage (even for the Shannon) as, for instance, sailing, fishing or waterskiing on lakes or river stretches, which did not involve a passage through a lock or Portumna Bridge, would not be recorded
  • the passage records would not show, for instance, a change in the balance of types of activities from those in larger cruising boats to those in smaller (sailing, fishing, waterskiing) boats
  • figures like these, for a small number of months, will not necessarily be representative of those for the year as a whole. The winter months, January to March, see little traffic in any year; for April, May and June, the weather can have a large influence on the amount of activity especially, I suspect, in private boats.

On the other hand, the figures do include the Shannon’s most significant tourism activity, the cruiser hire business. And they are our only consistent long-term indicator of usage of the inland waterways.

Shannon all boats Jan to Jul 2014

Total (private + hired) traffic for the first seven months of each year

Traffic in 2013 was up a bit on 2012; 2014 is down slightly below the 2012 level. It’s the lowest seven-month figure in the series (ie since 2003), which is a bit of a surprise: I thought that the good weather would encourage more boating.

The changes are small, so their importance must not be exaggerated, but they’re not cause for celebration. Let’s see whether the drop was amongst private or hired boats (or both).

Shannon private boats Jan to Jul 2014

Private-boat traffic for the first seven months of each year

Private traffic is up a bit on 2012 but down on 2013.

Shannon hired boats Jan to Jul 2014

Hire-boat traffic for the first seven months of each year

Hire-boat traffic is down on both previous years, but the pace of decline seems to have slowed.

Shannon private and hired -v- 2003 Jan to Jul 2014

Changes since 2003: private and hired boats

Hire-boat traffic seems to be levelling off at 40% of its 2003 figure: a massive loss of business. I do not know whether anyone is trying to, or could, recover that amount of business. I am not aware of any new Shannon-based tourism business that could compensate for the losses in the cruising (hire-boat) business, but I would be glad to hear from anyone who knows of such projects. Something with high growth potential is required.

Private traffic is wobbling either side of its 2003 figure: the increases during the Celtic Tiger years have been lost.

Shannon private -v- hired boats Jan to Jul 2014

Still roughly 50/50

In the year to July 2014, hire-boat traffic was just above private traffic, but there is very little in it. Private traffic is now comparatively more important to Waterways Ireland [which may be why it is now trying to establish its economic importance] but it does not bring in much money from outside the two jurisdictions, so the case for public spending on waterways becomes much weaker.

And, quite clearly, opening more waterways doesn’t work: as this chart showed last month, the branches off the main lines of the Shannon, Erne and SEW are little used. The Lough Allen Canal, the Suck and the navigation to Limerick are very little used and I see no sign that the reopened Royal Canal has attracted many visitors to Ireland. What is needed is more intensive usage of the main waterways, not further dilution by the opening of more branches [to Clones or anywhere else].

SnnNav JanJun 6

High and low usage

Finally, I thought it might be interesting to see whether the monthly pattern of usage has changed since 2003. To avoid an over-cluttered chart, I included only four years: 2003, 2003 +5, 2003 + 10 and 2014. The chart is for all boats, private and hired.

Shannon all boats by month selected years Jan to Jul 2014

Monthly traffic, selected years

The season seems to have got going earlier in 2003 and even in 2008. Was the weather better in those years?

 

Archives workshop: a reminder

I mentioned, back in April, that an interesting-looking workshop is scheduled for Belfast on 8 September 2014. It’s being held in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland [PRONI] in the Titanic Quarter and there’s an optional extra tour and reception on the SS Nomadic afterwards. This post is a reminder.

The programme covers waterways, roads, railways and flight. For this site, the opening session is of great interest: Dawn Livingstone, CEO of Waterways Ireland, is to talk about an interactive archive for Waterways Ireland.

By air, sea and land

By air, sea and land

The workshop is being organised for PRONI by A²SN, the Archives and Artefacts Study Network, supported by the Historical Model Railway Society, the Business Archives Council and the Postal History Society.

The [two-page PDF] brochure is downloadable here PRONI transport archives workshop. The workshop fee is £20/€25 with an extra £3/€3.50 for the SS Nomadic visit. Sterling cheques are accepted; there is provision for paying in euro by online banking.