I was interested to see that DCAL has its own research programme [DOC file], but also makes use of other research services including the NI Continuous Household Survey:

To monitor engagement in culture and sport in Northern Ireland

The Continuous Household Survey (CHS) and the Young People Behaviour and Attitudes Survey (YPBAS) will continue to monitor engagement in sport, arts, museums and libraries in Northern Irelandfor adults and children. The CHS will also capture engagement by people in Northern Irelandat fisheries and waterways under DCAL’s control as well as engagement in Irish and Ulster-Scots languages and events. The barriers and benefits to engagement will also be explored.

DCAL and non-navigaBLE Waterways

I don’t know whether “waterways under DCAL’s control” are deemed to include those managed by Waterways Ireland as well as those directly controlled by DCAL:

The Department also has ownership of, and custodial responsibility for, those remaining sections of the Lagan and Coalisland Canals that remain in Government ownership following abandonment of navigation in the 1950s. An ongoing programme is in place for each of these highly popular towpaths to upgrade access for pedestrians, cyclists and disabled access.

I don’t suppose it would make much sense to ask questions about just two derelict waterways while ignoring those that are navigable, but the results are not shown on the CHS web pages: interested folk must ask DCAL direct.

I note that the DCAL Resource Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2011 [PDF] show that DCAL “Estimates provided for expenditure on […] certain inland waterways (including payments to the Rivers Agency), Waterways Ireland, […].” Later, we read:

Inland Waterways

DCAL manages and maintains 11 miles of the Lagan Towpath from Stranmillis to  Sprucefield; 3.5 miles of towpath at Soldierstown, Aghalee; 4.5 miles of towpath on the  Coalisland Canal; 22 water recreation sites; and shooting rights over the foreshore of Lough Erne. Work on the development of a policy on the re-opening of abandoned canals is in the preliminary stages.

Given that DCAL can own and run waterways, I wonder why the supporters of the Newry Canal did not seek to have it taken over by DCAL rather than by Waterways Ireland.

Water recreation

The non-navigable waterways are the second of DCAL’s three main activities. The first is this:

We are committed to developing the recreational potential of inland waterways through our Province-wide Water Recreation Programme.

Applicants, such as Local Authorities, are encouraged to work in partnership with the Department in providing and promoting water recreation facilities such as riverside paths and boat moorings for public use. Wherever practicable, works will incorporate disabled access facilities.

Again, the DCAL Resource Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2011 [PDF] provide more details:

Inland Waterways

[…] The Department continued to administer an annual Water Recreation Programme, amounting to £430k in 2010-11, aimed at developing the recreation and navigational potential of Northern Ireland’s Inland Waterways. Applicant organisations, primarily local authorities, were encouraged to work in partnership with the Department in the provision of water recreation facilities, such as riverside paths and canoe trails, complementing the Department’s continued commitment to upgrading the Lagan and Coalisland Canal towpaths for shared pedestrian and cyclist use. 9 new projects were completed during 2010-11. Funded projects were required to have an identifiable strategic value and where possible, contribute to the Department’s commitment to provide at least 5 kilometres of new or improved access for disabled persons each year.

This too would cover cooperation with the four local authorities who control the Newry Canal.

Oddly enough, inland waterways and fisheries are grouped together on DCAL’s website but they are in two separate divisions: waterways, for some reason, are in Culture whereas inland fisheries come under Sport, Museums and Recreation. DCAL does not, however, put waterways under southnorthery.


There is a useful contrast here with DAHG, which thinks that waterways exist purely to serve northsouthery: despite what WI thinks it is for

Waterways Ireland has responsibility for the management, maintenance, development and restoration of inland navigable waterways principally for recreational purposes.

… DAHG does not appear to have adopted the view that waterways are for recreation. Perhaps if it gained responsibility for some waterways outside WI’s scope, it would develop a policy on recreational use of waterways. That would mean that, like DCAL

The Department is also the sponsor department in Northern Ireland for Waterways Ireland which is the Cross-Border Body responsible for the management, maintenance, development and restoration of operational waterways throughout the island of Ireland.

… DAHG would be the department responsible for recreation on waterways, one (large) set of which are managed by WI, which in turn is controlled by the two departments.

The difficulty with DAHG’s current arrangements is that there is a division between theory and reality, but DAHG has organised its functions on the basis of theory. In reality, waterways are for recreation (or, if you prefer, leisure), but DAHG insists that they’re for northsouthery. Because that’s now been successfully routinised, waterways receive relatively little attention and are not, as far as I can see, considered as part of state provision for leisure or recreation. There can be no proper policy-making for the sector unless it’s grounded in reality.

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