Lough Neagh

On 17 April 2012 the Northern Ireland Assembly held an enlightening debate about Lough Neagh and its future and ended by resolving

That this Assembly calls on the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to convene a working group to explore and pursue actively the potential for a cross-departmental approach to bring Lough Neagh back into public ownership.

The report is here. It is well worth reading by anyone wanting an understanding of the management of the largest lake in These Islands.


11 responses to “Lough Neagh

  1. Would it be cynical of me to suggest that the answer will be ‘ get London to write a nice big cheque :-)

  2. I was going to say “The sourcing of funding to pay for the nationalisation is left as an exercise for the student.” But perhaps that nice Mr Hogan in the republic will help: he’s good at thinking of ways of funding water projects. bjg

  3. “to bring Lough Neagh back into public ownership.” when was Lough Neagh last in public ownership?

  4. According to some of those involved in the debate, in 1641, although Healy (see below) argues that the theft of the lake began in 1606. You will see that the inclusion of the “public ownership” phrase in the text of the motion was itself the focus of some discussion. Anyone interested in the matter might read Stolen Waters: a page in the conquest of Ulster by T M Healy MP, later Governor-General of the Irish Free State (Longman, Green & Co, London 1913): he argues that the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Arthur Chichester, essentially forged documents and misled His Late Majesty James 1 in order to enrich himself. Healy says that the House of Lords upheld the rights of the public in 1878 but that the decision was reversed in 1911. bjg

  5. Oh dear lord – the Unionist guy goes “I am concerned that hidden behind the motion is the taking away of property rights and stealth towards a united Ireland and that it is driven by Marxist and communist philosophies” /facepalms/

  6. Apparently the Earls of Shaftsbury ‘own’ the lough because King Charles II gave it to them in 1641. Nice work if you can get it :)

  7. Actually, I thought that, despite a small amount of ritual flag-waving, most of the debate was relatively sensible, with significant cross-party agreement. bjg

  8. It’s slightly more complicated than that, but I don’t think I can adequately summarise Tim Healy’s tome here. bjg

  9. Sadly the ‘debate’ is not really what counts: block voting along party lines is what counts! Although in this instance, despite Unionist grandstanding (I note the transcript indicates the UUP MLA ‘left the chamber’ shortly after making his ‘contribution’) the clear majority voter in favour of nationalising Lough Neagh. (Well, let’s qualify that: voted for the relevant minister to set up a bloated quango to seek to move towards nationalising it… which is not quite the same thing). But in any case, what some of us had suspected is pretty clear from this debate: inland waterways has provided yet another arena for asinine sectarian politics! Sinn Féin really do want to reconnect Lough Neagh with the Shannon to make Ireland than little bit more united, and the Unionists oppose it for precisely the same reason. Arrgh!

  10. Parliamentarians often leave the chamber during debates so I wouldn’t worry unduly about that. But it should be no surprise (at least to regular readers of this website) to find that waterways are a political issue: see for instance my extensive coverage of the Ulster Canal, including this historical piece and this less serious post. I’d still prefer to have politicians arguing about a lake (and revealing some common ground) than throwing rocks at each other. bjg

  11. Well true – I guess arguing about a lake beats murdering each other.
    But yes, it was always this way, wasn’t it? Roads were the same… the M1 went from Belfast to *Dungannon* (?!) , not towards Dublin… the M2 tried to go not to Derry, but to, er, Ballymena. /sighs/

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