The joint communiqué issued after the June 2012 plenary meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council is available on the NSMC website. The waterways bits:
5. The Council noted the Progress Report prepared by the NSMC Joint Secretaries on the work of the North South Bodies and in the other NSMC areas for co-operation and welcomed the following key developments: […] preparation by Waterways Ireland of options for advancing the Ulster Canal project […].
I have asked Waterways Ireland for a copy of the options document ….
ST. ANDREWS AGREEMENT REVIEW
10. Ministers endorsed the following recommendations concerning North South Bodies:
- sponsor departments to consider options around the setting up of a Board that would deliver the benefits of improved accountability and governance for Waterways Ireland but comprising less than twelve members and to present proposals for consideration at a future NSMC Inland Waterways meeting;
- sponsor departments to implement as appropriate, through changes to the legislation or other administrative means, a de minimis provision for dealing with Waterways Ireland disposal of a waterway or part of a waterway;
- sponsor departments to review the current provisions in relation to Waterways Ireland’s commercial activities to ensure that these are adequate and to report to a future NSMC Inland Waterways meeting; and
- taking account of the current economic and fiscal circumstances, no further action is taken at this time to extend the remit of Waterways Ireland.
So the Newry and Portadown folk will be disappointed and those on the Lagan will be relieved. WI will get a bit more freedom in property and commercial operations but will have a Board (whose relationship with the sponsor departments will be interesting).
The communiqué also says:
11. Ministers noted that work is progressing on a review of the Financial Memoranda of the North/South Bodies with the aim of having the review completed by end-December 2012. In relation to shared services, it was noted that work has commenced on exploring the potential for providing efficiency savings within the North/South Bodies with a view to a report to the NSMC in Autumn 2012.
That will be nice, though the southern government seems to have ignored the provisions of the existing memorandum in its proposal (which ran aground in the property crash) to grab some of WI’s assets to pay for the canal to Clones.
Finally, the communiqué says:
12. The Council noted that the First Minister, deputy first Minister, Taoiseach and Tánaiste will reflect and consult on Terms of Reference 2 and 3 with a view to decisions being taken at the November 2012 Plenary meeting.
That’s about another part of the St Andrews Agreement Review. The report that made the four recommendations discussed earlier was a report on the first of three terms of reference; the other two have not yet been tackled. They are:
2. To examine objectively the case for additional bodies and areas of co-operation within the NSMC where mutual benefit would be derived; and
3. To input into the work on the identification of a suitable substitute for the proposed Lights Agency of the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission.
The review was agreed upon five years ago, so speed doesn’t seem to be of great importance in these matters.