IndustrialHeritageIreland reports on two recent outbreaks of cargo cultism in Norn Iron. Folk in Tyrone want the whole of the Ulster Canal to be restored to its, er, former glory, which presumably means without any water west of Monaghan, while a Sinn Féin MLA wants to lumber Waterways Ireland with responsibility for the useless Strabane Canal on which £1.3 million has already been wasted.
What is it with Sinn Féin and canals? I realise that Irish republicanism is by definition a backward-looking creed, with little contact with reality, but why not look to (say) early nineteenth century technology, like the steam railway, rather than that of the eighteenth century?
Part of the problem, I suspect, is that Sinn Féin folk, especially those who are subjects of Her current Majesty, adopt a British conception of inland waterways. In Britain, canals dominate and boats must travel slowly, no faster than the horse-drawn vessels of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But Irish waterways are dominated by lakes, whereon modern folk like to zoom around in fast boats: jetskis, speedboats and skiboats, fast cruisers. Such boats are entirely unsuitable for canals: they damage the banks and the pace bores their owners.
As it happens, we have lots of lakes where owners can zoom. [I’d prefer if they didn’t, but that’s the way it is.] And with reductions in the amount of boating activity, we don’t need any additional waterways. Sinn Féin, though, doesn’t seem to have grasped this. Stuck in the eighteenth century, it wants canals. I suppose we should be grateful it isn’t proposing to have the taxpayer stump up for coal-mines as well.