Industrial Heritage Ireland has been visiting Ulster waterways including the Blackwater, which linked the Ulster Canal to Lough Neagh.
Brian Cassells was quoted again in the Belfast Telegraph on 27 April 2013. He believes that walking in the country is a Good Thing, although it’s not clear why that requires a canal. I trust that Sammy Wilson will stand firm and refuse to spend public money on a project that has an even stronger political smell than the proposed Narrow Water Bridge.
I don’t have much (if any) time for Sammy Wilson. However, if he were to kill off the New Ulster Canal, his standing in my eyes would rocket.
The political connotations associated with re-opening of the Ulster Canal -Clones Sheugh-were sorted out years ago. It is the threatened stimulus to the private sector which is causing concern in bureaucratic corridors and providing grounds to keep the brakes on.
The economic stimulus aspects attached to the project have been subjected to professional analysis and on the back of report findings the required expenditure was sanctioned on two occasions-in 2006 under the Interreg 3 Infrastructure package for 2007-2013 and later in 2010 when the late Col Gadaffi’s $2 Billion compo for victims of violence came on stream. In both instances the funds were quietly side-lined and redistributed behind closed doors.
The Ulster canal project is about people not politics. The post Good Friday Agreement benefits visible in Derry and Belfast have not permeated out into the drumlin valleys of north Monaghan, Armagh or south Tyrone where the negative legacy inflicted by partition lives on. One large scale initiative such as the canal is desperately needed to shore up civic pride and lift the gloomy atmosphere of despondency facing school-leavers and the young generally. Leaving the mid-Ulster region to rot will not bode well for the future -the Dagistan/Chechnya type era has hopefully been pushed into the past but, to soundly secure the fact something concrete and realistic needs to be put in place. There is a lot more then boat numbers and locks at stake .
I should begin by saying that you are about the only person ever to make serious arguments for Sheughery on this site and I appreciate your willingness to do so.
It is certainly true that there would be an economic stimulus to Clones were a large amount of money to be dropped in the area. That would apply irrespective of the method of making the drop: used fivers could be thrown out of helicopters, or buried in bottles in disused mines, with equal effect. Similarly, there would be economic benefits to my house were €40 million (or whatever the latest figure is) to be spent here. The question that proponents of Sheughery usually avoid is whether that spending is a good use of scarce resources. Naturally, the intended recipients will want the spending, but it’s not their money. From the perspective of the Irish state and the Irish taxpayer, the project offers an extremely poor return on investment. Tourist traffic on the existing Irish canals is minimal and very few people will come to this island to travel on a short canal to Clones; the island is already more than adequately provided with leisure waterways and there is no prospect of the Sheugh’s ever getting beyond Clones. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that there will ever be any significant canal-based businesses in Clones: local pubs, restaurants and shops may gain a little extra trade in summer, but at an enormous cost to the taxpayer.
That is, of course, assuming that the Irish taxpayer pays for it. If Johnny Foreigner can be persuaded to stump up, as Mr Deenihan seems to hope, that’s a different matter, but I have seen no evidence that JF is feeling very generous.
I don’t see that rural mid-Ulster is any worse off than any other rural area. Small farming in Ireland is doomed, as is any part of the non-urban economy that depends on it; folk in remote rural areas have three options: come up with some high-value legal economic activity that can be carried out there, move to a city or accept a lower standard of living. The Clones Sheugh would create no long-term jobs and you can’t eat civic pride. Anyway, are there not cheaper tourism development options for the area? Walks, camper-van parks and so on?
But your final paragraph carries a more disturbing implication, that the cost of the Sheugh is protection money to stop some folk from shooting other folk. That might explain why Sinn Féin is so keen on the thing and why successive Irish governments have refused to kill the project, but (a) it is not a reason that has been advanced officially and (b) I’m not sure that paying protection money is a good idea. Perhaps I have misunderstood your point?
Apologies, my early national school education west of the Shannon didn’t focus much on the use of English and ambiguity can creep in on occasion.
The point being attempted was to highlight the importance of finding a sustainable way to stimulate the private sector in the mid-Ulster. There is no regional tourism industry to speak of through historical lack of investment and the disjointed jurisdictional geography created by the 1924 border commission compounds the sense of ‘social isolation’.
The Ulster canal is not a political animal, that aspect was sorted years ago, it is the only realistic tool to hand identifies as possessing sufficiently strong common-ground characteristics appealing to all sectors of the immediate communities in need of a boost of some sort to parallel what’s going on elsewhere.
The Shannon-Erne waterway was re-opened in the ’80s without a specific cross-border body such as Waterways Ireland being in existence. Perhaps if it had been, the project would still be incomplete. However, the subsequent change inflicted on Co Leitrim speaks for itself no matter what the over-ridden government bureaucrats and economic advisers say.
The Shannon-Erne did have a “non-border” body of its own. However, although I have heard that there was an economic analysis of its costs and benefits, I have not been able to find a copy. Three points therefore strike me: (a) it is not clear that all improvements in the area are attributable to the SEW as there were other factors, notably the Sean Quinn empire, that provided employment; (b) many of the businesses set up in the first flush of enthusiasm proved to be short lived; (c) much of the cost was not carried by the Irish taxpayer; the cost-benefit ratio changes significantly if the taxpayer bears the whole cost.
I simply do not accept that “The Ulster canal is not a political animal”. There would be no question of its being reopened (even in part) were it not that political considerations outweighed common sense (and economic analysis).
And I do not believe that folk will be attracted from Foreign Parts just to see another canal. There are lots of canals. Canal twitchers — those who feel they must travel on every available waterway — will no doubt arrive, but it is not clear that the Ulster Canal has any attractions that outweigh those of waterways in other climes. In fact, the Irish hire-boat industry is continuing to decline amd at least one firm has moved many boats out of Ireland. A restored canal, even if it ever got beyond Clones, will not revive the economies of the surrounding areas.
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