Like the Learned Proprietor of Industrial Heritage Ireland, I cannot see why the government is unable to come out and say that it cannot afford the Canal to Clones. It managed to admit to them ‘uns that they wouldn’t be getting Free State money for a motorway, something that would have affected rather more people, so I can’t see why it keeps nailing the canal to its perch instead of admitting that it’s dead.
Admittedly, any such admission might threaten the popularity of the three (out of five) Fine Gael TDs in the Cavan-Monaghan constituency, two of them from Monaghan. However, by the time of the next election the populace will have plenty of other reasons for disliking the government, so the fate of the canal is unlikely to make much difference.
On 24 November 2011 Sandra McLellan TD (Cork East; Sinn Féin) asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht about
[…] the position regarding the Ulster Canal restoration project; the amount of moneys which will be allocated resulting from the recent capital expenditure review; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The response of the minister (Jimmy Deenihan; Kerry North/West Limerick; Fine Gael) included this:
I can confirm to the Deputy that I intend to continue to explore all possible options that may assist in the advancement of this project. To that end, I met recently with senior officials of Monaghan County Council, Fermanagh District Council and Waterways Ireland to discuss approaches to setting up an inter-agency group that could examine ways in helping to advance the Ulster Canal project. I look forward to that work continuing in the period ahead.
By the way, the second sentence was not included in the departmental statement sent to me on 1 December 2011.
Sinn Féin questions
Since the last general election, in February 2011, several questions have been asked about the Ulster Canal and it has been mentioned in two debates. (If this list is incomplete, I will be happy to expand it.)
5 April 2011: Gerry Adams TD (Louth; Sinn Féin): question to the Taoiseach in debate on Northern Ireland issues
21 July 2011: Sandra McLellan TD (Cork East; Sinn Féin): Priority Question with oral answer from Dinny McGinley TD (Donegal South West; Fine Gael), Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs
21 July 2011: Brendan Smith TD (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail) and Heather Humphreys TD (Cavan-Monaghan; Fine Gael): written questions with a combined written answer by Jimmy Deenihan TD (Kerry North/West Limerick; Fine Gael), Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
15 September 2011: Brendan Smith TD (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail): written question with a written answer by Jimmy Deenihan TD (Kerry North/West Limerick; Fine Gael), Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
22 September 2011: Sandra McLellan TD (Cork East; Sinn Féin): mention in debate on second stage of National Tourism Development Authority (Amendment) Bill 2011
9 November 2011: Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD (Cavan-Monaghan; Sinn Féin): written question with a written answer by Leo Varadkar TD (Dublin West; Fine Gael), Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport
24 November 2011: Sandra McLellan TD (Cork East; Sinn Féin): written question with a written answer by Jimmy Deenihan TD (Kerry North/West Limerick; Fine Gael), Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
So of eight mentions initiated by TDs, two were by the Fianna Fail TD from the constituency, one by a Fine Gael TD for the constituency and five by Sinn Féin TDs. Of those five, one was by Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Féin, one by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, TD for the constituency, and three by Sandra McLellan, the party’s spokesperson on Arts, Heritage, Tourism and Sport.
Sinn Féin’s project
It might not be unreasonable to suggest, therefore, that the Ulster Canal is much more important to Sinn Féin than it is to any other party. We might, indeed, regard the canal as a Sinn Féin project.
I don’t, of course, know why the party should be so keen on the canal — apart from the traditional Irish view of the building of a canal as a magic ritual that will bring cargo:
A cargo cult is a religious practice that has appeared in many traditional pre-industrial tribal societies in the wake of interaction with technologically advanced cultures. The cults focus on obtaining the material wealth (the “cargo”) of the advanced culture through magic and religious rituals and practices.
That apart, the only reason I can think of is that an Ulster Canal, built by a cross-border body (Waterways Ireland), is Sinn Féin’s best opportunity to claim credit for some concrete northsouthery.
But Sinn Féin’s commitment to the project adds interest to the (Fine Gael) minister’s idea:
[…] I met recently with senior officials of Monaghan County Council, Fermanagh District Council and Waterways Ireland to discuss approaches to setting up an inter-agency group that could examine ways in helping to advance the Ulster Canal project.
Waterways Ireland is a Body without a Board, so it has no politics — unlike the two local authorities, on both of which Sinn Féin is the largest party.
Sinn Féin 7
Fine Gael 6
Fianna Fail 2
Four of the councillors are from the Clones area: 2 FG, 1 FF, 1 SF.
Clones itself has a Town Council: 3 SF, 2 FF, 2 FG, 2 non-party.
Sinn Féin 9
Ulster Unionist 6
Democratic Unionist 4
Incidentally, the minister’s Northern Ireland counterpart, the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, is Carál Ní Chuilín MLA, a Sinn Féin member.
Could it be that the RoI minister has decided that the Ulster Canal is a Sinn Féin problem and that Sinn Féin-dominated bodies should therefore be asked to solve it?
Looking at the accounts of the two local authorities, it is not clear that either of them has many millions to spare, but perhaps the minister feels that Sinn Féin has special expertise in fund-raising.
Next: a precis of developments between November 2011 and February 2012. This summarises postings made in that period; it does not provide new information.