What with the increasing importance of the events of the late 1840s, I haven’t been providing updates on the Clones Sheugh, the proposal to link Clones, in Co Monaghan, to Upper Lough Erne by a canal on the line of the abandoned Ulster Canal. This canal [foreigners don’t have canals, so they’d come specially to Ireland to see one] was to attract huge numbers of tourists and lead to peace, prosperity and a new and better future for all the people of Clones and surrounding districts.
On this page I showed the shrivelling of the ambitions of the Irish government: its original plan was to have the entire canal restored, from the Erne to Lough Neagh; then it scaled that back to a reconstruction of the two ends; then (at a time when it felt rich) it offered to pay the complete cost of the restoration at the Lough Erne to Clones end, even though about half of the route is in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. When economic reality impinged, it decided that it would instead make a short section of the River Finn navigable from the Erne to Castle Saunderson, one of the spiritual homes of Ulster Unionism, and pretend it was part of the Ulster Canal. This waterway, Saunderson’s Sheugh, had at least the virtue of being relatively cheap.
But the Clones Sheugh’s supporters haven’t gone away, you know, and every so often the government feels obliged to assert its commitment to both Clones and its Sheugh, which are almost as important as the draining of the Shannon and the restoration of the First National Language. Even the usually sane Eoghan Murphy seems to think that the Clones Sheugh is, or could be, a “Brexit-specific measure”: perhaps by then Brexit will have pushed the United Kingdom back to the Middle Ages, such that an artificial waterway will seem as futuristic to Britons as it does to Shinners.
The most recent outbreak of Sheughery came on 1 June 2018, when Ulster Canal Stores Clones said on its FaceTweet page
A fabulous day for Clones! Ministers Humphreys and Madigan announce the reopening of the Ulster Canal!
Well, up to a point, Lord Copper, and for certain values of “announce”, “reopening” and “Ulster Canal”. And even though Northern Sound said that a “new marina” was to be built at Clones “as part of works on the Ulster Canal”, that is for certain values of “marina” and “part of works”.
Construction Ireland gave more detail:
The Government signed off on a new water sports and leisure facility at Clones and re-committed to developing a 13km cross-border stretch under the Project Ireland 2040 plan.
But it also quoted the current Minister for Fairytales, Josepha Madigan:
Progressing the development of the amenity of the Ulster Canal is a priority for myself and my Department. […] The development of the amenity of the section of the canal to Clones will be a tangible outcome of the commitment in the Investing in our Culture, Language & Heritage 2018-2027 plan to protect our natural heritage now and for future generations.
Note that the phrase “the amenity of” the canal is used twice. It comes from the plan cited by the minister …
… progress the development of the amenity of the Ulster Canal from Lough Erne to Clones …
… which distinguishes between the Ulster Canal and “our inland
What all of this means, it seems to me, is that the government has no present intention of making a navigable waterway to Clones, unless it happens to win the Euromillions lottery (or gets other Euroloot as a post-Brexit present from Brussels). The government will, however, develop amenities along the line: a walking and cycling greenway, but not a blueway, which would include enough water to float a canoe.
But it wants to get Heather Humphreys re-elected do something for Clones, so it’s going to build a “marina” in Clones. The term “marina” might cause the citizenry to think of a harbour for cruising vessels, but this marina is a “water leisure facility” intended to cater for “kayaking and paddle boarding“.
That implies a wide but shallow area, perhaps no more than a foot or so deep, with little infrastructure other than parking spaces and a small low wall from which kayaks and SUP boards could be launched. The body of water would require no connection to any other and there would be no need for mooring pontoons, harbour walls or other expensive facilities.
What we have here, in other words, is a proposal to replace the Clones Sheugh with the Clones Duckpond.