Tag Archives: Cavan

News from the Windsor and Eton Express

A memorial to the lord lieutenant from the gentry and landed proprietors of Sligo, Leitrim, Fermanagh, and Cavan, lies in Enniskillen for signatures. It prays that a canal may be formed which will connect Lough Earne [sic] with Lough Allen, and that again with Lough Gill, which is navigable to Sligo. This, with the canal already sanctioned between Lough Erne and Neagh, will open a communication across the kingdom, from Sligo to the ports of Newry and Belfast. In a commercial point of view, this undertaking is of the greatest importance to Ireland.

Windsor and Eton Express Saturday 28 May 1825

Waterside Belturbet

Here is a small amount of information about Belturbet and some of its industrial heritage. The photos were taken on a brief visit in July 2011.

Buy a pub; fund a sheugh

Waterways Ireland is being forced to pay €2 million to dredge the River Finn to Castle Saunderson. This new sheugh is to be called the Ulster Canal.

Waterways Ireland’s wicked stepmother, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, has failed to convince the government to come up with any money to fund this insane project. It has therefore decided to force Waterways Ireland to pay for it, at a time when WI’s budget has been cut by 31% over the past six years. That suggests to me that the parent departments, DAHG and the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, are prepared to let the other waterways go hang in favour of a pointless extension of the Erne navigation.

DAHG said:

As the project will be funded from Waterways Ireland’s own resources, additional Exchequer funding will not be required.

Not that Waterways Ireland has any spare money, and it has very few surplus assets. Some years ago DAHG’s predecessor proposed to sell Plot 8, in the Grand Canal Docks at Ringsend, to fund the Clones Sheugh, but the property collapse put a stop to that. It’s still the most valuable saleable asset and it was never clear to me how the property of Waterways Ireland could be seized by its wicked stepmother.

Waterways Ireland has to come up with €1.4 million of the €2 million cost of Saunderson’s Sheugh this year. It hopes to get €900,000 of that from the sale of property. Apart from Plot 8, it has only three surplus assets:

  • Percy Place, valued at €650,000 in WI’s 2012 accounts
  • 47 Lennox Street, valued at €195,000
  • the Hatch Bar, which I presume to be the one at Hazelhatch [is there another?], valued at €45,000.

And that lot adds to €890,000. Add a few quid from the recent sale of old barges and you’ve got €900,000.

Given the details of the Hatch Bar in this Lisney PDF, I presume that what Waterways Ireland is selling is the freehold [but I’m not sure about this: if, Gentle Reader, you know more about it, please leave a Comment below]. Whoever buys it will have the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping to dig a ditch in Co Cavan.

 

 

Shannon–Erne Waterway traffic

I have reported regularly on Shannon traffic figures [most recently here] but I have paid relatively little attention to the Shannon–Erne Waterway [SEW]. I am therefore grateful to Waterways Ireland for supplying me with the last five years’ monthly traffic figures for Locks 1 and 16 on the SEW. I had some queries about the figures for certain months and I have put them to Waterways Ireland, but I presume that the annual figures are OK.

Shannon–Erne Waterway traffic 2010–2014

Shannon–Erne Waterway traffic 2010–2014

Clearly, not all boats go all the way through: if they did, the figures for Locks 1 and 16 might be the same. The hire bases for Locaboat, Riversdale and Corraquill were all on the Erne side of the summit level; does Lock 1’s excess of traffic over Lock 16 suggest that hirers, perhaps wishing to minimise the number of locks they passed through, headed for the Erne rather than the Shannon? The figures, which I presume are gathered automatically, do not distinguish between private and hired boats.

The other point that strikes me is that the level of traffic is actually quite low. I put in the figures for Pollboy and Athlone locks to allow comparison. SEW traffic is greater than that on the Lough Allen Canal, but it is not much greater than that on the River Suck to Ballinasloe. In that case, WI is [according to its Business Plan 2015] considering automating Pollboy Lock to reduce costs.

Pollboy lock passages 2005–2014

Pollboy lock passages 2005–2014

The SEW locks are already automated, but the costs and benefits may have to be re-examined, especially now that Locaboat has moved from Ballinamore to Quigleys Marina at Killinure on Lough Ree: I presume that that will result in less traffic on the SEW.

Pollboy and the CLones Sheugh

In 2006 Pollboy traffic was used as the basis for estimating likely traffic to Clones on the Ulster Canal’s “SW section”:

The total number of boat parties/groups for the SW section is assumed to be 600. This is based on a comparison with another “offshoot” like the Suck Navigation which had around 1,250 boat parties/groups in 2005 (obtained by dividing the passages through Pollboy Lock by 2) in a much busier section of the whole system. So, for the SW section, a level of around 50% (ie. 600) is regarded as a reasonable assumption.

Waterways Ireland Socio economic Summary Report for the NE and SW Sections of the Ulster Canal Final Report February 2006

Now that Pollboy’s traffic is half what it was in 2005, no doubt the estimate for the number of boats that would visit Clones, if a canal ever reached it, has likewise been halved, which would give an average of about ten boats a week over a seven-month season: four boats every Saturday and one a day for the rest of the week. Folk intending to build restaurants to cater for the cruiser traffic might be wise to reassess their investment plans:

In overall terms, the benefits of waterway restoration derive from the fact that these can facilitate a variety of leisure and recreational activity, that the users will benefit from this activity, and that there will also be wider spin-off benefits in the areas, e.g. facilities such as restaurants etc built to service canal traffic.

Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Restoring the Ulster Canal from Lough Erne to Clones Updated Business Case February 2015

There’s not enough business there for a burger van, never mind a restaurant.

The magic of the Shannon–Erne Waterway

But if Pollboy, the River Suck and Ballinasloe are no longer cited as support for the construction of a Clones Sheugh, the Shannon–Erne Waterway is still used as an example, in that and in other contexts. Take, for example, this:

Shannon–Erne Waterway magic

Shannon–Erne Waterway magic

I’ve nicked that from a slide show called Economic, Recreational and Social Benefits of Rural Waterways in Ireland, which was to be delivered [PDF] by Garret McGrath of Waterways Ireland at the World Canals Conference [PDF] in Milan in 2014.

Now, if the Shannon–Erne Waterway had caused all that construction activity, we’d have to drag Waterways Ireland before the Irish banking enquiry. Skipping lightly over the question of the ghost estates, and the departure of Locaboat from Ballinamore, we come to the real problem with this sort of stuff: the post hoc fallacy. We are invited to believe that

  • a waterway was built
  • prosperity followed
  • so the waterway must have caused the prosperity.

Well, maybe it did and maybe it didn’t, but the argument presented in the slide show isn’t sufficient to prove it. You would have to check to see whether there were any other possible explanations: any other changes that might have resulted in all that construction.

Along the Shannon–Erne Waterway, I can think of two other possible factors: Sean Quinn’s business empire and the Upper Shannon Rural Renewal Scheme, a tax dodge that applied in Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon, Cavan and Sligo, five of the six counties that had the highest rates of vacant housing (excluding holiday houses). So there are two problems here:

  • much of that construction activity may have been driven by tax breaks rather than by the existence of a nearby waterway
  • the construction itself may not have had beneficial effects.

You can read more about that here, noting in particular, on the map, the areas around the upper Shannon and the SEW with vacancy rates of over 25%; you might wonder whether Waterways Ireland is wise to claim credit for housing over-development.

But my main concern here is a different one: that, if you want to claim credit for economic benefits that followed waterways development, you have to measure the benefits and subtract those attributable to other factors, such as Sean Quinn and the Rural Renewal Scheme. Then it would be useful if you compared the remaining benefits with the cost of constructing your waterway: it might then be possible to say that waterways development is a good investment.

It may be that such a study has been done on the SEW, but if it has I don’t know where it is; I would like to see it if it exists. Until then, I regard this sort of thing, from DAHG’s Business Case, as drivel:

The broad existence and nature of the potential socio-economic benefits of canals and restored waterways are therefore well established and not really at issue.

Sorry, minister: that’s rubbish. As far as I know no proper evaluation has ever been carried out on the costs and benefits of any restored or new-built Irish waterway. So you’re not getting away with that one.

 

Minister talks through her hat

I originally had a rather more rude heading …. The Minister for Waterways and Other Stuff has decided to have the River Finn dredged to aid her reelection campaign shut up the Shinners promote peace and prosperity. The “shutting up the Shinners” bit means pretending that this is a restoration of the Ulster Canal, whereas it avoids the canal altogether in favour of dredging the river as far as Castle Saunderson, in Co Cavan, instead of going to Clones, in Co Monaghan. According to NorthernSound

Minister Heather Humphreys says the project will provide a wonderful recreational facility for local communities and will act as a significant draw for tourists.

That, minister, is a load of old bollocks: the locals have plenty of waterway already and the tourists are not going to be drawn by another bit of river. Still, Saunderson’s Sheugh is better than the Clones Sheugh, but it is worrying that

The project is expected to cost in the region of €2 million euro and will be funded by Waterways Ireland.

According to its Business Plan 2015, approved by the North South Ministerial Council on 18 December 2014, Waterways Ireland’s budget for sheughery in 2015 is €1000. So, if it is to spend €2 million on Saunderson’s Sheugh, and if the Treasure-Seekers have failed to find any money, will this mean that WI’s budget for maintaining and repairing the existing navigations will be cut?

I see that

The Minister says construction should begin in the final quarter of 2015.

I wonder when the next election is.

Saunderson’s Sheugh and the border problem

Castle Saunderson and the border

Castle Saunderson and the border

Saunderson’s Sheugh, the latest manifestation of the proposed reconstruction of the Ulster Canal, would run along a border for much of its length. That’s the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, but there is one important border it does not seem to cross [as far as I can see]: that between counties Cavan and Monaghan.

Has Cavan stolen the sheugh from its northern neighbour? I’m sure that folk in the Monaghan part of the Dáil constituency of Cavan-Monaghan won’t mind, but I wonder whether the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, who is a TD from the Monaghan end and is in charge of Sheughery, is concerned that her Monaghan colleague Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin [Sinn Féin] might turn the situation to his party’s advantage. On the other hand, from Sinn Féin’s viewpoint, the question might be whether any sheugh is better than none.

Of course, as soon as a coalition of Sinn Féin and the Éamon Ó Cuív wing of Fianna Fáil takes power, we’ll have the entire Ulster Canal built immediately. And there will be grants for growing flax, carrying corn to Dublin and draining the Shannon [which might mean that there are no southern boats to visit the Ulster Canal].

I should say, though, that Davy, in two reports out today, is not very worried about what Sinn Féin might do: Finfacts story here; Davy here; the two reports here and here [each of which should open as a PDF; if that doesn’t work, use the links on the Davy or the Finfacts page].

Map: OpenStreetMap; copyright explained here.

Saunderson’s Shack

Some links to info about the Castle Saunderson estate, to which DCAL is trying to persuade DAHG to construct a sheugh.

Cavan County Council owns it, I think.

There is an International Scout Centre, although I’m not clear whether the scouts occupy the entire site or just part of it. For instance, do they control the church where services take place, at least occasionally?

There was an Orange parade to the site last year.

It is close to Belturbet, where the County Council has a River Project. Was that completed?

What part of “no” does Brendan Smith not understand?

On 11 February 2014 Brendan Smith [FF, Cavan-Monaghan] asked a written question and got a written answer:

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the level of expenditure incurred to date in relation to the feasibility study and any other studies undertaken in respect of the proposed extension of the Erne Navigation from Belturbet to Killykeen and Killeshandra; if his Department proposes to review the decision not to proceed with this project any further; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Jimmy Deenihan [FG, Kerry North/West Limerick] said:

I am informed by Waterways Ireland that expenditure incurred to date in relation on this project, the Lough Oughter project, on the Erne Navigation from Belturbet to Killykeen and Killeshandra is €84,647. I am also advised that, on reviewing the environmental information from this process, Waterways Ireland considers that the environmental designations of this lake complex make the feasibility of the proposed navigation extension highly unviable.

I understand that Waterways Ireland does not, therefore, propose to pursue this project any further at this time.

The thing is that Mr Smith asked about Lough Oughter back in December and was told then:

On reviewing the environmental information from this process, Waterways Ireland considers that the environmental designations of this lake complex make the feasibility of the proposed navigation extension highly unviable. For that reason, I am advised that Waterways Ireland does not propose to pursue this project any further at this time.

Unless Mr Smith thinks that Waterways Ireland has won the Euromillions lottery since December, he is just wasting time and resources by asking again about Lough Oughter.

 

Matters of minor importance

Some recent(ish) discussions amongst the People’s Representatives. I haven’t time to analyse them all. All links courtesy of the estimable KildareStreeet.com.

Brendan Smith [FF, Cavan-Monaghan] wants a sheugh in Clones; he got the usual answer. And he allowed Jimmy Deenihan [FG, Kerry North/West Limerick] to announce, on 19 December 2013, the death of the suggested extension of the Erne navigation to Lough Oughter [loud cheers]:

Brendan Smith: To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he has received the feasibility study on the proposed extension of the Erne navigation from Belturbet to Killeshandra and Killykeen; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Jimmy Deenihan: I am informed by Waterways Ireland that it commissioned a Strategic Environment Assessment for the possible extension of the Erne Navigation from Belturbet to Killeshandra and Killykeen.

On reviewing the environmental information from this process, Waterways Ireland considers that the environmental designations of this lake complex make the feasibility of the proposed navigation extension highly unviable. For that reason, I am advised that Waterways Ireland does not propose to pursue this project any further at this time.

Well, that’s one minor victory for sanity. Here’s how a dredger got to Lough Oughter in 1857.

Maureen O’Sullivan is anxious to recreate the economy of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by using canals for carrying cargoes. Especially on the Shannon–Erne Waterway, where commercial carrying was so successful before. [What is it about the Irish left?] Thank goodness that the sainted Leo Varadkar gave not an inch: someone should make that man Taoiseach, President and Minister for Finance. And Supreme Ruler of The Universe and Space.

The web-footed inhabitants of the midlands, who have discovered that they live in a flat area with rivers, keep wittering on about Shannon flooding, failing to realise that it is a message from The Lord, telling them to either (a) move to higher ground, eg Dublin, or build arks. On 15 January 2014 Brian Hayes told Denis Naughten, inter alia, that info from the recent OPW/CFRAM monitoring of water levels on Lough Ree (which I think was when the levels were lowered) would be placed on the OPW website “in the coming days”; I haven’t been able to find it yet so I’ve emailed the OPW to ask about it. And on 21 January one James Bannon said that he intends to introduce a bill setting up a Shannon authority, which will have magical powers. Well, if it doesn’t have magical powers it won’t be able to stop the Shannon flooding, but perhaps it’s designed to allow the unemployed landowners of Ireland another forum in which to demand taxpayers’ money to prop up their uneconomic activities.

Finally, a senator called John Whelan wants a longer consultation period on the proposed amendments to the canals bye-laws. I suppose I’d better read them  myself.

Buried at the crossroads …

… but without a stake through its heart. The Ulster Canal is dead, but it’s spinning in its grave. Its parent department has admitted some of the truth about its funding, but Waterways Ireland will be applying for planning permission for the scheme: there’s enough money for that, but not for digging. Nonetheless, Fine Gael TDs have managed to distract attention from the absence of funding by pointing to the planning application, while Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil have not realised that a scheme’s benefits should outweigh its costs. Return of the Son of the Ghost of the Bride of the Ulster Canal on view here.