Tag Archives: department of arts heritage and the gaeltacht

Aw sheughs

On 6 November 2015 there was a meeting of the Inland Waterways flavour of the North South Ministerial Council, whereat the Minister for Fairytales (RoI) and the Minister for Marching Bands (NI), each with a sidekick, discussed waterways matters. The joint communiqué, artfully written to provide outsiders with as little information as possible, is available here [PDF], but here’s a summary:

  • WI’s “capital expenditure focused on infrastructure repairs”, presumably because it has no money for any improvements or extensions, except a bit of dredging in or near the constituency of the Minister for Fairytales
  • yes, that means the River Finn, Saunderson’s Sheugh, which we’re pretending is or was part of the Clones Sheugh or Ulster Canal
  • WI has managed to get “third party funding” of over €1 million for waterside developments, which is good: much better than transferring WI money to other bodies. WI is trying to nab euroloot but, as there were no announcements of success, we must assume that this is work in progress. Mind you, the ministers would probably claim the success (and the photoshoots) anyway
  • WI may sell some unspecified property
  • the important one:


The Council approved the determination made by Waterways Ireland regarding legacy scale linkages for northern based staff.

I knew you’d want to know about that. Whatever it means.

On 17 November 2015 the latest attempt to get the boys and girls of the Northern Ireland Assembly to be nice to other reached some sort of conclusion, which you can read about in the Irish Times (until it disappears behind a paywall) and the Manchester Guardian. But of course the important question is whether we southron loons have to buy sweeties (sheugher candies) for our northern brethren to persuade them to be polite. For that, gentle reader, you must turn to the inspiringly-titled A fresh start — the Stormont Agreement and implementation plan, available here [PDF].

You will not, of course, want to bother reading most of it, so we can skip straight to Section E Irish Government Financial Support on page 30. New readers may wish to know that, many NI disagreements ago, the Irish government, led at the time by a group of leprechauns who believed they possessed a pot of gold, resolved to impress the poor benighted northerners with a display of southern wealth and power. Accordingly, it promised to pay for all sorts of transport infrastructure, provided that it could be claimed to have some sort of cross-borderality and preferably looked iconic. Whether there was any point to any of the schemes was a matter omitted from consideration.

The three main proposals, IIRC, were

  • the A5, a road in Northern Ireland
  • the Narrow Water Bridge, which would cross the Newry River in the middle of nowhere (whereas a south-eastern bypass of Newry might actually be useful). And it would have an opening span for the many vessels that visit Newry by the Ship Canal
  • the Clones Sheugh, a short section of the Ulster Canal.

Unfortunately the hardheaded northerners have long memories and they keep looking for their three sweeties long after the Free State realised that it couldn’t afford them. So has this latest throwing of their toys out of the pram forced the Free Staters to give in and buy them the A5, the iconic bridge and the Clones Sheugh?

Up to a point, Lord Copper.

The Irish government says it’s all in favour of, er, “investing” in infrastructure “to support North-South co-operation to help unlock the full potential of the island economy”, where no doubt eighteenth century transport methods will prove to as important as they were in the time of Grattan’s Parliament. But with that, and all the other waffle and irrelevancies shoved in at the start of the section, it is clear that the Irish government is trying to big up a small contribution. It drags in the European Union, the Dublin to Belfast railway, flood relief, energy, communications and health, which have nothing to do with the case, but which between them fill almost the whole of the first page.

From there, though, it has to get specific, or at least look as if it’s doing so. Accordingly, each of the three white elephants gets a subsection to itself, with numbered paragraphs, from which we learn that:

  • the Free State government “remains supportive of the commitment under the St Andrews Agreement” to co-fund the A5. It’s going to pay more (I think): £25 million a year in the years 2017–2019, up from a total of £50 million
  • the Free State government “remains committed to the concept of the Narrow Water Bridge”, which has “potential to provide jobs” [how?]; it will review the plans with the NI Executive and think about it by June 2016. It says nothing about the disappearance of funding
  • the Free State government does not say that it “remains supportive of the commitment under the St Andrews Agreement” to fund the Clones Sheugh. Nor does it say that it “remains committed to the concept”. What it does say about the sheugh is that it is funding Saunderson’s Sheugh (see above), it will think about more cross-border greenways and blueways including the Ulster Canal and it and the NI Exec will identify “options for jointly developing future phases of the Ulster Canal restoration project”, which I take to mean that the southron taxpayer won’t be stuck with the entire bill. Oh, and it’s going to think about funding a bleeding sail training vessel, another exercise in pointlessness and nitwittery.

That’s almost it: there is something about a north-west thingie, senior officials will meet and there will be progress reports.

These documents are not necessarily constructed to provide information to outsiders, but my sense is that the Clones Sheugh danger to the southron taxpayer has receded for the moment, although the Narrow Water Bridge and the sail-training nitwittwery need to be blown out of the water (or into it). The A5 road is to go ahead: I don’t know much about it but it might be the least objectionable of the lot.


WI funding

The cuts in funding to Waterways Ireland have been covered here many times. Now, thanks to the invaluable KildareStreet, we have official information on the matter from the Minister for Fairytales. A young chap called Martin Heydon [who has annoying automatically changing pics on his website], FG TD for Kildare South, put this written question to the minister:

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the funding provided by her Department to Waterways Ireland in each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36691/15]

The minister, Heather Humphreys, FG TD for Cavan-Monaghan, wrote:

Waterways Ireland is co-funded by my Department and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) in Northern Ireland. The current expenditure of the body is funded 85% by my Department and 15% by DCAL, which reflects the distribution of the navigable waterways in each jurisdiction. Capital expenditure is funded 100% in the jurisdiction in which the capital works are carried out.

The amount of funding allocated to Waterways Ireland from my Department’s Vote for each of the years from 2011 to 2015 is set out in the following table.

Year €m
2011 €30.300m
2012 €27.099m
2013 €25.463m
2014 €24.183m
2015 €23.426m

This is useful because, since 2011, the annual budget figure for North South Cooperation has not been broken down between Waterways Ireland and the language shamrock. Last time it was, WI got about 60% of the current expenditure total and almost all the capital. We’ve had to wait for WI’s annual reports to find how much it got two years earlier.

So it’s useful to have these figures, but they would have been even more useful if the minister had distinguished between current and capital expenditure.

From the Multi-Annual Capital Investment Framework, it seems that WI got €3,368,000 for RoI capital spending in 2015. Subtracting that from the minister’s 2015 figure of €23,426,000 suggests that WI’s current spending budget for RoI in 2015 is €20,058,000, which is less than my rough estimate of 60% of the NSCoop total (€35,072,000 X 0.6 = €21,043,200).

In 2011, the Estimates figures showed that WI was to get €6 million for capital expenditure. Subtracting that from the minister’s figure for 2011, €30,300,000, leaves €24,300,000 for current spending in that year.

I haven’t cross-checked that with WI’s accounts, and I could be wrong in other ways: feel free to add a comment below if you can help to correct these figures.

What I make of it is that

  • total RoI spending on Waterways Ireland in 2015 was 77% of the 2011 figure
  • capital spending was down from €6,000,000 to €3,368,000, a cut of almost 44%
  • current spending was down from €24,300,000 to €20,058,000, a cut of 17.5%.

Clearly, Waterways Ireland would benefit from having new sources of income outside the control of the central exchequer. Perhaps Mr Heydon could persuade the canal-based boat-owners of Co Kildare to pay higher charges?

Capital expenditure

I said above that capital spending was down from €6,000,000 in 2011 to €3,368,000 for 2015, a cut of almost 44%.

However, it had been €11,000,000 in 2008, whence the cut is over 69%; the 2016 figure is less than 25% of the 2008.

It is clear therefore that the government does not see investment in waterways as being productive, either of economically desirable results (eg tourism earnings, jobs) or of politically desirable benefits for its TDs.

I wonder therefore why one of its TDs has drawn attention to the matter.

Grim oop north

Something similar has happened in Norn Iron, where an MLA of the minister’s party has asked a question about Waterways Ireland, whose HQ is in his constituency.

Another young chap, one Phil Flanagan (who seems to have joined Sinn Féin seven days before being elected as an MLA. Could that be right?), has asked two questions of the (Sinn Féin) Minister for Marching Bands:

  • AQW 50030/11-16: To ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure to detail the amounts in (i) financial terms; and (ii) percentage terms of the budget in Waterways Ireland that is set aside for pension payments for former staff; and whether this is comparable with other bodies.
  • AQW 50029/11-16: To ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure how the value of the Euro has affected the budget of Waterways Ireland in each of the last three years.

I look forward to reading the answers.

WI and the RoI budget for 2016

Budget documents [available here] include the Part IV Estimates for Public Services 2016 [PDF]. The Summary of Gross Expenditure (Capital and Current) by Ministerial Vote Group shows that the Department of Fairytales [aka Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht], RoI parent of Waterways Ireland, is to get an increase in its budget.

Its forecast outturn for 2015 matches its estimate for the year at €277,434,000, of which €215,854,000 is current and €61,580,000 is capital spending. However, the estimates for 2016 show €234,430,000 current + €76,000,000 capital = €310,430,000 total, an increase of €32,996,000. Current spending is up 8.6% and capital by 23.4%; total spending is up by 11.9%. Perhaps the extra €14,420,000 in capital spending is to extend Saunderson’s Sheugh to Clones?

Skipping the numerous tables that repeat more or less the same gen in different ways, and skipping too the unimportant government departments, we zoom forward to the details of the Department of Fairytales estimates.

But there we find, alas, that while the department as a whole has secured lots of extra lolly — and it’s going to be shovelling 18% more to the luvvies [Arts, Culture and Film], 11% more to heritage and 3% more to the BéalBochters — it intends to cut spending on North-South Cooperation, which is where Waterways Ireland gets its money.

The 2015 estimate for NSCoop current expenditure was €35,072,000; the 2016 estimate is €34,925,000, which is a cut of only about half of one per cent. But capital spending on NSCoop is down almost 20%, from €3,487,000 to €2,799,000, and total spending down 2% from €38,559,000 to €37,724,000.

The NSCoop figures are “subject to the North-South Ministerial Council”, which means that the (southern, Fine Gael) Minister for Fairytales has to persuade the (northern, Sinn Féin) Minister for Marching Bands that the cross-border language and waterways bodies aren’t getting any increase in their funding from the Free State, at least not while there is an election to be won. However, HM Devolved Administration didn’t seem too keen on allocating extra money to waterways last time I looked.

Regular readers will not need to be reminded that 85% of WI’s current budget is supplied by the RoI government and 15% by the NI administration, while capital expenditure is paid for by the state in which it occurs.

The estimates figures as shown don’t tell us the precise impact on Waterways Ireland’s current budget: the money is divided between WI and the language shamrock but the document doesn’t tell us which gets how much. [The last time a breakdown was given was in 2011, when WI got roughly 60% of the total.] However, most of the department’s NSCoop capital expenditure is undertaken by WI, and little or none of it by the language shamrock, so we can say that the 20% cut in NSCoop capital spending means a 20% cut in capital spending on waterways in the Free State.

The breakdown of the Multi-Annual Capital Investment Framework confirms that: in 2015 €3,368,000 of the €3,487,000 NSCoop capital budget (96.5%) went to WI, and in 2016 WI will get €2,680,000 of the €2,799,000 NSCoop capital budget (95.7%). I imagine that the language folk prefer sitting i dtóin an tí and don’t want fancy buildings.

WI’s capital budget for RoI is down from €11,000,000 in 2008.

According to the Multi-Annual Capital Investment Framework 2016 to 2021 (Table 1), the Department of Fairytales as a whole is getting an unusually large amount, €76,000,000, of Exchequer Capital Funding in 2016; the total is to fall back to €45 million in 2017 and €43 million in 2018, before rising to €46 million in each of the years 2018, 2020 and 2021. So, in a year in which the department is getting much more money for capital spending, NSCoop and, specifically, waterways are getting significantly less.

Looking at the breakdown (Table 2), it seems that the big changes in the department’s capital spending are:

  • a major cut in the grant-in-aid to the Crawford Gallery (€12,100,000 to €6,100,000)
  • cuts of €1,312,000 to the National Parks and Wildlife Service and €1,000,000 to Údarás na Gaeltachta
  • a cut of €688,000 to WI
  • an extra €1,150,000 for Teach an Phiarsaigh under the Decade of Centenaries heading
  • a new thing called Built Heritage Jobs Leverage Scheme gets €2,000,000
  • another new thing called Cork Event Centre gets €5,000,000
  • and, the biggest of the lot, Decade of Centenaries 1912–1922 gets an extra €15,270,000, to bring its capital budget to €28,800,000, by far the largest item in the budget.

There are a few other minor changes, but the increased allocation of €15,270,000 to the main Decade of Centenaries item has more than swallowed the extra €14,420,000 allocated to the department. Three other significant items — Teach an Phiarsaigh, the Cork Event Centre and the Built Heritage Jobs Leverage Scheme, which between them have been given an extra €8,150,000 — have been funded by the reduced allocations to the Crawford Gallery, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Údarás na Gaeltachta and Waterways Ireland.

So there’s no money for Sinn Féin’s beloved Clones Sheugh.

Bloody Fianna Fáil …

… obviously didn’t get the memo. [They didn’t get the marriage equality memo either, thus losing one of their better people — who needs to update the banner under her photos.] But a nos moutons ….

According to Northern Sound, Monaghan County Council wants the Monaghan Minister for Fairytales, Heather Humphreys, to meet her Northern Ireland counterpart, the Minister for Marching Bands [and boxing clubs, football stadiums and various other things about which MLAs ask questions: they’re as bad as TDs], to do something about the Clones Sheugh.

I suspect this means that FF, and perhaps the citizens of Monaghan, have realised that, despite the Momentous Day on the Ulster Canal [oops: sorry; not that one, this one], the Clones Sheugh has been hijacked by Co Cavan and is not actually going to reach Co Monaghan in the foreseeable future [which means until the next round of election promises].

As far as I can see, the deal was that Sinn Féin would shut up about the Sheugh provided that they got photos of activity before the UKoGB&NI general election. By nicking the money from other navigations in WI’s budget, the Minister for Fairytales was able to deliver the photos. And, as far as Google Alerts can tell, there hasn’t been a word about the Sheugh from the Shinners, north or south, since then. Of course I could be wrong about the deal and, if both departments will send me their full files on the subject, I’ll be happy to use that evidence to correct the story.

Now, though, a Fianna Fáil councillor in Monaghan has

… put forward the motion requesting the Ministers to meet to advance the project and asking Sinn Féin and Fine Gael members of the council to arrange the meeting urgently.

I don’t suppose he’d be trying to embarrass the parties that made the deal, would he? [If they did make a deal, of course, which they may not have, but we won’t know until the departments send on their files.]

SF has 7 members on Monaghan County Council, FG 5, FF 4 and there are two non-party members.

Speaking of parties, or their aftermath, a thought struck me:

Ulster Canal 01 whole_resize

Fianna Fáil’s original conception for the Sheugh: bold, upstanding, thrusting …

Ulster Canal 04 whole_resize

The current plan: brewer’s droop


Re-invention or re-creation?

I realise that many folk visit this website in order to find out what is hip and trendy, cool and with-it, in all sorts of fields, from beer to boating, casual dining to cost-benefit analysis. So, in order to keep readers down wid da kidz in da hood [as the young folk say], I’ve been checking out the latest, baddest [which means ‘goodest’, I gather, or what in the old days we would have called ‘best’], grooviest developments on tinterweb. It’s a thing called FaceTweet, and those cool dudes at Waterways Ireland have one of them. Hep to the jive, daddy-o [which means ‘How perfectly splendid, old boy’.]

As far as I can see, FaceTweet is in general intended for folk whose attention span renders them unable to read more than a single paragraph of continuous prose. But brevity is sometimes the soul of wit and good goods come in small parcels [sentiments for whose veracity I have not found peer-reviewed evidence]. And I was interested in Waterways Ireland’s self-description on the page:

Waterways Ireland is the Recreation Authority for over 1000km of Ireland’s Inland navigable waterways.

That phrase, Recreation Authority, does not occur in Waterways Ireland’s Business Plan 2015 [as approved by the North South Ministerial Council on 18 December 2014 and screwed up by the Council shortly afterwards] or in its Corporate Plan 2014–2016 [ditto]. Nor, according to its own search engine, is the phrase used on Waterways Ireland’s proper website [the search engine rather bafflingly reports “We don’t have any refiners to show you”].

Yet the concept of Waterways Ireland as a Recreation Authority is almost entirely in tune with the thinking underlying both of the plans and it is the neatest encapsulation I have yet seen of what WI is about.

I put in ‘almost’ there because the Corporate Plan‘s Executive Summary includes this:

Central to our vision for the future is the development of recreational, heritage and environmental opportunities that link people, history and nature, providing both local communities and visitors with compelling reasons to spend more time in the waterways environment.

While I’m all — well, somewhat — in favour of heritage and environment, the words seem to sit uneasily in that sentence: added as a form of ritual obeisance to the shade of Michael D Higgins, who ripped the rivers and canals from the sheltering embrace of the Office of Public Works engineers and proclaimed the waterways to be heritage artefacts. Heritage is no longer of great interest to TPTB and most people’s experience of it [whatever it is] is as entertainment or recreation; much the same applies to environment, which — for most people — is of interest only as providing a scenic background for more interesting activities.

So both heritage and environment can be subsumed under the heading of recreation, leaving Waterways Ireland with a neat, well-focused description of itself, a subheading for its title, and one that matches its Mission and Vision.

Mind you, it’s not entirely clear what a recreation authority is — Google finds relatively few [129000] instances of the term’s use, most of them in the Americas — but that might be no harm.

Waterways Ireland — the recreation authority

Hep to the jive, daddy-o: I like it.


Momentous day on the Ulster Canal

The day work finally began on the Ulster Canal, after many years of planning and consideration. The opening ceremony was attended by many of the local gentry; the royal standard was hoisted, a 21-gun salute was fired, hundreds of people had turned up to see it and “the country people were liberally supplied with ale”. That evening, those most involved dined together in Caledon with toasts to the king, to the queen and the rest of the royal family and to the army and navy.

I suppose that similar festivities would attend the start of work on any canal nowadays, but that was back in 1835, and the canal was the real Ulster Canal.

Interesting information about the Ulster Canal …

… as distinct from ministerial reelection photo opportunities.

By the way, some folk get confused about the location of the Ulster Canal; this map may help:

Saunderson's Sheugh -v- the Ulster Canal (OSI ~1840)

Saunderson’s Sheugh -v- the Ulster Canal (OSI ~1840)

Anyway, for folk who are interested in weightier matters than ministers talking through portions of their anatomies that they can’t distinguish from their elbows, here is some speculation about opening bridges on the Ulster Canal.

That’s the Ulster Canal Ulster Canal, not the Saunderson’s Sheugh “Ulster Canal”, by the way.

My OSI logo and permit number for website


The importance of Saunderson’s Sheugh

Back in the days when nitwitted Irish governments believed the state had found the secret to permanent wealth, Sinn Féin was promised the Clones Sheugh, a rebuilding of part of the line of the Ulster Canal. For reasons that are not clear to me, the reason for the project was concealed by a lot of nonsense about economic regeneration.

Sinn Féin still want their sheugh, and have continually asked questions about it. They own the Northern Ireland department currently responsible for waterways. And they have, I believe, forced its southern counterpart to pretend it will deliver the sheugh. Admittedly it’s really just going to dredge the River Finn — Saunderson’s Sheugh — and call it the Ulster Canal, which is better and cheaper than doing anything about the real Ulster Canal, but we might wonder why the current southern minister, Heather Humphreys, a TD for the Cavan-Monaghan constituency wherein Clones lies, is quite so keen on sheughery.

Perhaps Wikipedia can help.

Cavan-Monaghan constituency, general election 2011

Cavan-Monaghan constituency, general election 2011

Unmodified text released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA); no endorsement by the licensor is expressed or implied.

How true these words are …

… even today.

Connected system

Are the Sheughers …

seeing sense?

A cynic (not that there are any of them around here) might say that DAHG feels that it has done as much as it’s going to do (admittedly at Waterways Ireland’s expense) by dredging the River Finn and that it has told Monaghan Council that, if it wants any more Sheughery for Clones, it will have to pay for it itself. The Council might like a canal, but only if someone else pays for it, so it will have to be content with a greenway.

And rightly so.