Tag Archives: Department of Community Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs

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.

Canals conference 7 March 2015

Information posted at the request of the organisers

Inland Navigations of Ireland Historical Society
in partnership with
The Heritage Boat Association

The Canals of Ireland

Saturday 7 March 2015

Hugh Lynch’s Function Room, Tullamore, Co Offaly


Memorial Slides Conor Nolan 09.30
Welcome Gerard Bayly 09.55
Session 1 Chairperson Judie Lambert
The Canals of Europe Mike & Rosaleen Miller 10.00
The Canals of Ireland Colin Becker 10.20
Coffee break 10.40
Saving the Royal Niall Galway 11.00
Fighting for the Grand Mick Kinahan 11.20
Living on a Canal Eric Kemp 11.40
Morning Question Time 12.00
Lunch break 12.30
Session 2 Chairperson Kristina Baker Kenny
Newry Canal Geraldine Foley 13.30
Limerick Navigation Raymie O’Halloran 13.50
John’s River Brian Simpson 14.10
Grand Canal Kilbeggan Branch James Scully 14.30
Boyne Navigation Seamus Costello 14.50
Coffee break 15.10
The Future Joe Treacy 15.25
The Future Brian J Goggin 15.45
The Future Nigel Russell 16.05
Evening Question Time 16.25



Admission:                          €12
Breaks:                                Tea/coffee included
Lunch in room:                   Soup and sandwiches included
Music:                                 Live music session during lunch
HBA:                                   Merchandise for sale
IWAI:                                  Merchandise for sale
Authors:                              Books for sale


Hugh Lynch’s Pub, Kilbride Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

087 250 5422


Underwear and the Ulster Canal

In September 2010 I wrote:

[…] a government department, in a time of economic crisis, is proposing to commit to the spending of at least €35,000,000, without having any certainty of being able to get the money anywhere. Unless Waterways Ireland has surplus assets that I don’t know about, I cannot see how it can raise that amount by selling property in a slump; nor do I see any certainty that the Department of Finance will supply the money.

So the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs won’t be choosing between two sources of funding. Its only possible source is the Department of Finance, and its only possible argument is that, unless the taxpayer stumps up, the shame will be too great: the neighbours will realise that we’re all fur coat and no knickers.

Since the creation of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in 2011, we’ve seen a slow striptease, with the government flicking up the corners of its fur coat and gradually hinting at the nakedness underneath.

The setting up of an inter-agency group of treasure hunters was the most explicit acknowledgement that the Irish government could not afford to build the Clones Sheugh. The group included folk from Fermanagh District Council, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the NI Strategic Investment Board and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, so the burden of treasure-hunting was spread north of the border. But if that constituted the fifth veil — highlighting rather than concealing nakedness — the sixth has now been dropped.

On Tuesday 9 July 2013 the Select Sub-Committee on Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht was concluding its consideration of the revised 2013 estimates for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (and the National Gallery). Sandra McLellan, Sinn Féin TD for Cork East, said:

I have one more question, on subhead D4, Waterways Ireland. There is a promise of stage payments to Waterways Ireland to begin the process of making the opening up of the Ulster Canal a reality. Planning permission to begin the project was sought and is due to be approved at this month’s Fermanagh District Council planning meeting and permission has already been approved in County Monaghan. Once the Government releases the funding, the process should move quickly and whatever land purchases are needed will be made. Does the Government intend on doing this and will Waterways Ireland have the adequate funding to undertake the project in 2013–2014?

The minister, Jimmy Deenihan [FG, Kerry North/West Limerick], began by talking about planning permissions and compulsory purchases:

At this stage, the planning permissions have been granted. That, in itself, was a challenge because of environmental and other reasons. The next process will be the CPOs to get the land. In many cases, hopefully, we can acquire the land by agreement. That will be the next challenge.

He went on to say why the Irish government couldn’t afford the sheugh:

There is an inter-agency group sitting. It is something I established, where the local authorities and the statutory organisations, North and South, have all come together around a table and are looking for alternative sources of funding too rather than merely funding from the Dublin Government. Originally, the agreement was that this would be funded by Dublin and the funding for it was identified with the sale of property at the time. During the Celtic tiger, the property, down in the docklands, etc., was quite valuable. However, with the collapse of the property market, that potential source of funding was not there to the same extent, although, with the property market now recovering, that property could become valuable again. Hopefully, it will and can contribute to the overall costs.

Note that phrase “rather than merely funding from the Dublin Government”. But there is more to come:

The next stage would be the acquisition of the land in order to provide the canal and the inter-agency group is looking at possibilities. Also, my counterpart in Northern Ireland, the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Carál Ní Chuilín MLA, is looking at possible funding for the small portion that is in the North. Funding may be available for that from the Northern Executive and, maybe, Westminster. That, obviously, would help. Wherever we can get funding for this, certainly we will be striving to get it. It will be incremental. We will have to approach it on a staged basis but the important point is to get it started.

So the idea that the wealthy and munificent southern government would pay the entire cost of the sheugh, as a present to the benighted and miserable inhabitants of Norn Iron, and as a demonstration of the prosperity to be expected from a united Ireland, has been abandoned altogether. If Carál Ní Chuilín [who is, coincidentally, a Sinn Féin MLA] manages to extract money from her colleagues for that portion of the sheugh lying within Norn Iron, it will mean that the construction is being funded in the same way as other Waterways Ireland capital spending: each government pays for the development within its own jurisdiction.

Will Ms Ní Chuilín manage to persuade her colleagues? In September 2010 I wrote:

[…] I see no evidence whatsoever that the Northern Ireland executive, or Her Majesty’s government, has any intention of ever starting the JCBs rolling along the Ulster Canal. They are happy to support the principle of canal restoration; they are even prepared to allow southern taxpayers to spend money (borrowed from the bond markets) crossing northern soil. It is possible that, if the canal to Clones brings wealth and prosperity to Co Monaghan, the northern executive will rethink. But as it stands, the evidence suggests that the southern taxpayer will be permitted to dig to Clones, and perhaps even to Monaghan and Caledon, but that the canal will never get any further.

It is possible that having a Sinn Féin minister running DCAL will change  economic perceptions, and no doubt Simon Hamilton, the [DUP] Minister of Finance and Personnel, will be easily persuaded. Having an Irishman as UK Chancellor of the Exchequer may help the Sinn Féin cause: the last time that happened, HMG wasted half a million pounds on the Shannon.

But back to the minister:

It is a good North-South project. It links North and South. There also could be some possibilities under European funding, for example, there was funding available for the Ballyconnell canal and some of that was derived from European funding. We will be looking at every possible source of funding in order to get the project off the ground and to complete it over a period of time. Besides, Waterways Ireland, from its own capital budget, may have some small amount of funding available to initiate the project as well. I will be looking at identifying funding from different sources and, hopefully, over a period of time, we can provide the canal.

There are two sets of points in that paragraph. One suggests that the inter-agency group has not yet found the pot of gold, indeed that it has no very firm ideas about where to find it. Waterways Ireland is unlikely to be able to spare more than the price of a few shovels, but even if it devoted its entire capital budget to the Clones Sheugh it would take at least ten years to pay for it.

The other set of points is contained in the first two sentences:

It is a good North-South project. It links North and South.

Any minor boreen could be said to link North and South, but without costing €40 million or so. In fact, though, the Clones Sheugh is not a good project: it is a waste of money. It will link a couple of fields in the middle of nowhere to, er, Clones, which is no doubt a vibrant hub of culture. It will not attract significant numbers of foreign tourists, so it will merely displace waterways activity from elsewhere, and it will not generate new business or employment opportunities except perhaps for part-time summer jobs in a couple of pubs.

I have compared the Irish (and especially Sinn Féin) enthusiasm for canals to a cargo cult, but perhaps a more modern comparison, and one in line with this post’s heading, would be to the Underpants Gnomes (a metaphor I used here about the Shannon in 1792). It will be recalled that the Underpants Gnomes had a three-phase business plan:

  1. Collect Underpants
  2. ?
  3. Profit.

The Irish government’s (and perhaps Sinn Féin’s) devotion to the Clones Sheugh might be explained by their adherence to a similar plan:

  1. Build canal
  2. ?
  3. Peace and prosperity.

But, knickerless, they cannot gird their loins. Maybe Little Miss Higgins‘s video might provide useful advice.


The minister’s extensive reply did not stop Sandra McLellan from asking pretty much the same question nine days later, causing me to wonder why the shinners want the sheugh:

Is there something in the St Andrew’s Agreement, or some other bit of northsouthery, that promises a sheugh to Sinn Féin, to enable them to claim credit for some high-profile but non-threatening all-Irelandism? Is the Clones Sheugh the price of SF support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland? I don’t know, but there must be some explanation for the failure to kill off the sheugh.

[h/t to the learned AD, who drew my attention to the meeting of the select sub-committee, which I had not myself noticed. AD is not, however, to be blamed for my views — or for my metaphors]


From the Clones Regeneration Partnership Ltd website:

PROJECT OFFICER » Unfortunately the Clones Regeneration Partnership Canal Officer post has come to an end ….

Though I disagreed with the case put forward by Gerry Darby, I am sorry to hear of his departure. My main criticisms of the Clones Sheugh proposal are directed at the Irish government.

Campaign news 2: marine casualties

There is an appalling piece of legislation called the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act 2000. Actually, only part of it is appalling. The first 45 of 46 sections are OK: they’re all about investigating marine casualties, which is more or less what you would expect, and that’s fine. But Section 46 is a stinker:

The Minister may, from time to time, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, advance to a person, out of monies provided by the Oireachtas, for the purposes of marine or natural resource based tourism or heritage projects, such sums, by way of grant or loan, as the Minister may determine and upon such terms and conditions as he or she considers necessary.

First of all, it has nothing whatsoever to do with investigating marine casualties and, second, it allows a minister to hand out money to his mates on whatever terms he likes. This sort of addition to an irrelevant bill is what we might expect in the USA or in Greece, but it should never have got through the cabinet, never mind the Oireachtas. It is fortunate that the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources at the time the act was passed was a person of the utmost probity, one Frank Fahey.

In 2010 responsibility for Section 46 was transferred to Craggy Island by Section 3 (1) of SI No 677/2010 — Marine Tourism (Transfer of Departmental Administration and Ministerial Functions) Order 2010:

3. (1) The functions vested in the Minister for Transport by or under section 46 of the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act 2000 (No. 14 of 2000) are transferred to the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs.

And in 2011 it was transferred again, this time to the Department of, er, Agriculture by SI No 163/2011 — Marine Tourism (Transfer of Departmental Administration and Ministerial Functions) Order 2011:

3. (1) The functions vested in the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs by or under section 46 of the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act 2000 (No. 14 of 2000) are transferred to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

The Dept of Ag later became the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, although most marine functions are still in the Department of Transport.

On 13 February 2012 I wrote to the Dept of Ag thusly:

I would be grateful if you could give me a list of grants and loans made under Section 46 of the 2000 Act since it came into force, including the names of the recipients, the purposes for which the grants or loans were given and the details of your evaluations of the effectiveness of the grants or loans.

I would also be grateful if you could tell me whether your department intends to seek the repeal of Section 46.

After several reminders, I found a kindly chap who took up the matter. He has today written to say:

We sought the assistance of our Marine Agencies and Programme Division in Clonakilty, Co Cork and they have advised that the Department of Agriculture , Food and the Marine (formerly the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) has made no grants under Section 46 since responsibility for Section 46 was vested in the Department. If any grants were made under Section 46 prior to responsibility being vested in this Department the details would be held by the responsible Departments at the date of the decision. I regret that these details are not held by this Department.

In relation to the repeal of Section 46, it can be confirmed that there are no proposals at present to seek its repeal.

I am glad to learn that no grants have been made. The reply does not mention loans, so I’ve sent a follow-up question to ask about them. I’ve also asked why the blasted section is not being repealed. And I’ve written to Craggy Island (or rather its successor, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht) and the Dept of Transport to ask whether they made any grants or loans when they were responsible for Section 46.

Ireland is not Greece, a minister said today. So why has Section 46 not been repealed?

Save the newts: abandon the Clones sheugh!

Why has the proposed sheugh not yet been approved in Northern ireland? Because the Northern Ireland Environment Agency has been asking hard questions. WI has very kindly put the answers on its website.

The newts are going to be evicted, the stables may have to go but the Orange Hall won’t be affected. Hours of interesting reading.


Northern Ireland seeks cutting-edge technology … of the 18th century

IndustrialHeritageIreland reports on two recent outbreaks of cargo cultism in Norn Iron. Folk in Tyrone want the whole of the Ulster Canal to be restored to its, er, former glory, which presumably means without any water west of Monaghan, while a Sinn Féin MLA wants to lumber Waterways Ireland with responsibility for the useless Strabane Canal on which £1.3 million has already been wasted.

What is it with Sinn Féin and canals? I realise that Irish republicanism is by definition a backward-looking creed, with little contact with reality, but why not look to (say) early nineteenth century technology, like the steam railway, rather than that of the eighteenth century?

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that Sinn Féin folk, especially those who are subjects of Her current Majesty, adopt a British conception of inland waterways. In Britain, canals dominate and boats must travel slowly, no faster than the horse-drawn vessels of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But Irish waterways are dominated by lakes, whereon modern folk like to zoom around in fast boats: jetskis, speedboats and skiboats, fast cruisers. Such boats are entirely unsuitable for canals: they damage the banks and the pace bores their owners.

As it happens, we have lots of lakes where owners can zoom. [I’d prefer if they didn’t, but that’s the way it is.] And with reductions in the amount of boating activity, we don’t need any additional waterways. Sinn Féin, though, doesn’t seem to have grasped this. Stuck in the eighteenth century, it wants canals. I suppose we should be grateful it isn’t proposing to have the taxpayer stump up for coal-mines as well.

Sinn Féin and the Clones Sheugh

Northern Ireland Assembly debate 6 November 2012, via TheyWorkForYou.com:

Phil Flanagan (Sinn Féin): […] Will the Minister provide an update on the restoration of the Ulster canal from Clones to Upper Lough Erne?

Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin): As I said, there was a presentation on the issue at the North/South interparliamentary forum, and the planning processes are up and running. I understand that, on the Cavan side of the border, it has been successfully concluded. There is still some work to do on this side. Everyone realises, from a tourism point of view, that this is filled with all sorts of potential for us, particularly in the context not only of whatever construction jobs will be created by the project but of the prospects for utilising our waterways in a way that can bring employment to local communities.

For “everyone” read “everyone except irishwaterwayshistory.com and a few other sane people”.

All sheugh up

Thinking about the exciting news from the North South Ministerial Council plenary session about the Clones Sheugh, I was reminded of the even more exciting news of the first meeting of the North/South Inter-parliamentary Association.

Strangely, its meeting received little publicity in the great world. I asked Messrs Google to search for it but to omit links from the Oireachtas and the Northern Ireland Assembly, as well as those from politicus.org and flickr.com. It found only 42 hits, of which the first seven were links to the site of a Labour senator called Mary Moran. (I won’t provide a link to her site as she’s obviously perfectly capable of generating all the links she wants.)

Anyway, the first meeting of the North/South Inter-parliamentary Association seems to have passed almost unnoticed. You can read about it on InsideIreland.ie, which seems to be a news site run by an advertising agency.

From Ciarán Hanna’s account, I deduce that the North/South Inter-parliamentary Association is an entirely pointless body. I note that it won’t meet again until April 2013. And perhaps the Irish government’s support for the Clones Sheugh is because it gives this pointless body something to discuss, thus keeping it from commenting on anything important.

Northsouthery and the Clones Sheugh

The minutes of the latest North South Ministerial Council plenary meeting, held on 2 November 2012, are now on the NSMC website. Of the Clones Sheugh:

The Council also welcomed the following key developments: […]

the restoration of the Ulster Canal from Clones to Upper Lough Erne is progressing through the planning application process in both jurisdictions. An inter-agency group has been set up to examine all possible options to advance the project.

Perhaps Mr Noonan will have an early christmas present for the promoters.