Tag Archives: Department of Community Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs

Political parties: update

I said that I had asked many political parties whether they had asked the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs [now the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht] for costings for the Clones Sheugh (aka the Ulster Canal). Those I asked were:

Christian Solidarity Party
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Fís Nua
Green Party
People before Profit
Sinn Féin
Socialist Party
South Kerry Independent
Workers and Unemployed Action Group [WUAG]
Workers’ Party

I have so far had responses from Fís Nua, the Green Party and Labour; it seems that none of them made the request. I have emailed a reminder to the others and I await their responses.

Political parties

Regular readers will know that I sent and FOI request to the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs [now the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht] looking for files on the Clones Sheugh (aka the Ulster Canal). One of the grounds on which I was refused access was that certain files related to “the costing, assessment or consideration or any proposal of a political party carried out for or on behalf of that party”.

While my appeal against that refusal continues on its course, I thought I might as well ask the political parties directly for the information that might be in those files — in the process, of course, establishing which of them had Clones Sheugh proposals in mind.

Party time

As far as I can see, the parties that contested, or were eligible to contest, the 2011 general election were:

Christian Solidarity Party
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Fís Nua
Green Party
People before Profit
Sinn Féin
Socialist Party
South Kerry Independent
Workers and Unemployed Action Group [WUAG]
Workers’ Party.

Accordingly, I decided to email them all, enquiring whether they had asked the [then] Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs for information “relating to the costing, assessment or consideration of the restoration of some or all of the abandoned Ulster Canal”. I added that, if they had done so, I would be grateful for a copy of the query they put to the department and of the response they received. I told them that I was sending my query to all political parties that contested the 2011 general election (or at least to all those for which I could find an email address).

That was not quite true: I omitted the South Kerry Independent Alliance, on the grounds that its interest in the Clones Sheugh was likely to be limited (I am of course open to correction on this). Furthermore, I was unable to find any website or email address for WUAG so I did not send my request to them.

Fianna Fáil logic

All of the other parties had websites and email addresses — except one: Fianna Fáil. Now, strictly speaking it falls outside the range of parties in which I might have been interested: not just for the obvious reasons but because it was in government at the time and would automatically have had full access to the civil service costings (such as they were). But I was interested to note that Fianna Fáil did not provide an email address on its website: interested enough to ring it and ask for an email address for its press office. The polite receptionist asked someone and told me that the address to be used was pressoffice@fiannafail.ie.

So I sent my query to that address. And I got back an autoresponse saying

This email is not monitored. For urgent queries you can contact the FF Press Office on 087 955 5600.

Well I never. What was the point of that?

Labour gains

Anyway, the results so far put Labour in the lead: I got an almost immediate informal response from Dermot Lacey, saying that he didn’t think Labour had contacted the department; I also got a more formal response next day, from Mags Murphy, Director of Councillor Services and Training, saying:

Labour did not include a specific commitment to the development of the Ulster Canal in our manifesto in the 2011 Election.

However, Labour is keen that all practical possibilities for cooperation, reconciliation and mutual benefit, including maximising tourism potential from a development of the Ulster Canal would be considered seriously as part of our deep commitment to the Good Friday agreement.

To this end, the Labour members of the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement committee visited the Ulster Canal, Enniskillen and Clones with their cross-party colleagues for a range of meetings on 27 September 2012 with Waterways Ireland officials, local councillors and community groups.

Oh dear. Still, brownie points for responding.

What is the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement committee?

Where are the others?

I am still awaiting responses from the other political parties.

Declaration of non-interest

I did not vote for any of those parties.


A waterway for everyone in the audience

My attention has been drawn to this Dáil written question by Joan Burton TD (Dublin West, Labour) and the answer by Éamon Ó Cuív TD (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail).

The layout on the kildarestreet site is not perfect, so I reproduce some of the list here:

The following are the details requested by the Deputy in respect of non-navigable stretches of canals that are within the control of Waterways Ireland and are being or could be restored:

Grand Canal

  • Kilbeggan Branch (8.2 miles long) in Co. Offaly and Co. Westmeath
  • Part of Naas & Corbally Branch (Corbally Extension) (4.4 miles long) in Co. Kildare
  • Barrow Line Part of Mountmellick Branch (0.25 miles long) in Co. Kildare (remaining 11 miles filled in).

Royal Canal

  • Part of Royal Canal (11 miles long) in Co. Longford, currently under restoration
  • Longford Branch (3 miles long) in Co. Longford.

The Royal Canal main line is currently under restoration and the remaining work necessary to return it to full navigation between Dublin and the Shannon is due for completion in 2010.

Ulster Canal

  • 46 miles long in Co. Cavan, Co. Monaghan, Co. Fermanagh and Co. Armagh.

Approval has been given to Waterways Ireland to restore the stretch between Lough Erne and Clones. Present indications are that this stretch could be re-opened by 2013.

And (perhaps because the economy was so successful) we could have waterways everywhere:

It is intended, subject to availability of resources, to carry out feasibility studies and preliminary designs in relation to the Longford Branch, the Kilbeggan Branch and the Corbally Extension, along with extensions to Annagh Upper near Dowra on the Shannon Navigation and to Lough Oughter on the Erne System with a view to possible re-opening. Consideration will also be given to the carrying out of preliminary analysis and assessment of the Mountmellick Branch, as well as the Boyne Navigation (which is primarily a river navigation) and the extension towards Mohill on the Rinn River, as future possibilities for restoration.

“The Irish economy entered severe recession in 2008,” according to Wikipedia’s useful summary of the financial crisis, but Craggy Island (nach maireann, comme on dit) still hoped to drag Ireland into the Canal Age.



Clones Canal update

I’ve done a precis of developments since Novemebr 2011. There is nothing much new on the page, but it may assist new seekers after truth.

I’ve also given the overview a mild update, but without making major changes to its structure.

I’ve been making three main points about the Clones Canal proposal:

  • the expected costs are understated
  • the expected benefits are overstated
  • there is no funding available.

Just in case anyone from Clones, or from the government, is looking in, I want to point out that I have been shown to be right on two of those points so far.

First, I said that the €35 million cost figure, which was widely used by the project’s proponents, was unreliable. Waterways Ireland has recently said that the cost is now expected to be €38 million + VAT, which I gather is about €45 million. So has the government reassessed the economic case? If it has, it’s not admitting it.

Second, I said that I could not see how the Irish government was going to fund the project. I wrote:

So where is the money to come from? I’ve tried asking the public bodies that should know the answer, but they won’t tell me.

The government now admits that funding was not provided and it is clear that there will be no significant funding (ie enough to pay for construction) before 2014. Incidentally, my appeal against the refusal of information is with the Office of the Information Commissioner: I don’t believe that government should be able to keep matters of funding secret, especially if potential investors might be misled.

We have no result yet that would cast light on the expected benefits, but we do know that the boat-hire business has declined drastically in recent years. If Clones is to prosper, as I hope it will, it will need development initiatives that are easier, faster, cheaper and more effective than the proposed canal.

Amazing news from the BBC …

… about funding for the Ulster Canal.

The Ulster Canal: the departmental view

I have received from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht a statement on the funding of the Ulster Canal; I reproduce it here.

This statement seems to me to be more forthright than statements from DAHG’s predecessor department, which is something I welcome, and so I reproduce it without comment. I will, in a few days, offer some thoughts on the canal’s prospects.

Plot 8 has been NAMAed

The development of the Plot 8 site at the Grand Canal Docks, Ringsend, was to be the most valuable of three sites to be sold by Waterways Ireland, with Craggy Island hoping to use the proceeds to fund the Ulster Canal. The DDDA’s interest in Plot 8 has now passed to NAMA.

I provided background information from the Oireachtas Committee of Public Accounts here; the DDDA announcement is here but NAMA, alas, has no information at the moment.

DDDA had withdrawn permission for IWAI Dublin Branch to work on the graving docks at the site.

Progress is progressing on the Ulster Canal (it says here)

The Joint Communiqué from the last Plenary Meeting of the North/South  Ministerial Council meeting (18 November 2011) can now be read or downloaded (PDF) from the NSMC website. It has much to say about the Ulster Canal:

Progress on the Ulster Canal is progressing incrementally with the planning process ongoing.

Er … right. That’s it, then. Progress is progressing, eh? Well, I never.

We’ve now had an Inland Waterways Sectoral Meeting (12 October 2011) and a Plenary Meeting, neither of which has said anything about how (or whether) the canal to Clones is to be funded. Why not? Shouldn’t they show us the money?



The Irish Times says that there is to be a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council on Friday 18 November 2011, with the A5 road on the agenda. Perhaps there will be some news about how the proposed Clones Canal is to be funded.

The Ulster Canal

A modest proposal here for funding the canal.