Tag Archives: DUP

The Lough Neagh sand trade

A few months ago I mentioned Paul Whittle’s history of the UK marine aggregate dredging industry, which includes a chapter on the Lough Neagh sand dredging industry.

Sand barge William James at Scotts sand quay

I did not realise at the time that the industry was the subject of legal action by Friends of the Earth. Their objections are outlined here; there are several news reports of the progress of their case, eg here and here; this is an account, from June 2017, of the appeal court case; here is the BBC report of the decision and this is FOE’s reaction, which includes this:

Yesterday the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal ruled that the Northern Ireland government acted unlawfully by not stopping dredging for sand at one of Europe’s most important wetlands.

The only legal option now open to the government is to stop the sand dredging.

Dredging has been taking place on a huge scale at Lough Neagh without planning permission and other authorisations.

Friends of the Earth brought the legal challenge over the Northern Ireland government’s failure to stop the extraction.

Up to 2 million tons of sand is suction dredged from the bed of the lough every year. This is the biggest unauthorised development in the history of Northern Ireland. Yet this vitally important wildlife site is supposed to be protected under local and international law. In fact there is no bigger unlawful mine anywhere in Europe in a Special Protection Area.

Lough Neagh is Europe’s biggest wild eel fishery […].

I suspect that the decision will increase the DUP’s enthusiasm for Brexit.


They haven’t gone away, you know

Yes: it’s the DUP which, according to an Irish Times article which will probably disappear behind a paywall at some stage, has actually agreed with Sinn Féin on something: it wants the Free State to waste €550 million on useless projects:

  • the A5 road
  • an eastern bypass of Newry in the wrong place, ie at Narrow Water instead of near Newry and
  • the dreaded Clones Sheugh.

I can quite see why the DUP might want to bankrupt the Free State [although its assistance may not be necessary], but why do the Shinners share that desire? Do they perhaps wish to discredit the notion of public investment by demonstrating that it does not provide worthwhile returns? Or do they want to show that they are willing to implement Fianna Fáil projects, in preparation for a future Free State coalition overnment?

The DUP fightback

I mentioned here that the ridiculous decision by the Sinn Féin Minister for Marching Bands [and Sheughs] to ask the DUP Minister for Finance and Personnel for £46 million for the Lisburn Sheugh might have been intended to annoy the DUP. Most of the Lisburn Sheugh, formerly the Lagan Navigation, ran through unionist territory; the Lagan Valley constituency is solidly unionist, and specifically DUP, in both Westminster and NI Assembly elections. It costs Ms Ní Chuilín nothing to pass on the Lisburn lunacy to the Dept of Finance, leaving it to a DUP Minister to turn down the funding application.

But the DUP has lobbed a neat hand-grenade response back at the Shinner fortress. Brenda Hale, DUP MLA for Lagan Valley, has put two questions to the sheughery enthusiasts:

AQW 48647/11-16 To ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure what financial support her Department has offered the Lagan Canal Trust, given that their budget has been cut by 11 per cent. [09/09/2015 Awaiting Answer]

AQW 48646/11-16 To ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure when the Lagan Navigation Canal Locks where last maintained. [09/09/2015 Awaiting Answer]

Ye’ll no’ fickle Thomas Yownie.

Waterways minister keen on waterways

An exchange from the Northern Ireland Assembly on 7 October 2013, thanks to theyworkforyou.com.

Pam Brown (DUP) asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure whether inland waterways could be developed to provide a major leisure and recreational activity resource.

Carál Ní Chuilín (Sinn Féin; Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure): Waterways Ireland is one of the all-Ireland bodies that my Department has responsibility for. You can see the value of the work that it does, particularly in rural areas. I am also working with some councils to improve some of the waterways within their control. I agree with the Member that inland waterways provide brilliant opportunities not just for tourism but for local leisure. They are the economic driver in some towns and villages.

Pam Brown (DUP): I thank the Minister for her answer. She has touched on my supplementary question. Does the Minister agree that the development of inland waterways, while a great source of leisure and recreational activities, can also act as a catalyst for urban and rural regeneration?

Carál Ní Chuilín (Sinn Féin): I agree. I made a statement to the House in July, I think, about some of the events that take place at inland waterways across the island. Those events include festivals and family fun days. Huge numbers attend those events, and they act as economic drivers. Not only are those responsible keen to make sure that they are further developed, but people from other areas visit those festivals in towns and villages to see how they can extract that product for their area. They see the potential and outcome of those events.

That’s good: nice cheap family fun days, not expensive and unnecessary waterway restorations.

Lough Neagh

On 17 April 2012 the Northern Ireland Assembly held an enlightening debate about Lough Neagh and its future and ended by resolving

That this Assembly calls on the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to convene a working group to explore and pursue actively the potential for a cross-departmental approach to bring Lough Neagh back into public ownership.

The report is here. It is well worth reading by anyone wanting an understanding of the management of the largest lake in These Islands.


Canal parties

I wondered recently whether the proposed canal to Clones was really a Sinn Féin canal. And I have also wondered whether the proposed restoration of the Lagan Navigation was a Unionist riposte, to be undertaken without the involvement of cross-border implementation bodies. With Michael McGimpsey having supported it, I thought of it as an Ulster Unionist project: although there seems to have been some DUP interest in at least some aspects, I’d have thought the Upper Bann was more DUP territory, with at least part of the Lower Bann staunchly supporting Ulster Scots heritage.

Now (h/t Industrial Heritage Ireland) comes news that the SDLP has got itself a canal: it wants the Newry Canal to be handed over to Waterways Ireland by the four local authorities that currently own it. This would extend the influence of the cross-border body into another area of Northern Ireland and bring it even into Portadown.

The Newry and Portadown Branch of the IWAI wants the thing restored and no doubt the local authorities (who have maintained it as a popular walking and cycling route) would be glad to get it off their budgets. Waterways Ireland, alas, remains deaf to my blandishments and is determined to have the Ulster Canal made navigable instead of setting up a walking and cycling route, and no doubt it would welcome having the good folk of Newry and Portadown lobby for it to get United Kingdom taxpayers’ money (if there ever  is any to spare) to restore the Newry Canal.

But the major question that nobody has answered is this: what is the Alliance Party doing? What canal does it want restored?


Devolution, Sinn Féin and the Clones canal

Sinn Féin takes more interest in the Ulster Canal than does any other political party. It may not be coincidental that the government seems to be trying to get two local authorities, on both of which Sinn Féin is the largest party, to solve the canal’s funding problem.