Tag Archives: Finn

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.

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.


DAHG and the unicorns

In purely quantifiable monetary terms, it is clear from these estimates that the project has a very significant capital cost of circa €46m and that the quantified annual net economic benefits are at most €323.5k per annum. The latter thus covers the annual revenue costs of €308.8k per annum only. Applying any cost benefit analysis, whether payback period or net present cost, will result in a large negative for the project.

The justification of the project therefore relies largely on the unquantifiable benefits associated with the project and the disadvantaged area in which these will occur.

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

The project will give this border region, which has suffered greatly from economic deprivation, a much needed boost in terms of job creation and tourism. There is significant potential for growth in the waterways based tourism market and I have no doubt that the reopening of this section of the canal will help to attract significant numbers of visitors to the area.

Heather Humphreys quoted in Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht press release Minister Humphreys secures Government approval to restore Ulster Canal from Upper Lough Erne to Castle Saunderson 24 February 2015

If “quantified annual net economic benefits are at most €323.5k per annum” for a sheugh running all the way to Clones, it is hard to see how a shorter sheugh to Castle Saunderson is going to result in “a much needed boost in terms of job creation and tourism”.

But that’s where the unicorns come in: it will all happen by magic.

The Strabane Canal and the Foyle

Here is a short account of the Foyle and the Strabane Canal in the 1890s.

The Ulster Canal: abandon it now

I have now completed an examination of the proposals for the reconstruction of a section of the Ulster Canal from Lough Erne to the town of Clones in Co Monaghan. My conclusions are linked from this page, which also contains a brief summary of my views.

Ulster Canal 0: overview presents the main points of the argument in about 3,600 words. It does not contain most of the quotations and omits the references; it also omits some sections of the argument. However, it’s about one fifth of the length of the whole thing.

Ulster Canal 1 to Ulster Canal 10 present the argument under ten headings, amounting to about 18,500 words in all. That may be too much for most people. There are no photos or other illustrations, and most of the argument is about economics or politics.

It will be clear that I do not have full information; I will be glad to have Comments from anyone who can fill the gaps or correct anything I’ve got wrong.

For anyone who can’t wait, here is a copy of the summary of my views.


The Irish government has been pushing, since the 1990s, for the restoration of the Ulster Canal. Several studies have been commissioned; all of them show that the project is uneconomic. At no stage has either the UK or the Northern Ireland administration shown any willingness to commit funding to the project. As a result, the Irish government has scaled back its ambitions, proposing to fund the construction of a canal from Lough Erne to Clones in Co Monaghan: it would cross the border several times, but it would pass through no significant conurbation on the northern side.

However, this scaled-back project makes even less sense than the proposal for full restoration, and there is no reason to believe that the canal will ever get any further than Clones. The Irish government might, I suppose, decide to dig on to Monaghan, as a form of famine relief work, but there is no evidence that the Northern Ireland Executive will ever put money into completing the route to Lough Neagh.

The costs of the proposal have not been reexamined for many years (or, if they have, the results have not been published), and the economic analyses may overstate the likely benefits. Even if they are accurate, though, the main benefits seem to come from casual visitors rather than from boaters. The benefits will go to service providers in the area, rather than to the waterways authority, but even if they went to Waterways Ireland they would not pay the running costs, never mind repaying the capital cost. The project has failed every economic test to which it has been subjected: it simply does not provide the sort of return that would justify the project.

There seems to be some doubt over the source of the proposed funding. The Irish government said that it canal to Clones would be paid for by the Irish Exchequer, but it later said that Waterways Ireland would sell surplus assets to pay some or all of the cost. It is not clear that Waterways Ireland’s surplus assets would, in current economic conditions, bring in enough money; nor is it clear that the Department of Finance is willing to make up any shortfall.

There might be something to be said for acquiring the land and creating a walking and cycling route, but the current proposal for a canal to Clones is utterly unjustifiable and should be dropped.