Tag Archives: inland waterways

Irish waterways in context

More than 25,000 barges were being used on Britain’s inland waterways in the middle decades of the nineteenth century.

Philip S Bagwell The Transport Revolution from 1770 B T Batsford Ltd, London 1974

I wonder what the figure for Ireland was. My guess is that, including small turf boats and cots, it was probably less than one tenth of the British figure.

Inland waterways transport

I mentioned back in October 2014 that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (whom god preserve, although I don’t know whether they have any connection with Utrecht) had applied its collective mind to COM (2014) 452. And I’m sure we were all very relieved at the news.

Regular readers, a well-informed lot, will not of course need to be told what  COM (2014) 452 is all about. However, in case you’re new here, perhaps I should explain that COM (2014) 452 is a proposal for a European Council directive implementing the European agreement concluded by the European Barge Union, EBU, the European Skippers Organisation, ESO, and the European Transport Workers Federation, ETF, concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time in inland waterway transport.

And rightly so, I hear you say. But the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation “agreed that this proposal warrants further scrutiny”, which is slightly odd given that (a) Ireland has no inland waterways transport and (b) the members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation presumably have other things they could be doing with their time. However, I thought (after wading through the gobbledegook) that the proposal might affect hours of work on the half dozen or so trip-boats on Irish inland waterways.

Well, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has been giving the proposal more scrutiny. It — or at least its chair, one Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, a Fine Gael TD for Banagher (where there is a trip-boat) and some other places — recommended that

[…] the committee consider the merit of the submission of a political contribution on this proposal. The political contribution would focus on the following: the committee’s concern regarding the lack of clarity in the scope of the agreement from a sufficiently early stage; the fact that an exemption was not carved out for Ireland and other member states, as had been done previously; the issue of proportionality; and that the committee recommends in future proposals which relate to sector policy areas within which certain member states have traditionally been exempted should indicate clearly from the beginning the intended scope of application, and this would allow member states the full opportunity to scrutinise the proposal and submit a reasoned opinion within the allowed 56 day timeframe.

That seems to mean “we didn’t read the stuff properly when it came out”. But the other members agreed to the recommendation: in fact their combined contributions spent more time on wishing each other happy xmases than on debating the proposal. I hesitate to suggest that they hadn’t actually read it, but the report of proceedings provides no evidence that they had done so. Any members of the JOC who wish to prove their mastery of the issues are invited to leave Comments below.

The upshot is that Ireland, which has no inland waterways transport, is to submit an objection, on procedural but not on substantive grounds, to a proposal that seems to have emanated from countries where there are real inland waterways transport industries. It seems that Ireland is following the lead of Her Majesty’s Government across the water, which is always nice.

Of course, the United Kingdom has no serious inland waterways transport either. And, as far as I can see, neither Cyprus nor Malta, the other driving-on-the-left imperial remnants that joined the resistance movement, has any inland waterways, never mind any transport thereon. Checking on waterways in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece and Hungary, the other heroes of the people’s revolution, is left as an exercise for the reader.

So we have countries with no serious inland waterways transport objecting to arrangements made by and for those who have real waterways. That should make the remnants of empire popular.

No doubt the members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation reached their decision on opposing the proposed EU directive after appropriate analysis and consideration. They have not, alas, revealed the results of either of those processes. It would be nice to know who in Ireland would be affected by the proposed directive and what representations such persons have made to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

 

 

Crossborderality and euroloot

I wrote here about last week’s NSMC meeting. I noted that the inland waterways meeting seemed to have transformed itself into an SEUPB [Euroloot] meeting: it is unusual for spending ministers to represent the government and executive on such occasions and it is also odd that the SEUPB did not have a meeting to itself, given that it is a separate body. I have asked the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform why spending ministers were allowed into the sweetshop unsupervised.

I now learn that this week there will be celebrations of the twentieth anniversary of the reopening of the Junction Canal in the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Drainage District, now known as the Shannon–Erne Waterway. So watch for messages to the effect that cross-border waterways bring peace and prosperity … improved relationships in these islands … historic visit … peace in our time … as it happens, we have another sheugh up the road … how about it, Angela, another few quid for the other sheugh?

 

 

Modern management

I’ve just read the minutes (they call ’em joint communiqués, to be posh) of all the North South Ministerial Council Inland Waterways meetings since northsouthery got going again in 2007.

After a bit of catching up in the first couple of years, the NSMC has usually managed to “note” WI’s Annual Reports and Accounts about six months after the end of the year to which they refer: the accounts for 2008 were noted in 7 months, 2009 in 5, 2010 in 7, 2011 in 7 and 2012 in 6. But “noting” doesn’t mean approving: various other bods, including two Comptrollers and Auditors General, then have to look at them, so the citizenry doesn’t get to see the accounts for many months afterwards: the report and accounts for 2012 are still not available.

Nothing to see there, then: both WI and the NSMC appear to be doing their bit as fast as could reasonably be expected. But what is odd is the delay in noting or approving plans and budgets. Knowing litle of management science, I had the naive idea that managers would be working to approved plans and budgets from the start of the year, but WI usually doesn’t get approval until the year is almost over. I do not know why that is.

WI’s business plan for 2008 was approved in October 2007, which is reasonable, although it seems to have been revised in July 2008. But the plans for 2009 and 2010 were not approved until 11 months into the year, that for 2011 until 10 months and that for 2012 until June 2013, six months after the end of the year. I realise that forecasting is difficult, but retrospective planning is surely less than useful.

The same delays apply to the budgets for 2010, 2011 and 2012. So the June 2013 meeting of the NSMC approved or noted:

  • the business plan for 2012 (which had ended six months earlier)
  • the budget for 2012
  • the annual report for 2012
  • the draft accounts for 2012.

I do hope that someone checked to ensure that all the documents accorded with one another: it would be really embarrassing if they didn’t. But as a management exercise this seems to be somewhat less than useful.

The same meeting also

… noted progress on the development of the 2013 Business Plan and budget. Following approval by Sponsor Departments and Finance Ministers the plan will be brought forward for approval at a future NSMC meeting.

It is good to know that, six months into the year, there was progress on the business plan and budget for that year. The minutes of the November meeting don’t mention the 2013 business plan and budget (but do, I am pleased to note, mention the 2014 versions), but there was a disturbing item of information on the previous day, 19 November 2013. Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, replied to a written question from Gerry Adams [SF, Louth], saying inter alia

The 2013 Budget allocation to the Body are subject to on-going discussion by the two Sponsor Departments.

This is November; 88% of the year has passed and the Irish budget for 2013 was approved long ago — yet WI still hasn’t been told its budget for 2013. WTF is going on?

I note that the same applies to the other north-south body or bodies that share the [RoI] Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the [NI] Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure as sponsors. An Foras Teanga, which includes Foras na Gaeilge and Tha Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch, likewise still has its 2013 budget under discussion by the two departments.

I have asked DAHG about this, and will no doubt receive a full and frank reply in due course. In the meantime, I can only speculate. Is it possible that one minister wants to spend very much more or less on waterways than the other does? As the total current expenditure is fixed at 85%/15%, it seems to me that one side might very well come up with a figure that the other didn’t like.

Is it possible that DCAL, run by Mr Adams’s party colleague Carál Ní Chuilín, is more keen on cross-border bodies than is DAHG, run by Fine Gael minister Jimmy Deenihan? Or are both of them struggling to find savings to pay for the Clones Sheugh, or at least as a deposit for the SEUPB?

Or could it simply be that WI is having great difficulty in cutting its expenditure to fit within the limits imposed by the RoI budget?