SHANNON-RIVER. This is by far the most considerable river in Ireland, or perhaps in any known island, not only on account of its rolling 200 miles, but also of its great depth in most places, and the gentleness of its current, by which it might be made exceedingly serviceable to the improvement of the country, the communication of its inhabitants, and consequently the promoting inland trade, through the greater part of its long course, being navigable to a considerable distance, with a few interruptions only of rocks and shallows, to avoid which there are in general small canals cut, to preserve and continue the navigation.
Thus Wm Wenman Seward, Esq [correspondent of Thomas Jefferson], in his Topographica Hibernica; or the topography of Ireland, antient and modern. Giving a complete view of the civil and ecclesiastical state of that kingdom, with its antiquities, natural curiosities, trade, manufactures, extent and population. Its counties, baronies, cities, boroughs, parliamentary representation and patronage; antient districts and their original proprietors. Post, market, and fair towns; bishopricks, ecclesiastical benefices, abbies, monasteries, castles, ruins, private-seats, and remarkable buildings. Mountains, rivers, lakes, mineral-springs, bays and harbours, with the latitude and longitude of the principal places, and their distances from the metropolis, and from each other. Historical anecdotes, and remarkable events. The whole alphabetically arranged and carefully collected. With an appendix, containing some additional places and remarks, and several useful tables printed by Alex Stewart, Dublin, 1795. [Google it if you want a copy.]
Seward was one of many people who saw the Shannon as a valuable resource, even if they were vague on how it was to yield a return. I was reminded of that on reading the Strategic Integrated Framework Plan for the Shannon Estuary 2013–2020: an inter-jurisdictional land and marine based framework to guide the future development and management of the Shannon Estuary. The Introduction includes this:
The Shannon Estuary is an immensely important asset and one of the most valuable natural resources in Ireland and the Mid-West Region in particular — the fringe lands and the marine area both provide space and location for development, activities and opportunities to progress economic, social and environmental growth within the Region.
This report is an attempt to show how the estuary could deliver a return. The core point seems to be that a small number of areas are designated as “Strategic Development Locations for marine related industry and large scale industrial development”, thus protecting them from the attentions of the environmentalists: the whole of the estuary is a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area.
Almost all the Strategic Development Locations are already industrialied in some way:
- Limerick Docks (in Limerick city)
- Ballylongford (of which more below)
- Tarbert (power station)
- Aughinish Island (alumina)
- Askeaton (Nestlé)
- Foynes Island and land to the rear of Foynes (main port on the estuary)
- Moneypoint (power station).
There is one more, Inishmurry/Cahircon (which is not boring), which is even more interesting because there is no industry there at present. It was used as a resting place for certain vessels, but it was also proposed as the site for an explosives factory. Perhaps the designation as a Strategic Development Location suggests that that proposal is not dead but merely sleeping.
Ballylongford is equally lacking in industry, despite activity at Saleen in the early nineteenth century. However, Shannon Development assembled a large landbank nearby; the report’s Executive Summary says:
The Ballylongford Landbank benefits from a significant deepwater asset and extant permission for a major LNG bank.
Here is the area in question. Note that the red oval is just to indicate the rough location; it does not show the boundaries of the landbank.
You can see a proper map and a marked-up aerial photo in Volume 1 of the report [PDF] on page 73 (77/174).
Shannon Development agreed to give a purchase option on a little uder half of the site to Shannon LNG Ltd, which proposed to build a liquefied natural gas terminal there, to be supplied by ship; much information is available here.
The Commission for Energy Regulation decided to introduce charges that would have increased Shannon LNG’s costs; the company took the matter to court but, yesterday, lost its case. The Irish Times report here will probably disappear behind a paywall at some stage; the Irish Independent report is here and the Limerick Leader‘s here (its photo shows Tarbert and Moneypoint; the Ballylongford site is off to the left).
If the Ballylongford development does not proceed, plans for economic growth on the Shannon estuary may prove to be for the birds.