Tag Archives: Minister for Fairytales

Sinn Féin asks useful PQ about waterways shock

Yes, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, SF TD for Cavan-Monaghan, has asked a useful question about waterways, one that doesn’t seem to have been designed to promote an insane restoration proposal. He asked for “the current and capital expenditure by Waterways Ireland in each of the years 2014 to 2016; the estimated level of current and capital expenditure for 2017″. The answer included this table:

WI budgets

 

Current spending comes 85% from the Free State and 15% from Norn Iron; capital spending is paid for by the administration in whose territory the montey is to be spent.

There may be a problem here in that I have a feeling that, if there is no NI Executive, spending is limited to 90% of the previous year’s figure [I am open to correction on this], which might cut the NI contribution to current spending: I presume that the RoI contribution would then be cut too, to maintain the 85:15 ratio.

The Minister for Fairytales also said that WI gets money from “third-party funding contributions towards specific projects and from its own income from licences and property.” However, its own income is pathetically small.

I am writing less about current waterways affairs because I’m concentrating on those of the nineteenth century (unlike Sinn Féin, which focuses on the eighteenth), but I did read WI’s Annual Report and Accounts for 2016 [PDF] with interest. Despite the considerable challenges it faces [including the pensions nightmare], the organisation has been expanding its range of activities and looking to new users and new uses. I hope that the Brexit hard border, which I suspect is now unavoidable, doesn’t completely bugger things up.

If it does, we might need to ask Sinn Féin whether it can think of anyone who could help smuggle motor-cruisers across the border to enable boats to move between the Shannon and the Erne. Perhaps their day will come.

 

They haven’t gone away, you know ….

There we were, about to breathe a sigh of relief that the Clones Sheugh had been buried at the crossroads, with a stake through its heart and numerous rows of garlic planted around it, when a crack appeared in the earth and the shriek of the undead made the night hideous.

Yes, it seemed that the Minister for Fairytales had successfully diverted everyone’s attention away from Clones by (a) designating the River Finn as the Ulster Canal, which would lead to a scout camp at the spiritual home of Ulster Unionism rather than to Clones, and (b) supporting a greenway walking route to take care of the handsacrosstheborder bit (although ministers from up there seemed to be scarce at the launch. I suppose they’re scarce anyway).

The greenway seems like a better idea to me, given that it’s significantly cheaper than canal restoration and likely to attract far more users, although I wasn’t impressed by the economic assessment in Waterways Ireland’s Ulster Canal Greenway draft strategy document from April 2017 [PDF]. Here is the assessment in full:

6.2 Economic Assessment
Ultimately, the cost of developing a route will play a part in the decision-making process. It may be technically possible to overcome an obstacle, but the cost might make it unfeasible and a longer route chosen. All factors in the Greenway Strategy will be assessed and the most sustainable routes chosen.

That seems to suggest that the costs and benefits of the plan have been thought through with as much care and attention as Her Majesty’s Government over the way has given to Brexit. Which, I imagine, will put paid to much handsacrosstheborderism anyway; I hope it doesn’t put paid to Waterways Ireland as well, although it’s bound to increase the difficulties under which that body labours.

But revenons à nos moutons. Just when we thought it was safe to go out, the dead arose. Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said

Clones needs the Ulster Canal if it’s to have a viable tourism future.

Also from the report of the meeting:

A presentation at the meeting revealed that over 50 percent of buildings in Fermanagh Street in Clones are derelict.

Frustration at the lack of progress with the Ulster Canal was voiced, with representatives stating that it was on the agenda in 1999 and is still on it now.

Perhaps Clones has not got the message: the Ulster Canal is off the agenda. But there is a more fundamental problem: [some] small rural towns are dying because there is no longer any economic need for them. The scale of things has changed since the late nineteenth century; consumers can travel to Aldi and Lidl in larger towns; local markets and fairs are no longer how business is done.

Tourism is unlikely to rescue Clones: if it could do so, why isn’t the town already a tourist destination? Why aren’t its attractions well known throughout Germany and wherever else tourists come from? Enabling tourists to visit by water is not going to attract significant numbers from abroad: there are more scenic and interesting waterways elsewhere, in Ireland and on the continent. There would be a very poor return on the millions that a canal to Clones would cost — not helped by proposals for significant overpayment for land.

I still don’t understand why Sinn Féin is so keen on canals generally and the Clones Sheugh in particular. But Clones might find a new economic role as a post-Brexit smuggling centre.

 

Bloody Fianna Fáil …

… obviously didn’t get the memo. [They didn’t get the marriage equality memo either, thus losing one of their better people — who needs to update the banner under her photos.] But a nos moutons ….

According to Northern Sound, Monaghan County Council wants the Monaghan Minister for Fairytales, Heather Humphreys, to meet her Northern Ireland counterpart, the Minister for Marching Bands [and boxing clubs, football stadiums and various other things about which MLAs ask questions: they’re as bad as TDs], to do something about the Clones Sheugh.

I suspect this means that FF, and perhaps the citizens of Monaghan, have realised that, despite the Momentous Day on the Ulster Canal [oops: sorry; not that one, this one], the Clones Sheugh has been hijacked by Co Cavan and is not actually going to reach Co Monaghan in the foreseeable future [which means until the next round of election promises].

As far as I can see, the deal was that Sinn Féin would shut up about the Sheugh provided that they got photos of activity before the UKoGB&NI general election. By nicking the money from other navigations in WI’s budget, the Minister for Fairytales was able to deliver the photos. And, as far as Google Alerts can tell, there hasn’t been a word about the Sheugh from the Shinners, north or south, since then. Of course I could be wrong about the deal and, if both departments will send me their full files on the subject, I’ll be happy to use that evidence to correct the story.

Now, though, a Fianna Fáil councillor in Monaghan has

… put forward the motion requesting the Ministers to meet to advance the project and asking Sinn Féin and Fine Gael members of the council to arrange the meeting urgently.

I don’t suppose he’d be trying to embarrass the parties that made the deal, would he? [If they did make a deal, of course, which they may not have, but we won’t know until the departments send on their files.]

SF has 7 members on Monaghan County Council, FG 5, FF 4 and there are two non-party members.

Speaking of parties, or their aftermath, a thought struck me:

Ulster Canal 01 whole_resize

Fianna Fáil’s original conception for the Sheugh: bold, upstanding, thrusting …

Ulster Canal 04 whole_resize

The current plan: brewer’s droop