Tag Archives: Monaghan

UK considers business case for investing in Ireland [updated]

DCAL, the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, is still considering investing in the Clones Sheugh, as the Northern Ireland Assembly heard on 27 May 2014 [h/t TheyWorkForYou.com]:

Dolores Kelly [SDLP] asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure how many business cases are with her Department and awaiting a decision.

Carál Ní Chuilín [SF; Minister]: I thank the Member for her question. DCAL is considering five business cases. They are at various stages, and my officials are continuing to work with the relevant organisations to ensure that each case is of sufficient quality to facilitate a timely decision on the investment of public funds.

In addition, DCAL has provided feedback on two further business cases and is awaiting the submission of revised drafts. Work is also ongoing in the Department on the development of a further four business cases for projects that we hope to progress in the near future.

Dolores Kelly: I thank the Minister for her answer. I take it that there are nine business cases in total: the five plus the four. Will she give us a flavour of the business cases, the impact on the budget and whether the spend will be met? Indeed, what does that mean if some are to be spent within the school term timetable?

Carál Ní Chuilín: I am not sure about the school term timetable; I am going by own timetable. As for the flavour of the business cases, although there are nine cases today, I could go in next week, and there could be a further two. That is the nature of the progression, which is good because it means that we are moving in the right direction.

We are looking at the refurbishment of Coleraine library at a cost of over £2 million; the Arts Council gifting of musical instruments at almost £60,000; Tollymore National Outdoor Centre at almost £2·5 million; Dungiven sports provision; Omagh Riding for the Disabled Association; the Ulster canal; T: BUC; and the strategic outline business cases for the subregional stadia programmes.

I have asked for a copy of the Ulster Canal business case, although it is not clear whether it has yet been completed.

Update

DCAL says:

Thank you for your email on 30th May 2014 to DCAL Communications Office requesting a copy of the business case for the Ulster Canal.

Your request is being treated as a Access to Information request and will be handled under either Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

As per either legislation, you should receive a response from the Department on or before 27 June 2014.

Please use reference number DCAL/2014-0292 on any further correspondence relating to this request.

Well I never.

 

The Armagh Canal

Another unbuilt canal mentioned by the indefatigable Mr Atkinson.

A proposal for making a canal from the city of Armagh to the river Blackwater, near the town of Moy

In order to shew, that carrying into effect the annexed sketch of a line [alas not annexed to the Google scan of Atkinson’s book], for opening a navigable communication from Armagh to the river Blackwater, would be a work of public utility, the following reasons are most respectfully submitted to the Right Honourable and Honourable the Committee of the House of Commons.

From Armagh, being the most considerable market in the kingdom for the sale of brown linens, the manufacture of that staple article is carried on to a very great extent in its neighbourhood; but this manufacture is in danger of being most materially injured, from the great scarcity of fuel, which is such as to oblige the opulent inhabitants to use English coal, at a great expense of land carriage; and they have latterly, at inclement seasons, been under the necessity of subscribing large sums, to procure that article at a low price for the poor, to prevent them from perishing.

Should a navigation be opened from Lough Neagh it would give the means of a supply of turf from the extensive bogs in the neighbourhood of the lake, would open a communication with the collieries at Coal island, in the county of Tyrone, and bring English or Scotch coal at considerably under the prices at which they can now be procured.

An extensive trade in general articles of merchandise being carried on from Armagh, not only to its own neighbourhood, but to a considerable part of the counties of Monaghan and Tyrone, by opening a navigation through Lough Neagh to the ports of Belfast and Newry, this trade would be very considerably extended, to the great advantage of Armagh, and all those places to which its trade extends, and would tend much to improve the public revenue.

To the great number of bleach-greens and flour mills in the neighbourhood of Armagh, water carriage would be of the highest importance, as well for the conveyance of bleaching stuffs, coals, grain, and flour, as of timber, slates, and other heavy articles, used in erecting and repairing the necessary buildings, machinery, &c.

In a large tract of country, from Blackwater town to Lough Neagh, and from thence up the river Bann, and along the canal to Newry (an extent of nearly 30 miles), there is no limestone whatever; so that lime can only be procured by land carriage from a distance of several miles, which prevents its being at all used in that important national object — agriculture.

Was a canal opened from Armagh, it must necessarily go through the lands in that vicinity, containing inexhaustible quantities of limestone, which could be conveyed by boats returning from Armagh, at a very inconsiderable expense, to all that part of the county above mentioned.

The cut, as laid down in the plan, would extend about five and a half miles; and according to the estimate, would, when completed, cost from £18,000 to £20,000, about one-third of which could be raised by subscription.

To keep the works in repair, and pay interest to the subscribers, would require a toll of about sixpence per ton on all boats carrying coals, or any other species of merchandise; but boats laden merely with turf or limestone might be charged only twopence per ton.

The number of horses constantly employed in bringing coals, turf, and other necessaries, to Armagh, amount to some hundreds; two-thirds of these would, from a canal, become unnecessary, and consequently make a saving to the country of their keeping, attendance, &c to a very large amount.

Should the Armagh navigation be carried into execution, it would be necessary to give the commissioners of it a power of laying on a very small toll on vessels coming into the Blackwater from Lough Neagh, to enable them to clear, and keep in order, a cut which was made many years ago (as marked in the plan), to avoid a sand bank in the mouth of the river Blackwater.

 

Armagh, Moy and Lough Neagh

Armagh, Moy and Lough Neagh

A Atkinson Esq (late of Dublin) Ireland exhibited to England, in a political and moral survey of her population, and in a statistical and scenographic tour of certain districts; comprehending specimens of her colonisation, natural history and antiquities, arts, sciences, and commerce, customs, character, and manners, seats, scenes and sea views. Violent inequalities in her political and social system, the true source of her disorders. Plan for softening down those inequalities, and for uniting all classes of the people in one civil association for the improvement of their country. With a letter to the members of His Majesty’s Government on the state of Ireland Vol II Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, London 1823.

The Armagh canal document, bearing a date of June 20th 1800, is also included in Rev John Dubourdieu Statistical Survey of the County of Antrim, with observations on the means of improvement; drawn up for the consideration, and by direction of The Dublin Society Dublin 1812 [Google scan, again sketchless] but is not, oddly, mentioned in Sir Charles Coote Bart Statistical survey of the County of Armagh: with observations on the means of improvement; drawn up in the years 1802, and 1803, for the consideration, and under the direction of the Dublin Society Dublin 1804 [at archive.org here], although Coote does say of Newry

A canal has been in contemplation, to be cut from this town to Armagh, and an iron road is also talked of, but there has been no decision in either cases.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

The Dublin to Lough Neagh Canal

Here’s another lunatic canal proposal: one I hadn’t come across before.

Proposal for making a line of navigation from Dublin to Lough Neagh

It is proposed by several noblemen and gentlemen of the county of Meath, and of the manufacturing counties of the north of Ireland, the river Boyne company, with several merchants of the city of Dublin and of the commercial towns of the north, to complete, by private subscription, together with such aid as parliament may be pleased to grant, a navigable canal, from the royal canal at Blanchardstown, near Castleknock, in the county of Dublin, to Navan, Kells, Balieborough, Monaghan, Armagh, and Lough Neagh.

The object of this undertaking is to open a direct intercourse between the metropolis and the manufacturing towns of the north; and it is conceived, by the proposers for this undertaking, that a canal, large enough to navigate twenty-five ton boats on, would answer the trade; and in consequence of many locks being already made, rising from the city of Dublin to Castleknock, they think such a canal could be carried on very cheaply from thence to Navan, where another ascent takes place, through the locks of the Boyne navigation to the level of the town of Kells, and the river Blackwater, at Glevin’s bridge, three miles north of that town.

Claven's Bridge over the Blackwater near Kells

Claven’s Bridge over the Blackwater near Kells

My OSI logo and permit number for website

The country northward appears so fit for inland navigation, that no doubt can be entertained of being able to cut cheap canals through it. It is therefore most humbly hoped, if a line for a canal in this direction should be found to answer the expectation, that parliament will be pleased to allow the undertaking to become a part of the intended system of inland navigation of Ireland, and to a share of whatever bounty parliament may grant to accomplish the same.

The advantages that would arise to the nation from this undertaking, are too obvious to take up the time of this honourable house with any comment upon them.

A Atkinson Esq (late of Dublin) Ireland exhibited to England, in a political and moral survey of her population, and in a statistical and scenographic tour of certain districts; comprehending specimens of her colonisation, natural history and antiquities, arts, sciences, and commerce, customs, character, and manners, seats, scenes and sea views. Violent inequalities in her political and social system, the true source of her disorders. Plan for softening down those inequalities, and for uniting all classes of the people in one civil association for the improvement of their country. With a letter to the members of His Majesty’s Government on the state of Ireland Vol II Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, London 1823

FF -v- SF on C18 economic development

More from the splendid KildareStreet.com, this time an actual Dáil debate, with real people speaking, on 30 May 2013. The debate was initiated by Micheál Martin [head honcho in FF, Cork South Central], who asked the minister …

… his plans for capital investment in Waterways Ireland in the coming year; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

There are three odd aspects to that question.

The first is that Micheál Martin should already know that the capital expenditure allocation for WI within RoI for 2013 is €4 071 000: I can understand that he wouldn’t have wanted to plough through the vast wodges of budgetary bumpf, but I’m sure he would have read the highlights on this site.

The second oddity is that Micheál Martin must have known that the minister would not himself have any plans for capital expenditure: they would be WI’s plans.

The third oddity is that FF didn’t seem to have any particular reason for asking this question: the rest of the debate (see below) seems rather desultory. Could it be that it’s trying to reclaim the waterways limelight from the Shinners, who’ve been keeping an eye on WI dredging as well as on thon sheugh?

To be honest, it all seems a bit pointless: waterways may be interesting to me, and presumably to readers of this site, but they’re hardly of great national importance. A serious debate, by informed participants, might be useful, but (with all due respect to the contributors) there was little sign of that here.

Jimmy Deenihan did actually give some interesting, albeit minor, details about WI’s plans for this year. I omit the first two paras and the last, which are boring boilerplate bumpf that will be familiar to regular readers.

Jimmy Deenihan [FG, Kerry North/West Limerick]: While the Waterways Ireland 2013 business plan and budget is the subject of ongoing discussions with the co-sponsoring Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland and will require formal approval by the North-South Ministerial Council, I have provided an indicative funding allocation of €4.071 million to Waterways Ireland for capital projects in this jurisdiction in the coming year. This will facilitate capital works by Waterways Ireland in developing, restoring and improving infrastructure for water based and activity recreation and tourism, consolidating facilitates and improving access to the waterways across the navigations.

I am advised that the Waterways Ireland draft 2013 business plan has a development schedule providing for 1354 m of additional moorings across the navigations. Works planned within this jurisdiction include a range of major projects such as upgrading Bagenalstown Lock on the Barrow; provision of a slipway and stabilisation of the dock walls at Grand Canal Dock, dredging the Grand Canal; development of houseboat facilities at Lowtown and Sallins; lifting the bridge at Tullamore depot; bridge upgrades, works on weirs and locks on the Shannon; and commencement of work on the Belturbet Service Block on the Shannon Erne and purchase of plant and machinery.

I said that I would welcome information about what “lifting the bridge at Tullamore depot” means. The answer was provided in the Comments below; here is a photo of the bridge in question.

The (currently non-lifting) lifting bridge at Tullamore

The (currently non-lifting) lifting bridge at Tullamore

 

Most of the rest is unsurprising.

The FF follow-up came from Seán Ó Fearghaíl [FF, Kildare South], who said:

I welcome the many positive developments to which the Minister referred but one of our concerns is that since 2011 the funding available for Waterways Ireland has been cut from €35 million to approximately €32 million.

Studies over the years have shown that waterways tourism is one of the activities that is most likely to generate return visits. As a regular user of places like the Shannon Navigation, one never ceases to be amazed at the number of non-nationals one meets on that waterway who have been coming back to Ireland year in, year out. I wonder to what extent the funding the Minister has available to him should be augmented by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. These waterways are of immense value to the local populations privileged to live in the catchment area of each amenity, along with their huge tourism importance. What sort of interaction does the Minister have with tourism bodies north of the Border and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport? Is anything planned for the waterways under the auspices of The Gathering?

What has happened in Kildare this week? We had Bernard Durkan [FG, Kildare North] the other day and Clare Daly [Socialist Party, Dublin North, but originally from Newbridge, Co Kildare] a moment ago; now we have a new chap from Kildare South.

Anyway, it can’t have come as any surprise to Mr Ó Fearghaíl that WI’s budget has been cut: so has everybody else’s, and the budgets were announced last December. I note that he didn’t ask how the Clones Sheugh was to be funded, never mind the Cavan Sheugh to Lough Oughter. But his question is the sort that a journalist might ask: vague, unfocused, couched in generalities, lacking in evidence of research into the subject. I would like to know more about his “Studies over the years”, with particular reference to the balance between and the allocation of the costs and benefits of investment in waterways; generating return visits is not in itself terribly useful (I really do not want Great Aunt Maud here again).

Not that the minister offered many hard facts in his reply:

I have seen for myself the provision of moorings at Killaloe and Ballina. Those have made a major difference to both towns in different counties on either side of the Shannon. The result of that investment is obvious and local people would accept that.

As regards involvement from Fáilte Ireland, Waterways Ireland is augmenting Fáilte Ireland’s promotion of the waterways. Waterways Ireland is providing funding on an annual basis for the promotion of tourism on its waterways. It is a North-South body, which is also very important, because Tourism Ireland promotes the entire island and the waterways network of more than 1,000 navigable kilometres can really be pushed on an all-island basis and we are doing that. I have tried to minimise the reduction in funding for Waterways Ireland because of its North-South significance and its potential and considerable work has been done. We have improved facilities for tourists so we are now ready to proactively promote this great facility.

Any, like, figures? Statistics? References to analyses? How much of WI’s budget is being diverted to the tourism bods and what is the benefit?

Next (and last) up was Peadar Tóibín [SF, Meath West], with “now for something completely different“:

A number of groups are actively trying to create a green way along the Boyne from the estuary to its source. The Boyne is littered with internationally recognised heritage monuments and would be a fantastic tourist attraction that would bring people into the region. People who holiday in the region visit Trim Castle and Newgrange on coach trips and as ar result Meath does not get the full value of their tourism. The Boyne Canal runs from Navan to Drogheda. It is not covered by the Waterways Ireland network. Would the Minister agree that such a canal should be brought within the ambit of Waterways Ireland, along with other canals, and would he consider the funds that might be available to help with the development of such a green way along the River Boyne?

The minister’s reply is interesting:

We have no plans to extend the present 1,000 kilometres of navigable waterways. The focus of our investment in capital development will be from Clones to Lough Erne to the value of €35 million.

What? No Cavan Sheugh? No Kilbeggan, Longford or Mountmellick Branch?

Oh, and note that the figure of €35 million is being quoted for the Clones Sheugh, although the last estimate I had form WI was higher than that.

The minister continued:

As regards the green way, I do not have direct responsibility but any way I can help through Waterways Ireland, I will do so. As a keen cyclist and walker, I am all for encouraging green ways wherever possible. If the Deputy has a proposal I can forward to Waterways Ireland for discussion, I will gladly take it.

Well, well. A Monaghan greenway is being developed; why not a Clones greenway too, instead of an expensive canal?

Sinn Féin wants taxpayers’ money for Clones sheugh

The Impartial Reporter reports (impartially) that “Councillors press for Ulster Canal funding to be released”. The two councillors quoted are Thomas O’Reilly of Fermanagh District Council and Pat Treanor of Monaghan County Council. Both are members of Sinn Féin.

Cllr Treanor is quoted as saying “Once the Government release the funding ….” Cllr Treanor seems to have missed the point that “the funding” does not exist: the [RoI] government has not got the money and, as I have pointed out here many times, no money was set aside for the Ulster Canal. He says that …

… we would in the interim call upon all living in the local community, from Derrykerrib to Clones to begin to think about taking advantage of the obvious business opportunities that this reopening will bring.

If the members of the local community have any money, they might be better advised to invest it in Swiss bank accounts. Or even Bitcoins.

A note for a councillor

Councillor Pat Treanor is a Sinn Féin member of Monaghan County Council. According to the Clones Regeneration Partnership’s website,

Cllr Treanor referred to the recent economic appraisals carried out by Fitzpatrick Associates on behalf of the Government and made reference to the large job creation and physical regeneration that would flow from the [Clones] canal proposal.

As far as I know, the most recent Fitzpatrick study was published in 2007. It said (Ch 10):

In terms of formal quantified economic appraisal, all restoration options involve significant net costs over benefits.

In other words, the Clones canal is a waste of money.

Clones folk might like to have a large wodge of public money spent in their area; Waterways Ireland might like to be able to keep engineers in employment. But neither of those wishes should weigh with those charged with the care of the state’s finances. If proposals like this are seriously considered by Irish government departments, then the sooner Angela Merkel appoints an official to run the place, the better.

Perhaps, though, a household tax in Monaghan could be used to pay for this, er, investment?

 

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.

Buried at the crossroads …

… but without a stake through its heart. The Ulster Canal is dead, but it’s spinning in its grave. Its parent department has admitted some of the truth about its funding, but Waterways Ireland will be applying for planning permission for the scheme: there’s enough money for that, but not for digging. Nonetheless, Fine Gael TDs have managed to distract attention from the absence of funding by pointing to the planning application, while Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil have not realised that a scheme’s benefits should outweigh its costs. Return of the Son of the Ghost of the Bride of the Ulster Canal on view here.

RVRC

It is necessary to draw public attention to a lamentable case of discrimination in Irish public policy and to announce the formation of a group to combat that discrimination and to ensure equal treatment for all.

Suppose you like travelling around Ireland in a white plastic whatsit. You need places to park, preferably free, with something nice to look at. You need services like toilets, showers, water and rubbish bins. You like to park close to fellow travellers and to meet them, perhaps for a barbie and some beer.

Your whatsit is well equipped with television and other entertainment; indeed the general standard of furnishing and equipment is very high. You can even carry toys — perhaps a dinghy and some bicycles — around with you, for some fresh air and exercise when you’ve reached a suitable place.

If your white plastic whatsit floats in water, you have the services of a cross-border implementation body, Waterways Ireland, spending millions (and charging practically nothing) on your leisure activities. You have government departments north and south looking after you, with the southern department keen to spend money borrowed from Germany on providing you with more places to go. And you have all sorts of other free services, like Coastguard and lifeboats, to help you out.

White plastic whatsits at Portumna Castle Harbour

If your white plastic whatsit has wheels, though, you are a pariah. You have no cross-border boy, no government departments, no free services, although your needs are the same as those of your boating brethren.

So owners of RVs (recreational vehicles, camper-vans, what you will) are forced to sneak in to Waterways Ireland harbours and to park inconspicuously along the edges. The best place to park is usually indicated by a sign.

Sign showing where to park at Killaloe

Parked beside Killaloe market

RVRC, the Recreational Vehicle Rights Campaign, seeks an end to this discrimination. We seek the provision of free facilities for camper-vans. We want a cross-border body of our own, RVways Ireland.

We have adopted Dana Lyons’s song RV as our anthem; you can listen to it free here (and while you’re at it see the animations of his best-known song here).

The Clones Canal

And this brings us, by a commodius vicus of recirculation, to Clones and the Craggy Island Canal. Boaters may like to see themselves as hardy mariners, sons of the sea who happen to be confined to inland waters, but economically they’re very similar to RVers. Many of them are older couples but some travel with children. They like going for weekends away; they need certain facilities; they don’t use hotels, B&Bs or other accommodation. They have enough equipment and supplies to prepare their own meals, but they do some shopping and may go to the pub or have a meal out.

As potential bringers of wealth, RVers have some advantages over boaters. You don’t have to spend €35 million to get them to your town; they are more mobile, so they’re not confined to a single site in the town; they can even park some distance outside and still get to the shops, pubs and restaurants. And RVers are hardy souls: in late February 2011 there was not a single boat in Portumna Castle Harbour but there were four RVs.

RVs in Portumna in February

So, given that Clones is an attractive destination, why is the Regeneration Partnership not now trying to attract camper-vans (and indeed campers and caravanners)? According to Discover Ireland, there is no caravan or camping site in Co Monaghan (although there could be sites whereof Discover Ireland is ignorant).

There are two points to this query. The first is that Clones could be doing something now to attract visitors, without waiting for Craggy Island to come up with €35 million. The second is that (assuming the blasted thing is ever built), after the excitement of having a canal dies down, Clones will have to do things to attract visitors. So why not start now?

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.

Summary

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.