Tag Archives: North South Ministerial Council

O say can you see …

… any sign of the next North South Ministerial Council inland waterways meeting? I’m interested because (apart from exciting news about the Clones Sheugh) it might announce the appointment of the new CEO of Waterways Ireland. The communiqué issued after the last meeting said the next would be in summer 2013 (assuming there is one).

I asked the press offices of Waterways Ireland, the Council itself and the two departments (DAHG and DCAL) but nobody has responded. I don’t know why the dates of meetings should be kept secret.

Incidentally, I can see the search terms that visitors to this site have used. Over the past week there have been several searches that included the term “waterways ireland” plus the name of a senior WI manager. Two such managers were sought; Google gives almost 1000 returns for one of them but less than fifty for the other.

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?

Northsouthery 121212

The North/South Ministerial Council reports here [PDF] on the most recent inland waterways meeting, which was held on 121212. Not much happened (or at least not much that is being revealed to the citizens and subjects). Sponsor departments are to think about having a board; there is still no money for the Clones Sheugh but an interagency groups is to find some [hint: look under the end of a rainbow] and it was John Martin’s last appearance as he will be retiring in March and the search for a new CEO has a process (which is important).

The interesting bit is that WI is to transfer some property at Harvey’s Quay, Limerick, to Limerick City Council, which is making a boardwalk. And something similar is happening in Tullamore. You’re nobody nowadays unless you have a boardwalk; their usefulness in Irish weather is not proven.

Finally, I noted a certain modesty in WI’s aims for 2013, no doubt in keeping with the tenor of the times:

Ministers discussed the main priorities for Waterways Ireland in 2013 and noted progress on the 2013 Business Plan and Budget. The priorities for 2013 include:

• ensure the navigations are open and all existing facilities operational during the main boating season from April to October
• to actively promote the waterways to extend and expand recreational use of the waterways in all its forms.

 

Waterways Ireland asset disposals

I was interested in Waterways Ireland’s programme for disposal of assets. I wrote asking for:

  • a list and details of the assets disposed of since 1 January 2010, including the amounts realised. I said that I was particularly interested in disposals of land and built assets (as opposed, say, to old machinery)
  • a list and details of the assets planned to be disposed of between the date of my enquiry and 31 December 2012
  • an account of the uses to which the funds realised have been, are being or will be put
  • a list of land and built assets being leased or rented out by Waterways Ireland.

I had mentioned some of these disposals here when the North/South Ministerial Council [NSMC] approved them, but I had no information on their value.

WI very kindly provided the information; it’s easier to deal with it in reverse order.

Land and built assets being leased or rented out

WI said:

Waterways Ireland currently leases a total of 233 properties, comprising (1) land, (2) buildings and (3) land and buildings. Of these properties, 121 are on the Grand Canal, 50 on the Royal Canal, 3 on the Barrow Navigation, 2 on the Lower Bann Navigation, 2 on the Shannon Erne Waterway and 55 on the Shannon Navigation. The compilation of the full list will take some time due to pressure of work coming up to the end of year. However, if there are specific areas, navigations or regions of particular interest, every effort will be made to provide the information as quickly as possible.

That’s quite a lot of leases, so I said that I was happy to wait.

The application of funds

WI said:

The funds raised are principally used for capital works in the relevant jurisdiction.

So if something is sold in NI, the money is used there. That is consonant with WI’s funding arrangements for capital projects (other than the Clones Sheugh). As far as I can see, all the property disposed of was in the republic.

Note that the disposals (rightly) do not go to supplement grant income for current expenditure.

Disposals 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2012

WI very kindly sent me an Excel file listing the disposals, only one of which fell into the category covered by my second question (planned to be disposed of between the date of my enquiry and 31 December 2012), so I’m dealing with both questions under one heading. WI said:

The 2010 & 2011 figures have been extracted from Waterways Ireland’s Audited Accounts and represent the Gross amount received i.e. before costs. The 2012 figures have not yet been audited.

The first point to be made is that the total value of property disposals over three years was only €529,557.19: a little over half a million euro in the context of capital expenditure for the three years of about €30,000,000: €21m in 2010 and €5m in 2011, according to WI’s annual accounts, and an amount slightly smaller than 2011’s budgeted for in 2012. So the asset disposals are not very important in WI’s overall capital spending.

disposals to public bodies

Several of the disposals were to other public bodies, allowing them (I imagine) to build bridges, lay pipes and so on. There may also (I imagine) have been disposals of small parcels of land that WI didn’t need but the other body could use. Here are the disposals that seem to fall into that category:

  • Long Lease of Property at Ballyconnell to Cavan County Council: €18,100.00
  • Long Lease of Property at Reilly’s Bridge, Dublin to Iarnrod Eireann: €23,000. This was, I think, what the NSMC called “granting of a 99 year lease to Córas Iompair Éireann for the proposed construction of a road bridge, crossing the Royal Canal at Ratoath Road, Dublin”
  • Long Lease of Property at Lesson Street, Dublin to Dublin City Council: €5,100.00. This may have been what allowed the Council to bury utility ducts under the towpath
  • Long Lease of Lands at Tullamore re: N52: €25,000.00
  • Grant of Easement at Ballygoran to Kildare County Council: €7,500. This may have been to allow Kildare County Council to run water pipes across the Royal Canal near Pike Bridge
  • Long Lease of Lands at Kilkenny re: N9/N10: €41,791.50
  • Long Lease of Lands at Fingal re: M50/N3: €48,582.62.

There was also a Grant of Right of Way at Ballyleague, Co. Roscommon (presumably at WI’s harbour on the west of the Shannon, opposite Lanesborough) for €5,000. No further information is provided but this looks like another pro forma grant of access, perhaps to the local authority. If you know more, please leave a Comment below.

Delwood

Delwood Park is in Castleknock, Dublin 15, and part of it backs on to the Royal Canal. Delwood Close is east of Delwood Park and runs towards the canal.

In 2010/11 WI sold “two parcels of land at Delwood Close, Castleknock” for €60,000 and in 2012 it sold “9 Plots to rear of Delwood Park, Castleknock” for €36,000. I don’t know who bought them so I don’t know whether the residents were extending their gardens or Iarnród Éireann wanted to build a new platform or provide a bridge over the canal from Delwood to the railway …. Local info welcome.

In the bogs

In 2010/11 WI sold property at Ferbane, Co Offaly, on the Grand Canal, for €100.00. In 2012 it sold three properties at Derrycooley, south of Pollagh, which is also on the Grand Canal, for €587.00, 750.00 and €750.00 respectively, and it expects to sell property at Pollagh for €6,750.00 before the end of 2012. That’s a total of less than €9,000.00. I don’t know what land this is, or why WI owns it, but at the prices I suspect it’s bog. Could it have been associated with Turraun?

The rest

The lowest price achieved was for “Long Lease of Property at Lough Ree”, which earned “No Premium”, which I take it means that there was no charge. I don’t know what property that was for; did WI support any charitable or similarly worthy endeavour on Lough Ree in 2012?

The highest price was €150,000.00 for “Sale of Freehold Interest of Property in Salins, Co. Kildare”. Again, I would welcome information on the property. In fact, that applies to all of these, so I won’t repeat it.

The second highest price was €87,500.00 for “Sale of Lots at Derrymullen, Robertstown, Co. Kildare”, which is where Lowtown is. And the final two were €19,046.07 for “Sale of Lands at Albert Lough [presumably that should be Lock], Drumsna” and €19,000 for “Sale of Freehold Interest in Properties at Dolphins Barn, Dublin”, which may have been land underlying the two harbours formerly to be found there.

Dolphin's Barn

Dolphin’s Barn

My OSI logo and permit number for websiteWasn’t that fun?

 

All sheugh up

Thinking about the exciting news from the North South Ministerial Council plenary session about the Clones Sheugh, I was reminded of the even more exciting news of the first meeting of the North/South Inter-parliamentary Association.

Strangely, its meeting received little publicity in the great world. I asked Messrs Google to search for it but to omit links from the Oireachtas and the Northern Ireland Assembly, as well as those from politicus.org and flickr.com. It found only 42 hits, of which the first seven were links to the site of a Labour senator called Mary Moran. (I won’t provide a link to her site as she’s obviously perfectly capable of generating all the links she wants.)

Anyway, the first meeting of the North/South Inter-parliamentary Association seems to have passed almost unnoticed. You can read about it on InsideIreland.ie, which seems to be a news site run by an advertising agency.

From Ciarán Hanna’s account, I deduce that the North/South Inter-parliamentary Association is an entirely pointless body. I note that it won’t meet again until April 2013. And perhaps the Irish government’s support for the Clones Sheugh is because it gives this pointless body something to discuss, thus keeping it from commenting on anything important.

Public sector cutbacks

The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, which is ultimately in charge of waterways, has published an organisation chart [one-page PDF]. It shows that the department has a minister and a minister of state and a secretary general.

At the next level down there are five main divisions:

  • Corporate Affairs
  • Arts, Film, Music, Cultural Institutions
  • Heritage
  • Gaeilge, Gaeltacht & Islands
  • Central Translation Unit & Placenames.

Each of the first three is headed by an assistant secretary; the fourth has a Director of Irish and the fifth a plain director. The department is spread between offices in Galway, Killarney, Wexford and four locations in Dublin.

So where, I hear you ask, are waterways looked after? We have to come down to the next level, the principal officers, to find out. And there, we find that Corporate Affairs has three POs, one of whom is responsible for

HR, Strategic Planning, Corporate Governance, N/S Co-ordination & Waterways Irl.

That’s quite a lot of things for one person to be responsible for.

 

Progress is progressing on the Ulster Canal (it says here)

The Joint Communiqué from the last Plenary Meeting of the North/South  Ministerial Council meeting (18 November 2011) can now be read or downloaded (PDF) from the NSMC website. It has much to say about the Ulster Canal:

Progress on the Ulster Canal is progressing incrementally with the planning process ongoing.

Er … right. That’s it, then. Progress is progressing, eh? Well, I never.

We’ve now had an Inland Waterways Sectoral Meeting (12 October 2011) and a Plenary Meeting, neither of which has said anything about how (or whether) the canal to Clones is to be funded. Why not? Shouldn’t they show us the money?

 

NSMC

The Irish Times says that there is to be a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council on Friday 18 November 2011, with the A5 road on the agenda. Perhaps there will be some news about how the proposed Clones Canal is to be funded.

No news is good news … perhaps

Extracts from the Joint Communiqué issued after the 11th Plenary Meeting of the North South Ministerial Council on 21 January 2011:

3. Ministers discussed a range of common challenges and shared views on the economy, the banks and NAMA. They recognised the constraints on budgets in both jurisdictions and the ongoing discussions between the two Finance Ministers to identify potential cost savings through co-operation and sharing were welcomed. There was a desire to maximise access to EU funding and
resources.

6. Ministers noted the Progress Report on the ten NSMC meetings which have been held since the last Plenary meeting in July 2010 and welcomed the mutually beneficial co-operation taken forward including that:

[…] The restoration of the Royal Canal to reconnect it to the Shannon has  been completed and a preferred route for the Clones to Upper Lough Erne section of the Ulster Canal has been identified.

No exciting announcement there, so the bulldozers have not yet been set rolling on the Clones Canal. Phew. Maybe we’ve had to choose between the canal to Clones and the road to Londonderry/Derry and the road has won ….