Tag Archives: Northern Ireland

Erne

As I understand it, the level of Lough Erne, and the occasional need to use its only lock, at Portora, are both determined by the operations of the Lough Erne hydroelectric scheme, although most of the lake, and the lock, are in Northern Ireland, while the hydroelectric stations, at Cliff and Cathaleen’s Fall, are both in the republic. The Erne scheme is less well known, and has been less often written about, than the Shannon scheme at Ardnacrusha, so it is good to note that two Ballyshannon men, Dessie Doyle and Brian Drummond, have written a book about the Erne scheme.

Unfortunately it is not clear from Messrs Lilliput Press’s website whether the book has already been published or is to appear some time in 2014. No publication date is given, but on the other hand it is not in the list of forthcoming books, but that list does not extend beyond November 2013. I would be glad to be able to carry reliable information, but I regret that I am unable to do so.

Sheughery

I wonder why Sinn Féin asks questions when it does. This one [h/t KildareStreet.com] seems to have been asked at a time that the minister might have welcomed.

Sandra McLellan [SF, Cork East]:

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding the Ulster Canal restoration project; the steps that must be taken to complete the project; the indicative timeline for the completion of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Jimmy Deenihan [FG, Kerry North/West Limerick] [the third para is the interesting one]:

As the Deputy will be aware, in July 2007 the North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) agreed to proceed with the restoration of the section of the Ulster Canal between Clones and Upper Lough Erne. The then Government agreed to cover the full capital costs of the project, which were estimated at that time to be of the order of €35m.

It was always the intention that the Ulster Canal project would be funded from the Waterways Ireland annual allocations, as agreed through the annual estimates processes in this jurisdiction, as well as the deliberations of NSMC in relation to annual budgets. It was a key consideration throughout the process that the Ulster Canal project would be supported by a significant level of projected income from the commercialisation of certain Waterways Ireland assets. However, the economic downturn has had a negative impact on those plans.

I am continuing to explore all possible options to advance this project within the current fiscal constraints. In this regard, I established an Inter-Agency Group on the Ulster Canal to explore ways to advance the project and to examine possible funding options for it, including existing funding streams and the leveraging of funding from other sources. The Inter-Agency Group last met on 9th October and will meet again next week, on 9th December.

In the meantime, the Ulster Canal project is progressing on an incremental basis. Planning approvals have now been received for the project in both jurisdictions. Compulsory Purchase Order land maps are in preparation and consideration is being given to how the construction work and other technical aspects of the project will be structured once the necessary lands have been secured. The timeline for completion of the project will be determined when these preparatory steps have been completed.

I welcome these developments, which, I am sure the Deputy will agree, are a significant milestone for the project.

Hmm. The inter-agency group first met on 20 September 2012 and its second meeting was to take place in May 2013 or thereabouts. Now it’s going much faster, with meetings on 9 October and today, 9 December. Does this suggest that the group has found a pot of gold? Is there any link to the cancellation of SEUPB funding for the Narrow Water project?

And what has been going on in (and around) the North/South Ministerial Council? At its June 2013 meeting the Council 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.

That suggests to me that there was either a major disagreement between the northern and southern ministers or a serious problem that rendered ministers unable to approve the WI budget and business plan until 18 months after the documents were required. Could it be that the northern minister, Carál Ní Chuilín [SF], like other NI politicians, had been looking for something from the waterways sector that hasn’t been delivered so far?

Note also that Jimmy Deenihan said

[…] consideration is being given to how the construction work and other technical aspects of the project will be structured once the necessary lands have been secured.

I understand that the design and construction of the Clones Sheugh was to be put out to tender but I wonder whether keeping the work in house might help WI to meet its increasing wage costs with a declining budget.

 

 

 

Hands across the water

Another bit of northsouthery seems to be crumbling around its proponents’ ears, according to a report in today’s Irish Times [which will disappear behind a paywall at some stage]. It seems that, in July, TPTB approved the spending of €18.3 million on a bridge at Narrowwater [or Narrow Water], upstream of Warrenpoint and downstream of Newry (and of Victoria Lock). However,

The leading bid has costed the bridge at over €30 million […].

I presume that inflation does not account for the 66% increase but I am surprised that the proponents’ estimate was so far off. Perhaps omitting the opening span (intended to cater for the small number of tall vessels that use the Ship Canal to visit Newry) would save a few quid.

There is a discussion of the bridge project here and some useful information here; there isn’t here, although you might expect it.

It is certainly true that anyone wanting to drive from, say, Greenore or Carlingford to, say, Kilkeel or even Warrenpoint faces a long drive around Carlingford Lough. What is not clear to me is whether very many people want to do that: I haven’t investigated the matter, so I don’t know, but the main north/south traffic passes to the west and there are crossings at Newry.

A ferry service might be cheaper; it might also allow the real strength of demand to be gauged. Ferry terminals might be constructed by the local authorities and leased to an operating company.

And the service would probably be more useful than the Clones Sheugh: I see that yet another member of Sinn Féin got to ask about that in the Dáil recently, as did a Fianna Fáil chap from the area; they elicited the standard answer. The minister may be hoping that the cost estimates for the sheugh are more robust than those for the Narrowwater bridge.

DCAL

I have been searching the website of Northern Ireland’s Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure [DCAL to its friends] for the minutes of the meetings of its departmental board. Unfortunately I have not been able to find any link to them on the site. The site search engine will find them, but in an unpredictable order. It may be best, therefore, to use these terms in your favourite web search engine:

dcalni “departmental board meeting”

The most recent minutes I found were those for January 2013.

I can’t find anything similar for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, alas.

Clever chaps …

those Danes and Belfast folk at Harland and Wolff (which is on the Lagan, so this is of inland waterways interest).

More Northern Ireland engineering ingenuity here.

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.

 

WI commercial operating licences

It’s getting hard to keep up with the amount of new regulatory information Waterways Ireland is producing (not that I’m complaining: it’s good that (a) systems exist and (b) information be made public). Today it has put up a page about commercial operating licences with downloadable PDFs for new applicants and for renewals.

WI says that

Waterways Ireland will give consideration to applications for permission to carry on commercial  operations on the waterways which would serve to encourage their use and contribute towards a vibrant waterway environment.

But getting a new licence is not easy. As well as describing the proposed business, you have to have registered the boat with WI and got a Passenger Certificate for from the Marine Surveyor’s office of the Department of Transport (which ain’t easy). If you want to sell alcohol, you have to have a Passenger Vessel
Licence from the Revenue Commissioners.

You have to provide a copy of your insurance policy:

Waterways Ireland requires that vessels carrying passengers hold adequate levels of insurance and appropriately indemnifies [sic] Waterways Ireland […].

And after that you have to show that your business has a chance of surviving:

Waterways Ireland is required to satisfy itself of the financial and economic standing of entities with whom it proposes to contract. In order to make this assessment, please provide relevant information such as recent accounts or Business Plan (including resources, financing, programme for delivery, target market, etc.).

And you have to supply a current Tax Clearance Certificate.

It seems that folk without capital (including working capital) need not apply.

Avoid Lough Erne …

… in June 2013? Maybe they’re coming to commit corporate golf …. I presume there will be hot and cold running security men, missiles, helicopters, gunboats ….

 

Thon Strabane sheugh

[I’m practising Ulster Scots in a spirit of parity of esteem and such.]

I wrote the other day about a Sinn Féin campaign to have the Strabane Canal foisted upon the unfortunate Waterways Ireland (as though it didn’t have enough trouble already, what with smooth newts and mooring permits).

I once went looking for the Strabane Canal but I couldn’t find it (and wasn’t allowed to spend enough time searching). I don’t know that area at all, so I thought it would be useful to send a drone [well, actually, I used Google Maps in Photos view] to capture an aerial view of the Foyle. I was particularly interested in the likely demand for the Strabane Canal and I thought the number of pleasure craft on the Foyle might be a useful indicator.

This might be the Google view of the downstream lock on the canal.

So I flew the Googledrone down one bank from Strabane to the sea, crossed the mouth of the estuary and came back on the far side. And as far as I can see, there are very few pleasure boats on the Foyle. Londonderry Port and Harbour Commissioners have a small marina in Stroke City, Lough Foyle Yacht Club races dinghies and Foyle Punts from Culmore Point and there is a port at Greencastle, but that seems to be about it. I saw no serried ranks of motor cruisers, narrowboats or barges parked anywhere. It is of course possible that I missed them in my flyover, but where are the boats to come from to sue the Strabane Canal?

Sinn Féin and the Clones Sheugh

Northern Ireland Assembly debate 6 November 2012, via TheyWorkForYou.com:

Phil Flanagan (Sinn Féin): […] Will the Minister provide an update on the restoration of the Ulster canal from Clones to Upper Lough Erne?

Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin): As I said, there was a presentation on the issue at the North/South interparliamentary forum, and the planning processes are up and running. I understand that, on the Cavan side of the border, it has been successfully concluded. There is still some work to do on this side. Everyone realises, from a tourism point of view, that this is filled with all sorts of potential for us, particularly in the context not only of whatever construction jobs will be created by the project but of the prospects for utilising our waterways in a way that can bring employment to local communities.

For “everyone” read “everyone except irishwaterwayshistory.com and a few other sane people”.