Tag Archives: Sinn Fein

Alice is at it again

Learned readers are no doubt familiar with Dame Felicity Lott‘s interpretation of the song Alice is at it again, wherein the nature of what Alice was actually at is left to the imagination of the listeners.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh [SF, Dublin South Central] and the Minister for Fairytales [FG, Drumlins/Stony Fields] have been performing a duet to something the same effect:

[AOS] To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps she is taking in conjunction with Waterways Ireland to bring to an end an issue that is occurring with increasing frequency (details supplied).

[MfF] I have been informed that Waterways Ireland technical staff recently visited the location in question to assess the situation referred to by the Deputy and to determine the options available to try to make the location referred to by the Deputy less attractive to such activities. Waterways Ireland is currently assessing these options and, subject to available funding, hope to be in a position to implement measures to improve matters, while ensuring that any changes do not negatively impact on the general public.

With regard to an immediate response to dealing with the specific issue raised by the Deputy, Waterways Ireland staff do not have enforcement powers to restrict this activity.

I and Waterways Ireland would encourage anyone who witnesses such activity to report the matter to An Garda Siochána.

So unspecified persons have been engaging in unspecified activities at an unspecified location.

And if we see them at it we should tell the police.

 

Thon Sheugh and WI’s budget

A Sinn Féin MLA, whose party colleague is one of two ministers responsible for Waterways Ireland, has expressed concern about WI’s financial position:

Phil Flanagan: Is the [North South Ministerial] Council aware of the stark financial difficulties facing Waterways Ireland as a result of not only sustained budget cuts but the currency fluctuation because of the weakened euro? Let me point out some of the figures: compared with 2013, the 2014 budget was down by €290,000; and, in 2015, it was down by €875,000, solely because of the weak euro. Was that matter discussed? What potential solutions may ensure that Waterways Ireland is returned to a sustainable financial footing?

I had not realised the extent of the problems caused by the euro.

Replying, Martin McGuinness — also Sinn Féin — said

The fluctuation of the euro was not discussed at the meeting.

Obviously, it does represent a serious challenge, given the fact that the euro has been very weak over recent times. I note that it has strengthened over recent days. Certainly, on foot of the Member highlighting this, we can give it further consideration.

Mr McGuinness went on to provide some information about Saunderson’s Sheugh (which we’re pretending is the Ulster Canal):

It is important to point out that the work of Waterways Ireland is nearing completion, including the dredging of the River Finn between Upper Lough Erne — that will be of interest to the Member — and Castle Saunderson as part of phase 1 of the restoration of the Ulster canal.

Design plans for the new bridge at Derrykerrib are also at an advanced stage. I understand that there are some contractual issues with the site that, combined with high water levels, have led to delays.

However, Waterways Ireland is working with local councils and other interested parties to secure EU funding under the INTERREG sustainable transport programme. The proposed greenway would run from Smithborough village to the Monaghan town greenway and on to Armagh. The point that the Member raised is important and will be considered by the Council.

Given that that was irrelevant to the question, I presume that Mr McG wanted to get this information on the record.

I would like to know more about the “contractual issues with the site”. I do hope they won’t mean that we miss getting photos of the northern and southern ministers, wearing yellow hard hats and lifejackets, claiming credit for the work. After all, there is an election coming up.

 

Managing the Shannon

Sometimes you have to wonder about politicians and their grasp of reality. Take, for instance, young Mr Adams, Sinn Féin TD for Louth. There he was in the Dáil the other day, talking about flooding on the Shannon, and saying (amongst other things):

No single agency is responsible for the management of the River Shannon. Will the Taoiseach give full responsibility to the OPW for management of the Shannon?

Can Mr Adams have forgotten that, under the Good Friday Agreement, a cross-border implementation body called Waterways Ireland, reporting jointly to the Minister for Fairytales in the republic and the Minister for Marching Bands [a Sinn Féin MLA] in Northern Ireland, is responsible for navigation on certain named waterways including the Shannon?

Giving the Office of Public Works full responsibility for the management of the Shannon would require renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement [and perhaps some later agreements]. I gather that the members of HM Devolved Administration in Northern Ireland delight in doing that sort of thing, but reducing the powers of the largest of the cross-border implementation bodies might not be wise.

 

 

Pollboy Lock

I mentioned some time ago that, according to its Business Plan 2015, Waterways Ireland was considering automating Pollboy Lock, on the River Suck to Ballinasloe, in order to save costs. Like other offshoots from the main Shannon Navigation [Killaloe to Lough Key], the Suck is relatively little used.

According to the Connacht Tribune, the automation is to proceed and the lockkeeper is to be reassigned. It seems that some local councillors and “business interests” — who do not, as far as I know, contribute to Waterways Ireland’s income — regret the loss of an ambassador for the town. The keeper, Mr Coyne, was indeed extremely helpful to visiting boaters.

However, he could help only those who arrived at his lock: he could do nothing to attract more boating visitors to the town. That is not in the least a criticism of him, but rather a suggestion that councillors and business interests might perhaps have done, or yet do, more to attract visitors and increase the usage of the splendid harbour in Ballinasloe. Perhaps they might even appoint and pay a town ambassador?

A Sinn Féin councillor quoted in the article seems not to be entirely familliar with the duties of lockkeepers. Furthermore, he does not take account of the fact that the Shannon–Erne Waterway succeeds without lockkeepers — or that it was proposed that the Clones Sheugh [not-the-Ulster-Canal] operate in the same way. Surely a Sinn Féin councillor is not suggesting that, without keepers, the Sheugh might not be the enormous success that his party purports to believe it would be?

PS: the Tribune also has a piece about rubbish at Castle Harbour, Portumna.

 

WI and the RoI budget for 2016

Budget documents [available here] include the Part IV Estimates for Public Services 2016 [PDF]. The Summary of Gross Expenditure (Capital and Current) by Ministerial Vote Group shows that the Department of Fairytales [aka Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht], RoI parent of Waterways Ireland, is to get an increase in its budget.

Its forecast outturn for 2015 matches its estimate for the year at €277,434,000, of which €215,854,000 is current and €61,580,000 is capital spending. However, the estimates for 2016 show €234,430,000 current + €76,000,000 capital = €310,430,000 total, an increase of €32,996,000. Current spending is up 8.6% and capital by 23.4%; total spending is up by 11.9%. Perhaps the extra €14,420,000 in capital spending is to extend Saunderson’s Sheugh to Clones?

Skipping the numerous tables that repeat more or less the same gen in different ways, and skipping too the unimportant government departments, we zoom forward to the details of the Department of Fairytales estimates.

But there we find, alas, that while the department as a whole has secured lots of extra lolly — and it’s going to be shovelling 18% more to the luvvies [Arts, Culture and Film], 11% more to heritage and 3% more to the BéalBochters — it intends to cut spending on North-South Cooperation, which is where Waterways Ireland gets its money.

The 2015 estimate for NSCoop current expenditure was €35,072,000; the 2016 estimate is €34,925,000, which is a cut of only about half of one per cent. But capital spending on NSCoop is down almost 20%, from €3,487,000 to €2,799,000, and total spending down 2% from €38,559,000 to €37,724,000.

The NSCoop figures are “subject to the North-South Ministerial Council”, which means that the (southern, Fine Gael) Minister for Fairytales has to persuade the (northern, Sinn Féin) Minister for Marching Bands that the cross-border language and waterways bodies aren’t getting any increase in their funding from the Free State, at least not while there is an election to be won. However, HM Devolved Administration didn’t seem too keen on allocating extra money to waterways last time I looked.

Regular readers will not need to be reminded that 85% of WI’s current budget is supplied by the RoI government and 15% by the NI administration, while capital expenditure is paid for by the state in which it occurs.

The estimates figures as shown don’t tell us the precise impact on Waterways Ireland’s current budget: the money is divided between WI and the language shamrock but the document doesn’t tell us which gets how much. [The last time a breakdown was given was in 2011, when WI got roughly 60% of the total.] However, most of the department’s NSCoop capital expenditure is undertaken by WI, and little or none of it by the language shamrock, so we can say that the 20% cut in NSCoop capital spending means a 20% cut in capital spending on waterways in the Free State.

The breakdown of the Multi-Annual Capital Investment Framework confirms that: in 2015 €3,368,000 of the €3,487,000 NSCoop capital budget (96.5%) went to WI, and in 2016 WI will get €2,680,000 of the €2,799,000 NSCoop capital budget (95.7%). I imagine that the language folk prefer sitting i dtóin an tí and don’t want fancy buildings.

WI’s capital budget for RoI is down from €11,000,000 in 2008.

According to the Multi-Annual Capital Investment Framework 2016 to 2021 (Table 1), the Department of Fairytales as a whole is getting an unusually large amount, €76,000,000, of Exchequer Capital Funding in 2016; the total is to fall back to €45 million in 2017 and €43 million in 2018, before rising to €46 million in each of the years 2018, 2020 and 2021. So, in a year in which the department is getting much more money for capital spending, NSCoop and, specifically, waterways are getting significantly less.

Looking at the breakdown (Table 2), it seems that the big changes in the department’s capital spending are:

  • a major cut in the grant-in-aid to the Crawford Gallery (€12,100,000 to €6,100,000)
  • cuts of €1,312,000 to the National Parks and Wildlife Service and €1,000,000 to Údarás na Gaeltachta
  • a cut of €688,000 to WI
  • an extra €1,150,000 for Teach an Phiarsaigh under the Decade of Centenaries heading
  • a new thing called Built Heritage Jobs Leverage Scheme gets €2,000,000
  • another new thing called Cork Event Centre gets €5,000,000
  • and, the biggest of the lot, Decade of Centenaries 1912–1922 gets an extra €15,270,000, to bring its capital budget to €28,800,000, by far the largest item in the budget.

There are a few other minor changes, but the increased allocation of €15,270,000 to the main Decade of Centenaries item has more than swallowed the extra €14,420,000 allocated to the department. Three other significant items — Teach an Phiarsaigh, the Cork Event Centre and the Built Heritage Jobs Leverage Scheme, which between them have been given an extra €8,150,000 — have been funded by the reduced allocations to the Crawford Gallery, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Údarás na Gaeltachta and Waterways Ireland.

So there’s no money for Sinn Féin’s beloved Clones Sheugh.

Smell of coffee …

wafts over Clones.

I still have no idea why Sinn Féin thinks the Clones Sheugh would cause any significant increase in tourism, or any other economic benefit.

The DUP fightback

I mentioned here that the ridiculous decision by the Sinn Féin Minister for Marching Bands [and Sheughs] to ask the DUP Minister for Finance and Personnel for £46 million for the Lisburn Sheugh might have been intended to annoy the DUP. Most of the Lisburn Sheugh, formerly the Lagan Navigation, ran through unionist territory; the Lagan Valley constituency is solidly unionist, and specifically DUP, in both Westminster and NI Assembly elections. It costs Ms Ní Chuilín nothing to pass on the Lisburn lunacy to the Dept of Finance, leaving it to a DUP Minister to turn down the funding application.

But the DUP has lobbed a neat hand-grenade response back at the Shinner fortress. Brenda Hale, DUP MLA for Lagan Valley, has put two questions to the sheughery enthusiasts:

AQW 48647/11-16 To ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure what financial support her Department has offered the Lagan Canal Trust, given that their budget has been cut by 11 per cent. [09/09/2015 Awaiting Answer]

AQW 48646/11-16 To ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure when the Lagan Navigation Canal Locks where last maintained. [09/09/2015 Awaiting Answer]

Ye’ll no’ fickle Thomas Yownie.

€200 million for the sheugh?

What does Chris Lyttle [Alliance Party MLA] know that I don’t?

On 16 June 2015 he submitted this written question [AQW 47282/11-15], to which he has yet to receive an answer:

To ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure what consideration the Executive has given to supporting the Lagan Canal Trust objective of reopening the Lagan Canal from Belfast Harbour to Lough Neagh in light of the Irish Government’s approval of €200 million investment by Waterways Ireland in the Ulster Canal.

To the best of my knowledge, the WI “investment” is €2 million, not €200 million. But perhaps I’m missing something? If, Gentle Reader, you can explain Mr Lyttle’s figure, please leave a Comment below.

Given that the restoration of the Lagan would be quite as insane as that of the Clones Sheugh, it seems that the Alliance Party gets its economic ideas from the Shinners.

 

From the blatts

Walls

Low wall on the right

Low wall on the right

The Irish Times reported on 24 August 2015 [may disappear behind a paywall at some stage] that a woman with “a blood alcohol level of 280mg per cent” [I am unable to make sense of that measurement] had drowned in the Grand Canal near Portobello in Dublin. The account includes no evidence that the woman tripped over the low wall that borders the canal; I do not know whether such evidence was presented. Nonetheless

Dr Farrell [the coroner] said he would write to Waterways Ireland for the matter of the height of the wall to be evaluated in the public interest.

I hope that the first step will be a cost-benefit analysis of any proposed change.

Percy Place

On 26 August 2015 [possible paywall alert] the Irish Times said that

Waterways Ireland is to sell an infill development site at 53 Percy Place, Dublin 4, which could accommodate a four-storey office block or residential scheme. CBRE is seeking more than €1.6 million for the 0.04 hectare (0.1 of an acre) site on which there is a two-storey derelict building.

53 Percy Place, Dublin

53 Percy Place, Dublin

The price is interesting. The property was valued at €1.6 million in 2008. WI’s Annual Report and Accounts for 2013 say

Surplus assets represent those assets that the Body deem are not strategic and are available for sale. Valuations of surplus assets are based on Recoverable Market Value from Internal and External valuations reports.

Plot 8 valued at €7,000,000 (2012: €7,000,000); this was valued in September 2013 by GVA Donal O’Buachella.

Percy Place was valued at €800,000 (2012: €650,000) by Felicity Fox FRICS FSCSI Auctioneers Valuers & Estate Agent in December 2013.

47 Lennox Street was valued at €270,000 (2012: €195,000) by Richard Fawcett BSc (Hons) Valuation & Estate Management Valuer, Waterways Ireland based on expected sales proceeds at December 2013. Previously valued at €380,000 by CBRE in October 2008.

The Hatch Bar valued in 2012 at €45,000 (2012: €45,000) by Richard Fawcett BSc (Hons) Valuation & Estate Management Valuer, Waterways Ireland in 2012.

The first three properties were to be sold to fund the construction of the Clones Sheugh. I have heard nothing more of the other two sites, Lennox Streeet near Portobello and Plot 8 in the Grand Canal Dock at Ringsend, and I didn’t see what WI got for the Hatch Bar. However, WI may have done very well on the sale of some other surplus assets, achieving four times what it expected:

The Barges were valued in 2013 at €51,000 based on bids received. Previously valued in 2011 by Bryan Millar, Consultant Engineer Naval Architect and Marine Engineer at €13,000.

On the basis of its asking price for Percy Place, WI seems to believe that the property collapse is over; perhaps it is even now in negotiation to develop Plot 8 and build a sheugh all the way to Clones. In the meantime, if it gets €1.6 million for Percy Place, that will help to alleviate the damage caused by the smash-and-grab raid carried out by the Department of Fairytales to pay for Saunderson’s Sheugh.

Derg Marina

The same edition of the Irish Times reports that Derg Marina in Killaloe has been sold for €1.7 million to “a local investor”. It suffered in the floods of 2009 and would need considerable investment were it to be restored to its former use. The site may contain remains of the PS Lady Lansdowne.

Greenway blues

The Weekly Observer of 26 August 2015 reports in its print edition [the story is not yet online] that Great Southern Trail Ltd, the voluntary body that manages part of the old Limerick to Tralee railway route as a greenway, is to cease doing so on 8 November 2015. GST, said to be the only voluntary group in Europe to manage a greenway, hopes that CIE and Limerick City and County Council will take over the management of the route. The newspaper account suggests that the burden of maintaining the greenway and cycleway to EU standards was too great for a voluntary group:

In particular, a very small number of farm crossings are the subject of unfavourable comment due to the difficulties encountered in keeping them clean.

Art

The Ulster Canal Greenway has an artwork. Waterways Ireland is to be in charge of the Ulster Canal Greenway. But the Shinners haven’t gone away, you know:

[…] Sinn Féin councillor Brian McKenna voiced strong criticism of the efforts made at Government level over the past two decades to put in place the substantial funding necessary to guarantee that the reopening of the Canal – long identified as a crucial project for Co Monaghan tourism – was realised in full.

If their dedication to the Clones Sheugh is a mark of Sinn Féin’s approach to economic policy and public investment, we may expect grants for flax-growing to be reinstated immediately they’re elected. And for opening coal-mines and carrying corn to Dublin.

 

 

 

 

 

The importance of Saunderson’s Sheugh

Back in the days when nitwitted Irish governments believed the state had found the secret to permanent wealth, Sinn Féin was promised the Clones Sheugh, a rebuilding of part of the line of the Ulster Canal. For reasons that are not clear to me, the reason for the project was concealed by a lot of nonsense about economic regeneration.

Sinn Féin still want their sheugh, and have continually asked questions about it. They own the Northern Ireland department currently responsible for waterways. And they have, I believe, forced its southern counterpart to pretend it will deliver the sheugh. Admittedly it’s really just going to dredge the River Finn — Saunderson’s Sheugh — and call it the Ulster Canal, which is better and cheaper than doing anything about the real Ulster Canal, but we might wonder why the current southern minister, Heather Humphreys, a TD for the Cavan-Monaghan constituency wherein Clones lies, is quite so keen on sheughery.

Perhaps Wikipedia can help.

Cavan-Monaghan constituency, general election 2011

Cavan-Monaghan constituency, general election 2011

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