I have remarked before that Sinn Féin seems to be devoted to the leading-edge communications technology of the eighteenth century, the canal. I have no idea why it takes such an interest in the subject, but further evidence of its devotion has emerged in the last week.
The Fermanagh Herald reported, on 5 May 2013, that Michelle Gildernew MP [whose Sinn Féin page seems to have disappeared] listed the Clones Sheugh amongst the jobs on which European taxpayers should spend money. She did so at a meeting with Colette Fitzgerald, head of the European Commission’s Belfast office; Ms Fitzgerald made polite noises but did not promise any money.
But Sinn Féin does not confine itself to Clones. Carál Ní Chuilín MLA, whose Sinn Féin web page is live but well out of date, is (as Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure) the NI minister responsible for Waterways Ireland. We learn from the Londonderry Sentinel that she wanted Waterways Ireland to be landed with responsibility for the Strabane Sheugh.
Happily, the North South Ministerial Council shot that down, but the minister wants to see whether the unfortunate Strategic Investment Board can find any loot for the canal. It might be better if they were asked to find a use for it first: even if it were restored, it would be unlikely ever to see more than a few small boats in a year. It might provide a walking route, for which (pace the Clones dudes) neither locks nor water would be needed, but the Londonderry Sentinel leaves me unclear whether the towpath is usable. It says:
A year ago the Sentinel reported the ‘tow path’ section of the Strabane Canal was to open for the first time in 50 years in June 2012.
It doesn’t say that the towpath did reopen, which seems odd; a Belfast Telegraph article of June 2012 says that it was reopened temporarily but WalkNI says that it is being restored. So is it open or not? I’d like to know, because I favour walking routes along unrestored canals, as does the learned IndustrialHeritageIreland, which also notes encouraging interest from Monaghan County Council.