“we cannot put submarine cables near disputed border regions.”

Mick has mentioned the battle of the backyards that erupted over Project Kelvin. And if the incinerator discussion lacked a convenient place to stick a flag on, the argument over Kelvin proved readily amenable to our local politicians, and others, taking predictable sides. But, as the new cable comes ashore at Portrush before being routed to a tele-house/data centre in Londonderry, it’s worth pointing to the reported comments of Derek Bullock, Vice President of Network Operations Hibernia Atlantic, at a meeting of the NI Assembly Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Industry in February. From the Londonderry Sentinel report on 3rd June

“We cannot bring a cable into Lough Foyle, because the border line under the sea there is actually disputed. We will not get into that level of consultation and negotiation to try to solve that issue, so we chose Portrush,” Mr Bullock told the Committee.


The Hibernia chief was asked if the original Project Kelvin specification envisaged that the firm would tap into the transatlantic line and bring it down Lough Foyle into Londonderry. He replied: “That is technically impossible. Lough Foyle is a disputed border region, and, as I said, we cannot put submarine cables near disputed border regions.”

However, it seems that even if agreement was reached by Dublin and London and the Irish Government abandoned all thoughts of a “water grab” in Lough Foyle, it still would not be feasible to run the cable up the river to a telehouse.

“That would presume that all the land borders were agreed, that all environmental parties agreed to the laying of the cable, and that all ships agreed to stop dredging in Lough Foyle, which given that dredging at the mouth of the Foyle is necessary to remove the silt would not happen, and a cable would go out of service every three days,” Mr Bullock told the committee.

Before looking further at the disputed undersea border line, I’ll just add this from the Hansard record of that Committee meeting

Mr Bullock:
I have said numerous times — people are not getting my point or, perhaps, I am not putting it across well enough — that there is a technical reason for building the tele-house in Coleraine. It is to do with signal amplification. The signal dies off after a certain distance. Our transatlantic cables have, approximately every 45 km to 65 km, sub-sea amplifiers and equipment that lies on the seabed and provides the power to amplify the signal. We are taking a cable from the mid-point between amplifiers on the northern cable to bring it onshore, and it is approximately 25 miles, or 32 km, to the shoreline. We have a physical limitation of 7 km — a 7 km radius in which we must re-amplify that signal. To do that, I must put in the same equipment that I put in to every other product in every other city. Therefore, we have to build a facility there. If that facility was not called a tele-house, it would be called a cable station. That facility still has to be there. It connects to the Saturn ring, and every point on that ring has the same transmission equipment. Every other carrier, customer and business can connect into exactly the same services.

And earlier in Hansard

Mr Bullock:
Regarding your point that IT consultants have advised that data centres and business parks grow around tele-houses; of course they do — that is natural. However, any point of presence on the network creates exactly the same opportunities. Whether the point of presence is put into a business park or a business park is built up around the point of presence; that is where people will connect into. The point of presence becomes a meet-me room, and a meet-me room is where the carriers connect into.

We are not building a 130ft-tall tele-house similar in scale to Telehouse London or Telex at 60 Hudson Street; we are bringing the cable ashore, breaking it into transmission and providing some collocation facilities, if that is what people want. Those facilities are going to be at all the other points of presence. I could understand concerns if we were building a supersized data centre tele-house employing 100 people, and one area got it rather than another. However, this is a very small percentage of the project.

The issue of the disputed undersea border was also raised in a recent Seanad debate, as subsequently reported here and in the Irish News here.

And we have the response from Conor Lenihan (Minister of State for Education and Science)

I understand that there has been no formal agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom on the delimitation of a territorial waters boundary between the two States. However, the policy of the two Governments has been to co-operate in a pragmatic fashion.

The relevant secondary legislation in relation to aquaculture has not yet been introduced, as it is necessary for the agency, inter alia, to secure a long-term lease of the cross-Border foreshore areas under its responsibility in Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough. This will be done by way of a formal foreshore management agreement between the Loughs Agency, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Crown Estates Commission, which are the responsible bodies for the management of foreshore in both jurisdictions. This will facilitate the introduction of a structured management system for aquaculture in the loughs with the objective of achieving sustainable development to the social, economic and environmental benefit of the communities who influence, enjoy and depend on the resource. Negotiations are at an advanced stage between the parties mentioned and it is expected that agreement should be finalised in the near future.

And also this

I reiterate to the Senator that there has never been any formal agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom on the delimitation of a territorial water boundary between the two states. In the context of the Good Friday Agreement, a decision was taken to co-operate on foreshore and other issues that arise in the management of the lough from conservation and other points of view.

One of the issues is that the median channel in Carlingford is the navigation channel whereas, as the Deputy knows, living as close as she does to the lough, the navigation channel in Lough Foyle hugs the southern side, which makes it rather more difficult to manage or to negotiate an agreement as to where the territorial waters actually lie. There is no agreement between the two Governments on where the boundary lies, which is a problem that has bedevilled the situation for some time. With regard to the Good Friday Agreement, I remind the Deputy again that the preamble of the Constitution defines the nation in terms of the island and its territorial seas.

Needless to say those concerned about the chickens are equally exercised over this particular issue..

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