Lough Neagh: “It’s not for sale.”

The Northern Ireland Assembly may have picked up the curio Mick noted, and agreed to set up a working group “to explore and pursue actively the potential for a cross-departmental approach to bring Lough Neagh back into public ownership.”  But, as the Belfast Telegraph reports, they failed to inform the current owner, Lord Shaftesbury, of their intentions

In a statement yesterday, the 12th earl, Nicholas Ashley-Cooper (left), revealed that the decision of the Assembly on Tuesday was “unexpected”.

The Shaftesbury estate said it had “no plans” to put the Lough — which has had an estimated value put at between £3m-£6m — up for sale. The owners, however, also held out an olive branch by agreeing to assist the working group in its examination of the declining waterway.

The current Lough owner’s surprise may be due, in part, to the distinct lack of interest when his predecessor offered the rights to the Lough to the then administration…

Adds  As Newton Emerson pointed out in Thursday’s Irish News

Bureaucratic confusion over Lough Neagh predates the discovery that it belongs to a peer of the realm [“officials only noticed it in 2005 while plotting to sell it off themselves”].

In 2000 the Department of the Environment set up a steering group to address the management of Lough Neagh as “a matter of urgency”.

After two years of consulting with stakeholders, statutory agencies and councils it produced a Lough Neagh management strategy for all concerned to follow.

This is the approach DUP MLA Jim Wells denounced as a failure in this week’s assembly debate but it is difficult to see how public ownership will make any difference.

The management strategy failed because a multiplicity of public bodies refused to work within it, let alone work together.

There is no evidence the Earl of Shaftesbury got in their way.

Most of the 29 objectives in the management strategy relate to matters fully within the control of Stormont departments.  Most of the critical concerns it raises, such as pollution from industry, housing and agriculture do not even originate on the earl’s property.

If Lough Neagh comes under public ownership there will inevitably be another management startegy.

Remarks during the debate suggest this will cover an even greater multiplicity of public bodies.  Why will this not also fail?

For final proof that public ownership is no panacea look to the catastrophe in Strangford Lough, where protected wildlife habitats have been destroyed in contravention of EU law, Stormont policy and yet another multi-agency management strategy.

This is entirely due to buck-passing between just two Stormont departments, using a legal loophole they have refused to close despite looming EU fines.

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  • Mick Fealty

    And judging from the amount of work going into the ancestral pile, he’s not short of cash just now either…

  • Danny Kinahan deserves to be quoted in full for the shear hilarity of his ‘reds under the beds’ and ‘united Ireland by stealth’ contribution:

    Mr Kinahan: Normally, I would welcome any motion on better management of Lough Neagh, but the Ulster Unionist Party does not feel that it can support this motion. However, I will listen to what other Members say today to see which way we will vote. I am concerned that hidden behind the motion is the taking away of property rights and stealth towards a united Ireland and that it is driven by Marxist and communist philosophies. They are just hints at the back of it, but, put together, they are very much driving this. Already, Mrs Kelly has hinted that there could be something hidden behind it. I do not feel that the motion is purely about better management of the lough, although we would all like to see that. It is not just about the potential for tourism, because all of that already exists. I am saddened that our amendment was not taken up. It would have allowed for a more lengthy debate in which we could have gone into more detail on why we would like to see Lough Neagh better run, but I do not think that the motion leads the debate in that way.

    When you first look at the motion, it looks harmless, until you get to the last seven words:

    “bring Lough Neagh back into public ownership.”

    We are left not really knowing what is meant by Lough Neagh, and the motion plants the myth that it was once in public ownership. If Lough Neagh is about water, I can say that we already manage that pretty well in government through Northern Ireland Water. It does not necessarily need protection for the future, although we have to decide what direction we are going in with all our water concerns. It is a huge area, and I feel that this is more about taking than about public ownership. It is about the lough bed and mineral rights, but how deep do you go? Indeed, when it comes to the lough, how wide do we go? If you take the ownership, the bed and the minerals back, where do you stop? Is taking the quarries next?

    Mr Wells: Will the Member give way?

    Mr Kinahan: I would like to carry on with my points for the moment.

    Will the rivers, streams and sheughs that belong to farmers be next? On the question of how wide we go and the shoreline, which, of course, changes as the water goes up and down, is it one foot, one metre or one mile? If we take the lough back, does that extend to taking back farmers’ fields, hedges and tracks? Does it mean taking things back from the property of businesses? Of course, capital is often the basis of all good businesses. Where does this stop? Behind this is the fact that the lough is a big chunk of Northern Ireland. It is one chunk that we can see being taken away and slowly going into that myth of a united Ireland.

  • dodrade

    Wasn’t the current Earl a DJ in New York a few years ago?

  • Scáth Shéamais

    Not even our rivers run free! Appropriate the liquid wealth!

  • john

    Surely 2 simple solutions – compulsory purchase or keep fining him huge amounts every time the lough fails certain health and safety standards!!

  • lamhdearg2

    This gentleman give us free water, should the gits on the hill get their hands on the lough, we will pay.

  • carl marks

    lamhdearg2

    two points
    1 the water is the property of northern ireland water. he owns the mineral rights and the shoreline
    and 2 we allready pay for the water in our rates.
    aside from that the lough is at the moment run on a “dont give a damm what happens as long AS I GET THE REVENUE from the sand etc principal,
    and is much to precious a resource to be left in private ownership.
    John has the right idea if the good lord wants to keep he should be made to fork out to keep it up to standard, bet he has a change of mind when he is charged to clean up the shoreline.

  • carl marks

    A few interesting facts about the Lough,
    The torpedo was developed and tested on it.
    The cannon at Shanes Castle came from a French man of war which sailed down the Lower Bann followed by a British man of war which sank it in the only fresh water navel battle of the Napoleonic wars.

  • Pete Baker

    Adds As Newton Emerson pointed out in Thursday’s Irish News

    Bureaucratic confusion over Lough Neagh predates the discovery that it belongs to a peer of the realm [“officials only noticed it in 2005 while plotting to sell it off themselves”].

    In 2000 the Department of the Environment set up a steering group to address the management of Lough Neagh as “a matter of urgency”.

    After two years of consulting with stakeholders, statutory agencies and councils it produced a Lough Neagh management strategy for all concerned to follow.

    This is the approach DUP MLA Jim Wells denounced as a failure in this week’s assembly debate but it is difficult to see how public ownership will make any difference.

    The management strategy failed because a multiplicity of public bodies refused to work within it, let alone work together.

    There is no evidence the Earl of Shaftesbury got in their way.

    Most of the 29 objectives in the management strategy relate to matters fully within the control of Stormont departments. Most of the critical concerns it raises, such as pollution from industry, housing and agriculture do not even originate on the earl’s property.

    If Lough Neagh comes under public ownership there will inevitably be another management startegy.

    Remarks during the debate suggest this will cover an even greater multiplicity of public bodies. Why will this not also fail?

    For final proof that public ownership is no panacea look to the catastrophe in Strangford Lough, where protected wildlife habitats have been destroyed in contravention of EU law, Stormont policy and yet another multi-agency management strategy.

    This is entirely due to buck-passing between just two Stormont departments, using a legal loophole they have refused to close despite looming EU fines.

  • Pete Baker

    Oh, and carl? As Newton also noted

    Lough Neagh supplies 40 per cent of our drinking water and is also used as a sewage outfall, providing a neat analogy of our entire political system.

    But the earl is not responsible for muddying Lough Neagh’s waters.

    Sewage is dumped there by public authorities under British Crown immunity.

  • carl marks

    Pete Baker
    Your quite right public ownership without a proper plan would be a disaster.
    But the status quo is not working either.
    I canoe on the Lough 5 or 6 times a year and have noticed a decline in the habitat both in numbers and variety of species over the years. Not a scientific survey I know but still valid I think.

  • Pete Baker

    “But the status quo is not working either.”

    That’s not the fault of it being owned by the earl.

  • carl marks

    Pete Baker
    Very true and I agree the local gov has a lot to answer for and their lack of action is a disgrace.
    The earl owns the shoreline and the bottom it’s there that his duty lies. That is not to take away from the failings of others.

  • Pete Baker

    carl

    Try reading the extracts from Newton again.

    And see if you can identify who is responsible for polluting the Lough.

  • carl marks

    Pete I read it, and I know who is responsible the earl is one of many who have responsibility. And I don’t think he is the main culprit now read my earlier post again and show me where I stated it was all down to him. To be honest I don’t care if he owns it as long as he looks after it. I fail to see why you’re fixating on this. The Lough is an incredibly important asset and all concerned should get their fingers out.
    My opinion of local council and the DOE would if posted here would get me a black card. And I know the earl is not responsible for the shit.
    But the debris on the shoreline is his and you are right compared to the filth poured into the Lough it is a minor issue but still an issue.

  • carl marks

    Pete to give you an idea of the incompetence of local gov try this
    Newton states
    “Bureaucratic confusion over Lough Neagh predates the discovery that it belongs to a peer of the realm [“officials only noticed it in 2005 while plotting to sell it off themselves”].”
    The private ownership of the Lough has been common knowledge in the area for as long as anyone can remember and my sadly departed mother in law, who was one of the last people to live on Rams Island, informed me that she was aware of private ownership when she was a teenager, she was 97 when she died.

  • lamhdearg2

    If he owns the bottom and the shoreline, then he must be providing us with free water, for if he was to use that bottom and shoreline for purposes, that ruined the eco system of the lough, then the water would no longer come to us (rates excempted) free, please dont insult me by claiming that he would not get away with doing something along those lines.
    expanding on this, this to me is why having a landed gentry is better than letting the quick buck merchants control all the land.

  • carl marks

    Again lamdearg he doesn’t own the water so he can’t give for free what he doesn’t own,. According to your logic everyone who owns any land a pipe runs over is giving us free water.
    It is very touching that you seem to think that anyone with a title isn’t a quick buck merchant (by the way I’m not saying the earl is) i think it wonderful that forelock tugging is still with us .
    Good man

  • lamhdearg2

    carl, do you believe the lough would be better of in the hands of our local councils or stormont, or no names no pack, the sand men?.

  • carl marks

    I think the future of the Lough is something that will have to be dealt with very carefully.
    Everyone person or group who has a stake will have to work together to ensure this important faculty is protected, any person or group who doesn’t want to play ball should either be removed from the equation or forced by law to meet their responsibilities by this I mean sacking if they are government employees, loss of contract if they are private companies and compulsory purchase if they are landowners

  • lamhdearg2

    from the bellylaugh
    “Can you imagine what would happen if ownership were to pass to the private commercial sector? We could be held to ransom over water supply.”
    and
    “That in turn could eventually have led to a company charging for water, sewage and access — or all three, with the potential knock-on effect of increased rates in the seven councils which surround the land-locked lough.
    and
    “an interdepartmental Government email supported the suggestion that a private owner would have the legal right to draw water from the lough.”
    so as the current owner is not doing this and is letting us take the water then i will look on it as hes giving us it for free

  • lamhdearg2

    I hear the English are looking to wales, to sort out their water shortage problems, maybe the earl could bottle/tanker it up and send it down to dorset.

  • carl marks

    Yes as far as I know all landowners round the Lough have the right to draw water from the Lough for the purpose of irrigation and supplying livestock not just the Earl. This does not mean they own the water.
    I have the right to take firewood from a local forest this right goes with my house it does not mean that if I don’t exercise that right that I’m giving the timber companies free wood.
    No one but you here has mentioned handing over the water supply to private enterprise. and as for being held to ransom if a private company got the contract to supply our water (something I would oppose) one would believe that they would be regulated like the gas and electric companies and the scenario you pose of us being held to ransom is really as silly as your rather touching belief that the earl owns the water and that landed gentry are above exploiting something to make a quick buck.

  • carl marks

    lamhdearg2 (profile)
    20 April 2012 at 9:58 pm

    I hear the English are looking to wales, to sort out their water shortage problems, maybe the earl could bottle/tanker it up and send it down to dorset
    If the earl started sending tankers of water from the Lough without making a deal with the owners of the water ( the water authority) then he would be guilty of theft and it is to be hoped prosecuted for stealing public property

  • cynic2

    “is much to precious a resource to be left in private ownership”

    Since when did we become a fascist state?.

  • carl marks

    “is much to precious a resource to be left in private ownership”

    Since when did we become a fascist state?.

    Cynic my dear the fascists were great advocates of private ownership i think your confusing them with socialists. And tell my oh wise one did you ever hear of Godwin.

  • lamhdearg2

    “Sinn Fein’s Oliver McMullan told yesterday’s Stormont debate:”

    “and the scenario you pose of us being held to ransom is really as silly”

    blame this man, i copied and pasted what the bel/tele is quoting as mr mcmullans words.

  • carl marks

    lamhdearg2

    Ok well he is being silly as well you are in good company, happy now.

  • carl marks

    nite boys

  • Mick Fealty

    Fascinating conversation. The bottom of the Lough presumably refers to its navigability, as it is slowly but surely silting up.

    Local people are no doubt aware of the ownership because they have inform te Shaftesbury Estate if they want to put in a fence post below the water line.

    As for a compulsory purchase, they would have to demonstrate that the taking of the land is necessary and there is a “compelling case in the public interest”.

    This may be a serious challenge. My understanding is that small parts of the Lough have already gone to local councils. A judicial review of any decision made to take te whole Lough into public ownership would potentially ask some searching questions about where the public interest lies here.

    The persistent failure of statutory bodies and government departments to protect Lough Neagh would presumably play a strong counter play in any defence on the Earls part.

  • ForkHandles

    What Newton shows is the now well known shiteness of the people in NI appointed to management positions. They couldnt co ordinate their way out of a paper bag. The typical manager in NI sees their job as diverting responsibilities to some other organisation while doing absolutly nothing themselves.
    Cut costs by sacking 100 managers in NI and appointing 1 person from oversees with a proven good management background. Honestly the patheticness of NI management level people is so poor that it would be funny if it didnt impact on peoples lives.

  • The yokel

    The earl owns the bed of the lough and gets paid for any infrastructure put there , such as abstraction points for water supply. He does not own the water or have responsibility for its quality.
    NI Water does NOT have crown immunity.
    The main causes of the deterioration in the quality of Lough Neagh are effluent from poorly installed and maintained private septic tanks and pollution from intensive agriculture. Tackling either will cost votes and we can’t have that can we?
    Following on from that we have the basic reason why we have a poor record of environmental protection here -the average voter does not give a toss for anything outside the narrow tribal world they inhabit and vote for like minded souls to govern them, and are are happy about it – meanwhile the heath service, education, etc are going down the tubes.
    So it goes

  • carl marks

    ForkHandles

    cant argue with that.

    The yokel

    spot on. agree with every word.

  • Drumlins Rock

    I think the National Trust should buy out the ownership, keep the politician and politics out of it, manage it sustainable, and reinvest the income into improving its environment.

  • Drumlins Rock

    just for people information, here is the details for Strangford & Erne http://www.strangfordlough.org/Management/Ownership.aspx

    Rivers Agency, an executive agency within Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, retains ownership of the bed and foreshore and manages water levels within the ranges specified in the Erne Drainage and Development Act (1950). Water level control is undertaken in conjunction with the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) in the Republic of Ireland under the terms of an agreement made in 1950 when the River Erne was harnessed for hydroelectric power generation. The agreement requires that levels are maintained in the Upper Lough between 150 ft. and 154ft. (Apr. – Sept.) / 155ft. (Oct. – Mar.), and in the Lower Lough between 147ft. and 152ft.[5] These levels relate to the Irish grid datum at Poolbeg Lighthouse and is in imperial measurements of feet.

    Dont mention Carlingford or Foyle, that remains a minefield to this day, and don’t get caught up in the language of Crown Estate etc. it is owned controled and profits the Treasury alone.

  • Mick Fealty

    DR,

    Worth remembering his story originally came up on Slugger as a part of the Asset Transfer project.

    The NT usually deals in bequests and willing sellers. Not only has the current Earl said he’s not for selling (or transfering) he is also himself on something of a low key buying spree in his home village of Wimborne St Giles (as well as doing a rather grand job of fixing up the family pile.

    I return again to ask, what problem are we trying to solve here?

  • Drumlins Rock

    For those really interested in water quality, the UU carried out an impressive study on part of the catchment, with EU funding as it is actually cross-border, working closely with farmers and communities to see how best to improve the water quality in the Blackwater and some of its tributaries. I’m not sue of its results, but if it worked then it could be applied to the whole cathment. It was a good combination of advice, prohibitions where necessary and targeted grants, must find out how it turned out.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Mick, my suggestion was to be honest more tongue in cheek, and hi-lighting its not an either or case, there are many options, Kinahan is right it is merely a SF stunt to be seen to attack to gentry. Proper management of the lough needs to be put in place, although its neglect has probably saved it from a much worse fate. Did you know there was a plan to spray it all with insecticide once to kill the flies? only called off at the last minute.

    Last year I did suggestions for new constituencies within the party to start discussions, most of which worked well with much less disruption than the current proposals, ironically the weak point was a lough shore consittuencey taking in Antrim, Magherafelt, & Cookstown, I think it would have worked but the Lough is always percieved as a obstacle, mindsets have to change.

    PS the water quality scheme is called Blackwater TRACE

  • carl marks

    Drumlins Rock
    Did you know there was a plan to spray it all with insecticide once to kill the flies? only called off at the last minute.

    Didn’t know this, typical half baked idea and a blessing that they didn’t do it. The Lough midge is a pain in the ass but I believe that research has shown that they assist in reducing nitrogen in the Lough,
    Nitrogen pollution is a result of the over application of fertiliser by farmers along the catchment basin .
    Not only that, they are a important part of the eco system both in their larva form and as midges, they form a important part of the food chain for many creatures who reside in the Lough. So love them or hate them we can’t do without them.
    I wonder what moron thought that killing them off was a good idea and what was the reasoning behind it.
    On a side point it is good to find something that we seem all to agree is a problem the only dispute is how to deal with it. In my opinion we must put pressure on the people we elect to Stormont remember if they are incompetent fools what does that make us for voting for them.

  • carl marks

    Mick i think the problem is, that a eco system that upplys 40% of our water is to say the least not managed properly, and unless a properly thought out plan is put in place things will get a lot worse and it wont matter if your a prod or a taig the extra cost of treating polluted will affect you.

  • carl marks

    last line should read.
    polluted water will affect you.

  • Drumlins Rock

    carl, have been on Coney Island when you need to breath through your shirt to keep them out of your mouth, however at least they cant bite. Its a strange lough in that it is not on the whole “pretty” although parts of it are, opening the canals linking it to other waterways would help, but it looks like the Ulster Canal is yet another example of how useless the North South bodies are.

    As I mention before the TRACE scheme should be rolled out to the whole catchment possibly, they did things like test every field on farms to tell farmers exactly how much fertiliser was needed, a win for all there. A wee bit of thinking could greatly improve quality, and reduce water treament costs, although I do think 40% is far to hight a reliance on one source.

  • carl marks

    Drumlins Rock
    DR we will have to disagree about the beauty of the Lough
    Both my Wife’s family and mine have history on the Lough. And I spent my school hols picking spuds, fishing and generally making a nuisance of myself around it, great times for a kid from north Belfast so maybe I’m biased.
    Since our waterways don’t know what a border is I think both administrations need to work closely on this, that is not to say that the groups in place are fit for purpose,
    A experiment called nitrobar was put in at the ECOS centre in Ballymena by queens, this consisted of Gabions filled with porous rock populated with nitrogen digesting bacteria placed where agric run off entered the braid river, that if successful will assist.
    Also willow planted in runoff areas will absorb nitrogen and as a nice bonus supply wood for burning or fencing.
    40% is a large amount of dependency on one source. But to be honest we are a pretty careless bunch and waste a lot of the stuff. Rainwater collection butts can supply water for gardening car wash etc and most grey water ( if suitable soaps and detergents are used )can also be used for gardening cleaning etc and reduce usage

  • Drumlins Rock

    Carl, I am coming round to appreciating it more, my mates jet ski probably helps there! at first appearance It dosn’t have the stunning beauty of Strangford or parts of Erne, but then you really have to go out of your way to get good views, they should put the ferry’s back on at Maghery & Bannfoot too!

  • carl marks

    Oh and yes getting farmers to reduce fertiliser usage is a win win scenario. Unless of course you are a fertiliser salesman.

  • carl marks

    agree with you about the ferry’s.
    Do me a favour if you pass a canoe on your jet ski slow down, that could be me.
    On Monday I’m paddling with a few friends from Toome to Rams Island.

  • Mick Fealty

    No NI party rates the environment highly enough to face down their own voters.

  • carl marks

    Alas Mick that’s true,
    Jim Well’s is very good on the environment and among the main parties he seems to be unique.
    For a bit of fun ask your local MLA next time you se him/her (normally around a election) for a breakdown of their environmental policies, and see how many clichés they can churn out. Then ask them about a local issue. I love to see a politician squirm.
    It would be wrong to think that we are unique because of our tribal setup it seems to be the same either across the water or the border.

  • latcheeco

    “I return again to ask, what problem are we trying to solve here?”

    Isn’t it that the lease expired on the 24th of April 1916?

  • carl marks

    latcheeco,
    maybe i have missed something.
    could you go into a bit more detail about the lease you mention.

  • latcheeco

    Apologies for the hurt feelings Carl; I didn’t realize that with zingers like “it is to be hoped prosecuted for stealing public property” facetiousness was solely your demesne,
    but my wider point was about the ridiculousness and absurdity of someone called Lord Shaftsbury still owning the largest body of fresh water in Ireland in 2012.

  • Mick Fealty

    1903 Wyndham Land Act was the most effective instrument for tenants taking possession of their own land Latch. I think you’ll find that even in your own Republic the Fifth Amendment would cover the property rights of citizens, regardless of their name. these days Shaftesbury has no legislative privileges over and beyond other private citizens.

  • lamhdearg2

    The lord is lucky, where it a grand house or something else that could be destroyed or killed, but what can the begrudgers do to the lough, when they need it to live.

  • Drumlins Rock

    1903 Wyndham Land Act, there is a centenary we missed, which could be celebrated by both sides (although not universally welcomed by tennants, some did not want to become land owners). However it did leave some strange quirks, Lough Neagh maybe would be one of those, think they just over looked it?

    Be that the case it is his by right, vest it if they can come up with a really significant reason that will stand up in court, or else make an offer at or above the market rate, hope he excepts, but don’t try to use the Asembly as a way to bully anyone into handing over private property be they a monarch or tramp on the street.

  • latcheeco

    Mick,
    The Supreme court ruled all navigable waterways are publically owned as are their banks and beds so I doubt he could plea the fifth as you say. And I’m sure there are one or two who might suggest the tan war was more effective at delivering Ireland from Lords and their property rights

  • Mick Fealty

    They might. But they’d be completely wrong in the case of the six. Lord and Earl no longer have any standing in the UK beyond an honorific.

    Maybe the Stormont working group will trying bringing in a general law like that in NI. I’d be more sanguine if they had a better record in managing the responsibilities they already have.

  • carl marks

    latcheeco (profile)
    22 April 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Apologies for the hurt feelings Carl; I didn’t realize that with zingers like “it is to be hoped prosecuted for stealing public property” facetiousness was solely your demesne,
    but my wider point was about the ridiculousness and absurdity of someone called Lord Shaftsbury still owning the largest body of fresh water in Ireland in 2012..
    Sorry mate maybe im just slow, no need to apoligise as i wasnt insulted just wondered what lease you were refering to thought i had missed something.

  • cynic2

    “absurdity of someone called Lord Shaftsbury still owning the largest body of fresh water in Ireland in 2012”

    Why shouldn’t he? Its a democracy. He owns it. End of story