The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, together with Minister Heather Humphreys, announced that the Government has approved the development of a 13km section of the Ulster Canal from Upper Lough Erne to Clones as a leisure amenity.
The Government last month signed off on a new water sports and leisure facility at Clones and re-committed to developing a 13km cross-border stretch under the Project Ireland 2040 plan, in the category of Investing in our Culture, Language and Heritage. This new facility will be a significant tourism and leisure boost for the area, and is part of the Government’s ongoing commitment to invest in the border region ahead of the challenge of Brexit.
Work also continues on the 2.5 km stretch from Lough Erne in County Fermanagh to Castlesaunderson in County Cavan. This is being re-developed as a ‘Blueway’ with the canal towpath open to walkers and cyclists, and the canal itself re-opened to leisure craft.
Minister Madigan welcomed the Government’s approval for the next stage in the development of the Ulster Canal. Speaking at the event, the Minister said:
I am delighted to be here in Clones today for this very special announcement. Progressing the development of the amenity of the Ulster Canal is a priority for myself and my Department. I am pleased that the on-going phase of restoration from Upper Lough Erne to Castlesaunderson is due to complete in the second half of this year.
The development of the amenity of the section of the canal to Clones will be a tangible outcome of the commitment in the Investing in our Culture, Language & Heritage 2018-2027 plan to protect our natural heritage now and for future generations. This critical investment in the Ulster Canal and in our inland navigable waterways will benefit both rural communities and national tourism.
Speaking today, Minister Humphreys said:
I am delighted that the Government has approved the restoration of the Ulster Canal from Castlesaunderson to Clones. Clones was greatly impacted by the troubles and for many years the Canal project has been seen as a beacon of hope for the town. It is hugely significant not just in terms of the economic benefits it will bring to the border region but also in terms of building peace and reconciliation on this island.
As a public representative for this area since 2003, I was very pleased to be able to start work on the first phase of the restoration project in 2015 with those works scheduled to be completed in July 2018.
Phase 2 of the restoration will involve the development of a water leisure facility in Clones which will be a wonderful tourism amenity for the town.
I want to acknowledge the work of my colleague, Minister Madigan, who fully recognises the importance of this project for the border region and who has confirmed her Department’s commitment to the Canal restoration in the National Development Plan. This will be carried out in stages over the coming years and I very much look forward to seeing work commence in Clones as soon as possible.
Dawn Livingstone, Chief Executive of Waterways Ireland, stated:
Waterways Ireland has seen a huge increase in the number of recreational and tourist users on and along all our navigations in recent years. The provision of enhanced waterway corridors has proven to be a stimulus for economic regeneration in many rural areas which are now experiencing increased recreational and tourism activity. Greater health and well-being and social opportunities also exist for locals. Waterways Ireland welcomes the proposals for the Ulster Canal. In collaboration with partners we are working to extend the Erne Navigation to Castlesaunderson and to deliver the cross-border greenway between Monaghan and Armagh. The development in Clones will be a further link in the chain to animate and regenerate the region.
In addition to the works proposed on the 13km Section between Lough Erne and Clones, Waterways Ireland, in partnership with Monaghan County Council, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council and East Border Region Ltd. has secured €4.95m in EU funding to develop 22km of greenway along the route of the Ulster Canal between Smithborough, Co. Monaghan and Middletown, Co Armagh. The project construction activity is programmed to commence later this year.