Speech by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, at the launch of the Next Phase of Ulster Canal Development
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Tá an-áthas orm a bheith anseo in gCluain Eois inniu, i gcroí lár na tíre.
It is quite fitting that we are here today in Clones to make this announcement. This area is one of our oldest monastic settlements, a town steeped in folk and sports lore, and one isolated from its natural hinterland during the troubles. Its economic history is mixed and challenging, and, in recent years, it has seen the arrest of years of decline, very often thanks its indomitable citizens and a great local spirit of enterprise and pride.
“Is cúis áthais dom go bhfuil cead tugtha ag an Rialtas don mholadh dul ar aghaidh agus an chuid eile de leathnú 13km Chanáil Uladh ó Chaisleán Shandarsan go Cluain Eois a fhorbairt go céimneach. Cuirfidh fíorú a luacha áise borradh ollmhór faoin réigiún seo. “
Progressing the Ulster Canal restoration is a priority for both myself, my Department and Waterways Ireland. And I am also pleased to note that the on-going phase of restoration from Upper Lough Erne to Castle Saunderson is due for completion in July of this year. So I’ll be back again soon!
This development will be a tangible outcome of the Government’s commitment in the Project Ireland 2040 plan “to protect our natural heritage which provides the settings and inspiration for our creative output, now and for future generations.” This includes critical investment in the Ulster Canal, benefitting both rural communities and our national tourism.
The local authorities in this region have identified the restoration of the Ulster Canal as a central initiative to support their economic development strategy and have already had some success in promoting tourism and related developments, supported by EU funding, with the objective of ensuring that communities on or close to the Ulster Canal will be in a position to benefit from its restoration.
The utilisation of our inland waterways as a multifaceted resource has yielded Irish society a wide array of benefits over the centuries. Not only have they resulted in improvements in community health and wellbeing, environmental sustainability and educational resources, Canal and waterways’ restoration also have a track record as catalysts for the economic and social regeneration of rural communities. In this part of the country one has only to look at what the Shannon Erne Waterway has done for counties Leitrim and Cavan and the towns of Ballinamore and Ballyconnell and the villages in between.
Activity around waterways motivates entrepreneurs to provide restaurants, convenience stores, recreational services and indeed holiday accommodation throughout rural and urban Ireland. Investment in our waterways has resulted in increased employment opportunities in the recreation, tourist and heritage industries, particularly through the provision of facilities in rural areas and the development of existing popular areas.
Given that the Central Border area will be most directly affected by Brexit, the restoration of the Ulster Canal is a statement of intent by this Government to mitigate its impacts in this area.
The Lough Erne to Clones corridor lies within this central border region, at the juncture of the most economically challenged corners of Counties Monaghan, Cavan and Fermanagh. It is my own hope, and the hope of the Government, that the Canal restoration project can be a key driver of regeneration in these communities.
In that phased development, the very next work will be right here in Clones, restoring the section here and creating a harbour, marina and freshwater leisure facility. It will receive Government investment and is one of the very first National Development Plan projects, announced a few short weeks ago.
To attract potential visitors, research shows that the key requirements are a mix of land and water based activities along with a rich opportunity to experience Ireland’s culture, music, history and hospitality. Development of the harbour, a short canal section and a new park, built by Monaghan County Council, will create a mixed recreational area offering a variety of activities both on the water, kayaking, pedal boating and snorkelling for example along with walking and cycling trails beside the water.
Inland waterways, by their nature, traverse local and regional boundaries, administrative areas and through a range of rural and urban areas. I believe that this project will help to strengthen links across the border, encouraging communities to work together with the support of my Department, the Government and local authorities to make the most of the natural resources, unique culture and rich heritage that this region has to offer.
An anonymous author once wrote;
“Sit by the water. Find peace and meaning in the rhythm of the lifeblood of the Earth”
I hope everyone here will find time to enjoy the Canal and all it offers to the local community.
Go raibh míle maith agat.