Ministers O'Brien and Noonan announce official opening of Meelick Weir and walkway after €3.2m restoration by Waterways Ireland
Four-year restoration now complete, repairing extensive storm damage
The restored Meelick Weir and walkway on the River Shannon have been officially opened by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O'Brien TD and Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD. The weir was damaged in severe storms in 2009 and again in 2015/2016, when the walkway was also damaged and was subsequently closed.
The infrastructure links the historic village of Meelick in east Galway to Lusmagh in west Offaly and forms part of the Hymany Way and the Beara-Breifne Way walking trails. The weir was built in the 1840's as part of the Shannon Navigation. More than 300 metres in length, it has a 12-sluice barrage and maintains and regulates the navigation level for the section of waterway between Athlone (Lough Ree) and Meelick (Lough Derg).
Construction work on the €3.2m Waterways Ireland project began in 2019 and included the restoration of the weir, its 300m walkway and new tilting weirs gates, along with other weir refurbishment. The new tilting weir system will be mechanised, meaning that staff will no longer have to manually install and remove the sluice boards in response to changing water levels.
Speaking at the official opening, Minister for Housing, Local Government, and Heritage, Minister Darragh O'Brien said: "I am delighted to be here today to officially open Meelick Weir and Walkway after the completion of a hugely significant programme of work by Waterways Ireland on this state-of-the-art project.
Recognising the importance of the weir and the walkway, I was pleased to support the project and to ensure funding was made available from my Department in the amount of €3.2m. It is great to see it brought to completion and ready for its official opening today.
Meelick Weir has a dual purpose, not only is it a critical piece of infrastructure in maintaining the navigation level between Lough Ree and Lough Derg, it also serves to unite the communities of Meelick and Lusmagh and offers a fantastic amenity in the area. I know this is very popular with local people and also provides a wonderful tourism opportunity for Galway, Offaly and Tipperary – the three counties that it borders.
The restoration of the weir and walkway opens the potential for these historic structures to play an important role in tourism in the future."
The area surrounding Meelick Weir is also of huge historical significance, with Victoria Lock and its lock-keeper's house, and Meelick Martello, located on Moran Island, all included on the Record of Protected Structures. Meelick Martello is a recorded monument in the care of Waterways Ireland. Nearby Meelick Church, meanwhile, dates back to the 1400s.
Minister for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan commented: "This whole area is hugely significant from a heritage perspective. This project opens the walkway and allows people travelling its route to visit Victoria Lock, which was built in the 1840s also as part of the navigation system, and the famous landmark 'the three counties Shannon view,' where the counties of Galway, Offaly and Tipperary meet. In terms of wildlife, it is within both the River Shannon Callows Special Area of Conservation, and the Middle Shannon Callows Special Protection Area."
He added: "I am delighted to see the restoration of the connectivity between the communities of Lusmagh and Meelick and the re-instatement of the Hymany Way. This project will have a significant impact on the communities and the broader tourism opportunities in the area."
Waterways Ireland chief executive, John McDonagh said: "Meelick Weir is an iconic structure and I'm delighted that this restoration project is now complete. The weir is an extremely important piece of navigation infrastructure, enabling the management of water levels on the River Shannon for navigation, and also linking the counties of Offaly and Galway and the provinces of Leinster and Connaught via the walkway. The systems built into the weir also ensure a safer working environment for our staff."
"This is the largest project Waterways Ireland has undertaken since we restored the main line of the Royal Canal and I would like to commend my colleagues, who have worked diligently to deliver this ambitious project on budget in very challenging times."