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Posted: 30/08/2022

Taoiseach unveils foundation stone for €20m Phase 2 of the Ulster Canal redevelopment

Tuesday, 30th August 2022


Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD has today officially marked the commencement of work on Phase 2 of the Ulster Canal redevelopment with the unveiling of the foundation stone at the Ulster Canal Stores in Clones, Co Monaghan. He was joined at the ceremony by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O'Brien TD, Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, and Minister for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan TD. Cathaoirleach of Monaghan County Council, Councillor Sean Conlon and Northern Ireland Minister for Infrastructure, John O'Dowd were also in attendance, along with Chief Executive of Waterways Ireland, John McDonagh. 


The redevelopment of the Ulster Canal will add a significant new asset to the inland waterway network, an 8th Navigation,  enabling Clones to take its place as a key destination on the inland navigable waterways and accessible to the Shannon and the canals.


The project will see the development of a new marina, two new access bridges, repairs to an existing masonry arch bridge, and a sustainable water supply. It will also include approximately 1km of restored canal and towpath, with a looped walk and an amenity area on the route of the 180-year-old Ulster Canal in Clones. The amenity area will include car parking, bus / trailer spaces, a service block and picnic area and will be connected to the town and the existing playground.


The €20m project includes a €6m contribution from the Shared Ireland Fund. The project is being managed by Waterways Ireland and implemented by Doran Consulting.  The work is being undertaken by Jons Civil Engineering Company Ltd.


Commenting, Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD said: "The Ulster Canal restoration is a cross-border project in its truest sense and will be transformative for this region.  It is not just an infrastructure project, it is an investment in our communities and a tangible example of what can be achieved through partnership and all-island collaboration."  


"I am delighted that through support from the Shared Island Fund we have been able to prioritise the Ulster Canal restoration and bring it to this stage. Now that the momentum behind this long-standing project has been reignited, the Government intends to do more to progress the next phases of the canal restoration."


Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O'Brien TD commented: "The whole of Government approach to delivering this project demonstrates what can be achieved through commitment, determination, and focus. Working with our colleagues in Northern Ireland, with the shared vision of benefitting all our communities, has driven this project to the point we are at today. We are ambitious in our aim to complete this phase the end of 2023."


Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD added: "Phase 2 of the redevelopment of the Ulster Canal is an exciting step forward. While hugely significant in itself, it is also the next phase in unlocking our waterways to Clones. Once finished, people can get in their boat in Limerick, come up the Shannon-Erne system, come through Lough Erne in Fermanagh and then on to the stretch at Castle Sanderson to Clones. This is a game-changer for Clones and our border region."


Northern Ireland Minister for Infrastructure, John O'Dowd MLA said: "I am delighted to be here to mark the commencement of work on Phase 2 of the Ulster Canal restoration, which, when completed, will provide an additional inland navigable waterway from Lough Erne to Clones. The project will bring many benefits to the area by creating a new destination for visitors as well as enhancing the facilities available for local communities. This will create opportunities both for existing businesses to expand and for new businesses to develop. In the current economic climate, it is heartening to see a project like this being progressed; a project that has the potential to bring economic benefits that could be transformational for the region."


Minister for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan TD concluded, "This project is a celebration of our water heritage. It is being approached in a respectful, sensitive and sustainable manner as is our responsibility in our stewardship of our navigations. It will inject a new vibrancy into our border communities and better opportunities for all of us to enjoy sustainable leisure and tourism activities while protecting our rich biodiversity."


The Ulster Canal redevelopment is being managed by Waterways Ireland and is being carried out in three phases. The €3m Phase 1 of the project, which facilitates boat travel between Lough Erne and Castle Saunderson, was completed in 2020. Phase 3, for which part-funding of €40m from the Shared Island Fund has been announced, will link phases 1 and 2, fully reopening the waterway from Clones to Lough Erne.


Commenting, Chief Executive of Waterways Ireland, John McDonagh said: "Today marks further progress in translating Waterways Ireland's vision to grow social, economic, and environmental well-being value to our navigation waterways. The commencement of works on Phase 2 of the Ulster Canal is a key step in realising the full potential of our navigations. When the entire project is complete, it will be a dynamic, purposeful asset, which will improve livelihoods in the border region and support healthy lifestyle leisure."


Work began on the Ulster Canal in 1841 and within the year it was open to commercial traffic. The navigation, combining river and canal, was circa 93km long, passing through counties Fermanagh, Cavan, Monaghan, Tyrone, and Armagh. The last trading boat using the canal was in 1929 and it officially closed in 1931.




Contact: Katrina Mc Girr, Waterways Ireland 087-9918412 / katrina.mcgirr@waterwaysireland.org / Joanne Ahern, DHR Communications, 087-9881837 / joanne@dhr.ie.


Notes for Editors:

·       Photographer Marc O'Sullivan will issue photos to picture desks this afternoon.

·       John McDonagh is available for interview, on request.


Note for Editors:

About Waterways Ireland:

Waterways Ireland is a cross-border body accountable to the North South Ministerial Council under the 1998 British-Irish Agreement. The organisation is headquartered in Enniskillen and has satellite offices in Dublin, Carrick-on-Shannon, and Scarriff. Its 335 staff are deployed across the management, maintenance, development and promotion of over 1,000kms of inland navigable waterways. Waterways Ireland assets contribute approximately €560m in economic, societal and environmental value annually. The waterways estate comprises Grand Canal; Royal Canal; Barrow; Shannon, Shannon-Erne; Erne; Ulster Canal and Lower Bann navigations.

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