REPRESENTATIVES from the Blackwater Regional Partnership’s Ulster Canal Steering Committee recently met to continue to promote and lobby for the waterway to be reopened to its former glory.
The group met with the Joint Committee for the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement arrived at the Ulster Canal Stores in Clones.
Those present at the meeting included TD’s Brendan Smith, Sean Conlon, Frank Feighan and Deputy Chair Joe O’Reilly.
Fermanagh-South Tyrone MP, Michelle Gildernew, represented the Northern Ireland members.
The Ulster Canal Steering Committee was represented by, Cllr Sean Conlon, Cllr Roger Burton, Cllr Phelim Gildernew (Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council), Cllr Thomas O’Reilly( Fermanagh District Council), Cllr Joy Rollston (Armagh City and District Council), Catherine Fox (BRP) and Gerry Derby.
County Council Manager David Fallon also attended alongside John Martin and Nigel Russell of Waterways Ireland.
Following the welcome from the Mayor of Monaghan County Council, Cllr Hugh McElvaney, and the Cathaoirleach of Clones Town Council, Cllr Peter McAleer , Cllr Roger Burton, Chair of the BRP, provided a overview of the benefits of reopening the Canal from Lough Neagh to Clones stating:
“The villages and town of the Ulster Canal Corridor particularly in the northern section that is not committed to, still wait in hope that we will see the Ulster Canal opened to its former glory.
“Restoration and Regeneration of the Ulster Canal is not just about boating, but the restoration of towpaths, and historical gems promoted along the route which will support the full development of the entire route.
“Restoration will bring about the development of a rural signature tourism resource, civic pride for local communities living along the canal corridor, health and well-being, business regeneration and much much more.”
A presentation by Monaghan Councillor, Cllr Sean Conlon, provided an overview of the important geographical location of the Ulster Canal in connecting the waterways in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, highlighting the benefits and spin-off effects for all and not just the boating community.
Cllr Conlon referred to the Canal as the “missing link” and pressed the need to commit to the Canal in its entirety.
Members of the Implementation Committee gave their comments at the end of the meeting and all were duly impressed with both the location of the meeting and the discussion itself.
Issues such as planning, route protection and community buy in were all raised.
The Ulster Canal Steering Committee were delighted with the afternoon’s proceedings and the support given to the project by the Implementation Committee.
Cllr Roger Burton concluded with the following remarks:
“We are very encouraged by the North South Ministerial Council Agreement in 2007 that Waterways Ireland should proceed using Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs funding with the re-opening from Upper Lough Erne to Clones.
“The Blackwater Regional Partnership and the Ulster Canal Steering Committee look to the future and hope that we will see the canal re-opening from Maghery to Benburb, Blackwatertown, Middletown, Monaghan and joining Clones.”
Blackwater Regional Partnership will continue to lobby and promote the development and restoration of the Ulster Canal a major cross-border capital scheme to create economic, environmental and social regeneration, reversing neglect and disadvantage in the border region.