Call for study into re-opening Coalisland Canal
A Coalisland councillor has called for Mid Ulster District Council to explore the possibility of reopening the Coalisland Canal.
The 4.5 mile canal was opened in 1787 and reached its peak usage in 1931 before it was abandoned in 1954.
Now, with lockdown having brought more people to the walkways along the canal than at any time since its closure, SDLP group leader, Councillor Malachy Quinn believes it is the perfect time to look at reopening the waterway.
Speaking at April’s council meeting, Cllr Quinn told members that with money available from the Department for Infrastructure for feasibility studies and the desire from Stormont to restore the Ulster Canal, now is the time to push this potential project.
“Over the last couple of months, my party colleague, Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon MLA, has made it clear there is money available for feasibility studies for potential infrastructure projects,” said Cllr Quinn.
“Over the last year, people in Coalisland have begun to rediscover the canal, it is a feature that has a massive history and helped develop Coalisland into the town that we know and love.
“In the 50s it was stopped and closed and was relegated to a drainage ditch but Council has done sterling work with the footpaths and people are using the canal like no other time since it was closed.
“Given this, I would like Council to come up with a paper exploring how much it would cost Mid Ulster District Council to open the canal and make it what it once was. We can then take this paper to the Department for Infrastructure and ask for a feasibility study.”
Councillor Quinn was keen to note how this is not simply a vanity project. It is, he said, a project that could play a crucial part in the reopening of the Ulster Canal and a provide a boost to tourism in the area.
“If everything was opened up we would be able to take the boat from Coalisland down to Shannon,” said Cllr Quinn.
“It means a lot to the people of Coalisland and it would be excellent to explore what we can do in the future.”
The proposal was seconded by independent Torrent councillor, Dan Kerr, who said the work should have been done years ago.
“The canal should be the centrepiece of the area and we should do our utmost to promote the area and highlight its history and significance to the town,” he said.
“It would be a very good achievement by this Council if it was to be reopened and there is no reason why we should not be trying to get this waterway open.”
Councillor Sean McPeake said the reopening of the canal is something the Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN) is also exploring.
“ICBAN is doing work on Ulster Canal in tandem with Waterways Ireland and there have been commitments from the Stormont Assembly and the 26 county government that it is a strategic project to take forward,” he said.
“There is a meeting in the next few weeks with waterways Ireland and I am sure the Coalisland issue will be raised by ICBAN staff.
“The Ulster Canal is on the agenda but we need to make sure it is delivered by both governments north and south.”
Thank you for reading this article. We’re more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.
Please consider purchasing a copy of the paper. You can also support trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription of the News Letter.