€40 million announced for next phase of Ulster Canal project

The project has received a major boost this evening.

There’s a major boost to one of the region’s biggest projects as €40 million in funding was approved by Ministers today.

Cabinet this evening gave the go-ahead for Phase 3 of the Ulster Canal restoration project, which it’s hoped will eventually link Clones, Co Monaghan with Castle Saunderson and on to Lough Erne.

Phase one was completed in 2019 and allows boat traffic to travel from Lough Erne to Castle Saunderson. €3 million was spent reopening the 2.5km section of canal.

Work on Phase two is expected to begin next month. It consists of a 42 berth marina next to the Canal Stores in Clones, along with the restoration of a 1km section of the canal.

Phase three would see the joining of the first two sections, via 13.5km of restored canal. This would see the waterway fully reopened from Clones to Lough Erne.

Waterways Ireland has confirmed to The Anglo-Celt that it is ready to start work on Phase 2 in Clones:

“The procurement process for a Design/Build Contractor is expected to conclude in the coming weeks. We hope to commence construction on Phase 2 in August 2022, with completion expected in late 2023.”

It’s hoped the marina, which will be located next to the Canal Stores on the Cavan road, will help to boost the economic development of Clones and attract tourists to the area.

Two new bridges will be built and a third historic bridge will be restored along the route. The tow path will also be restored, while walking trails, parking and an amenity area will be built. That will include 40 car parking spaces, eight bus and campervan/caravan spaces, a service block and picnic area and will be connected to Clones town and the existing playground.

€12 million is to be spent on that section of the project, made up of €5.5 million from the Rural Regeneration Fund and €6 million as part of the Government’s Shared Island Fund. That was announced by Taoiseach Micheál Martin last year.

Another €1 million was also announced at the time for planning work on phase three.

Waterways Ireland says planning work for that section is continuing but it’s received a boost with today’s €40 million allocation.

“Preliminary studies necessary to inform further development and delivery of Phase 3 of the Ulster Canal Restoration (Clonfad to Castle Saunderson) are continuing”, the body said.

Speaking after the decision to progress the project and allocate funding was made at Cabinet today, Minister and Cavan-Monaghan TD Heather Humphreys said she’s delighted:

“In many respects Phase 3 is the final piece of the jigsaw in terms of connecting Clones with the entire inland waterways system. When complete, it will mean you can jump in your boat in Clones and head to places like Athlone and Limerick!

“I am over the moon that Government has today approved this €40million investment in the Ulster Canal through the Shared Island Fund.

“This project is hugely important not just for Clones and County Monaghan but for the wider border region and I will continue to work with Waterways Ireland, Monaghan County Council and my Government colleagues to ensure the Ulster Canal is delivered for the benefit of this region.”

Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith also welcomed the announcement.

"These are very substantial restoration works and moves this project on to a very exciting development stage," he said, adding that the restoration of the Ulster Canal will enhance considerably the tourism product at a local level, providing a new amenity for local residents and visitors, will generate economic activity and assist in job creation. "This waterway will also be an integral part of our All Ireland navigable inland waterways network which is a powerful natural resource and such a key part of our national tourism infrastructure and attraction."

Party colleague Niamh Smyth was just as enthused, stating that Phase 3 is "central" to the delivery of the commitment under the Programme for Government and the New Decade New Approach agreement to complete the Ulster Canal restoration from Clones to Upper Lough Erne.

"The Shared Island Initiative is proof of Fianna Fail’s commitment to delivering all-island solutions which produce real results and benefits for people on either side of the border.”