New dawn for Clones as next phase of Ulster Canal regeneration begins

The Taoiseach says he hopes investment in cross border projects will continue as he unveiled the foundation stone for the next phase of the Ulster Canal project.

“This is a cross border project in the truest sense”, he said.

“This has been talked about for many decades and has been a long standing commitment for many Governments.”

The special event in Clones was held as diggers worked outside the historic Canal Stores building. Local representatives, along with members of the Clones Development Society, who started the process of reopening the canal in the late 1980s when they bought the then derelict stores building.

Speaking at the special event, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the project represents “a hugely significant heritage, tourism and recreational amenity”.

“It’s an investment in our communities and a tangible example of what can be achieved through partnership and all-island collaboration.”

The Taoiseach said while work is only beginning on phase two, planning is well underway on phase three which will link Clones with Castle Saunderson.

“The Government is determined to drive forward the next phase.”

Work began last week on the second phase, a 42 berth marina at Clones and the restoration of a 1km section of the canal.

Minister Heather Humphreys, who lives not far from Clones, has been seen as instrumental in getting the project to this stage. She praised the Taoiseach for the creation of the Shared Island Fund which aims to promote and invest in cross border projects.

“You had the vision in coming forward with the Shared Island Fund and I remember when you announced it at Cabinet, I said to you that day ‘I have just the project for you’. It’s really great that you had that vision.”

The potential of the canal for attracting investment and opening tourism opportunities to Clones, Cavan and surrounding areas went far from being unnoticed at the event.

Minister for Housing, Heritage and Local Government Darragh O’Brien, Junior Minister for Heritage Malcom Noonan and CEO of Waterways Ireland John McDonagh all spoke of the opportunities the investment will bring.

Northern Ireland Minister for Infrastructure John O’Dowd was also in attendance and noted the importance the project plays in creating cross border ties.

“This will help to break down the barriers put up since the original foundation stone was erected. I hope all physical and significant barriers are breaking down.”

The cross border element of the canal was also noted by Minister Humphreys who had this message for politicians and bodies north of the border.

“Can I just say now to my good colleagues in Northern Ireland, the work doesn’t stop in Clones. Yes, a greenway is being developed to link Clones to Middletown [Co Armagh].

“My vision is to see the Ulster Canal go the whole way from Lough Neagh. That is the last piece of the jigsaw of the inland waterway network.”