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Ulster Canal restoration a symbol of peace and reconciliation – Taoiseach



Ulster Canal restoration a symbol of peace and reconciliation – Taoiseach

The restoration of the Ulster Canal is symbolic of peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland, the Taoiseach has said.

Simon Harris made the comments as Government ministers from both sides of the border attended an event to mark the completion of phase two of the project in Clones, Co Monaghan.

Mr Harris, Tanaiste Micheal Martin, Stormont Minister for Infrastructure John O’Dowd and Junior Minister Pam Cameron were among those attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Northern Ireland First Minister Michelle O’Neill was due to attend, but had to pull out of the event due to illness.

The Ulster Canal, which runs through counties Armagh, Fermanagh and Tyrone in Northern Ireland and counties Cavan and Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland, was built in the 19th century but was abandoned in the early 1930s.

The restoration of the disused waterlink is a flagship north south infrastructure project.

It is being managed by Waterways Ireland.

Phase one involved the restoration of a 2.5-kilometre stretch of the canal from Upper Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh to the International Scout Centre at Castle Saunderson near Belturbet in Co Cavan.

Phase two restored a section of the canal between Clones and Clonfad in Co Monaghan.

The 20 million euro project was funded by the Irish Government, with support drawn from its Shared Island Fund, the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

As well as the restoration of the canal, which is now open for navigation, the works also saw the construction of a new marina at Clones, with access bridges and amenity area, as well as new walking and cycling trails along the canal between Clones and Clonfad.

Phase three will link phases one and two, fully reopening the waterway from Clones to Lough Erne.

Irish Government ministers Darragh O’Brien and Heather Humphreys and minister of state Malcolm Noonan also attended Wednesday’s event.

Mr Harris said: “I am delighted to see delivery for Clones, Co Monaghan, of a landmark new marina and restored section of the Ulster Canal.

“This project embodies so clearly the benefits of north south co-operation and investment for Co Monaghan, and across the entire border region.

“It is a project that symbolises peace and reconciliation on our island; one that will bring lasting benefits for generations to come.

“The restoration of the Ulster Canal demonstrates the huge focus that the Irish Government places on investing in large-scale, cross-border projects.

“Through the Shared Island Fund, the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, over 20 million euro has been invested.

“I am very pleased to mark today’s occasion in the company of a number of colleagues from the two governments.

“I know that in particular my colleague, the Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys, has driven this project over many years. Today is a day of real celebration for all parties involved, but above all, for the community of Clones.”

Mr Martin also welcomed progress on the project.

“I established the Shared Island Initiative with the aim of fostering co-operation, connection and mutual understanding on our island,” he said.

“The Ulster Canal restoration project embodies what Shared Island is all about – communities working together for the betterment of the island for everyone who calls it home.

“The restoration of the Ulster Canal reconnects the region with its rich heritage, while also developing a modern tourism amenity for all to enjoy. It will greatly enhance the lives of communities and the economy along the border.”

Mr O’Dowd said: “This project, like all infrastructure, underpins everything in our society, bringing communities together, north and south, providing opportunities for people young and old to explore our outdoor environment and experience something new.

“It also has the potential to be transformational for the region, bringing opportunities for businesses by creating a new visitor destination. I want to commend Waterways Ireland, the engineers, contractors and all those involved in bringing this complex project to life.”

Junior Minister Pam Cameron commended the restoration of the Ulster Canal as an “iconic project”.

“It is an example of how we can work together across both jurisdictions in a very practical way to deliver initiatives which will ultimately be of benefit to us all,” she said.

“As neighbours, and governments, we all want to deliver better outcomes for people which is why projects such as the restoration of the Ulster Canal are important.”

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