The restoration of the Ulster Canal has entered the second phase following the announcement by the Republic of Ireland government of an intial €12million funding to restore the canal between Clones and Clonfad in Co. Monaghan.

The announcement was made on Wednesday by Taoiseach, Micheál Martin and the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys and has been hailed as a symbol of peace and reconciliation.

The investment is supported jointly by the Shared Island Fund and Rural Regeneration Development Fund.

40 berth marina

Phase Two will comprise of incorporating a canal basin marina and amenity area in Clones along with a new 40 berth marina, access bridges and towpaths, walking and cycling routes, the refurbishment of masonry arch bridge and tourism and recreation facilities.

A further €1million has been allocated to Phase Three of the project - Clonfad to Castle Saunderson - a 10km stretch of the canal which will complete access from Clones to the River Shannon via Lough Erne and the Shannon-Erne Waterway system thus opening up the entire Shannon and Erne network from destinations as far as Limerick.

Announcing the funding on Wednesday Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it has been a “long-standing Government priority with an important North-South dimension, and today’s funding announcement will ensure that the pace of progress can be accelerated.

“This investment has the potential to vastly enhance the lives of people and communities along the border by creating a new amenity to be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. It will also breathe new life back into the area, by stimulating economic activity and opening up new tourism opportunities in the region.

Much anticipated

“This is an exciting and much-anticipated project, and today’s announcement is the next step in the process to realise the full potential of the Ulster Canal waterway.”

Minister Humphreys called the announcement “historic” for communities North and South: “The Ulster Canal is a unique, flagship cross border project which will bring huge economic benefits to the region.

“But it will do so much more than that. The Ulster Canal, once re-opened, will represent a permanent symbol of peace and reconciliation on our island – demonstrating the benefits of bringing our communities together.

“Waterways Ireland, who will deliver this project, were one of six North/South bodies established under the Good Friday agreement.”

John Mc Donagh, Chief Executive of Waterways Ireland welcomed the Taoiseach’s statement and that of Minister Humphreys said: “The Ulster Canal is a major link in our waterway network that will see the restoration of the canal basin near the historic Canal Stores in Clones and provide a water-based recreational amenity area.

“This is a wonderful development for the Border region and particularly the town of Clones.

“Securing all of the €12m means we have certainty and can now deliver this section of the project substantially by mid-2023.”

Stormont Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, described the announcement as “another step forward for this hugely exciting all-island project”.