23 September 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

By Cianna McNally

CLONES has been urged to stay positive about the future of the Ulster Canal project.
Comments in relation to the future funding of the project made by Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan in Clones earlier in the year have caused concern that its progression is in doubt.
A meeting to discuss the issue was organised on Friday last, 16th September. Local TDs, Clones town councillors, the Mayor of Co Monaghan and representatives from Clones Regeneration Partnership were in attendance.  
Mayor of Clones Yvonne Newell welcomed everybody present and read out a letter she had received from Minister Deenihan.
The letter stated that the North/South Ministerial Council Plenary Meeting in July 2007 agreed to proceed with the restoration of the section of the Ulster Canal between Clones and Upper Lough Erne.
Although the then government had agreed to cover the full capital costs of the project, estimated at the time to be in the region of €35 million, Government Accounting procedures did not provide, in that sense, for the ‘ringfencing’ of funds for projects of this nature.
Minister Deenihan was advised that it was always the intention that the Ulster Canal project would be funded from the Waterways Ireland annual allocations, and also be supported by a significant level of projected income from the commercialisation of certain Waterways Ireland assets – a scenario that was negatively affected by the economic downturn.
The Minister had asked his department to keep in regular contact with Waterways Ireland with a view to advancing the project to the greatest extent possible, within the current constraints.
The letter concluded with Minister Deenihan describing the fact that Waterways Ireland is in the process of finalising documentation in order to submit an application for planning permission as a “significant milestone for the project.”
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