14 October 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

“While I intend to explore all possible options that may assist in the advancement of this project, it must also be recognised that the Government is engaged at present in a Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, under which all spending is being examined rigorously,” Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan has told Monaghan Co Council in a response to their representations on funding for the redevelopment of the Ulster Canal.
In a letter circulated at the October meeting of the Council, the Minister, after expressing congratulations on the success of the recent National Famine Commemoration in Clones, stated:
“I understand the concerns you have expressed in your letter regarding the funding of the Ulster Canal project.
“As you know, the North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) Plenary Meeting in July 2007 agreed to proceed with the restoration of the section of the Ulster Canal between Clones and Upper Lough Erne.
“The then Government agreed to cover the full capital costs of the project, which were estimated at that time to be of the order of €35 million.
“However, Government Accounting procedures do not provide, in that sense, for the ‘ring-fencing’ of funds for projects of this nature.
“I am advised that it was always the intention that the Ulster Canal project would be funded from the Waterways Ireland annual allocation, as agreed through the annual estimates processes in this jurisdiction, as well as the deliberations of NSMC in relation to annual budgets.
“I am advised also that it was also a key consideration throughout the process that the Ulster Canal project would be supported by a significant level of projected income from the commercialisation of certain Waterways Ireland assets – a scenario that was affected negatively by the economic downturn.
“Clearly, that downturn is of major significance and presents serious difficulties to my Department during this period when there is such pressure on the public finances.”
Commenting as quoted at the outset, the Minister added:
“Notwithstanding that, I have asked my Department to keep in regular contact with Waterways Ireland with a view to advancing the project to the extent possible, within the current constraints.
“In this regard, you will be aware that Waterways Ireland has completed the preliminary design and a planning application will shortly be lodged with the relevant authorities – a significant milestone for the project.”
Referring to the Minister’s letter, Clones Sinn Féin councillor Pat Treanor said a commitment had been given four years ago, in July 2007, by the North/South Ministerial Council that the project would advance and be open by 2013. He thought the Council should keep pressure on Minister Deenihan to ensure the project went ahead and adhered to this deadline if possible.
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