Wednesday, 27 May 1992
Dáil Éireann Debate
28. Tomás Mac Giolla asked the Minister for Finance whether the Government has any plans for a development programme for the Royal Canal to enhance both tourism and recreational potential, and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. N. Treacy): I am happy to advise the Deputy that the Government, through the Commissioners of Public Works, has in place an extensive restoration and development programme on the Royal Canal. The Canal, which was closed to navigation in 1961, was transferred from CIE together with the Grand Canal and Barrow Navigation under the Canals Act, 1986, to the Commissioners of Public Works to be developed as a public amenity. The task facing the Commissioners in restoring a canal which had largely been ignored for over a quarter of a century is enormous, involving as it does the dredging of the canal to navigational depth, removal of spoil, installation of new lock gates and rewatering of levels as required.
On the transfer of the Royal Canal to the Office of Public Works, they embarked on a three phase restoration programme. Phase I of the programme involved the restoration and reopening to navigation of the canal stretch between Blanchardstown and Mullingar which was successfully completed in 1990. Phase II of the programme commenced at the beginning of 1991 and involved the restoration of the Dublin stretch between Blanchardstown and the Liffey and the final full set of lockgates for this stretch have recently been installed at the North Strand. The remaining dredging work between Binn's Bridge and the River Liffey at North Wall Quay will be carried out over the summer months. With the replacement of the railway culvert at North Strand by a bridge, on which agreement has been reached with CIE, the Royal Canal will soon be open once again for navigation between Dublin and Mullingar.
Phase III of the programme consists of the restoration of the navigation from Mullingar to the Shannon at Clondra, Co. Longford and the restoration of the branch to Longford town. Work on this phase is also underway. While there are a considerable number of major engineering obstacles to be overcome on this stretch, including low road bridges, breaches of the canal, leaks and dry  levels, progress to date has been encouraging and the commissioners are confident that with a continuation of the tremendous goodwill which has been a feature of this project, all the obstacles will eventually be overcome.
While of necessity the programme to date has largely concentrated on the heavy engineering works required to reopen the canal to navigation, the commissioners are also developing the ancillary recreational potential of the canal. A detailed plan for the development of the Royal Canal as a top class coarse fishery has been drawn up and a complete ecological survey of the system has been completed which will assist in the management and development of the canal as a natural linear park. The Commissioners have, where resources permit, undertaken some landscape improvement works along the canal e.g. Whitworth Road, Drumcondra and have also cooperated with interest groups along the system in undertaking local canal environment improvement works. Indeed, without the interest and active involvement of these groups and in particular the Royal Canal Amenity Group, the progress made to date could not have been achieved.
The Government, through the Commissioners of Public Works, are committed to the restoration of the Royal Canal and it's development as a public amenity for the Irish people and visitors alike. The potential of our inland waterways as tourist attractions and public amenities, representing as they do particularly fine examples of clean and unspoilt waterways, is considerable and the restoration and development of the Royal Canal will prove a significant step forward in the development of what are national assets and part of our heritage.
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