Thursday, 15 September 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
98. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding the proposal to restore the Ulster Canal; when this project will proceed to the next stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24373/11]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): As the Deputy will be aware, 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 €35m. 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 allocations, 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 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.
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. 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, Waterways Ireland has informed me that the preliminary design for the project has been completed and that an application for planning will be lodged with the relevant authorities before the end of September. I trust the Deputy will agree that this is a significant milestone for the project.
|Last Updated: 08/03/2013 19:07:52||Page of 114|