Thursday, 24 November 2011
Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs
Question 27: To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding the Ulster Canal restoration project; the amount of moneys which will be allocated resulting from the recent capital expenditure review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36571/11]
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 €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 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.
It was noted at the NSMC Plenary Meeting held in Armagh on Friday last 18 November 2011 that the Ulster Canal project is progressing incrementally. In this regard, an application for planning for the project was submitted in October with the relevant authorities in each jurisdiction and I trust that the Deputy will agree that this is a significant milestone. I can confirm to the Deputy that I intend to continue to explore all possible options that may assist in the advancement of this project. To that end, I met recently with senior officials of Monaghan County Council, Fermanagh District Council and Waterways Ireland to discuss approaches to setting up an inter-agency group that could examine ways in helping to advance the Ulster Canal project. I look forward to that work continuing in the period ahead.
Question No. 28 answered with Question No. 21.