Tuesday, 6 March 2012
Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs
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.
It was noted at the NSMC Plenary Meeting held in Armagh on 18 November 2011 that the Ulster Canal project is progressing incrementally. Planning applications were lodged by Waterways Ireland with Monaghan County Council, Clones Town Council and Cavan County Council on 25 October 2011 and with the Department of the Environment Planning Service Northern Ireland on 28 October 2011. I am informed that Cavan County Council has granted planning permission. Monaghan County Council and Clones Town Council have requested additional information. I am sure that the Deputy will agree that this is a significant milestone for the project.
I am continuing to explore all possible options to advance this project. In this regard, towards the end of last year, I met 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. Officials of my Department are currently finalising the terms of reference for the inter-agency group. I look forward to that work continuing in the period ahead.
Question No. 80 answered with Question No. 63.
Question No. 81 answered with Question No. 61.
Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 71.
Question No. 83 answered with Question No. 63.