Wednesday, 18 September 2013
Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
Ulster Canal Restoration Project
40. To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding the Ulster Canal restoration project; the remaining steps that must be taken to complete the project; if he will provide an indicative timeline for the completion of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38498/13]
757. To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding the proposed restoration of the Ulster Canal; when this project is likely to proceed to the next stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38800/13]
I propose to take Questions 40 and 757 together.
As the Deputies will be aware, in July 2007, the North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) 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.
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. It was 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. However, as the Deputies will be aware, the economic downturn has had a negative impact on those plans.
In the meantime, the Ulster Canal project is progressing on an incremental basis. Planning approvals have now been secured for the project in both jurisdictions. I welcome these developments, which, I am sure both Deputies will agree, are a significant milestone for the project.
I am continuing to explore all possible options to advance this project within the current fiscal constraints. In this regard, an Inter-Agency Group on the Ulster Canal has been established to explore and examine ways to advance the project and to examine possible funding options for it, including existing funding streams and the leveraging of funding from other sources, including EU funding options.