I wondered recently whether the proposed canal to Clones was really a Sinn Féin canal. And I have also wondered whether the proposed restoration of the Lagan Navigation was a Unionist riposte, to be undertaken without the involvement of cross-border implementation bodies. With Michael McGimpsey having supported it, I thought of it as an Ulster Unionist project: although there seems to have been some DUP interest in at least some aspects, I’d have thought the Upper Bann was more DUP territory, with at least part of the Lower Bann staunchly supporting Ulster Scots heritage.
Now (h/t Industrial Heritage Ireland) comes news that the SDLP has got itself a canal: it wants the Newry Canal to be handed over to Waterways Ireland by the four local authorities that currently own it. This would extend the influence of the cross-border body into another area of Northern Ireland and bring it even into Portadown.
The Newry and Portadown Branch of the IWAI wants the thing restored and no doubt the local authorities (who have maintained it as a popular walking and cycling route) would be glad to get it off their budgets. Waterways Ireland, alas, remains deaf to my blandishments and is determined to have the Ulster Canal made navigable instead of setting up a walking and cycling route, and no doubt it would welcome having the good folk of Newry and Portadown lobby for it to get United Kingdom taxpayers’ money (if there ever is any to spare) to restore the Newry Canal.
But the major question that nobody has answered is this: what is the Alliance Party doing? What canal does it want restored?