The Ulster Canal 03: implementation

Since 2007, Waterways Ireland has been working on implementing the decision of the North/South Ministerial Council. In 2007 the Council decided how the project would be managed:

[it] approved the proposal that Waterways Ireland should appoint a single entity consortium to design and construct the restoration. It noted that Waterways Ireland will establish a project team for the day-to-day management of the project, which will report monthly on progress to a Monitoring Committee chaired jointly by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. The estimated cost of the restoration works is €35m and the full capital cost will be met by the Irish Exchequer.[i]

By 4 July 2008, Waterways Ireland had had discussions and consultations with the Clones Erne East Partnership, 46 of the 49 known land-owners[ii] and relevant statutory agencies.[iii] It had appointed an internal project manager and it was proposing to acquire the necessary land early in the process. It had published, on 15 May, a call for expressions of interest in carrying out preliminary design work (with a deadline of 16 June), had shortlisted six consultants and would ask them to submit proposals based on a brief for the works; it expected to appoint a consultant in autumn 2008.[iv]

By January 2009, however, Waterways Ireland had changed its mind and had decided to undertake the preliminary design stage internally. However, it said that, following the acquisition of land and receipt of planning, it would “let the contract for the design and construction of the project to a single entity”.[v] Michelle Gildernew MLA, Northern Ireland Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, felt that most landowners were “fairly amenable” to the canal proposals.[vi]

By July 2009 Waterways Ireland was conducting a survey of the land between Lough Erne and Clones[vii] and by December it was reviewing possible routes and options. It was also working on a Strategic Environmental Assessment (due for completion by end-2009) and an Environmental Impact Assessment (due for completion in July 2010).[viii] According to Nelson McCausland MLA, Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

[…] Waterways Ireland is on target to submit planning applications in summer 2010 for approval to allow land acquisition and then to proceed towards awarding of contracts for the construction phase, to commence in 2011 with completion scheduled for 2013. […]

The work that is under way represents a significant investment in the waterways and will provide an excellent opportunity for my Department to assess the economic, social and wider potential that the reopening of the waterways offers. In considering the proposals, I recognise the potential strategic and cross-border significance of reopening the Ulster canal in its entirety. That would re-establish an extensive North/South navigable network, linking Coleraine and the Lower Bann navigation with Enniskillen, Limerick and Dublin via existing operational waterways.[ix]

Work fell about six months behind schedule, however: by May 2010 it was reported that the Strategic Environmental Assessment would not be completed until mid-2010 and the Environmental Impact Assessment until “late 2010”.[x] Waterways Ireland had received the physical survey that would allow the preliminary design process to commence and had selected one possible route as the best from the technical engineering point of view:

[…] when the preferred options are identified, the tender for a site investigation will be advertised. A meeting with DOE planners in Northern Ireland was held in December 2009. The selection of the final option is dependent on the outcome of the environmental studies and the final design estimates. That option will be developed to allow it to be forwarded for planning approval, and it is anticipated that it will be forwarded for planning approval in late 2010. Pending a successful outcome to the planning process, the land acquisition process will be commenced and the contract for the construction phase of the project should be awarded in 2011.[xi]

The three Waterways Ireland documents created on 18 August 2010 are available here: http://www.waterwaysireland.org/index.cfm/section/article/page/UlsterCanalSEA

  • Ulster Canal Restoration Plan
  • Environmental Report
  • Appropriate Assessment.

Waterways Ireland announced two “public information days” for consultation and said that written comments should be submitted by 30 September 2010.

Next: the view from Northern Ireland: Ulster says no.


[i] Éamon Ó Cuív TD, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Dáil Éireann 01 November 2007, written answers about the meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) in Inland Waterways Sectoral Format held on 17 October 2007

[ii] Gregory Campbell MLA, Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Ministerial Statement to the Northern Ireland Assembly 23 September 2008 on the meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council in Inland Waterways Sectoral Format. Note that on 3 February 2009 Michelle Gildernew MLA, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, in a Ministerial Statement to the Northern Ireland Assembly on the meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council in Inland Waterways Sectoral Format on 16 January 2009, said that Waterways Ireland had met 46 of 50 landowners

[iii] NSMC inland waterways joint communiqué 04 July 2008

[iv] Gregory Campbell MLA, Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Ministerial Statement to the Northern Ireland Assembly 23 September 2008 on the meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council in Inland Waterways Sectoral Format

[v] NSMC inland waterways joint communiqué 16 January 2009

[vi] Michelle Gildernew MLA, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministerial Statement to the Northern Ireland Assembly 03 February 2009 on the meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council in Inland Waterways Sectoral Format on 16 January 2009

[vii] NSMC inland waterways joint communiqué 9 July 2009

[viii] NSMC inland waterways joint communiqué 2 December 2009

[ix] Nelson McCausland MLA, Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Northern Ireland Assembly 9 February 2010

[x] NSMC inland waterways joint communiqué 26 May 2009

[xi] Nelson McCausland MLA, Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Ministerial Statement to the Northern Ireland Assembly 15 June 2010 on the meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council in Inland Waterways Sectoral Format on 26 May 2010

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