Northern Ireland

Ulster Canal project to share in new €70.4m from Republic's Shared Island Fund

A project to restore the historic Ulster Canal is to benefit from the Shared Island Fund.
A project to restore the historic Ulster Canal is to benefit from the Shared Island Fund.

A PROJECT to restore the cross-border Ulster Canal is among initiatives to benefit from €70.4 million allocated by the Republic's Shared Island Fund.

The fund, which was established last year, aims to enhance all-Ireland projects to help build a shared future for communities on both sides of the border.

Schemes to benefit from the new financial package include a shared island electric vehicle charging infrastructure project, which will receive €15m, while €3m will be used for a 'Community Climate Action Programme'.

Arts investment projects will also be awarded €7.4m from the pot.

However, the biggest sum - €40m - will go towards the Ulster Canal restoration project, which will reconnect rural communities in Fermanagh, Cavan and Monaghan along 13.5km of the waterway.

Completed in 1842, the canal was closed in 1931, but work has been underway at restoring it since 2015. The Shared Island Fund cash injection will go towards the third phase of the long-awaited project.

"The Shared Island initiative is gathering pace. Following on from the €50m allocation from the Shared Island Fund in 2021, Government has today agreed a record €70m in funding for Shared Island projects and investments," Taoiseach Micheál Martin said yesterday.

"Today’s announcement sets out an ambitious, cross-government programme of work, which will bring communities, north and south, together to work on shared strategic priorities.

"Through the Shared Island Fund we are providing enhanced resources so the long-standing commitment to the Ulster Canal restoration is delivered. We are also progressing new cross-border and all-island investments in community climate action, EV charging infrastructure, in the arts, and for new local authority investment projects.

He added: "Working through all-island partnerships, we will deliver tangible benefits and provide new opportunities for people from all communities and traditions on this island. The government is deeply committed to this agenda to see us build, in practical and positive ways, a more connected, sustainable and prosperous island for all."

Former president of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland Brian Cassells, who has long campaigned for the revamping of the Ulster Canal, said he was "absolutely delighted" at the announcement.

He told the Irish News: "Full marks to the government in the Republic for their vision and understanding of the amazing potential of this project.

"Bringing the Ulster Canal back to life will be of huge benefit to the border communities it passes through - areas that have often suffered from underinvestment for many years.

"It will be a boon for farmers, as well as the hospitality and tourism sectors. Sadly it seemed that many had turned their backs on our waterways in previous decades, ignoring the incredible opportunities they presented.

"It's heartening to see that potential once again being realised through this new funding for the phase three of the Ulster Canal project."