09/02/2010

Make Ulster Canal Reality, Says MLA

A Co Londonderry politician has supported a call to begin a huge construction project to re-open the long neglected Ulster Canal.

East Derry Sinn Féin MLA, Billy Leonard has tabled a debate for the Assembly today calling on the Culture Minister, the DUP's Nelson McCausland to "show some vision" and put the re-opening of the Ulster Canal back on the agenda.

Speaking prior to the debate Billy Leonard said: "While I bring this issue forward from an East Derry Constituency point of view, the benefits of this project have far reaching potential for job creation across many areas of our economy such as construction, tourism, leisure and service industries.

"But for it to be realisable, it needs vision and drive. In terms of this institution DCAL is meant to be the driver for such projects, but first of all it requires vision. I ask, does this Minister possess that vision?" he said.

"I realise that there are many people who have attempted to move this issue on over recent times but became disillusioned realising that the Minister and his department are not sufficiently visionary on this Ulster Canal project.
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"I would therefore use the opportunity of this debate to challenge the Minister and his officials to have a Canal conversion and become a driver of this project," he said.

Almost a decade ago, the ambitious £89 million programme for a rejuvenated canal system throughout Northern Ireland was presented to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The then Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure Michael McGimpsey presented the feasibility study to the Assembly, which was discussed at a North/South Ministerial Council sectoral meeting.

The feasibility study carried out by ESB International and Ferguson McAlveen outlines a restoration proposal for an Ulster Canal that would restore the canal with six-metre-wide locks along a modified route, which would link into the River Blackwater at the Lough Neagh end and the River Finn at the Lough Erne end.

The construction works of the Ulster Canal was then due to cost £89 million and was expected to take about seven years to complete.

See: AMBITIOUS £89M PLAN FOR ULSTER’S CANAL SYSTEM

(BMcC/GK)

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