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Decision to stall Ulster Canal restoration project criticised

21 July, 2011

Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Arts, Heritage, Tourism and Sport, Sandra McLellan, has criticised the Government's decision to stall plans to restore the Ulster Canal between Clones and Lough Erne.

Deputy McLellan was speaking in relation to a question she tabled to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, calling on him to confirm his commitment to ensure the restoration of the canal in line with commitments at a North South Ministerial Council meeting in 2007 and in light of the project's important economic potential for the region.

She said:

“I am very disappointed with the government’s failure to prioritise this project and ring-fence funding. The Minister’s response that ‘all options will be explored within current constraints’ is a far cry from the commitments given in 2007. While I appreciate that 2007 was a very different time than today in economic terms, the outstanding merits of the Ulster Canal restoration project still stand.

“It is a singularly important project for the region and holds enormous potential to open up the area. It would return a major social, economic and peace dividend and would have a huge impact on the towns and villages in the canal corridor, leading to significant regeneration and benefits due to increased tourism, business development and prosperity in general, not to mention the many construction and ancillary jobs which would be created.

“Similar projects elsewhere have shown a significant return, not only for the economy, but for people in the entire catchment area, with increased numbers of visitors, including recreational visitors, walkers, cyclists, canoeists, etc. In failing to commit funds to this important project the government has failed communities all along the route. They have missed a fantastic opportunity to prioritise investment in regional and rural development and to improve our tourist product.” ENDS

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