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Call to reopen Ulster Canal

8 November, 2004

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA, Philip McGuigan, has said that the reopening of the Ulster Canal would have massive benefits for tourism in North Antrim and has called on the British and Irish Governments to act upon proposals from Waterways Ireland immediately.

His comments follow a meeting with the group, which was set up to develop the network of navigable waterways in Ireland, that he attended along with local representative Daithí McKay and East Derry MLA Francie Brolly.

Mr McGuigan said:

"The number of people coming to Ireland to sail on its rivers and canals is increasing and has done wonders in regenerating communities that live on their banks.

"At present tourists, and indeed members of the Irish public can travel from the estuary of the River Shannon in Limerick right the way up to Lough Erne and Enniskillen where it plays a significant part in the Fermanagh town's local economy.

"If the Ulster Canal were to be reopened Lough Neagh and our own River Bann would be reopened to the large network of rivers and canals that we are presently cut off from. This would be a massive boost to towns and villages which straddle the Bann and would offer great economic opportunities to places like New Ferry and Portglenone, giving them a direct link to Enniskillen, Limerick, Galway and even the Royal Canal.

"The benefits of this form of tourism are there to be reaped by local people here in North Antrim, and the Irish Government know only too well of the dividends it has brought to the tourist industry in the rest of Ireland.

"I would urge both the British and Irish government not to ignore the potential of this proposal which has the full backing of Waterways Ireland and ourselves in Sinn Féin." ENDS

N.B. Waterways Ireland is one of the Implementation bodies set up under the Good Friday Agreement to develop the network of navigable waterways across the whole country. The potential for economic and community development along these waterways is huge.

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