Mid Ulster District Council are being urged to partner with another local authority to ensure its vision for the future of the Ulster Canal can become a reality.
Speaking at a meeting of Mid Ulster District Council’s development committee, Dungannon Councillor Dominic Molloy proposed council officers reach out to their counterparts on Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council to form a joined up approach with regards to the Ulster Canal and River Blackwater.
A report presented to members at the meeting notes the establishment of additional cross-border greenways and connected blueways would have multiple benefits for the people of Mid Ulster.
It also states the Ulster Canal is “one of the last major waterway projects awaiting restoration on the island of Ireland” and claims “the re-opening of the Ulster Canal is seen as a major cross-border infrastructure project with broad political, government and community support on both sides of the border”.
Councillor Molloy acknowledged work is ongoing on the project through the Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN) but called on Council to play its own role in the push for the canal’s restoration.
“I note the report mentions connectivity and blueways and greenways,” said the Sinn Fein councillor.
“I know there is ongoing work with ICBAN in relation to those kinds of projects and the Ulster Canal in particular but it seems to be a ‘far off’ project from our end.
“Therefore, can I propose that we look at doing something, in conjunction with Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council in relation to this project, to get something together so we could formulate a lobby group.
“I think it is well worth doing because if we are working solo on it we will probably get nowhere but in conjunction with ABC we could come up with some proposals, not only around the Ulster Canal but also the River Blackwater.”
This proposal was seconded by his party colleague, Councillor Niamh Doris who said she was in total agreement with Cllr Molloy.
“Cllr Molloy is completely right, there is a lot of potential in the Ulster Canal but I do think, between ourselves and ABC we need to be consistently putting the pressure on, just to make sure that we can actually start seeing tangible results on the ground,” said the Torrent councillor.
“It has been talked and talked about, everyone knows there is good potential and really good work going on through ICBAN but we just need to organise ourselves and keep pushing at this until we start seeing tangible results on the ground.”
Having listened to the proposal, a council officer confirmed it was something officers could work on and noted that previous work on the subject could be revived.
“That is something we can take forward,” said the council officer.
“There was a lobby group within the old Blackwater partnership, there is a lot of research and studies that can be pulled out again so we can certainly take this forward.”
In April, Councillor Malachy Quinn called on Mid Ulster District Council to explore the possibility of reopening the Coalisland Canal.
Councillor Quinn was keen to note the crucial part such a move could play in the reopening of the Ulster Canal.
“If everything was opened up, we would be able to take the boat from Coalisland down to Shannon,” said Cllr Quinn.
“It means a lot to the people of Coalisland and it would be excellent to explore what we can do in the future.”