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Ireland's cross border canal restoration agreed by ministers

Restoration of Ireland's only cross-border canal was given the go-ahead at a North-South ministerial council meeting last week.

The £23.8M scheme to restore the 13km Erne to Clones section of the 77km Ulster Canal is aimed at opening up the waterways to leisure boats and forms part of an ongoing programme of cross-border initiatives.

Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Éamon Ó Cuív from the Republic and Northern Ireland culture minister Edwin Poots from the North welcomed the project, hailing its revitalising potential following the success of the restoration of Shannon-Erne waterway in the Republic.

Planning through to construction is expected to take up to six years. The canal crosses the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland several times and as a result, design, negotiation with landowners and navigating the planning process in both nations is likely to take up four years of that time.

While most of the works to be will be renovation, a new 3.5km stretch at the Lough Erne end of the canal will be dug to miss out on the original canal's locks which are too narrow for navigation by modern pleasure craft.

The Erne Clones section of the waterway is also spanned by around 15 bridges, at least two of which will need replacing.

Client Waterways Ireland, the all-Ireland body founded in 1999 following the Good Friday Agreement, will go out to tender on a design and build contract for the scheme in the second half of 2008.

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