Ireland's Taoiseach Simon Harris and Tánaiste Micheál Martin, alongside Waterways Ireland, officially opened Phase 2 of the Ulster Canal redevelopment project today, Wednesday, June 19, following a €28.4 million investment.

Work began on the Ulster Canal in 1841 and within the year it was open to commercial traffic. The navigation combining river and canal was circa 93km long, passing through Counties Fermanagh, Cavan, Monaghan, Tyrone, and Armagh. The last trading boat using the canal was in 1929 and it closed officially in 1931.

The Ulster Canal redevelopment is being managed by Waterways Ireland and is being carried out in three phases. Phase 1 of the project, which facilitates boat travel between Lough Erne and Castle Saunderson, was completed in 2020, and Phase 2 was recently completeed. Phase 3, when complete, will link phases 1 and 2, and fully reopen the waterway from Clones to Lough Erne.

The redevelopment project was carried out by Waterways Ireland, the navigational authority for the inland navigable waterways, from August 2022 to June of this year, completing the restoration of 1.5km of the Ulster Canal from Clones in Co Monaghan to Clonfad in Co Monaghan.

Phase Two of the project includes a new Marina in Clones and 1km of restored canal and towpath with a looped walk and an amenity area including parking, a service block, picnic area, performance space, and bus/trailer spaces on the route of the 180-year-old Ulster Canal.

The vision for Clones Marina, agreed following public consultation, is a Marina that safely links the wider waterway and greenway network into the heart of Clones Town, providing a memorable and unique gateway to Co Monaghan and the border region: a place to engage with the water, landscape, ecology and the celebrated heritage of Clones.

The investment saw the creation of 80 new construction jobs throughout this second phase of development, with the newly launched amenities supporting an enhanced number of tourist and hospitality opportunities, demonstrating Waterways Ireland’s commitment to supporting the local economy.

June 19, 2024: Phase 2 of the Ulster Canal redevelopment project opens. (Shane O'Neill / Waterways Ireland)

June 19, 2024: Phase 2 of the Ulster Canal redevelopment project opens. (Shane O'Neill / Waterways Ireland)

Commenting on the opening of Phase 2 of the restoration of the Ulster Canal, Waterways Ireland CEO John McDonagh said: “Waterways Ireland’s purpose is to be the custodian of the inland navigations and collaborate to reimagine, maintain, develop, and promote them to sustain communities, environment, and heritage.

“Through the Ulster Canal restoration, we aim to build a brighter future where the waterway plays an inspirational role in the lives of the local community and offers exciting opportunities for local businesses."

Ireland's Department of the Taoiseach said on Wednesday: "Restoration of the canal will provide communities right across the rural border region with a new amenity to enjoy, as well as an important new tourism destination with opportunities for new businesses to open and existing businesses to expand.

"It safeguards an integral part of our historic waterways heritage in a managed, inclusive and sustainable way.

"The restoration project has been a key priority for rural communities and businesses in Monaghan and surrounding areas for many years, and the opening of the new phase will significantly boost connections between both communities and canal systems north and south."

Taoiseach Simon Harris said he is "delighted" to see the delivery of a landmark new marina and restored section of the Ulster Canal.

“This project embodies so clearly the benefits of North South cooperation and investment for County Monaghan, and across the entire border region," Harris said.

“It is a project that symbolizes peace and reconciliation on our island; one that will bring lasting benefits for generations to come.

“The restoration of the Ulster Canal demonstrates the huge focus that the Irish Government places on investing in large-scale, cross-border projects.

“Through the Shared Island Fund, the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage – over €20 million has been invested.

“I am very pleased to mark today’s occasion in the company of a number of colleagues from the two Governments.

“I know that in particular my colleague, the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, has driven this project over many years.

"Today is a day of real celebration for all parties involved, but above all, for the community of Clones."

June 19, 2024: Phase 2 of the Ulster Canal redevelopment project opens. (Shane O'Neill / Waterways Ireland)

June 19, 2024: Phase 2 of the Ulster Canal redevelopment project opens. (Shane O'Neill / Waterways Ireland)

Looking ahead, Phase 3 of the restoration of the Ulster Canal is expected to be completed by 2029 at a cost of €80 million, subject to funding.

In the interim, Waterways Ireland intends to use the on-water and off-water infrastructure at Clones to offer amenity and recreational activities for the public good. In particular, a Visitor Experience Plan is underway to create attractive visitor experiences at Clones Marina as part of the redevelopment of the Ulster Canal.

Once completed, Phase 3 will connect the 10km between Clonfad and Castle Saunderson, linking the town of Clones by navigable waterway to the Erne system and onward to the wider waterway network.