Hopes for the restoration of the Newry Canal have risen after comments made by Minister of Agriculture Michelle O’Neill.
Councillor Colin McCusker revealed details of correspondence with the Minister in which she confirmed the canal is not designated as a drain.
“The Minister states clearly the Newry Canal is not designated as a drain, but it is termed as a ‘designated watercourse’,” said Mr McCusker.
“She has also stated that due to this designation, the canal should be maintained at public expense. Hopefully we will no longer hear, see or read the term ‘drain’ in reference to the Newry Canal.
“The Newry Canal has the potential to be a major tourist attraction and the work of the IWAI branch has made huge inroads into improving it. However, the IWAI on their own will not be able to restore the Newry Canal.”
Peter Maxwell, chair of IWAI said, “For years we have been led to believe that the canal was viewed as a drain, and for us this is great news. I see no reason that the Newry and Portadown Canal should not now be referred to as ‘a canal under restoration’ by all concerned. Based on what the Minister has said, there also appears to be provision in the Drainage Order for the Rivers Agency to carry out work on a watercourse on behalf of the owners; with a sharing of costs by agreement. This could be used as a future way forward for restoration of the canal.”