IWAI presentation to DCAL committee at Stormont

Newry Times News Posted by
Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Brenda Hale, Willie Irwin, Michelle McIlveen, Peter Maxwell, Geraldine Foley, Dominic Bradley and Karen McKevitt in the great hall, Stormont after the DCAL committee hearing.

The IWAI has been lobbying for the remit of Waterways Ireland to be extended to include the Newry to Portadown canal. By the end of the summer all four local councils who own the canal had given their formal backing to this aspiration and were very encouraging in their support for the branch’s campaign. Waterways Ireland is a North/South body formed by the peace agreements in 1998 and to have the remit extended requires action by the Assembly, initiated by the dept of Culture Arts and Leisure. The Newry & Portadown branch therefore began to lobby local MLAs. Upper Bann MLA and Craigavon councillor Sydney Anderson set up a meeting between the branch and the DCAL committee chair Michelle McIlveen. Ms McIlveen was very impressed by the voluntary work that the branch has already done along the canal and with all the efforts made to promote the restoration of the canal. As a result of that meeting the branch was asked to present to the full DCAL committee at Stormont. Branch chairman Peter Maxwell told the committee:

“The IWAI realises there is no money for a full restoration project on the canal at this time but as Waterways Ireland is the most likely organisation in the country to achieve the eventual restoration of the canal we want to be ready for when money does become available. It makes sense for them to be involved at an early stage so that a longterm, strategic and cost effective programme of development, maintenance and restoration can be planned.”

The branch also stressed the importance of the canal to local communities right along the canal corridor and how a continuing programme towards restoration could help the local economy. The DCAL committee has 3 local MLAs on it – Karen McKevitt (South Down), Dominic Bradley and Willie Irwin (Newry and Armagh) – people who understand the significance of the canal’s history and present state. They all registered their support for our proposal, together with Cathal O’hOisin, Brenda Hale and Michelle McIlveen. Following the branch’s presentation the Stormont committee is seeking clarification on why the Newry canal was left out of the original remit in 1998 and will recommend that the remit is now extended to include the canal. Peter Maxwell said:

“Having DCAL committee support for the extension of the Waterways Ireland remit is a very significant achievement for the IWAI. The Newry & Portadown branch will now be pushing them to keep the process active and make sure that the recommendation reaches the North/South ministerial council as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile the conservation work of the branch continues with workparties along the canal. If you want to show your support or be part of the restoration campaign contact Peter Maxwell on 07981193480.

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