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Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

29-01-2022 11:00 am -2:00 pm
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Blast from the Past Vintage Run

20-02-2022 12:00 pm
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Hilltown Farmers Market

06-03-2022 11:00 am -2:00 pm
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Sustaining and Building Cross Border Co-Operation and Trade

09-03-2022 9:00 am -1:00 pm
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16-03-2022 8:00 pm -10:30 pm
Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

26-03-2022 11:00 am -2:00 pm
Hilltown Farmers Market

Hilltown Farmers Market

03-04-2022 11:00 am -2:00 pm
Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

30-04-2022 11:00 am -2:00 pm
Hilltown Farmers Market

Hilltown Farmers Market

01-05-2022 11:00 am -2:00 pm
Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

28-05-2022 11:00 am -2:00 pm
Hilltown Farmers Market

Hilltown Farmers Market

05-06-2022 11:00 am -2:00 pm
Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

25-06-2022 11:00 am -2:00 pm
Hilltown Farmers Market

Hilltown Farmers Market

03-07-2022 11:00 am -2:00 pm
Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

30-07-2022 11:00 am -2:00 pm
Iúr Cinn Fleadh

Iúr Cinn Fleadh

25-08-2022 2:00 pm -11:55 pm
Iúr Cinn Fleadh

Iúr Cinn Fleadh

26-08-2022 2:00 pm -11:55 pm
Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

27-08-2022 11:00 am -2:00 pm
Iúr Cinn Fleadh

Iúr Cinn Fleadh

27-08-2022 2:00 pm -11:55 pm
Iúr Cinn Fleadh

Iúr Cinn Fleadh

28-08-2022 2:00 pm -11:55 pm
Iúr Cinn Fleadh

Iúr Cinn Fleadh

29-08-2022 2:00 pm -11:55 pm
Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

24-09-2022 11:00 am -2:00 pm
Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

29-10-2022 11:00 am -2:00 pm
Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

Stephen Fitzpatrick Auction

26-11-2022 11:00 am -2:00 pm
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Last night's November meeting of the Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council saw Councillors speak at length on the potential of re-opening Newry Canal. 

One could have been forgiven for thinking that an announcement had been made that the Canal was going to be re-opened shortly instead of the much more mundane reality of Councillors being asked to allow Council officials to talk with ABC officials 'with a view to investigating joint working for the future development of Newry Canal and revert back to the ERT Committee with proposals to progress this.' But of course out of little acorns mighty oak trees grow!

A total of six Councillors spoke of the sorry state it presently is in, the benefits there would be for future generations, the need to change the Canal's designation from disused to in-use, the opportunity we now have, the health and tourism benefits, the potential for Newry to be the heritage epicentre of the country and the potential if it was added to the City Deal funding stream.

Words are cheap

Like the proposed park, funding was mentioned as the 'silver bullet' for the project but as Newry.ie has always believed, having the will to do something is much more vital than finances. Perhaps that's where this idea, like so many before it could fall down. Words are very cheap. After all re-opening the canal has been mooted continuously virtually since it was closed. More recently in the 2011 Newry City Masterplan it was discussed at great length and it was given a 10-15 year timeframe for completion back then.

What was really stopping our local Councillors and Council officials seeking a change to Newry Canal's designation any time in the 10 years since? What stopped them investigating the project in those years? Who in Council looked for funding in all those years?

If Council don't move away from words towards action, last night's meeting will have been no more than another 'talking shop' but perhaps, and hopefully this just might be Newry Canal's 'time'.

What a Legacy - A whole new level

Last night's agenda item was the result of correspondence from Inland Waterways Association of Ireland Newry and Portadown Branch. Newry City Councillor, Cllr Roisin Mulgrew spoke of her delight at the report and praised the organisation and their volunteers for all their work in preserving the canal. and asked "has the canal actually been deemed as obsolete and in terms of getting funding, is there a role for the Assembly to play, if that is the case, to reverse that, because Newry Canal is not obsolete."

Mulgrew added "our family like so many others in the Newry area Fathom, Flagstaff, Dublin Road and beyond were very much linked to the Newry Canal and in fact the town of Newry was built upon the canal. It was the artery that brought life into that town and our history is so steeped in the canal that I really feel now this is our chance, our very last chance to really save this Canal and to do something with it."

Just imagine Newry Canal like this! Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

"We have put so much emphasis into tourism in this area, you go to England and look at the canal's around Manchester, you look at the barges and people living on the barges. You look at the coffee shop, the walkways, and while there has been maintenance and money spent on on trying to keep some of the lock gates open and operational and the towpath is a fantastic facility, but we need that canal open. Water Sports and Tourism is so topical for us as a council as we move forward with the development of the Albert Basin - This is the link to the Albert Basin."

Cllr Mulgrew said her party had raised the future of Newry Canal at a Peace Plus workshop earlier yesterday "I think we have an opportunity here. I hope this is only the first step but can we please have a look at has the assembly any role to play here because we really do need to try and get the amount of funding necessary to refurbish that canal, it is so historic, it's so much part of our past. Please please let it be part of our future in terms of tourism and bringing people into our area."

Concluding Mulgrew added "What a legacy for this Council and ABC council to have that Canal operational. I think it would just bring us and our district into a whole new level."

Long term aspiration

Cllr Gary Stokes spoke of what had been achieved with coloborative work between Council's on the towpath. "it is so well used, cyclists walkers, runners.

"It's amazing to see the use it's getting and yet you walk alongside and the water end of it is clogged up in places. There's been an aspiration for decades. When I was in primary school we did a project in primary six about reopening the Canal and how all these things could be done. That's how long and probably long before that, there's been an aspiration to reopen the Canal.

"I do think we obviously have to do it in conjunction with Inland Waterways and ABC Council. But I think it's timely to have a look at this again"

Stokes continued "If you look at what was done with the towpath and the health benefits, tourism benefits. I've come across people who get the train from Belfast down as far as Poyntzpass and get off and will cycle back to Portadown and get the train back. If we can do something similar with the actual waterways. I know it's not easy, these things have to start somewhere and I do think like Roisin said we need to take a serious look at this again."

Blueways and Grenways

Councillor Andy McMurray mentioned how Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon has much vaunted the blue ways and greenways and wondered was there any scope in approaching her in that regard?

A Beacon

Newry City Councillor, Cllr Michael Savage spoke of a group of paddleboarders from Paddleboarding Ireland who thought the canal was 'a real jewel' and 'probably one of the best Paddleboarding assets on this island'

Savage said "I think this could be delivered if the will is there in Stormont and if the Department regardless of who the Minister is the next time follows through on the blueway and greenway approach.

The Newry Canal Bath Tub Race back in 2011. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
The Newry Canal Bath Tub Race back in 2011. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

"The Newry Canal covering both district council areas could be a beacon for that sort of activity. The bottom line is is that it's one of the oldest navigational canals in these island's if not the oldest. It's steeped in history. As Roisin has said there's hundreds and thousands of families across this area that have links to it over the years. I think it's something we could actually build on around the canal. There used to be the Canal Festival back in the Eighties but I think our merchant and maritime theme could be built on as well, where we could become the epicentre of something historical, of a heritage nature, as well as the watersports nature."

Cllr Savage concluded "It's a big challenge, It's a Herculean challenge, but I think it's one worth taking on and I think the benefits that we would reap and future generations would reap would be second to none."

City Deal opportunity

Councillor Henry Reilly spoke of how, when the City Deal was announced he had mentioned the canal as a project. "I suggested that this would have been an ideal project for the City Deal and unfortunately the Council decided to opt for something that very few people seem to want, but we are where we are. To make the canal viable we need to lift the bridges and at the time whenever I mentioned that on the City Deal one of theInfrastructure guys said it would probably cost a million pound to lift each one of those bridges, but to be able to navigate from the Albert Basin right up to Portadown and into Lough Neagh, such a massive opportunity for this Council and it's something that we should have done years ago."

Reilly added "If aspects of the City Deal do start to founder now, we should be prepared to say the Council is making a mistake here and this is a far far better scheme that's really going to add value to the area. I don't know whether that's still possible given at this late stage but it's something that we should have done."

'It takes tears to my eyes'

Adding his support Newry City Councillor, Cllr Charlie Casey spoke of his passion about the canal. " I feel so passionate about it that I had to join the meeting tonight. There is a great potential in the Newry Canal and all the speakers have just stated what the potential may be, but Roisin nailed it at the very start when she said the Canal been designated as obsolete."

Casey remembered that at one of the very early Assembly's there was a three or four million underspend in the budget and he had hoped at the time that it would go towards the Newry Canal but that the designation had ruined that possibility and the money went to the Ulster Canal instead. "we need to get the designation changed. If we get that changed it can open up all avenues for for huge amounts of funding." Cllr Casey added.

Casey recalled a link to the famous bodysnatchers Burke and Haire who he said worked on the building of it adding "It's about time our Council lobbied long and hard and strong to get the Assembly to change the designation because as people have said there, it's been choked to death by weeds. It's that bad that the ducks have to get out and walk along the towpath they can't swim in it anymore it's that badly choked up. I walk it every day and I see it. It takes tears to my eyes when I see such a resource close to home to us being allowed to go to rack and ruin. I fully support the work that Inland Waterways are doing on the canal. I support our Council with limited resources doing what they're doing in the Newry end of it. I fully support the recommendations in this."

The meeting agreed that Council officials would liase with officials in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council and come back to ERT with details of the discussions.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    eoz · 2 months ago
    all the canals in  uk should be rebuilt and  refurbished .. water taxis and small town buisnesses like the cafes , pubs and  other  restaurants.. then can  thrive . some the other  companys  such as the kilns for history  and other  ideas for the   hostory of each town could be  incoprated and  made apart of the tourism of the canals,,  the fact is the   ideas are unlimted  and there is alot  of  good in  this for the nature and cooling of  land..  maybe  even water power with  mills for small towns and more... this is  good for the future and for the people  making new and old job come to life... again... 

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