Seanad Éireann - Volume 135 - 28 April, 1993
Adjournment Matters. - Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: I welcome the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs to the House.
Mr. Reynolds Mr. Reynolds
Mr. Reynolds: Thank you, a Chathaoirligh, for allowing me to raise this issue. I welcome the Tánaiste and compliment him on his interest in the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal.
I have a parochial interest in this issue. The Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal was established in the mid-19th century and it was navigable for about five years. Unfortunately it fell into disuse until about three years ago when restoration of the canal commenced. That work is almost completed and it is hoped the canal will be navigable for the first cruisers in May 1994.
I have a copy of an environmental impact statement in relation to the restoration of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal prepared for the Governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom by ESB International and Kirk McClure and Morton Environmental Consultancy Services. It states:
In this section an analysis is undertaken of the socio-economic profile of the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Canal catchment area. The analysis indicates an area with depleted local population with a tendency towards a  disproportionately high older population and long term population decline. Employment in parts of the catchment area has fallen, primarily due to a significant decline in the importance of agriculture which is the predominant source of employment. There is relatively little manufacturing in the area and the options for economic development outside of tourism are very limited.
That sums up the problems in the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal area.
Local people fear that the name of the canal will be changed to the “Shannon-Erne Link”. Being a native of the town of Ballinamore I believe it is important that the name Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal is restored and featured in the marketing campaign. It is a major project, with excellent infrastructure, for that part of the country and it is necessary for the area's economic development. If it is marketed as the Shannon-Erne Link we fear that the Shannon and the Erne will benefit more from the increased tourism potential than the catchment area of Ballinamore and Ballyconnell. That is the reason for local concern. The people wish to see the name Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal used in the marketing of the canal.
As the Tánaiste is aware, a marketing manager has been appointed and is working in Ballinamore and so the local people are anxious to have the canal's name speedily decided. I can understand their concern. They are delighted with the development and with the unprecedented financial investment in County Leitrim. I dare say it will never be seen again.
Mr. Magner Mr. Magner
Mr. Magner: It should be named after the Senator.
Mr. Reynolds Mr. Reynolds
Mr. Reynolds: If the people of County Leitrim re-elect me to the Dáil I will make sure that more money will be spent in the area. The Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal project was initiated when I was a Deputy, although I do not take all the credit for the project.
 On a serious note, the concern is genuine and I request that the canal be named and marketed as the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring) Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring)
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): Thank you, a Chathaoirligh and Senator Reynolds, for your warm reception and kind remarks. I am glad to have the opportunity to speak in the Seanad.
The Senator need not excuse himself for raising a parochial matter because, as our colleague in the United States, Senator Tip O'Neill, said, all politics is local and we should remember that.
The Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal, as Senator Reynolds has indicated is 62 kilometres in length, linking the Shannon and Erne rivers. The £30 million flagship project to restore the canal is being funded by the Irish and British Governments, the European Community and the International Fund for Ireland. I am pleased to inform the House that the project is proceeding on schedule and within budget. Substantial completion of the work is expected to be achieved by mid-1993, with only navigation stabilisation and minor completion works to be undertaken thereafter. The formal opening ceremony for the canal is scheduled for May 1994.
The reconstructed Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal, providing a cross-Border link between the Shannon and Erne navigations, will constitute a major new tourism asset on the island through the creation of a continuous inland waterway of some 875 kilometres in length. Most importantly, the restored amenity will also prove a unique asset in regenerating tourism and economic growth in the area immediately served by the canal, that is, from Leitrim village through counties Leitrim and Cavan and along the Cavan-Fermanagh border to Upper Lough Erne and Belturbet.
While the Office of Public Works and the Department of Agriculture, Northern Ireland (DANI), are the Government agencies charged with responsibility for the navigation, ESB  International have been delegated to restore the waterway. The project is being overseen by the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal North-South Steering Group appointed by the two Governments and comprising, on the Southern side, representatives of the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Finance, Tourism and Trade and the Taoiseach as well as the Office of Public Works, the ESB and ESB International and, on the Northern side, the Departments of Agriculture, Finance and Personnel, Economic Development and the Central Secretariat.
The proper marketing of the asset will, of course, prove crucial in reaping maximum benefits from the resource. In this regard a joint task force, comprising representatives of Bord Fáilte and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, has been formed to market the new waterway. A three year marketing programme, costing £650,000, has been drawn up and a marketing manager, Mr. Terry McGovern, to be based in Ballinamore, is now in place. The marketing manager, who will have executive responsibility for implementing the marketing strategy, will work with local tourism interests, North and South, and will participate in overseas marketing initiatives. Work on marketing the product is already under way and it is envisaged that tour operators and media will be introduced to the waterway this summer.
It is appropriate to mention that the International Fund for Ireland — beyond the considerable assistance it is providing to the restoration project proper — has generously agreed to fund 75 per cent of the costs of the marketing strategy, with the balance being contributed equally by the two tourist boards.
The joint Bord Fáilte/Northern Ireland Tourist Board Task Force has given very careful consideration to the title under which the canal might be marketed. In the interests of creating a distinctive image and brand identity for the waterway, the firm preference of the task force is that the existing well established brands of Shannon and Erne should be exploited to maximise market recognition and  impact. They have recommended, therefore, that the identity for marketing purposes should be that of the “Shannon-Erne Waterway”.
The task force sees strong advantage in using the well established Shannon and Erne names in the marketing title for the new waterway. The Shannon and Erne waterways have been actively promoted since the 1960s and the Shannon alone attracts some 25,000 out-of-state visitors every year. The task force also believes that the use of the names “Shannon” and “Erne” in the marketing title of the new product will pay particular dividends in increasing the number of foreign holiday-makers in particular who will visit the canal and its catchment area.
I can, of course, sympathise with the Senator's desire to see the product marketed under its local name of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal and I will see to it that the views he has put forward are brought to the attention of the task force. The people of the area may understandably be concerned that use of the title “Shannon-Erne Waterway” for marketing purposes could place too broad a focus on the project and reduce the impact it would otherwise have in improving the economic situation of the towns and villages along the canal itself.
At the same time, I believe that we must pay heed to the professional advice furnished by the two tourist boards in regard to the advantage of exploiting the well established Shannon and Erne brands to maximise market recognition and impact. I wish to assure Senator Reynolds that, in following such an approach, the primary objective of substantially boosting tourism and business development of the core project area of the canal itself will remain very much to the fore. In this respect, the proposed use of the title “Shannon-Erne Waterway” should not be seen as representing any slight on the core area itself, but rather as forming part of a careful marketing strategy which will also maximise the benefits which the project will bring to the whole area.
Such a title will, of course, also serve to underline the important cross-Border  identity of the new waterway and the importance of the canal in linking the two great river systems of Ireland. I am sure that such an association will prove of commercial benefit in generating additional domestic, cross-border and overseas tourism in the core project area.
I believe this is one of the most exciting cross-Border projects for a considerable time. As the Senator has said, it has brought new spending to the locality and it will bring great advantages to the area. I think it will be well supported by both Governments and will be very successful.
Seanad Éireann 135 Adjournment Matters. Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal.