Waterways Ireland’s 10-Year Plan

Waterways Ireland, the navigational authority for the inland navigable waterways, has published its 10-year plan which seeks to deliver on the enhancement, restoration and conservation of Ireland’s waterways, greenways and blueways.

Covering 1,100km of canals, rivers and lakes as well as over 600km of cycleways and trails by waterscapes, Waterways Ireland plays a significant role in creating value for the public good through providing increased economic, social and environmental benefits.

This ambitious 10-year plan provides strategic vision for reimagining historic waterways, greenways and blueways to make them more sustainable and accessible while offering enhanced recreational opportunities for users, including watersports, angling, cycling, walking, boating and more. Over a million people live within 10 kilometres of a waterway, meaning there is great potential for more people to enjoy these recreational opportunities.

The long-term vision will be supported by an initial investment of around €200 million in funding over the first three years of a ten-year cycle. This investment will facilitate a number of ambitious plans that will restore, enhance and further develop the network of waterways, green and blueways across the island of Ireland, while creating attractive visitor experiences on canals, rivers and walking and cycling trails for locals and visitors alike.

One of the key opportunities is the redevelopment of Dublin Docklands and the canals running directly through the capital city, designed to bring these areas to a standard seen in other European capitals. This will mean the public will be able to enjoy both the waterside facilities and amenities, as well as broader water-based activities in central urban locations.

Outside of Dublin, one of the largest engineering feats ever undertaken by the organisation is the development of the Ulster Canal, a 14km distance that will see the creation of a new canal that will result in a new marina within Clones, Co Monaghan. The project, which is currently in phase two and expected to reach completion in 2028, will receive €120 million in capital funding and create 100 indirect jobs as part of the project.

The Plan provides a directional pathway that looks to enhance and upgrade these amenities for the public good in a manner that is harmonious with the surrounding environments and supports the ecological integrity, while promoting biodiversity and eco-friendly practices.

The waterways under the organisation’s remit include the Lower Bann Navigation, Erne System, Shannon-Erne Waterway, Shannon Navigation, Royal Canal, Grand Canal, Barrow Navigation and Ulster Canal. Waterways Ireland is the largest north-south body, established in 1999 as part of the Good Friday Agreement. Headquartered in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, Waterways Ireland employs over 375 people across the island of Ireland.