Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran TD was in Abbeyshrule, Longford earlier today, Thursday October 10, for the announcement of €1m funding for the Royal Canal greenway.
The funding will be provided from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport Budget 2020 allocation for greenways and the news comes ahead of the launch of Ireland's longest greenway from Maynooth, Co Kildare, to Clondra in Longford. The aim of this latest round of funding is to help put Longford on the map as an international tourist hotspot.
Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief, Kevin Boxer Moran, described it as a 'great day' for Longford.
He said to the Leader, 'It is a great day for Longford and the whole community from Meath, Kildare, Westmeath and into Longford.
"It is a significant day as it is €1million investment by the government."
Minister Moran said the news has come off the back of discussions with Minister Ross.
"I had to make a few moves to make it happen.
"Late into last night, Minister Ross and I sat down and had a long meeting in relation to what this is about today.
"This is about tourism and bringing people into the Hidden Heartlands. That is what this is all about."
Minister Moran says these funds will enable the canal to be transformed into a state-of-the-art facility and promised that it will not only go towards canal infrastructure, but also associated street furniture.
"Today's announcement will connect this part of the country with Dublin and that is significant because you will be able to get a bike and cycle the whole way from Dublin.
Continuing he said, "To be able to deliver on this is a massive step in the right direction."
Minister Moran then vowed to continue prioritising the Midlands in the future and says promoting tourism in the area is something he wants to continue delivering on.
"Tourism is a big factor for me in this area and I want to deliver on that." He vowed.
In conclusion Minister Moran confirmed that this will also lead to further funding down the line.
He said, "There will be more funding coming down the line.
"Once the projects are put in front of us, I as Minister will make sure to knock on Minister Ross's door to deliver. Trust me."
"The future is bright on a bike in Longford and Westmeath while I am around."
The news was also welcomed by Cathaoirleach of Longford county council, Micheàl Carrigy, who dubbed it "a wonderful opportunity' for the county.
He stated, 'This is a wonderful opportunity for Longford to benefit economically with tens of thousands of cyclists/walkers expected to use the Greenway.
'Waterways Ireland have employed a marketing to market the product which will bd appealing to the European cyclists.
"As chair of Longford Tourism, I am delighted that our vision for the canal which started with the spur from Longford Town will now be a reality."
These sentiments were echoed by Fianna Fáil's Joe Flaherty, who says the funding boost is an exciting development, before stating that he hopes it is a sign of more to come.
He said, "It is very exciting news, especially when you speak to visitors here today.
“We really need to look to nature, our natural environments and see how we can capitalise on that.
“This funding is certainly a major step in the right direction for us. Obviously it is going to take an awful lot more money in the grand scheme of things.
“The canal itself is a big structural project so the funds are welcome, but more funding is certainly needed.
"I am sure that will come, because the Minister himself is very enthused about the project.”
Cllr Flaherty says this announcement will create huge opportunities for the county on a wider scale.
He said, “You have to look at places like Denmark, where the greenways really have taken off.
“You can go right around towns in Denmark and you are never on concrete at all.
“It is a huge opportunity, both locally, nationally and globally.” He concluded.