The Shannon–Erne Waterway (Irish: Uiscebhealach na Sionainne is na hÉirne; Ulster-Scots: Shannon–Erne Wattèrgate) is a canal linking the River Shannon in the Republic of Ireland with the River Erne in Northern Ireland. Managed by Waterways Ireland, the canal is 63 km (39 mi) in length, has sixteen locks and runs from Leitrim village in County Leitrim to Upper Lough Erne in County Fermanagh. The official opening of the Shannon–Erne Waterway took place at Corraguil Lock, Teemore, County Fermanagh on 23 May 1994.
Two enquiries held at the time give an insight into the canal. The Crighton Committee of Enquiry was set up in 1878 to investigate the performance of the Board of Works, and following their findings, the Monck commission looked at the issues of a route from Belfast to Limerick. As part of the evidence collected, Pratt related that he had ceased to maintain it after 1865, since there was no traffic, and John Grey Vesey Porter, one of the trustees, described a three-week journey along the canal in a steamer in 1868, which had only been achieved by Pratt moving the water from pound to pound to keep the boat afloat.
He declared the whole project to be one of the most shameful pieces of mismanagement in any county. In 1887, the Cavan and Leitrim Railway arrived in the area, and were sufficiently confident that the canal would not be used that they built low bridges over it, preventing navigation. The railway was not a commercial success either, and was another drain on local resources.
A new waterway :
The canal lay moribund until the 1960s, when the growth in pleasure boating on the Shannon led enthusiasts to consider whether it could be restored. By 1969, Leitrim Council and the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland were asking for a full survey to be carried out. Here things lay until 1988, when an engineering and feasibility study, funded by the International Fund for Ireland, examined the issues surrounding reinstatement of the canal, which lay across the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
In June 1989, Charles Haughey, the Taoiseach, announced that the two governments had decided to adopt the proposal as a flagship cross-border project. In order for the project to take place, the powers of the original trustees, which had passed to the local authorities along its route, were transferred to the Office of Public Works. Work commenced in November 1990 and the canal was opened to traffic on 23 May 1994 on time and within the budget of £30m. It was essentially a new navigation along the line of the original waterway, which had never been properly completed in the first place.
Course of the waterway :
The waterway has three natural sections: a still-water canal from the Shannon at Leitrim to Kilclare, which has eight locks; a summit level which includes Lough Scur, and a river navigation from Castlefore, near Keshcarrigan, through Ballinamore and Ballyconnell to the Erne, which has another eight locks.