The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, commemorated the Royal Canal’s 200th Anniversary in the presence of Waterways Ireland, the Royal Canal Amenity Group and invited guests in Clondra, Co. Longford on the 27th May 2017. The President unveiled a plaque before speaking at the event in the presence of 300 guests.
The event took place on the anniversary of the day when the canal was completed all the way to the Shannon in 1817.
During its heyday, people, coal and crops were moved to Dublin from Arigna Mines, farms and rural communities all over the North West, and people and goods returned. The Royal Canal closed in 1960 and remained closed for 50 years. The Canal reopened to navigation in 2010 following extensive lobbying and volunteer work by the Royal Canal Amenity Group and the work of Waterways Ireland staff.
In its 25th year of operation the Royal Canal also saw the mass exodus of people escaping the famine by walking the towpath to Dublin to take a boat to the new world. The largest known group of 1490 people left the Mahon Estate at Strokestown House to walk to Dublin, along the Royal Canal, 175 years ago this week. They were also commemorated as part of the ceremony with President Higgins’ review of the bronze shoes and plaque on the plinth in Richmond Harbour. The shoes are similar to those given to the 1490 people for their journey to Canada.
As Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, in the 1990s President Higgins had responsibility for the inland waterways in the portfolio. The President drove the revitalisation of the canal networks, including the redevelopment of the Royal Canal, through his efforts and funding for works on the canal.