End of an Era: Canals Bye-laws in? Boats out!

Over 200 years of activity could be killed off with the stroke of a Minister’s pen.
The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) says – “if Mr. Jimmy Deenihan, T.D., Minister
for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht signs these amended Bye-laws, high charges will be levied on boat traffic, vessel owners will be fined, and waterways users will leave. Dublin and many rural towns and villages will lose out enormously.”

At an IWAI meeting in Naas on Saturday 18th January, Carmel Meegan, President of IWAI, confirmed “the proposed bye-laws do not put user requirements, tourism development and local communities at the centre of the regulations.”

The bye-laws amendments proposed by Waterways Ireland are a major threat to the community economic gain of boat travel on the Grand Canal, the Royal Canal & the River Barrow. Who knows any further threat to other users & other waterways in Ireland? Many counties should be concerned. Navigations and locations affected (for now) are along the Barrow through Carlow, Kilkenny, Laois, Kildare and Royal and Grand Canals in Kildare, Dublin, Meath, Longford, Offaly and Westmeath.

Access to the ‘Green & Silver’ tourism route on the Grand and Royal Canals, the Shannon and the Dublin waterways – developed by Dublin IWAI in recent years – is also in jeopardy. Minister Varadkar’s Government Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport advises its’ mission statement as “To ensure that the transport, tourism and sport sectors make the greatest possible contribution to economic recovery, fiscal consolidation, job creation and social development.” Tourism is a big picture topic.

The boat traffic on Canals can contribute enormously to tourism. IWAI has activated its’ branch network on this issue. IWAI are consulting other user groups, communities, politicians, and businesses – from the midlands to Dublin and beyond – on forthcoming loss of boat traffic that IWAI believes will result in the loss of socio, economic, heritage and tourism benefits. Success of ‘The Gathering’ shows communities can and do get involved in their assets to build tourism opportunities for themselves and Ireland.

The boating community is not averse to appropriate management, facility provision, and access to waterways. But boats are key attractions, as the lifeblood of the navigations, and need to be welcomed.

It remains unclear why Waterways Ireland limits the consultation period for these important bye-laws to the minimum period of only 21 working days, running from 6th January to 3rd February. Their draft Corporate Plan 2014-2016 (which references the bye-laws) also issued on 6th January – yet has a consultation period that extends to 31st March next.

Ireland inland waterways

The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) is a voluntary body representing over two thousand enthusiasts, with 22 branches across the island of Ireland.

The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) is an energetic, fun, voluntary organisation with members from all corners of the Island of Ireland, all sharing a keen and passionate enthusiasm for the waterways of Ireland.

The IWAI advocates the navigation, use, maintenance, protection, restoration and improvement of the inland waterways of Ireland. It was formed in 1954 to promote the development, use and maintenance of Ireland’s navigable rivers and canals.

When the Shannon was almost totally undeveloped for pleasure boating, the IWAI campaigned against the building of low bridges, thus ensuring the development of the river as a national asset. In the 1960s IWAI successfully fought plans to close the Circular Line of the Grand Canal in Dublin. Later the Association campaigned for the re-opening of what is now the Shannon – Erne Waterway (formerly the Ballinamore & Ballyconnell Canal) and the Naas Line of the Grand Canal.

IWAI played its part in the restoration campaign for the re-opening of the Royal Canal between Dublin and the Shannon in recent years. IWAI assistance to the campaign to re-open the Ulster Canal has also borne fruit with the announcement that work is to begin on re-opening the section from the Erne to Clones. Currently, IWAI members are active in restoration projects on the Boyne, Newry and Lagan Canals.

IWAI Branches hold approximately 200 events each year across inland navigations with the wider
communities in many locations. These events include Boat Rallies, Harbour Festivals, Walks, Social Gatherings, Heritage Activities; Family activities and Youth focused events.

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