Carmel Meegan, President of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) led a delegation 25 March 2014 meeting the above Joint Committee to outline concerns that the proposed bye-laws do not put user requirements, local communities or tourism at the centre of the regulations.
Committee Members feedback on the day confirmed this opinion:
· Acting Chairman Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy. Fine Gael Laois –
Offaly opening the session noted “Concerns have been expressed that the
new bye-laws are not fully fit for purpose and this is why we have
invited the witnesses here today. I hope this discussion will allow us
to review the proposed Act and to identify any areas that need to be
re-examined, and to recommend any changes that may be necessary”
· “I am of the view that Waterways Ireland must return to the
beginning and reconsider this matter from a very practical viewpoint.
What is proposed is going to lead to the closure of the Canal” – Deputy
James Bannon. Fine Gael Longford – Westmeath
· “People should not feel pushed out of an activity they have grown up
with, love and wish to pass on to other generations and the community to
help local economies with the tourism income it can provide” – Deputy
Barry Cowen. Fianna Fail Laois – Offaly
· “I am fearful that proposals will be implemented without further
recommendations” – Senator Cait Keane. Fine Gael Labour Panel.
· “The Bye-laws will impact heavily on a small number of people” –
Deputy Catherine Murphy. Independent Kildare North
· “The huge increase in some fees is unacceptable and there is serious
concern that the proposed fees will damage tourism and drive people from
the waterways” Deputy Sandra McLellan. Sinn Fein Cork East
· “The new bye-laws will make exacting demands on users of the Canal”
– Deputy Seamus Kirk. Fianna Fail. Louth
· “The five day rule, which I believe is completely unworkable” –
Deputy Ann Phelan. Labour Carlow- Kilkenny
The short public consultation period of just 21 days, ended on February
3 rd, resulting in over 2000 submissions on the issue. Public discussion
on the matter has included – the Canals and Barrow as a tourism
resource; queries raised in the Seanad and the Dail; County Councils
input; public meetings; national and local press articles; television
and radio interviews; community websites; blogs and facebook pages.
These all reflect the reservations of users, communities and public
representatives as to the significant impact of the draconian
suggestions in the proposed bye-laws.
Politically, this is now a very big issue. It is featuring highly as
candidates face into local elections this summer. The IWAI have gained
the interest of local, regional and national politicians on this matter
to date, who on behalf of their constituents, want to develop, not
constrict, waterway use.
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.